Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Books of 2009

This is the first full year that I haven't been in school, so I decided to try to read 50 books. Done. I'm copying Bridget and publishing the list, with my favorites in red. Also, I tried to give you credit if you recommended a book. Here we go:

Juvenile Fiction
Gideon The Cutpurse, The Time Thief, Time Quake, Linda Buckley-Archer, recommended by my SIL Chantel. I liked this series. I read the first two early in the year, and then had to wait for the third to come out later. Because so much time had passed between numbers 2 and 3, I was pretty confused as the author doesn't rely on that age-old device of explaining the whole plot of the previous book in the first chapter. So, read them all at the same time.

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow, Jessica Day-George, recommended by Allison. Cute. Compelling.

Graceling, Kristin Cashore
Fire, Kristin Cashore, recommended by GoodReads. I quote my original review:
I read this book in 1.5 days, much to the dismay of my family. I think Bridget said it best (although she was talking about a different book):
The point here is that Catching Fire is one of those lovely, delicious books that sucks you into its world and makes you want to ignore every other responsibility in your life, every other engagement, commitment, or member of your family, even the tiny helpless ones, and just READ. As much as I love reading, this particular kind of book doesn't come around very often (the Twilight series and some of the Shannon Hale books come to mind as other examples...)

This book did remind me a lot of Goose Girl in style and the mythical world milieu but edgier and it didn't end quite how I wanted it to end. But, I couldn't put it down, and will probably read the companion prequel, even though the review says it has dragons in it, and I usually draw the line at dragons. And Fairies.
Fire did have dragons, but it wasn't so bad. Not as good as Graceling.

The Goose Girl, Enna Burning, River Secrets, Forrest Born
, Shannon Hale. Check 'um out. You'll probably like them, even if you have to pretend you don't to keep up your rep.

The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins, recommended by Bridget by way of Stephenie Meyers. Hunger Games: don't start this unless you have at least 20 hours of free time. Right then.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Elizabeth George Speare
The Westing Game, Ellen Raskin, recommended by Myriah. Both books from my childhood that I wanted to read again to see if they were still good. They are.

The Calder Game, Blue Balliet. I only grabbed this one because of the title. It was lame.

Harry Potter #6, Harry Potter #7, J.K. Rowling. Always a good time. We re-read #6 to prepare for the movie, and then had to read #7 for closure.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Alan Bradley. Another Goodreads recommendation and a right good one at that. I liked this book so much, I read it twice. I can't wait for the next Flavia book to come out in March.

Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man, Fannie Flagg. Not as funny as everyone says it is.

Book of a Thousand Days, Shannon Hale. I like Shannon Hale, ok?

A Year Down Yonder, Long Way From Chicago, Richard Peck. When Allison told me to read these she said, "I want you to read these so I can say, 'hey, wasn't that book funny?' and you'll say, 'yeah, it was.'"

The Girl Who Could Fly, Victoria Forester, recommended by Bridget. Fun at the time, but mostly forgettable.

The Host, Stephenie Meyer. I think of this book almost every time I see Picacho Peak. (Which Tyler and I for a long time pronounced it peak-a-chu, because we didn't know better, and we thought it was funny. Our real estate agent informed us it's pick-aw-sho, or even slightly pick-aw-sha. So now, you won't make the same mistake as us.)

The Thief, The King of Attolia, The Queen of Attolia, Megan Whalen-Turner, recommended by Lu. I had the same problem as Bridget as the author's mind's eye worked differently than mine, and I often had trouble visualizing rooms, or how people were situated in relation to each other, which meant I had to re-read complicated passages more than once to figure out what the heck happened.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E.L. Konigsburg. For book club.

Replay, Sharon Creech. Not as good as Walk Two Moons.

Peter and the Sword of Mercy, by David Barry and Ridley Pearson. A recently discovered FOURTH Peter and the Starcatchers book. How exciting. I hope they write more, they are so much fun to read.

NPR Books
(which I heard about on NPR, or Tyler did and then told me about it.)
*You Are Here: Why we can find our way to the moon, but get lost in the mall, Colin Ellard, recommended by Tyler. I didn't quite finish this one by the time it was supposed to go back to the library. It was really interesting, but I couldn't quite digest all of what he was saying between all the baby vomit and potty training.

Alphabet Juice: the energies, jists, and spirits of letters, words and combinations thereof; their roots, bone, innards, piths, pips, and secret parts; with examples of their usage foul and savory, Roy Blount, Jr. I wish I owned this book so I could dip into it every now and again when I need a pick-me-up.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Seth Grahame-Smith. Or, as Tyler called it, Pride and Prejudice and Not Enough Zombies.

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon, David Grann
American Buffalo: In Search of A Lost Icon, Stephen Rinella. I had the word vomit about both these books. I couldn't stop telling people about the worms in the Amazon that live right under your skin that tormented early explorers until they learned that the indigenous people could whistle a special way to make them pop their head out for easy removal. Or, I told more than one person who didn't want to hear about it how buffalo weren't over hunted until there was a breakthrough in the tanning process that allowed both the winter and summer coats to be processed, thus not allowing their numbers to bounce back in the winter months. Both were really interesting, I thought.

