Thursday, December 3, 2009

Favourite Books of the Year

I have read 98 books so far this year. Granted, most of them were YA, so they go really fast. For those of you who like to read (especially YA) here is a quick list of my favourites of the year.

The list is in the descending order that I read them, and in no way indicates a ranking or preference. Nor do I group them by genre as I probably should. Here you go:

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
A post-apocalyptic setting wherein Katniss, a teenage girl, competes in a fight-to-the-death televised competition in order to save her little sister's life. The main character's actions during the competition spark feelings of revolution in the oppressed people of the nation. A great springboard for discussion on reality television, government, rebellion, family, and the confusion of teenage love.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Sequel to Hunger Games as the rebellion spreads and Katniss unwittingly becomes the poster child for revolution.

Inheritance by Christopher Paolini (Actually a series of Eragon, Eldest, and Brisingr)
Teenage boy meets baby dragon and together they experience adventure and tragedy as they are thrown into war. Eragon must take up the mantle of the Dragon Riders and battle to save Alagaesia from tyranny.

Forest Born by Shannon Hale (4th of her Bayern books)
Rin has lived in the Forest all her life with her large extended family. She has buried her frighteningly powerful abilities as she's grown up as the quiet and steady cook, maid, and nanny for her family. She leaves her family to go to the city with her brother, Razo (of the previous Bayern books), and gets swept up in an adventure wherein her dormant abilities come bursting forth. She's frightened by what she can do, fearing the her raw power will overcome and destroy her. It's a story about self-discovery, self-mastery, and self-confidence. A wonderful book for a young, insecure teenage girl.

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
The first time Clare meets Henry she is five years old and he's middle aged. The first time Henry meets Clare he is his twenties, and so is she. The convoluted story of their relationship and marriage as they try to live normal lives despite the genetic anomaly that results in his regularly disappearing from the present to travel into the past or future, an ability over which he has no control.

The Invisible Wall by Harry Bernstein
Autobiographical story of growing up on a street during WWI where the inhabitants of one side of the street were Jewish and the other Christian, and the events that transpired, breaking the barrier between the two.

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams
The story of a young teenager, raised in a polygamist community, who is "chosen" to marry one of the apostles of her community. This apostle happens to be her middle-aged uncle. She fights the calling and as a result puts her whole family in very real danger from the leaders of her people. She battles between saving herself and saving her family from unspeakable horrors. A well-researched, well-written, and frightening book. Not for the sensitive heart.

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
Autobiographical story of fighting on the front lines in the German army during WWI. It does a wonderful job of expressing the psychological damage that soldiers suffer, and how if affects them for the rest of their lives.

No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
Precious Ramotswe is the first female detective in Botswana. She is "traditionally built" and adheres to traditional thought and morality. A gentle mystery with wonderful characters. The first in a delightful series.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Santiago, a shepherd boy, travels far to follow the advice of a prophet in the hopes of finding an unimaginable treasure. A story of listening to your heart, overcoming the challenges that face you, and following your dreams.

About Alice by Calvin Trillin
Columnist Calvin Trilling writes about his wife, who left him to cancer. She wasn't perfect, but she was beautiful and smart and sassy, and he loved her. Tender and sweet.

Fablehaven by Brandon Mull
Kendra and her brother Seth go to spend the summer at the estate where their grandparents are caretakers. While there they follow a series of clues to discover the truth about the mysterious estate: that it is in fact a sanctuary for mythological creatures that are in actuality not mythological after all. They unleash an evil force and fight to save the sanctuary and protect the world from the creatures it holds. So fun. So imaginative.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Newberry winner and an absolute delight. Gaiman takes his inspiration from Kipling's The Jungle Book, telling the story of a boy whose family is killed when he is an infant. Instead of being raised in the jungle by animals, the boy is raised in a graveyard by ghosts. He nears manhood and needs to reenter the mortal world and discover the secrets behind his family's murder.

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
A thief is released from prison in order to help the king steal a precious treasure from a neighboring country. Full of plot-twists and surprises. An extremely enjoyable and fun read. The first in a delightful series.

A must-read for any woman desiring a natural birth. Despite Ina May's rather far-out hippie lifestyle, her writing is still very accessible. Ina May remains an incredible resource and advocate for natural birth. She is a true pioneer in the return of midwifery. She convincingly teaches the reader that childbirth is a healthy and natural process, not one to be feared, but to be embraced. She describes labor not as painful, but as the most intense sensation that requires ALL of your attention. That perspective was invaluable to me and was in large measure responsible for the incredible birth experience I had with my son. If you're interested in natural birth, you can read my birth story here.

Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
Ever wonder exactly why and how Hook lost his hand to the crocodile? Ever wonder what made Peter and Hook such mortal enemies and how they met in the first place? Read this book to find out. The first in a series.

Family Man by Calvin Trillin
Trillin writes about family life, fatherhood, and the delight of his children. An honest, sweet, and tender glimpse of the most important part of his life.

Private school shenanigans. Frankie is frustrated that her boyfriend won't share with her the truth about his membership in the most exclusive secret society on campus. She succeeds in uncovering their secrets, duping the entire group, and anonymously taking charge of their activities. What happens when a girl controls the most popular boys in school? What happens when she is discovered?
The title says it all. A simple story about the innocent adventures of children.

I felt understood and somewhat vindicated just by reading this book. Glad I'm not the only one who feels that etiquette and manners are important. Laugh out loud funny.

My Life and Hard Times by James Thurber
A brief look at his childhood in Ohio. Humorous and full of wit, Thurber writes about the eccentricities of his family and the foibles of human nature. Would that more writers could accomplish what Thurber does in such brief sketches.


Susan said...

I probably told you this (and you're not here to pull on your earlobe), but I remember so clearly the first time I read My Life and Hard Times. It was in 7th grade; I must have got my work done and got to read what I wanted. The classroom was silent (which it often was in those halcyon days of yore) and I kept bursting into a quiet laughter and the other kids kept looking at me to see what was going on. Of course, later in life when I learned that Thurber was going blind and really DID have odd-ball relatives, it tempered the humor for me. I also loved his line drawings that are scattered throughout the book. I don't think I laughed so much at another book until Bill Bryson's Neither Here Nor There.

Catherine said...

You are a stronger person than I am. I could only stomach "Eragon" and some of "Eldest." I, too, enjoyed "The Graveyard Book." I think pop culture has been overly saturated with vampires recently, but this is one book with a main vampire character that I can get behind.