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Book meme for 2010. Read significantly more than I did last year, and I feel good about that.

Books Read in 2010

Brodeck by Philippe Claudel

I'm Brodeck and I had nothing to do with it.

A startling beginning to one of the more harrowing novels I've read in recent years. When a book packs a punch in the very first sentence you know you're in for a long, hard ride.

I don't want to talk too specifically about the book because I think the emotional resonance is more immediate if you experience it through the act of reading the novel itself. Normally I'm not a fan of first person narratives, Claudel's novel about the way humans fear that which is unfamiliar or unknown to them is a piece of art. Through images both brutal and beautiful, Claudel uses Brodeck's confessionary account of events to explore the darker side of human nature. Claudel is a master manipulator of emotion; the tension in the narrative builds almost imperceptibly until it finally breaks, leaving the reader both shocked and unsurprised.

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

One of the first supernatural young adult books I read this year. This one is about werewolves. I enjoyed the blue text and the clear atmospheric presence of the book; the story itself is fairly predictable and nothing special.

Just In Case by Meg Rosoff

In my opinion, Meg Rosoff's novels have been unfairly categorized as young adult literature. While it's true that her protagonists are usually children or teenagers, the complexity of her characters and the beauty inherent in her wording serve to place her writing significantly above that of many popular young adult authors. I read this book immediately after reading Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver and the intellectual and emotional distance between these two novels is significant.

I haven't yet read The Book Thief, but from what others have said I would consider Rosoff to be in the same league as Zusak. I wish every author of young adult fiction would read Rosoff's novels to see that there can be exquisite beauty and depth in something written primarily for younger readers

Dealing With Dragons by Patricia C Wrede

Book club. This was the perfect book for me to reread this year. I first read it when I was ten or eleven years old, and I remember falling in love with the world the Wrede had created. As an adult, I was struck by how different this novel is from the sort of young adult fiction that's popular nowadays. Cimorene is a strong woman, a pragmatic princess who gets things done. She's curious and capable and does not suffer fools lightly. Here is a YA heroine that girls can actually look up to, a woman who thwarts all the conventions of her society and is a better person for it.

I think my favorite thing about this book right now is the lack of romantic interest. I know it appears in the later stories, and I quite enjoy Mendanbar, but there's something wonderfully pure and unencumbered about Cimorene in this novel. She is perfectly complete as she is, a state of being to which we can all aspire.

This remains a delightful read, even 16 years after our first encounter.

Sum: Forty Tales of the Afterlives by David Eagleman

This was one of my favorite books of the year. It’s a novel comprised of forty different interpretations of the afterlife. My favorite one was the one where when you die you become a background actor in the dreams of the living. For however many hours you dreamed in life, that is the amount of time you are required to be an extra. Very clever and comforting exploration of what happens to us after we die.

The Gates by John Connolly

Book club. I’m a big fan of Connolly’s adult mystery novels and I was excited about reading his attempt at young adult supernatural fiction. The story is about a young man named Samuel and his dog Boswell—if you know why this made me laugh continuously, you get a cookie—and how they discover that their neighbors are demons intent on opening a gateway to hell in their quiet little community. It’s a book written for young adults but, like Rosoff’s novels, it never talks down to the reader and I appreciate that.

Lark & Termite by Jayne Anne Phillips

I chose this novel for bookclub and it is one of the best novels I’ve read this past year. I chose it because of this review by Maureen Corrigan which appeared on in January of 2009. It reminded me a great deal of Marianne Wiggins’ The Evidence of Things Unseen in terms of style and subject. It’s a story told by multiple narrators, one of whom is a young, autistic boy. It’s gorgeously written and complex. I’ll probably read it again.

Short History of Myth by Karen Armstrong

This is probably the best examination of religion and humans as a storytelling species that I have encountered. I think this book should be required reading for life. I want them to teach it in schools, although I'm sure it never will be considering that the staunchly religious among us would not be able to abide a book that compares their life view to mythical tales of heroes and monsters.

I read this book over the course of several weeks in cookie-cutter segments. It will be one that I go back and reread because there are sections that I didn't internalize as deeply as I maybe would've liked

The Bride’s Farewell by Meg Rosoff

A sparse yet intricate pseudo-fairy tale of one woman’s journey to find herself. I love her style; it’s so incredibly atmospheric. It’s very easy for me to fall into Rosoff’s worlds.

