12/30/10

Books of the Year

Best Fiction
Room by Emma Donoghue
Jack is 5 and the room he was born in is his whole world; it’s a soundproof, escape-proof garden shed in which he and his mother are held captive. Jack narrates the book, and although he’s definitely precocious his thoughts and views are spot-on five. And the relationship between Jack and his mom is wonderfully drawn; it captures perfectly how a mother can love her child beyond measure (and go to extraordinary lengths to keep him safe and nurtured in spite of difficult circumstances) but still be irritated and worn down by the never-ending demands of motherhood. As soon as I finished this book the first time I immediately started reading it again from the beginning.

More really good fiction:
Mathilda Savitch by Victor Lodato
Abide With Me by Elizabeth Strout
The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker

Guilty Pleasure
Faithful Place by Tana French
This doesn’t quite fit into the category of “well-written literary fiction” like the above books; it’s more of a “can’t put down” kind of book. This is French’s third novel about detectives in Dublin. In each of the novels, there comes a point where you have to decide to suspend your disbelief in order to stick with the story; I suppose that’s a flaw, but she’s good enough at drawing characters and building suspense that it doesn’t matter in the end.

Nonfiction
The Devil and Sherlock Holmes by David Grann
This is a collection of essays (many of which, I realized after buying the book, I’d already read in The New Yorker) about murder, madness, and obsession. The best one is about a man who was executed in Texas for a crime he almost certainly did not commit. My second-favorite one, weirdly enough, is about the series of tunnels and mains that supply water to New York City (one stretches all the way from the city to Albany – did you know that?) and the looming crisis that the city faces if these tunnels aren’t repaired.

Series
The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins
I generally dislike apocalyptic/dystopian fiction, but it’s hard not to care about Katniss Everdeen and her struggle to survive as a tribute in the Hunger Games.

Favorite re-reads
Harry Potter
Just finished re-reading this series and love it as much as ever.

Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons by Shirley Jackson
Probably the funniest books I’ve ever read. The savages and demons of the titles are Jackson’s four children, and she writes about being a mother with a perfect blend of exasperation and bewilderment and affection.

Worst book of the year
Honestly, I feel like I read a bunch of stinkers this year. The worst among the worst was Mr Peanut by Adam Ross. It starts out okay – a man is arrested on suspicion of force-feeding peanuts to his highly allergic wife, resulting in her death – but no, typing that out, I see it didn’t really start out okay at all. The problem with this book – and what some call its “genius” – is that you never really know what “actually” happened and what is the projection of the main character, who is himself writing a book about things that happened to him. And then in the middle there’s a long, long, long side story about Sam Shepherd (you know, from The Fugitive), which honestly might have been all right had it been a completely separate book, but which I couldn’t enjoy because I kept thinking, wait, was does this have to do with the peanut guy? I hated this book, but I kept plugging along because I wanted to figure out “what happened” – and the final straw was that, about ten pages toward the end, there’s another digression about the films of Hitchcock. WTH? Oh, the agony. Hated this book.

Worst re-read of the year
Last week I suddenly felt the urge to re-visit The Witching Hour by Anne Rice, which I remember loving beyond reason when I was in college. I couldn’t find my original copy, so I downloaded it onto my nook (for cheap!) and dove in. And good grief – let’s just put it this way – the book is 1074 pages and I think she could’ve gotten the job done in 350. She never uses one sentence when three paragraphs would suffice. The story itself is not terrible, but I don’t know if I’m going to have the fortitude to make it all the way to the end. I guess it’s good to know that my tastes have matured a bit in 20 years.

What are the best and worst books you read this year?

4 comments:

aimee said...

By far, One Day. I didn't realize how much the author made me care about the characters (bc they were sometimes awful) until it made me cry. Books rarely make me cry so I was awed.

That was the best. I reread Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Still love it too. I've read a lot if fantasy/myth series and they are fun. But worst book? I don't have the patience to finish books I don't like so I cant answer.

Best series: The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo and The Hunger Games.

Jana said...

I agree with Aimee on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo!! I couldn't stop reading them!

I really liked Eat, Pray, Love. I haven't seen the movie because I don't think you can do the book justice.

MomofK9s said...

Worst-Wicked. the musical was hands down my favorite-completely awesome. I am still addicted to the soundtrack on my iPod. The book-awful.

H Noble said...

Does the Fisher Price Guide to Potty Training count? :) I can't categorize it b/c I didn't finish it and nothing I've attempted works anyway. Sigh.