Thursday, January 13, 2011

My Pride and Joy


Fewer things bring me greater joy than turning the last page of a book and closing the back cover. I love the feeling of accomplishment I get holding a book and knowing that I’ve consumed that story, those words, a part of the author’s soul. I love feeling that I am different in some way because I have read that book - every time you read someone else’s thoughts, you are infusing your own with a piece of them. It’s a profound thought, really, to know that we are so intimately connected by the written word.


Inspired by my friend Stacey’s completed 2010 resolution to read 50 books in a year, I thought I would count how many I read last year. The final count is somewhere around 40 (give or take one or two, because there are some that overlapped Christmases on both ends). I thought I would list them, if for no other reason than my own pleasure, and note the ones that I particularly enjoyed and think are worth reading, or the ones that are generally awful and should be avoided. (You'll also note that I have a habit of finding an author I like and reading them in bulk. I suppose there are worse customs one could have.)

  1. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez - One of the best books I have ever read. It won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982, and for good reason. A warning: it's a bit of a slog to get through the first third and can get confusing with characters and names, but never have I found a book whose ending is more worth it. If you haven't read this book, you need to.
  2. Saturday by Ian McEwan - After reading the astounding Atonement, this book was a major let down. It's action is set all in one day, and the whole book is basically McEwan going "Look how good of a writer I am!" Annoying, really.
  3. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Writing My Life by Don Miller - Another brilliant book by my favourite author. Definitely some profound thoughts, especially about the necessity of the now in life, and how we can't wait for life to just happen around us. We need to create our own story-lines.
  4. The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffeneger
  5. First Comes Marriage: Modern Advice from the Wisdom of Arranged Marriages by Reva Smith - This book had some interesting thoughts about marriage, like you don't have to have the same interest as your partner, but you do have to share the same morals and virtues to make a marriage work. Generally, though, it was poorly written and seemed aimed at teen girls. By and large a waste of my money.
  6. The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
  7. Lottery by Patricia Wood
  8. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer - Another must-read. This is the story of a ten year-old boy who loses his father in 9/11. The narrative is unique, complicated, and beautiful. This is one of those books that I makes you angry when you have to put it down to do things like go to work and eat. One of my favourite books I've ever read.
  9. A Contract With God by Will Eisner
  10. In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson - I have a hard time saying any of Bryson's books are my favourite because I love almost everything he's written, but this is one of his best. Funny, informative, and an historical document, it's the embodiment of a perfect piece of travel literature.
  11. Is It Just Me or is Everything Shit?: The Encyclopedia of Modern Life by Alan McArthur and Steve Lowe
  12. Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer - This book was a massive let down after reading ELaIC by Foer. The ending almost makes it worthwhile, but you have to suspend your disbelief for so much of the novel that I couldn't get into it. Many disagree with me, though, so I still recommend checking it out.
  13. Angry Conversations With God: A Snarky but Authentic Spiritual Memoir by Susan Isaacs - I love this book. It's a real, raw retelling of a rocky spiritual journey, filled with profound thoughts and honest revelations. I was moved.
  14. Little House on Rocky Ridge by Roger Lea MacBride
  15. Paper Towns by John Green
  16. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
  17. On the Way Home: The Diary of a Trip from South Dakota to Mansfield, Missouri, in 1894 by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  18. Looking for Alaska by John Green
  19. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan - This might be my favourite John Green book, for several reasons. One, John and David each took turns writing alternating chapters, so the book is told from the perspective of two different characters. Two, it's a great story about acceptance, sexual orientation, and trying to reconcile your identity based on your current friends. I thought it was an interesting book, to say the least.
  20. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  21. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood - Totally don't get the hype around this book at all. I felt like there was an eons worth of build up for, like, the most unexciting climax ever. I finished the book and thought "That's it? All that book for no big deal?"
