Friday, January 1, 2010
2009 Reading Review
Total number of books read: 110
Total Fiction: 84
Total Non-fic: 26
Misc. Fiction: 38
Young Adult: 14
Misc. Non-Fic.: 7
True Crime: 4
THE BEST OF 2009:
Civil War Stories, Ambrose Bierce
I have no idea how to describe the writing of Ambrose Bierce other than to say that I was both mesmerized and mortified. I was mesmortified.
An Actual Life, Abigail Thomas
In An Actual Life, Abigail Thomas has created one of the freshest voices I've come across in quite a while. The protagonist, Virginia, is truly an unforgettable character. Unfortunately, the story is about an unhappy marriage, something I hate reading about, so that took away from the enjoyment factor for me. Still, if you're looking for a common tale told in an uncommon way, this one's worth picking up.
Down Under and A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson
If Bill Bryson wrote soup can labels, I would pay good money to read them. He's that good.
Doing Our Own Thing: The Degradation of Language and Music and Why We Should, Like, Care, John McWhorter
If Doing Our Own Thing had not already been recommended to me by my friend eattheolives, I would have decided to read it based on the title alone.Rather than merely decrying the loss of love for the English language demonstrated by America as a whole, John McWhorter analyzes the shift in attitude and attempts to trace it to its source. Interestingly enough (to my utter delight) he sees the more recent breakdown in education as a symptom rather than a cause. (That is, since English is no longer either valued as it was in the past, and since complete mastry is no longer required for all but a small crossection of society, schools no longer teach English as they were used to do.)The bottom line is that McWhorter made a fair few points, most of which I found valid. If you are at all interested in languages, how they change, and the reasons behind the shifts, you should pick up a copy of this book.
The Farseer Trilogy
The Liveship Traders
The Tawny Man Trilogy, all by Robin Hobb
Fantastic! Complex characterization, multilayered plots, well-textured prose, and rich details all blend together in perfect harmony.
Destined for the Throne: How Spiritual Warfare Prepares the Bride of Christ for Her Destiny, Paul Billheimer
For such a slim book, this took me much longer to read than I had anticipated. Each section left me with much to mull over and ponder. Not every idea in this book was new to me, but of course some of Billheimer's conclusions/applications were. I strongly recommend this to any Christian who takes his walk with the Lord seriously.
Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell
Gives a new perspective what exactly contributes to a person's success. Entertaining, informative, and well worth picking up.
Save the Males: Why Men Matter Why Women Should Care, Kathleen Parker
Now here's something refreshing: "Traditional values are traditional for a reason. They have survived the passage of time because they work."Debunking the claims of radical feminism, highlighting the ridiculousness of irrational political correctness, and exposing the roots (or lack thereof) of popular cultural myths, Kathleen Parker makes a strong case for the saving of (true) American masculinity. Her snappy witticisms and clever turn of phrase smoothed the path and helped make a few of her topics - which I would normally find uncomfortable - more palatable. (The chapters on human childbirth and the "V-na Monologues," especially.)Although I can't say authoritatively that I endorse all of her sentiments, I would recommend this book to anyone who is concerned with the "girls-rule-boys-drool" direction that a large cross-section of our society seems bent on taking.
There Is No Me Without You, Melissa Faye Greene
In There Is No Me Without You, Melissa Fay Greene uses one of my increasingly favorite styles (journalistic narrative nonfiction) to paint with clear strokes a picture of Haregewoin Teferra, a woman on a seeming single-handed quest to save Ethiopia's nation of AIDS orphans. (Warning: read with a box of tissues at your elbow. I am not even kidding. One night I actually came stumbling out of my bedroom sobbing, swatting around blindly for tissues. I think I scared Bethany nearly to death.)
The Stranger Beside Me: Ted Bundy: The Classic Story of Seduction and Murder, Ann Rule
When I reviewed this on Facebook right after I'd read it, all I could bring myself to type was "AIEEEEEEEE, creepy!" In all honesty, I read in a sort of horrified frenzy, falling so completely into the saga to the extent that I had to constantly remind myself that this entire drama played it out long ago. For days after finishing the book, I would not let Bethany sleep with our apartment windows open, although that feeling has worn off slightly with time. But seriously, folks. This book unnerved me. But I would totally read it again. Some day.
Dracula, Bram Stoker
From page one, I found myself completely mesmerized. The muted horror contrasts nicely with the elegance of the prose, making for a smooth -- though deliciously creepy -- read. As for characterization, both the central and auxiliary characters are nicely textured, and I actually find myself at a loss as to choosing a favorite from amongst them! Not to mention the fact that it's refreshing in this current literary climate of overwrought, melodramatic vampire obsession to read a story in which the monster takes his rightful place as villain in the tale, rather than mooning around and as one of my friends put it: falling in love with his dinner. (Note: now I feel the need to read The Historian again!)
Her Fearful Symmetry, Audrey Niffenegger
Elegantly written and deliciously dark. Lock your doors, pull down the shades, brew a cup of coffee, burrow down under the covers, and prepare to be pleasantly creeped out!Also, I am now absolutely slathering to visit Highgate Cemetery. Fortunately, I have the tickets to England already booked, so there's a high possibility that my rampant curiosity will one day be satisfied!
Columbine, David Cullen
Well done, Dave Cullen. Fabulously documented, flawlessly written, and emotionally controlled. Once I started reading, I became so engrossed that I gobbled this book down in two days. (I even read the chapter notes at the end!)
Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression, Morris Dickstein
Remarkably interesting and readable, especially considering how little exposure I had to 1930s popular culture prior to reading this book.