The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce

I started reading this last year and then I saw that Jim Beaver was reading it this year, too. :P I think this clever little book is one that I will revisit, as some of the humor inevitably passed me by first go ‘round.

The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers by Thomas Mullen

A story about two bank-robbing brothers, with a slight supernatural edge. I liked this one more in retrospect than I did when I first read it. I think the author was/is a big fan of the film Public Enemies, because I saw a lot of that film in this novel. Loved the two brothers, though.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Book club. I kind of think of this book as a companion piece to John Connolly’s The Gates. It’s another supernatural young adult novel, this time about a young boy who is raised by ghosts in a cemetery. Like all of Gaiman’s work it’s darkly funny and poignant. I really loved the Jacks of all Trades.

A Fair Maiden by Joyce Carol Oates

Oates is always a bit hit or miss for me; I've always preferred her short stories to her novels/novellas. That being said, if you handed me this book without any form of identification and asked me to name the author, I would probably have gotten it in one or two guesses. Oates has a very particular style and the same themes of gender, sexuality and power run through all of her works that I've read.

More than anything, Oates' observations regarding female/male relationships and cultural perception always feel spot-on, to me. There's a part in chapter three of this novel where Katya thinks about the difference between women and men where she says something to the extent of "men can be many things, not just their body. Women are only their bodies." This is maybe the part of the novel that stuck with me the most, especially since it seems to keep reappearing in the relationships between Katya and every other character in the book. The women fear her and disdain her because of her beauty, the men--even Marcus Kidder, who proclaims her his soul's mate--see only her physical being.

I wouldn't say this is an enjoyable book to read if only because the sinister feel of it that's present from the very beginning. From the moment Kidder approaches Katya at the beginning of the story, we have an inkling of his intentions and that inkling sticks with us as a sinister unsettling feeling until the end.

What I liked most about the novel was that it didn't end as expected, and I found the last few pages quite beautiful with their dream-like atmosphere.

Isis: A Tale of the Supernatural by Douglas Clegg

I saw this little book at Powell’s last winter and immediately had to buy multiple copies. It’s a gothic tale in the same vein as Jane Eyre or any of Poe’s short stories, with a set of amazing illustrations.

The Boy with the Cuckoo Clock Heart By Mathias Malzieu

An odd, occasionally charming, but mostly overwrought steampunk fairytale. I loved the idea of the cuckoo-clock heart and the musicality of the phrase itself; it's a good introduction to the feel of the book. I think that because he's a musician Malzieu maybe gets too tangled up in his words and descriptions and it sometimes weighs down the story which feels like it should be lighter. I guess it's being made into a film, and I can see how it could be very charming and successful as such. As I was reading it, I kept picturing traditional wooden puppets, so I hope that's the sort of style they decide to go with.

Mordred, Bastard Son by Douglas Clegg

Considering how much I loved Isis, I had high expectations for this one. I wouldn't say it let me down necessarily, it just wasn't what I had expected. I've always loved the stories of King Arthur and Camelot, and Mordred in particularly has always fascinated me. You would think that this book would be right up my ally, and it was to a point. While I enjoyed Clegg's take on Mordred's upbringing and on the characters of Morgan and Merlin, I was unmoved by most of the action and the love story in particular, due mostly to the language of the novel. It was too flowery and predictable, although that was likely intentional as Clegg states from the Authorial Note at the beginning that his purpose in telling this particular story is to honor the old myths. I don't know if I will read any sequels

Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby

I think one of the things that makes Nick Hornby such an effective writer for me is that he seems very aware of and connected to the "new media," i.e. internet culture etc, and that comes through very strongly in this novel. As a person who encounters a great deal of obsessive online fandoming, both as a participant and as an observer, there were moments while I was reading this novel where I nodded/laughed in recognition of certain behaviors/types, and other moments where I cringed in embarrassment at antics and behaviors that I have witnessed or seen in myself.

Along these lines, I particularly enjoyed the way Hornby chose to end the book and I appreciated that things were not tied up with a neat bow. I also loved how even after Duncan's semi-disillusionment after he meets Tucker that he still continues in his online community; his love doesn't diminish even when faced with the very real human-ness of his idol. It all feels quite "true" to me.