  22. Come, Thou Tortoise by Jessica Grant - Jessica Grant is a Newfoundland native and this, her first book, won Amazon's First Novel Award, and for good reason. It's a unique story of a mentally challenged girl, her pet tortoise Winnifred, and her attempt to understand her past in the wake of her father's death. It's funny and touching and deep and worth the read.
  23. Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott
  24. Let the Great World Spin: A Novel by Colum Mccann
  25. The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 1) by Lemony Snicket - I think Lemony Snicket is one of the best children's writers that I've ever read. He doesn't talk down to his readers and isn't afraid to tackle difficult and dark topics in his books, while still being funny and light hearted.
  26. For One More Day by Mitch Albom
  27. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  28. The Maestro by Tim Wynne-Jones
  29. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
  30. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
  31. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - Suzanne Collins' trilogy (including the next two books) are without a doubt my favourite find of this year. I've already blogged about the first book, which you can find here, but the other two are just as good. If you read nothing else this year, read this trilogy. I mean it. Seriously, seriously good.
  32. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
  33. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
  34. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie - I read this book for a class last semester, and it's stayed with me. It's a semi-autobiographical story about a Native American who is forced to choose between retaining his heritage and achieving a better life in the "white man's" world. It's a powerful Young Adult novel that I didn't think would affect me as much as I did, but after reading it, I really questioned equality and if it actually exists. It's one of those books that everyone should probably read in the hopes of spreading understanding and tolerance.
  35. Peter and Wendy by J.M. Barrie
  36. Soccernomics: Why England Loses, Why Germany and Brazil Win, and Why the U.S., Japan, Australia, Turkey - and Even Iraq - Are Destined to Become the Kings of the World’s Most Popular Sport by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski - I wrote about this book in an earlier post as well. See here if you're interested.
  37. I’m a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After 20 Years Away by Bill Bryson - I laughed out loud a lot while reading this book. It's a collection of short articles published in a New Hampshire newspaper between 1994-1996. Not my favourite Bryson, but, as with all his books, a good read.
  38. Skim by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki
  39. Sticks and Stones: The Troublesome Success of Children’s Literature from Slovenly Peter to Harry Potter by Jack Zipes
  40. Harvey by Herve Bouchard
  41. At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson - I gave an excerpt from this book in an earlier post (see here). I've since finished it and, surprise surprise, I loved it. Bryson, as always, is fascinating, funny, and completely engaging. It's not for everyone, I know, because it's dense and very historical. But he makes reading about the fabrication of cement interesting, and that is a feat of word manipulation if there ever was one.
  42. Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris - If you've ever read or heard any of Sedaris' essays, you'll know he is essentially a stand-up comedian on paper. This is a link to one of his essays, both in print and audio, that's in this book. Check it out. You will legitimately laugh out loud, I pinky swear.
  43. Feed by M.T. Anderson
  44. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - This is one of the most profound books I have ever read. It's the story of a German girl and her foster family during WWII. The book centers around the importance of reading in preserving life - both physically, as well as the soul. It's a heavy book, but so many times I had to put it down and ponder what I had just read. Zusak has an incredible command of language.
Thanks for indulging me! Please leave me comments or emails telling me what your favourite literary finds of 2010 were. I'm always looking for new reads, and I don't really possess the skill of picking great books off the shelves at random.

Happy reading!

Jillz

3 comments:

Marion said...

I want to read so many of those, especially The Book Thief and Will Grayson, Will Grayson. And of course, all of Bryson's books.

How do you find time to read for fun when you're in school???

Jill S. said...

I don't know, to be honest. I find when I'm procrastinating, I'll read books in series, so I'll have more books to distract me. I also read really fast, so I can usually read a book over a period of three or four sittings. I am by and large much more productive when I am busy. And its amazing what one can get done when one cuts their Facebook and YouTube time in half.

Kenmore said...

Among others, "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" stands out to me as something I would like to read. Your description reminds me of "The Reluctant Fundamentalist" which, if you haven't read yet, you should.

Also, "The Ascent of Rum Doodle." It's very funny, and Bill Bryson recommends it.