I’m glad they came along. I dedicate this post… to all the books I read last year.
I thought it would be simple and fun to do a “Year-in-Review” of my reading. Like most projects, it started out manageable enough, but as I got going, it took on a life of its own. First I decided to write a little blurb on each book. Then I wanted to provide a link to my review if I had written one. Finally, I decided to embed links to other information I mention in the blurbs that I thought you might find interesting (like foot binding in Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, for example). Then I got all obsessive and had to test all the links to make sure they all led to the correct places. Four days after I started, I’m finally finished!
I hope you enjoy this post and get some ideas for your own reading lists. Also, I love book debates! Let me know if you agree/disagree and why. In the first list are the books I read for and to myself. Next come the books I read aloud to Em. I conclude with my Top 5 and Worst 5 of the year. For those of you wondering whether Jay fell by the wayside, fear not! I read endless numbers of picture books to him, but he has yet to develop the attention span for chapter books. If I listed all of the picture books I read to both kids, it would be 2011 before I finished the list.
Happy Reading to All, and to All a Good Book!
Books I read in 2009, in the order I read them
1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – My first and favorite read of 2009. Review is here. Last Christmas, my husband gave me a spa package. I was very close to finishing this book on the day I went. I only had about 20 more pages to go. I loved this book so much that I actually contemplated taking it into the aromatherapy tub with me. Now that is what I call a good book!
2. The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent – I was very excited to get this book, which took place during the time of the Salem Witch trials. Unfortunately it was only “okay.”
3. The Coffee Trader by David Liss – Historical fiction that takes place during the development of “futures trading” on the commodities exchange in Amsterdam in the 17th century. Liked the history more than the characters in the book. Review is here.
4. Colorado Gardener’s Companion by Jodi Torpey – useful resource, and I need all the help I can get!
5. Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer – Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you must be familiar with the Twilight series. After going into Edward withdrawal during the second book – New Moon (I am so Team Edward!), I was relieved to have him front and center again in Eclipse.
6. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See – This book is like a secret window into the lives of women in the late nineteenth century rural China. The poetic story chronicles the lives of two women of very different backgrounds who, according to the custom of the day, become “sworn sisters.” Their fortunes reverse quite drastically after they get married. I loved the surrounding history of this book, such as how women defied the prohibition against them learning to write by developing a secret Nu Shu (women’s) writing. I sat gape-jawed as I read in gruesome detail about the practice of foot binding (do not look at pictures of this unless you have a strong stomach!). Although it is a very different story (not to mention country), it has echoes of Memoirs of a Geisha. Highly recommended.
8. The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease – Excellent resource and surprisingly easy read about the wonders and importance of reading out loud to children. Trelease includes many additional resources to draw upon after you’ve finished the book.
9. Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier – Story surrounds a circus set in late-19th century London. William Blake is thrown in. Booooooring.
11. Illuminata by Marianne Williamson – For people (like me) who don’t know how to pray because you don’t know what to say or how to do it, this book is very helpful and beautifully written.
14. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy – YES! I finally read one of the great Russian novels. Once I figured out all of the 85 names that each character was called, I found it very enjoyable. This is definitely not a book that should be inflicted on young adults though. I think you need to experience major loss, guilt and regret in order to truly understand the book.
15. Love and Other Natural Disasters by Holly Shumas – Ordinary chick-lit. No better, no worse.
16. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood – My first Atwood ever. Took some getting used to at first due to the sci-fi plot within the overall plot, but it was fabulous!
18. Lunch Lessons by Ann Cooper – A new kind of lunch lady! Chef Ann Cooper (aka – Renegade Lunch Lady) is transforming the school lunch programs in dozens of communities around the country, including our own here in Boulder. The book is an important manifesto on how we owe it to our children to feed them wholesome, nutritious, minimally processed foods heavy on fresh produce, whole grains and lean protein. Imagine having a salad bar in your school! My daughter does, and she’s only in first grade.
19. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving – If I could take only one book with me to a desert island, this would be the one. I re-read it this year for the first time in 15 years and loved it just as much, if not more, as I did the first time.
21. The Life Room by Jill Bialosky – I like Bialosky’s writing, but she’s focused far more on character development than plot, so take heed. The story is basically of a female mid-life crisis with flashbacks aplenty and doesn’t really “end.” Bialosky is a “writer’s writer.” Read it for the writing and not the story, if you are so inclined.
22. The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz – Very simplistic review of the ancient Toltec Wisdom teachings.
24. Fortune’s Daughter by Alice Hoffman – Hoffman’s usual mix of beautiful writing and magical realism – very enjoyable.
25. Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips – If you remember anything of your Greek Mythology you must read this hilarious, yet intellectual book. Little did we know that the Gods (and Goddesses) are still alive, somewhat well and living in London, although their powers are greatly diminished. Then a trivial dispute between Apollo and Aphrodite escalates and two very ordinary humans caught in the crossfire need to muster the courage to save the world. So funny! One of my favorite books of the year.
26. The Pirate’s Daughter by Margaret Cezair-Thompson – Tells the story of a fictional lover of movie star/swashbuckler Errol Flynn (as in “in like Flynn”) and her (fictional) daughter by him. Loved the lush Jamaican setting.
27. The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz-Zafon – Zafon’s Shadow of the Wind blew me away, so I was a little nervous about reading The Angel’s Game for fear it would disappoint. Needlessly worried as it turns out. Here is my review.
28. Siddhartha by Herman Hesse – If this was your first exposure to Buddhist philosophy in the sixties, I can see how it would be revolutionary.
30. Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin – Fascinating story about a female “forensic pathologist” in the time of Henry II of England, but unfortunately I can’t recommend the book due to what I felt was gratuitous violence against animals. Here is my full review.
31. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides – I don’t know too many authors who could wield the story of a hermaphrodite of Greek ancestry growing up in Detroit in the time of the race riots and make it work, but Eugenides does. The book is Homeric in style and scope, covering three generations of an immigrant family. In the process, he creates one of the most sympathetic characters in American literature. Need I say more? Well, I will. Having grown up in (Northern) Michigan, I loved reading about Detroit in its heyday. I’ve only ever known it as the armpit of America, so it was nice to see another side of its story.
32. The Science of Self-Healing by Dr. Vasant Lad – A lovely woman I met recommended this book to me as an introduction to the ancient Indian Ayurveda healing system. I’m very open-minded, but when I got to the section about enemas and bloodletting, I decided it wasn’t for me.
33. Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen – In a word: delightful.
34. Perfect Life by Jessica Shattuck – An excerpt from my review: “…(I)f I want to listen to a bunch of thirty-something disillusioned white people from mostly privileged backgrounds blather on about how much their lives suck, their marriages are stale and how nothing turned out the way they thought it would, I’ll just get together with my friends and drink a few margaritas.” The full review is here.
35. The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood – Diabolical woman goes around befriending women then snatching their men. Very good book.
36. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer – There isn’t much I could add to the heaps of praise this book has already received except to say that it is well deserved. Guernsey is a treat from start to finish.
37. Sister Bernadette’s Barking Dog: The Quirky History and Lost Art of Diagramming Sentences by Kitty Burns Florey – Amusing book for people like me who actually enjoyed diagramming sentences in school. Here is my review.
38. The Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier – Haunting story that toggles between the connected lives of a present-day woman and a woman of 16th century rural France. The only one of Chevalier’s books that even comes close to Girl With a Pearl Earring.
39. Prayers for Sale by Sandra Dallas – “So-so” tale of life in Breckenridge in the late 19th-century mining days.
40. Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult – Here Picoult takes on the controversial subject of “wrongful birth” lawsuits. The main characters are parents of a daughter with brittle bone disease (osteogenesis imperfecta). Better than some of her more recent books, but not up to the standard of My Sister’s Keeper.
