Thursday, February 11, 2010

Best Reads of '09

Remember how I love lists? Here my inventory of the books I finished in 2009. From worst to best. I actually reached my goal of 25 books with one to boot, which I've cast by the wayside this year considering I've only got 2 done so far.

Here I've separated out the books into my own little categories and rankings...scroll to the bottom for fiction.

True Pages:
I've been trying to read more nonfiction since college. I love that truth really is stranger than fiction and sometimes more interesting because of reality. Sometimes people just think they're interesting though...

7. The Keeper of Lime Rock [Lenore Skomal]: A story about a hearty New England woman womaning a lighthouse. Sounds interesting and full of adventure, ya? No. A hundred and twenty pages of boring.

6. Ghosting: A Double Life [Jennie Erdal]: A woman who ghostwrites novels for an outlandish socialite. How in the world this book was so mundane, I'm not sure. Sadly this was too self-indulgent and cautious. Snooze.

5. The Foundation [Joel L. Fleishman]: I read this for work. Did you know that the reason we have 911 is because of a foundation? Now you do. Not the good time read of the year, but helpful for my job in the nonprofit world and it didn't claim to be the next big interesting read in nonfiction so I can't fault it.

4. Last Places [Lawrence Millman]: A man charts his way through the outer reaches of the northern passage where people are strange and scarce. Kind of interesting, what with the pterodactyl-like birds and propensity for peculiarity amongst people who live so far in the boonies that they have a completely different reality from those of us in populated parts of the world--wasn't as interesting as I'd hoped though.

3. Bury the Chains [Adam Hothschild]: A great read about the British abolitionist movement back in the day when America wasn't even thinking of Civil Wars. The book was long but really well researched and well written. A history that we need to remember for the present.

2. The Coldest Winter [Paula Fox]: Young Adult and regular adult novelist Paula Fox remembers her time as a stringer in Europe just after (I think) WWII. A very short but beautiful read. The starkness of the language is perfect.

1. The Year of Biblical Living [A.J. Jacobs]: HILARIOUS! Jacobs spends a year obeying the Bible (mostly the Old Testament) to the letter. As he learns more about the Bible and current Jewish practices, he adds onto his regimen. This was a great read and amidst the humor Jacobs has some breakthroughs about his faith and why some of those crazy laws are in the Bible. Highly recommended.

Funniest Book of the Year
The Complete Polysyllabic Spree [Nick Hornby]: A compilations of columns about books and other random topics written for The Believer magazine. I laughed out loud quite often and had a list of new books to read by the time I was finished.

Faith-based Books (for lack of a better title)
5. The Weight of Glory [C.S. Lewis]: A collection of essays. Not my favorite Lewis. I also spread them out too far apart, so don't take my opinion on this one.

4. Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith [Anne Lamott]: The ever controversial Christian writer...more Bush bashing like the last one I read of hers. Talk about beating a dead horse. But there were some great insights on faith, I thought, especially since she lays it all so bare and honest.

3. Till We Have Faces [C.S. Lewis]: Not my favorite Lewis either. Interesting. "A myth retold." I need someone smarter than myself to explain it.

2. Literature Through the Eyes of Faith [Gallagher & Lundin]: Interesting and a bit dated (my copy was from the 80's) but great reading for Christians who like books, especially fiction and are not satisfied with only reading books from the Christian fiction section (yikes).

1. Breath for the Bones [Luci Shaw]: This was a great book for artists who are also Christians and want to explore how to meld the two without getting preachy, losing the art, and being relevant only to other Christians. Seems like it could be trite, but it wasn't in the least. Much wisdom here.

Best Cover
How to Breathe Underwater [Julie Orringer]: Also a good read. Short stories.

Worst Fiction Read of the Year
Off Magazine Street [Ronald Everett Capps]: Like really bad. Bleh. The movie based on the book, A Love Song for Bobby Long, is one of my favorites. The screenplay writer must be a magician because this book was hideous. I mean bad. I can't even begin to tell you how bad.

Best Fiction Reads of the Year
The End of the Affair [Graham Greene]: Everyone read this! It was really good. Unexpectedly, subtly good. My favorite read for sure this year.

Runners Up
  • Death and the Penguin [Andrey Kurkov]: Russia (or was it the Ukraine...), murder, intrigue, and a penguin. Strange and strangely believable...sort of. Very unusual and interesting read.
  • Bel Canto [Ann Patchett]: What should have been unbelievable, a group of high class folks bonding with their guerilla captors, wasn't and that made this book, along with Patchett's beautiful writing, great.
  • The Time Traveler's Wife [Audrey Niffenegger]: Pretty good and I'm not usually one for bestsellers. Isn't time travel nuts?
  • The Moviegoer [Walker Percy]: A southern classic. Very interesting and written just like movies of the same time period. Would be a great one to discuss with someone...anyone...
Not Bad But Not As Good As I Hoped.
  • Home [Marilynne Robinson]:Ok. It was good, but it didn't grip me as much as her other two novels. Very well done though.
  • The Woman in White [Wilkie Collins]: Gothic literature. It's interesting, but not as riveting as a more modern mystery might be. Quite long but ok.
Didn't Really Like These
  • The Kite Runner [Khaled Hosseini]: Yes, I'm the only person on the planet who didn't love this book.
  • The Good Terrorist [Doris Lessing]: Very annoying main character. I wanted to slap her.
Eh...not good but not enough to even be bad
Taft [Ann Patchett]: Nothing like Bel Canto.

A Reread
Persuasion [Jane Austen]: Not as exciting as the movie, I have to say. I hardly ever reread books so someone out there should be proud of me.

And an unusual read for me...Murder mystery
A Murder of Quality [John Le Carre]: I should read more of these. They're kind of fun and how can I develop my stealthiness without reading this kind of stuff?

Ok...Phwew...Good to get that off my shoulders.


tpulido19 said...

I'm proud of you.

Bev said...

So am I.

Brooke said...

My friend and I are taking a vacation to Shanghai in a month and I happened upon your blog through Design Sponge. I just wanted to let you know that I've had a wonderful time reading it! I love Marilynne Robinson (especially Housekeeping), have long wanted the Anthropologie chair you mentioned, and can't wait to visit the gorgeous tea cafe with blue dishes you recommended. Thanks for all the sharing, and especially the D.S. guide! Cheers.

Flynn said...

Hi Brooke,

Thanks for the kind comments! I hope you have a great trip. There's so much going on right now in the city with the World Expo in full swing and all.