In Great Waters by Kit Whitfield

This is one of my favorite books of the year. Whitfield blends historical and fantasy fiction beautifully in this novel that serves as an alternate history for the British Isles where over the centuries the royal family has become infused with mer-folk. It’s a very engaging story and I recommend it highly.

My Life as a Traitor: An Iranian Memoir by Zarah Ghahramani

Book club. I think this is the only non-fiction we read for book club this year. It’s the story of a woman who was imprisoned in Tehran in 2001. The most interesting parts of this book were the discussions of Iranian polticial history, some of which was familiar to me already but it was good to get a clearer picture.

Fugitives & Refugees by Chuck Palahniuk

Palahniuk’s underground guide to Portland, Oregon. I’m not a terribly big fan of Palahniuk’s novels, but I really enjoyed this exploration of Portland’s many quirks. An excellent itinerary of weirdness for anyone who wants to come visit.

Friends Like These: My Worldwide Quest to Find My Best Childhood Friends, Knock on Their Doors, and Ask Them to Come Out and Play by Danny Wallace

I’ve read Wallace’s other two books and found them entertaining. This one is undoubtedly the best of the bunch. The popularity of sites like facebook just goes to show how eager folks are to get in touch/keep in touch with people who were important to them in the past. Wallace goes on a number of journeys, both near and far, to reconnect with those folks from his childhood. Sometimes touching, sometimes outrageously funny (the part about the furries just killed me), this is a good memoir for any person who’s been feeling nostalgic.

The Girl with the Glass Feet by Ali Shaw

Publisher’s Weekly called this novel “both love story and dirge,” which I think is a perfect description; it is a foggy, insubstantial realm populated by a cast of characters burdened with loves lost. None of the character's ambitions/dreams are realized, every single one of them is cast adrift alone into the world. At the end of the novel, Shaw tricks us by showing Midas learning how to scuba dive; we think that perhaps his brief affair with Ida has somehow freed him from the fear and loneliness of his existence, until we learn that he is merely learning to dive in order to search for the girl he lost, the woman turned to glass.

While the desolation present in the novel may represent a more realistic and "true" modem tale, eventually I grew tired of the unrelenting bleakness of it all. I wanted someone to be content, I honestly didn't care who. Alas it was not to be.

What makes Girl With the Glass Feet work is the language; Shaw has a very keen ear for words and their timbre. The novel is atmospheric in a way that pulls you into the setting from the very first pages. It's extremely sensual and vivid. My favorite part of the novel was the scene on pages 192-193, American edition, where Midas and Ida stand on the deck of the house in Enghem-on-the-Water and watch the dying of the jellyfish. Very few times have I ever wanted to be in a literary moment the way I wished to be in that one. It was a gorgeous scene and the one I wish to keep with me.

Benighted by Kit Whitfield

Kit Whitfield’s foray into werewolf fiction. I feel like this could translate to a film so easily and I’m surprised it hasn’t yet made that jump. Finally, decently written supernatural fiction for adults. \o/

The Last Summer of You & Me by Anne Brashares

Book club. I’ve read a few of Brashares’ Traveling Pants novels and was interested to see how she would adapt to “adult” story-writing. This is a good beach read.

Winter Rose by Patricia McKillip

I don’t know what my problem was with this book. It had really beautiful language in parts and gorgeous descriptive passages, but I kept feeling like I was sinking into quicksand while reading it. This was one of those novels that I really wanted to like but ended up being ambivalent about.

The Infinities by John Banvile

Book club. I chose this book for book club because it has my favorite first sentence of the year: Of the things we fashioned for them that they might be comforted, dawn is the one that works. The rest of the novel is kind of plodding and British—but with interesting narration in sections—not an easy read, but I’m glad I made it through. It’s about a dying patriarch and his peculiar family.

Where’s My Wand? by Eric Poole

Eric Poole really wants to be the next David Sedaris. This memoir is about how, growing up as a young gay man, he honestly believed he could perform magic with the aid of a moth-eaten blanket and a wand. Not as clever as Sedaris’ work, but an easy, fun read.

Madapple by Christina Meldrum

This is one of those young adult novels that I think fell through the cracks because it tries to address too many things and there isn’t a solid, identifiable love story for a female audience to clutch onto with a death-grip. I really like the cover, which is why I picked it up in the first place, and I learned a bit about the mythical and folk-medicinal properties of a number of flora.