41. Grayson by Lynne Cox – Very mediocre writing telling the true, incredible story of a teenage competitive swimmer who helped a baby gray whale find it’s mother in the open ocean.
43. My Life in France by Julia Child – If you are a Francophile, love cooking, love Julia Child, loved the movie Julie & Julia or all of the above, then you must read this book. One of the best memoirs/armchair travel books I’ve ever read because I loved all of the subject matter (and the subject!).
44. Guernica by Dave Boling – Harrowing novel providing an account of the unprovoked German attack of a tiny Basque village prior to WWII. This massacre was the inspiration for Picasso‘s mural of the same name. Here is my full review.
46. Barrel Fever by David Sedaris – Sedaris does it again in this audio book. As with all of his essay collections, some are funnier than others, but the funny ones are FUNNY. What I always say about Sedaris: “If he weren’t gay and I weren’t married, it could totally happen between us…” 🙂 I made him laugh when I met him in person, and I’m still starstruck over that moment!
47. High Tide in Tucson by Barbara Kingsolver – Kingsolver is one of my favorite authors, but I’ve decided I like her fiction better than her essays and nonfiction, which can sometimes get too preachy.
50. Spontaneous Recognition, Discussions with Swami Shambhavananda – This book was in the room at the yoga retreat center I went to this fall. Here’s the gist: Meditate. Meditate more. Meditate every day. Meditate several times a day. Keep meditating. The end.
51. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout – I fell in “like” with this book, but did not adore it to the extent that nearly everyone else in the world did. It would not have been my pick for the Pulitzer Prize, that’s for sure. Here is my review.
52. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – Jane, oh Jane! How didst thou elude me for so many years??? I read Jane Eyre for the first time this year, and it instantly catapulted onto my all-time favorite list. The best way to read it is sitting by the fire on a gloomy day with a cup of tea.
53. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch – If you were able to give one more speech, knowing that you would die of cancer within six months, what would you say? Read Pausch’s poignant version and reconnect with gratitude.
54. The Power of Giving: How Giving Back Enriches us All by Azim Jamal and Harvey McKinnon – A book with a powerful message: the more you give, the more you receive (focuses on all types of giving – not just monetary).
56. Parenting with Love and Logic by Foster Cline and Jim Fay – Excellent techniques for raising responsible kids in a conflict-free environment. The only problem is that you have to execute the techniques without losing your temper. Suffice it say I’m still working on that…
57. In Hovering Flight by Joyce Hinnefeld – Explores the fragile balance between passions: for family, work, art, causes. Very good debut novel.
58. Life After Death by Deepak Chopra – Although I am intrigued by his work, after my third attempt to read one of his books, I have to learn to just say “no” to Chopra.
59. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks – Incredible story of a rare illuminated Haggadah that goes backward in time from the present day to its creation, each segment revealing more about the book’s history. These segments are interspersed with the investigation conducted by Hanna, the modern-day book restorer. Very difficult to put down once you start! Excellent.
60. The Necklace by Cheryl Jarvis – What happens when thirteen very different women go in together to buy a $14,000 diamond necklace? Find out in this true account of their story.
61. So Brave, Young, and Handsome by Leif Enger – Louis L’Amour meets Mark Twain meets Cervantes meets Homer. Yet, Leif Enger’s voice remains his own. The kind of writing that makes my toes tingle (e.g. “He talked like a deaf mute distrustful of the cure.”) Not up to the standard of Peace Like a River, which was my favorite book of 2008, but a great read all the same.
63. Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott – I can’t say enough about Anne Lamott’s essay writing. I’ve never met the woman (obviously), but there are times when I’m just cringing with embarrassment for her at the same time as I’m admiring her courage for stripping down to reveal the worst parts of herself only to enable her golden strengths to shine through. She is also damn funny! Only she could write this sentence: “I thought such awful thoughts that I cannot even say them out loud because they would make Jesus want to drink gin straight out of the cat dish.” So I laugh out loud. Then I cry when I read this one: “It’s so different having a living father who loves you, even someone complex and imperfect. After your father dies, defeat becomes pretty defeating. When he’s still alive there are setbacks and heartbreak, but you’re still the apple of someone’s eye.” You would be hard pressed to find truer writing.