Cutting For Stone, Abraham Verghese. My attempt at reading serious adult fiction. It was ok.

How We Decide, Jonah Lehrer. I read this book before, except it was called Blink and it was by Malcolm Gladwell. The two books are different to a certain degree: How We Decide was much more focused on how the brain works to make decisions, while Blink focused on the types of decisions we can make without thinking.

I thought it was interesting enough, the writing was pretty good, and it made me understand why babies make me so superstitious. The author uses the example of slot machines and explains that our brains are addicted to making predictions and then being right and that slot machines are so alluring because our brains can't figure them out (because they operate on a complicated random number generator). This is exactly like babies with colic, to me anyway. My brain can't figure out what is wrong and all that trial and error is very taxing. So, when you make a prediction like, 'the baby will stop crying if the swing is set to level 3' and it works, you hold on to it with all your might.

The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment, A.J. Jacobs. Funny, impressive. Inspiration for my own unitasking experiment, which is floundering, but that's a different post.

Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages, Ammon Shea. Ammon Shea and I are completely opposite in temperament and ideology: he is a painfully introverted, psycho-leftist whiner, and I'm normal. He had something negative to say about every word concerning marriage (as in it's an outdated fascist-Nazi institution perpetuated by the unwashed masses who have yet to become enlightened on The Better Way To Live) and children (as in they are screaming brats who do nothing but annoy and take away your freedom to do whatever you want. Which, in the author's case, seems to be complain about sitting in the library for 8-10 hours a day.

I liked the words he found, but his commentary on them made me want to punch him in the face.

Two words I especially liked:
1. Minimifidian: (n) A person who has the bare minimum of faith (in something). As in, you assume movies will be horrible before you see them (but then they turn out great so you are always pleased and never let down).

2. Obganiate: (v) To annoy by repeating over and over and over again. See: my 3-year-old daughter.

Something Cleverish, Various. Good cause, clever-ish, but not clever. Actually, kinda lame sometimes.

Outliers, Malcom Gladwell

The Places In Between, Rory Stewart, recommended by Carrie. This guy is gutsy, and a little crazy, and probably very smart.

Braniac, Ken Jennings, recommended by Bridget.

*Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House, Cheryl Mendelson. Every homemaker should read her essay on housework and homemaking. So good. I like her empowering view of housework as a part of homemaking, even if I think her views are a little extreme (I mean, she insinuates that if I don't do my dishes as soon as dinner is over or dust weekly, my family will fall ill and die). The asterisk is because this book is like 5,000 pages long and I've just been skimming what I feel are the relevant parts. I mean, I don't really need to know how to care for antique furniture or marble statues.

Adult Fiction

The Gone-Away World, Nick Harkaway

Tomato Rhapsody: A Novel of Love, Lust, and Forbidden Fruit, Adam Schell. I won this book off Goodreads and I liked it... mostly. One too many mentions of bastones for my taste, however.

The Actor and the Housewife, Shannon Hale. Lame ending.
Austenland, Shannon Hale. Eh.

These Is My Words, Nancy E. Turner. This book really struck a chord with me. Maybe I read it when I was all hopped up on post-partum hormones, maybe I was feeling really lonely here in Tucson (just like the main character), but I loved it.

Persuasion, Jane Austen. I think the movie is also excellent.

Charms for the Easy Life, Kaye Gibbons

Playing For Pizza: A Novel, John Grisham. Yeah, he should stick to thrillers and stay away from regular fiction.

The Hour I First Believed: A Novel, Wally Lamb. People really like this, I didn't.

The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz. Won the Pulitzer so it must be good, WAY too much swearing for me to handle.

Paper Towns, John Green. Not interesting enough, too high school-y.

She's Gonna Blow!: Real Help For Moms Dealing With Anger, Julie Anne Barnhill. I'd say (from what I skimmed) 80% of this book was the author's experiences with her own anger and trying to deal with it. And from what I could tell, the 'real help' was "pray more," which is not helpful at all. Ok, well, probably a little helpful.


Bridget said...

Thank you for this list!!

So YOU'RE the one I was having the "babies make us superstitious" conversation with. I couldn't remember who agreed with me about that and it was driving me crazy. You are still right.

michelle magnusson said...

I love the Westing Game.

Emily said...

Great list! I feel like I'm a target of the Shannon Hale defense. Remember, I do really like her-but that doesn't mean she's not totally predictable.

heidi nielsen said...

I just finished the Hunger Games in one day. I got on the computer right after I closed the book to reserve the next one at the library. I'm number 70 of 70 on the waiting list. If I had known what a fast read it was going to be I would have reserved both of them at the same time. Thanks for the good list. I sadly average about 10-15 books a year, so I'm very impressed.

Myriah said...

Pray more. How is that not always the right answer?

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