Underwater Weeping Looks a Lot Like Laughter by Michael J. White

An extremely well-written novel about first love. While I was not overly moved by the story itself, White's prose and almost cinematic style made this a satisfying read. I think it helped that I have history with the setting; his invocations of Iowa jived well with my own memories and impressions.

Fallen by Lauren Kate

All the insipid, whiny heroine navel-gazing of Twilight, but this time with ANGELS. The most interesting part of the book was the, an obvious ploy to get to me slog through the sequel, a ploy for which I refuse to fall.

In Our Strange Gardens by Michael Quint

I remember very little about this novel beyond the fact that it was printed in both English and French and took place in WWII. I was looking for a quick read and this one was less than 100 pages. It didn’t have some of the sparkle I see in other translated works and that’s maybe why I don’t remember it very well.

The Stone Gods by Jeanette Winterson

Book club. This is a gorgeously written book; numerous times I found myself rereading sections or sentences just soaking up the language. I love post apocalyptic literature but loathe "space"; Winterson is a master wordsmith and it was this mastery that made me fall in love with this book in spite of its setting.

The Foretelling by Alice Hoffman

I usually come away from Alice Hoffman novels with nothing but a sense of accomplishment for having finished. This one, though, which is a YA novel about a young woman in a nomadic tribe—early civilization fiction—actually captivated me through the final pages. Her YA novels are more finely crafted than her adult novels, I think mostly because she is confined to a smaller word count and the implicit simplicity of this particular genre helps her streamline her work and cut it down to what is actually important while still keeping descriptive language that catches the imagination. I really liked this one.

The Whisperers by John Connolly

The latest in the Charlie Parker series. Honestly, I’ve been sort of lukewarm about all the novels after The Reapers, but I did like this one better than The Lovers. This one focuses on troops returning from Iraq/Afghanistan, and a particular evil that has followed with them. Told with the same dexterity as the rest of the series, but I did find myself zoning out in sections.

Brains: A Zombie Memoir by Robin Becker

Delightfully odd, tongue-in-cheek imagining of a future that feels way too possible to be comfortable. Becker is quite witty and her novel feels conversational is the best way. A little too gory/gross for my taste, but a good read for any undead enthusiast

Horns by Joe Hill

A few years ago I read Hill’s short story collection, 20th Century Ghosts, and really liked it. I enjoyed this one, the story of a young man who wakes up one day to discover that he has grown horns and is in the process of turning into a demon, as well but not as much. It’s an entertaining read that will fit in well with Stephen King’s oeuvre.

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

Basically, Stephenie Meyer has ruined young adult literature irrevocably. The Twilight saga has paved the way for a whole slew of supernaturally themed YA novels featuring spineless heroines and dark, tortured heroes that instill values in our young women of which we should be extremely leery.

One of the things that most irritated me about Fitzpatrick's novel in particular is the way Nora Grey's world was essentially created and controlled by the men with whom she comes into contact; both Patch and Jules not only control her thoughts and perception, quite literally, but at one point Patch actually takes control of her body in order to fight off an attacking Jules because Nora is incapable of saving herself. She is a milktoast Mary-Sue who involves herself with a dangerous, untrustworthy guy, but it's okay because he's just so damn good looking! *sigh*

While I was reading this book I was trying to think back to the novels I read as a late elementary school and junior high student (I'd left YA lit behind when I hit high school and only started reading it again when I began work at the bookstore). As a "young adult" I read the Redwall series by Brian Jaques, the Enchanted Forest series by Patricia C Wrede and the Alanna/Tortal series by Tamora Pierce. These last two featured competent, strong central female characters that would laugh and roll their eyes at the heroines of YA fantasy/supernatural literature today. I blame Bela Swann & Stephenie Meyer for reintroducing the fainting, helpless female as the ideal back into the dialogue.

Another thing, why is it that every single YA book of this caliber I've read in the last year wastes my time by offering detailed descriptions of the character's dress? What is that? I don't care if your characters are wearing GAP capri jeans and a cropped A&F tee with a white and pink knitted cap. How is that essential to the plot? It seems like product placement and generally bad writing. If I'm noticing this to the point where it throws me out of what little story there actually're doing it wrong.

In conclusion, I resent it when crappy YA books like this get amazing covers. It's false advertising and I feel cheated. I read fanfiction every day that's more elegantly written and emotionally satisfying than this novel.