64. A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
65. The White Queen by Philippa Gregory – A book about the Plantagenets and the War of the Roses that focuses on Edward IV and his wife, commoner Elizabeth Woodville. They were the parents of the ill-fated Princes in the Tower. Not incidentally, their oldest daughter (also named Elizabeth) married Henry Tudor VII and became the mother of head-chopper Henry VIII. All I can say is I would not have wanted to live in England at any period of time prior to the 1950s. Although it dragged at the end, I thought Gregory was back on form after a couple of duds. It definitely made me want to read more about this period of English history.
66. Dear American Airlines by Jonathan Miles – Anyone who travels frequently will belly laugh at least once while reading this very original book. Word of warning though: it’s often funny but even more often sad and depressing. For such a slight book, it seemed interminable at times to me. How long can you read about one screwed-up guy’s life?
Books I read aloud to Em
1. Ramona the Brave by Beverly Cleary – VERY much fun to revisit one of the favorite characters of my girlhood.
2. Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary – Ditto above.
3. Freddy the Pilot by Walter R. Brooks – If you have never read any of the Freddy the Pig books, please please do! Freddy (detective, poet, newspaperman, banker, pilot and celebrity pig) and his barnyard crew are the farm version of The Bobbsey Twins. Freddy is just special, but because these books were written in the nineteen thirties and forties, not enough children are reading them today even though the whole series has recently been reissued. Give yourself the gift of Freddy!
4. Leaping Beauty by Gregory Maguire – Maguire is most famous for his adult versions of reinterpreted fairy tales, such as Wicked and Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister. Here he takes an incredibly comic turn at recasting the characters in fairy tales for children. The resulting collection is hilarious for both kids and adults. Our favorite was Goldifox and the Three Chickens.
5. The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum – Speaking of the Wicked Witch of the West, we picked up the original version of Oz this summer. This is one of the very few instances where I saw the movie (probably dozens of times) before reading the book, so I was very attached to the movie version of the story. The book is far less scary than the film and therefore more appropriate for younger children. I found it a little dull without the constant ominous presence of the witch though, and I’ll probably never recover from the fact that the “slippers” in the book are silver! One bonus: I got a lot more out of Wicked after reading the original since it’s obvious Maguire’s version is based on the book – not the movie.
6. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl – One of my favorite childhood books, it was so rewarding to see how much Em fell in love with this book. Every night she was begging me to read “just one more chapter.”
7. Freddy Goes Camping by Walter Brooks – Another Freddy the Pig, we started this one before we took our first family camping trip. We read some chapters in the car on the way, around the campfire that night and in the car again on the way home. One of my favorite Freddy books.
8. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl – Another childhood favorite. When Em realized that the Willy Wonka’s Factory was only a few blocks from Charlie’s house, she said, “What kind of an adventure is that?!?” Her tune changed quickly once the tour started!
9. Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl – I hadn’t read this as a child, so it was a treat to share it with Em before the movie came out (which we still haven’t seen).
10. Meet Molly by Valerie Tripp – An American Girl story. What can I say? Em loved it.
11. Molly Learns a Lesson by Valerie Tripp – Ditto above.
Top Five of 2009 – in order
1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
2. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
3. Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips
4. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
5. The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Worst Five of 2009 – in order
1. A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
2. Watch Over Me by Christa Parrish
3. Perfect Life by Jessica Shattuck
4. Life After Death by Deepak Chopra
5. Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier
Now that this is finished, I can get going on my 2010 list! Happy New Reading Year everyone!! 🙂Categories: Books · Tags: Book List, Book Reviews, Books, Children's Books, Historical Fiction, Read Aloud, Team Edward, Twilight series