Jan. 3rd, 2010

Books, 2009

Jan. 3rd, 2010 10:05 pm
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I decided to keep track this year, and made it to 49 books read (I thought it was 50; then I went back and realized I stopped reading one in the middle because it was very bad). Now that it's a new year, I thought I'd pick the top ten and also some of the worst, and make some comments. For your general amusement, and in no particular order:

1 - The Wrong Mother - Sophie Hannah: Murder myster - good read, suspenseful, nice twists. Manages to sort of seriously talk about motherhood/family life, and the dissatisfactions thereof, while still bringing good thrills.
2 - The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman: Nice story (more of a series of short stories) about a boy raised by ghosts. Typical Gaiman, always worth reading.
3 - Into the Beautiful North - Luis Alberto Urrea: Three women and a guy sneak into America from Mexico, to bring back men to protect their hometown, but not as serious as that description might sound. A good south-of-the-border look at immigration, not quite magical realism, but some definite touches of that. Probably the second best book I read this year.
4 - Mistress of the Art of Death - Ariana Franklin: Another murder mystery, this one set in medieval England. Nice characters, and I'm a sucker for a historical setting. It's first in a series, though I hear the others are not as good.
5 - What I Talk About when I Talk About Running - Haruki Murakami: Non-fiction; a writer talks about his reasons for being a runner. Lent to me by a running friend; after reading it, I don't particularly want to run myself, but I understand much better why someone might. Very nicely written; the author is a well-known Japanese writer, and his other stuff is good too.
6 - Alex & Me - Irene Pepperberg: Non-fiction; by the woman who taught the famous and now-deceased African Grey parrot, Alex, how to communicate. It's very persuasive, showing that at least some birds are not mimicking, but actually communicating, and capable of complex thought. Take a look at some of the Alex videos on youtube - he's a smart bird!
7 - City of Dreaming Books - Walter Moers: About a literary lizard who goes on a quest for the Best Book Ever - fantastic children's book, very sweetly written, and engrossing. Opposite of not being able to put it down - I kept wanting to put it down, because I didn't want to finish it and not have any more to read! Best book I read all year.
8 - Fever 1793 - Laurie Halse Anderson: Historical fiction about the cholera outbreak in the US in 1793. A young girl has to take care of herself in plague-ridden Philly, when many people have died, and most others have fled for the countryside. This is something I didn't even know had happened, historically, and was both a fun read (the protagonist is funny and tough), and educational.
9 - The Complete Persepoils - Marjane Satrapi: Non-fiction; graphic novel telling the story of a young girl growing up during the 1979 revolution in Iran, and the aftermath. Engrossing as well as educational.
10 - The Lies of Locke Lamora - Scott Lynch: I think someone described this as Ocean's Eleven but in a medieval-type fantasy world. It's a very fun read - complicated, betrayals, good characters, and a satifying story. Another first in a series, though again I hear the others are not as good.

And a few to skip:
1 - Couch - Benjamin Parzybok - from the website, the first sentence of the summary is: In this exuberant and hilarious debut reminiscent of The Life of Pi and Then We Came to the End, an episode of furniture moving gone awry becomes an impromptu quest of self-discovery, secret histories, and unexpected revelations. In other words, just as pretentious and pleased with itself as it sounds. Also, not hilarious. One of only two books I actually stopped in the middle of, because life is too short.
2 - Songs of the Humpback Whale - Jodi Picoult - Okay, I like Jodi Picoult, though all her stories end up with kids dead, or in court, or both, and it's the most blatant, typical tear-jerking you could ever expect. But I do like her - she's reliably entertaining. So when I really really hated this one, I had to look online to try and figure out why it was so bad. Turns out it was her first one, so, forgiven. But I didn't finish it - the resolution comes at the beginning, and the characters are not interesting enough to make me care how they got to the end.
3 - My Disillusionment in Russia - Emma Goldman - I know this is a classic by an anarchist, sorely disappointed by the actuality of the Russian revolution, and it was interesting up to a point, but after about 15+ stories of "And then this happened, and I was very disillusioned...and then I met this person, and I was very disillusioned....", I think I'd gotten the point. She was (spoilers!!), quite disillusioned by the end of her trip. I finished the book, but only because it is short.

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