The Earth Hums in B Flatby Mari Strachan

Book club. Tight, familiar story with a delightful & creative narrator. in terms of style, this one kind of reminded me of The Elegance of the Hedgehog although it lacks the long sections of philosophy.

Fragile Beasts by Tawni O’Dell

At first I was hesitant to read this novel because Back Roads left me extremely unsettled(seriously, Jared Padalecki, wtf?). Once I’d finished, however, I was very glad I chose to give it a shot. While O'Dell definitely has plot devices she returns to again and again, her characters are always multi-dimensional and compelling. The plot of Fragile Beasts isn't necessarily predictable and I enjoyed the narrative style (multiple first person POVs).

I Know You’re Out There by Michael Beaumier

Read this while on vacation in August. Beaumier spent time as the personals section editor at a paper, and this memoir is about some of the adventures he had while at that post. Quick, engaging, occasionally funny.

The Waters & the Wild by Francesca Lia Block

This book felt more like a writing exercise than a full story. Extremely barebone and lacking the sparkle of Block's other work.

Green Angel by Alice Hoffman

With her atmospheric, dream-like fairy tales, Hoffman is picking up the gauntlet dropped by Francesca Lia Block in her later works. This is the second YA novel of Hoffman's that I've read this year and I greatly prefer them to her adult novels.

Green Witch by Alice Hoffman

I actually preferred this one to its predecessor, due mostly to the fact that this novel centered around Green's physical journey. I really enjoy fairy tales that involve a quest of some kind, and the images that Hoffman invokes during Green's travels are marvelous

Cold Skin by Steve Herrick

A novel comprised of poems from various characters’ points of view. The poetry angle lent it a particular atmospheric style that I liked, even if in the end it left me feeling just sort of blah.

Hero by Perry Moore

One of my two favorite YA books that I read this year. This is the coming-of-age story of young Thom Creed, the gay son of one of the city’s foremost former superheroes. If you like queer lit and if you like super heroes and high school romances, this is a good book for you. Moore’s background in film shines through very clearly, and the story never drags. I want a sequel and I want a film.

House of Tomorrow by Peter Bognanni

This is another coming of age story, but shelved in adult fiction. I was reading this the same time I was beta-ing a piece of high school fic for a friend, and the two are now linked in my head. The protagonist is Sebastian Prendergast, an intelligent but naïve young man who has grown up in the care of his grandmother in a geodesic dome in Iowa. By chance he meets a sickly young music fanatic, Jared, and they form a punk band. I really loved the characters in this one.

Wicked by Gregory MaGuire

First Gregory MaGuire book I have ever read. I’m sure I’m the last person in America to have read this novel. While I appreciate the thought and creativity that went into fleshing out this story, I was ready for the end when it came. I can’t really decide if I like his style or not. Also, my favorite characters, Crope and Tibbett, kind of disappeared and this resulted in a lessening of interest for me.

Over the Cliff: How Obama’s Election Drove the American Right Insane by John Amato & David Neiwert

You want a book that will make you insane with rage? This is that book. Our local paper reviewed this over the summer and I bought and read it mostly to piss off my boss. I realized that while I knew some of what the GOP/Conservative propaganda machine had been up to over the past few years, I had no idea as to the depth of their crazy. The extreme hatred that has found a home amongst the conservative ranks in this country frightens me.

Lighthousekeeping by Jeanette Winterson

The second book by Winterson I read. I actually picked this up at a store years ago because I loved the look of the cover. Winterson’s gorgeous descriptive language is what makes her tales stand out, and this novel was no exception. It felt like watching a well-done film. Have to say, I preferred the first half to the second where I feel the story kind of lost it’s direction.

I Shudder And Other Reactions to Life, Death, and New Jersey By Paul Rudnick

The last in the line of memoirs written by gay men that I read this year. Rudnick interspersed his memories of working in the entertainment industry with fictional diary entries by a character named Elyot Vionnet who serves as his alter-ego and has insane adventures. Vionnet seems to be Rudnick’s “inner voice” as it were, the things he wishes he could say and the way he wishes he could act. There were moments where I laughed out loud.

The Idiot Girl & the Flaming Tantrum of Death by Laurie Notaro

It made me laugh out loud at least ten times, which is really all I expect from this sort of book. I rather enjoy reading about my home state through the eyes of non-natives, and I appreciate many of Notaro's trials and tribulations as they so closely resemble my own.

The Silent Boy by Lois Lowry

A quick, historical fiction YA novel. Nothing special, but sprinkled with found photos from the time period in which the book is set.

If There Is Something to Desire by Vera Pavlova

Deceptively simple, with sentences--moments--words that make you stop. Reread. Again. Again. The first book of modern poetry I've enjoyed in a long time.

The Marrowbone Marble Company by Glenn Taylor

I had high hopes for this one, for some reason, maybe because of the cover? It sort of reminded me of the aforementioned Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers. Anyway, this is the story of a man and his marble factory. The supporting cast is great and it also addresses the civil rights movement in an interesting and engaging way. I’m glad I read this one.

The Rock Bible: Unholy Scripture for Bands & Fans by Henry H Owings

Bought on my trip to Seattle at the Experience Music Project. The best part of this book might be the genesis section where it basically takes a ten page tour through the history of rock (a begot b which begot c and so on). The gospels for each part of the band are fun as well.

Light Boxes by Shane Jones

I really wanted to like this book more than I did. While it is undoubtedly very creative, I'm afraid I don't get it. It failed to move me and I'm struggling to figure out the message of this modern fairy-tale.

Little Bee by Chris Cleaves

Book club. I picked this for our club because my mother read it earlier in the year and nagged me about it endlessly. Tell you what; it isn’t as life changing or stunning as the intentionally vague jacket description will lead you to believe. If you’re going into it looking for something that will blow your mind, you will be disappointed. It’s a solidly told tale, but nothing we haven’t seen before no matter what the reviewers say.

The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano

Another book I wanted to like maybe more than I did. The story follows a young boy and girl, both having suffered from traumatic events in their childhoods, who come together at different points throughout their lives. It’s depressing and hopeful at the same time, and there is a section on prime numbers that is particularly interesting. The author is this 27 year old physicist who makes me feel completely inadequate. Not only is he some sort of physics genius, but he can write a well-written book, too! I hate people like that. ;)

Evernight by Claudia Gray

Significantly better than "Fallen" or "Hush, Hush", but that’s not saying much. I wasn't expecting either twist and it was decently written--although I could have done without so many references to Lucas' "bronze hair."

My Name is Memory by Anne Brashares

I love the premise of this novel: every soul lives multiple lives, but only a select few can remember the lives they’ve lived before. It was a quick, enjoyable love story. My only complaint is that it felt reminiscent of The Time Traveler’s Wife and the ending seemed slightly out of place and slapdash.

I Was the Jukebox by Sandra Beasley

I appreciated moments in these poems; there was usually a phrase or section of each poem that caught my eye, but only one or two poems that I liked in their entirety.

The Ghost Soldiers (Poems) by James Tate

I've always been a big fan of prose poetry, and I wanted to like these poems more than I did. I hesitate to even call them poems as they're more like a series of vaguely related short stories. "Poems about nothing" is quite an apt description.

A Separate Peace by John Knowles

This was the first time I’d read this novel. I debated between three and four stars for this one; four because I liked the story, and three because I was hesitant over the overuse of adjectives and was never very fond of Gene as a narrator or character. Went with four. Classic story.

The Weight by Jeanette Winterson

Part of the “Myths” series, Winterson’s reimagining of Atlas shouldering the world is a dense, complicated retelling that straddles the line between fiction and memoir-like exploration. She is an author that seems to put a great deal of herself into her writing, but her efforts never feel preachy or pushy. I think the first section of the story, which is more a gearing up for the retelling of the myth, is maybe the most interesting part of the book, followed shortly by the sections wherein Atlas examines his own fate and motivations. I feel this one may require a reread in the future.

Talking to Girls About Duran Duran by Rob Sheffield

Music is probably the biggest “thing” in my life; it influences me and moves me in ways very little else has managed to do in my twenty-eight years on earth. Consequentially, I love reading music-based memoirs and Rob Sheffield’s in particular. Unlike some of the more cerebral and occasionally snobbish folks who share this genre of writing—I’m thinking of Chuck Klosterman, another favorite of mine—Rob merges his personal experience with the musical influences of his life in a way that feels familiar to those of us who just love music for music’s sake. He’s not afraid to admit his guilty pleasures and to gush about unpopular bands/eras with fanboy-ish enthusiasm. After reading his books I feel that I would really like to know him. I think I enjoyed this one even more than Love is a Mix-Tape.

Blue-Eyed Devil by Robert B. Parker

The saddest thing about Parker's recent passing is that there will be no more Cole & Hitch novels.

Ghost Medicine by Andrew Smith

I first happened upon this book when I was working at Grass Roots back in 2008. It appeared in a catalogue from which I was helping to choose new titles for the store and I was intrigued by the title. This is the best young adult book I've read this year. I don't even want to call it "young adult" because it is so much more impressively written than everything else I've read in that genre over the past eleven months. This is going to sound somewhat sexist, but every YA book I read this year written by a man was better than those written by women. I think this is because the stories focus more on outward action than on inner reflection; yes, the young men protagonists have motivations and feelings and whatall, but the novels don’t seem to dwell so much on their inner workings. Also, if there is a love interest, it’s usually a supporting part of the plot not the main focus of the book. This particular novel is wonderfully atmospheric and populated by complex, interesting characters. I was completely transported by this one and can’t wait to read Smith’s other novels.

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

This breathtaking, exquisite novel is the first book I have ever read that physically made me cry. Reimagining Hamlet is no easy feat, but Wroblewski executed it masterfully in this book. Like Marianne Wiggins' Evidence Of Things Unseen & Jayne Ann Philips’ Lark & Termite, it's a bit of a slow starter, but incredibly rewarding if you stick with it. Hands down the best book I read in 2010.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

A lot of people were talking about this book on goodreads there for awhile and I’m not sure why. It’s a decent enough story with an arguably strong female protagonist. I can’t decide whether or not I liked the style of the narrative. Three stars.

The Plucker by Brom

A creeper of a story with gorgeous illustrations. If you like Neil Gaiman's work, you'll probably enjoy Brom's

Free-Range Chickens by Simon Rich

Amusing enough, but nothing special.

Milk, Eggs, and Vodka by Bill Keaggy

A collection of grocery lists abandoned and found, sprinkled with interesting little food/shopping-related facts on the edge. I learned a few things which I then quickly forgot, because my brain is a sieve like that.

Player One: What Is to Become of Us? by Douglas Coupland

I didn't like this one as much as I've liked some of Coupland's other novels. to be fair, it had the misfortune to be read directly after my favorite book of the year, so it wasn't an even playing field. I feel like there are a number of "big ideas" (or "small ideas", depending on your view point) that I kind of washed over, thus it may require a re-read in the future

Dispatches from the Edge by Anderson Cooper

Before reading this book I knew absolutely nothing about Cooper’s background. I know, I’m a bad fan. This memoir uses the background of the major disasters that Cooper covered in the early 2000s to help him tell of the tragedies of his own life—his father’s death, his brother’s suicide—and the way he has internalized and processed all the need and despair he’s encountered in his work. As someone who often avoids a lot of news coverage about the type of disasters that Cooper has covered, the book was illuminating for me and helped fill in some of the gaps in my own knowledge.

Petty Magic: Being the Memoirs and Confessions of Miss Evelyn Harbinger, Temptress and Troublemaker by Camille DeAngelis

I kind of think of this one as a companion piece to Brashare’s My Name Is Memory
in that the premise is similar; lovers from past lives are reunited but only one of them can actually remember what has gone before. In the case of Evelyn Harbinger, this is because she is a 150 year old witch. The novel has all the whimsy you would expect from a tale of modern witches, and at times it’s quite tongue in cheek. DeAngelis does a really good job explaining how the world of the witches lives alongside that of regular mortals—sort of Harry Potter-esque—and it’s easy to buy into this remapping of the world we already know. This book was comfortable and enjoyable like a hot cup of tea.

Nothing Happened & Then It Did: A Memoir in Fact & Fiction by Jake Silverstein

What an apt title. This book is divided into sections: all odd numbered chapters are ones that Silverstein insists are factually true to the best of his knowledge. The even numbered chapters are ones that might be more fiction than fact. What I took away from this book was a better grasp on the cultural history/feel of the southwest/northern Mexico. It mentions some places I wouldn’t mind visiting in the future.

Books Started But Not Finished in 2010

The Anxiety of Everyday Objects by Aurelie Sheehan
Reason why: Wanted to do it for book club this coming year.

Equivocation by Bill Cain
Reason why: Reading it right now.

Our Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thomas
Reason why: Reading right now.
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June 2012

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