Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 Reading List

Here it is, my 2009 reading list. I've put the books I'd recommend in bold, though some with reservations that I mention in my brief review. Jump to the end of the post if you just want to see my summary for the year!

  • 13 Things That Don't Make Sense by Michael Brooks (This book examines 13 areas where science doesn't yet have answers, such as life, death, placebos, dark matter, and homeopathy. The book starts slow, which is a shame as it becomes much more interesting. Some of it really made me think and challenged assumptions I had, or opened my eyes to things I never thought about. I recommend it with reservations as it is really a science book, spending a lot of time discussing different studies. I did find it a bit of a slog at times, but still worth reading.)
  • Peter and Max: A Fables Novel by Bill Willingham (I must admit I didn't have great hopes for this one. It's set in the universe of the Fables comics, and is about Peter Piper and the Pied Piper and Bo Peep. It turned out to be really engaging! The ending was a bit rushed in my opinion, but otherwise, it was great! I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoyed don't have to have read the Fables graphic novels. For the record, I thought Wicked was better than this, but Peter and Max was better than any of the other books by Maguire.)
  • Fables: Homelands (Fables, Volume 6) by Bill Willingham (I'm really enjoying this comic book series, though since having the boys I've only been reading it in graphic novel form, and I'm kind of behind. This volume opened with a so-so story about Jack going to Hollywood. However, the main part of the volume collected the story of Boy Blue fighting his way back to the homelands. Awesome story!)
  • The Hedge Knight (graphic novel) by George R. R. Martin (This is the graphic novel version of a short story I'd read many years ago in a Legends anthology. A Song of Ice and Fire is probably my favorite in-progress fantasy series, so it's no surprise I love this story set in the same world. I thought this worked very well as a graphic novel...thoroughly enjoyable! Now I just can't wait for the next novel in the series!)
  • Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson (I read this since I loved A Short History of Nearly Everything. This book was about Bryson traveling around England after living there for 20 years, right before moving back to America. I didn't find it that engaging. Some of the prose was wonderful, but in general, I found the book kind of whiny. But if you want to read endless descriptions of how bad architecture ruined England, knock yourself out)
  • Divine Misdemeanors by Laurell K. Hamilton (yet another book I'm embarrassed to admit I've read...)
  • Evolution by Stephen Baxter (Wow, this is a book I should have abandoned. BORING! DEPRESSING! Yikes. May just have snuck in under the wire for "worst book I've read in 2009".)
  • Vegetable Gardening for Dummies by Charlie Nardozzi (I haven't tried to use any of this advice yet, so I can't really comment on how useful it is. But the book was clearly written...just the right level for a vegetable gardening dummy like me! I recommend with the reservation that I haven't tried to use any of the information in this book yet.)
  • A Model World and Other Stories by Michael Chabon (This was just okay. I love Kavalier and Clay so much that I think I have too high expectations. These stories were kind of blah. Trying to hard to be "literature" if you ask me! Not totally a waste of time, just nothing I'd recommend or reread.)
  • Fool by Christopher Moore (Very funny story told from the POV of King Lear's jester. Definitely up there with my favorite books by Moore!)
  • The Killing of Worlds (Succession #2) by Scott Westerfeld (Great conclusion to the story. Things started to become a little unbelievable that Zai's warship just kept surviving, but I was willing to suspend disbelief. Great series!)
  • The Risen Empire (Succession #1) by Scott Westerfeld (I wish that I could have read Westerfeld when I was in middle school. I've enjoyed pretty much all his books, and this was no exception. This is the kind of Sci-fi I usually don't like: set in outer space, in the distant future, with war as a main storyline, but I still loved this. This very well may be my favorite series by Westerfeld!)
  • Have You Found Her: A Memoir by Janice Erlbaum (This book tells the story of when the author volunteered at the homeless shelter where she had previously lived. She meets a young woman and becomes very attached and tries to help her improve her situation. The writing was pretty good, but I found myself not really liking any of the characters. And the end didn't really wrap it all up...darn that "true story" getting in the way--a novel would never have left me hanging!)
  • Couplehood by Paul Reiser (I forgot to bring a book to my inlaws, so was glad when I saw this on their book shelf. I had read Parenthood a few years back, and found it to be an amusing diversion. Unfortunately, I didn't find Couplehood nearly as funny. Not terrible, but I wouldn't recommend it).
  • Baby 411 by Denise Fields and Ari Brown (The only baby book I'm rereading so far. I love this book for practical, general baby advice written in an engaging manner. My favorite of all the baby-advice books, of which I read approximately 1 zillion before B-man and N-man were born!)
  • Gentlemen of the Road: A Tale of Adventure by Michael Chabon (Hmmm, hitting a slump with some of my favorite authors. Chabon made an interesting choice here to cash in all his 50 cent words. It was interesting stylistically, but sometimes was overly stilted (plus way too many words I had to look up! And I consider my vocabulary fairly robust!). The actual plot was fairly engaging, he just lost me with the style choices. So I'm giving this one a mixed review.)
  • You Suck by Christopher Moore (Didn't love this one, but when I mentioned it to a friend, she pointed out that it's a sequel to a book I haven't read. Oops! And since my biggest complaint was that it seemed to pick up mid-story, without adequate character development, perhaps the main problem is with me not reading Bloodsucking Fiends first. They should really put some kind of note somewhere on the cover that tells you it's a sequel! Even after I knew, I scoured the whole book...front cover, back cover, inner flaps, title page, etc, and couldn't find any mention that it's a sequel!)
  • So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld (I really enjoy his books for the most part, and this was no exception. For a change, this wasn't a dystopian story. It was set in the present, and dealt with consumerism and how things are deemed "cool". Really enjoyed this!)
  • Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card (I've read this book a million times already and will probably read it a million more. I just love it! It was my "relax" book at the hospital when I was there having lil' Z-Man. One of my very favorite books ever!)
  • My Custom Van by Michael Ian Black (a collection of very short humor essays. Some were laugh-out-loud funny (i.e., "Hey David Sedaris--Why Don't You Just Go Ahead and Suck It", "When I Finally Get Around to Building My Robot, This is What It Will be Like", and the title story to name a few), but others fell flat. As a whole, the book was slightly uneven, but still worth a read.)
  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith (The idea is hilarious; I appreciate that. Some parts were really cleverly done. Overall, though, I thimk the story would have been improved if he stayed more true to the characters.)
  • Prince of Stories: The Many Worlds of Neil Gaiman by Hank Wagner, Christopher Golden, and Stephen R. Bissette (First, I think this book is primarly aimed at people who are far bigger Gaiman fans than me. I mean, I love his work, but don't have a ton of interest in minutia of his life/work. Having said that, there were some really interesting parts of this book, and some I just skimmed. While I'm not sure I would have read this if all my other books hadn't been packed, I'm glad I spotted it on the "new non-fiction" shelf at the library!)
  • Fluke, Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings by Christopher Moore. (I LOVED this one! A great mix of sci-fi and environmentalism, with plenty of unexpected twists and turns. Awesome!)
  • Tomorrowland: 10 Stories About the Future, edited by Michael Cart (I have a soft spot for books about the future written 10+ years ago, and some of my favorite children's/YA authors are represented in this volume. I found a few stories great, especially The Last Dog by Katherine Paterson. Some stories were forgettable, and a few were "I wish I could forget them". So a somewhat uneven collection, but still worth reading in my opinion since it is YA and not a big time investment!)
  • Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner (I loved this book...not sure why it took me so many years to pick it up! Perfect blend of fun/interesting/thought-provoking in an easy-to-read bundle.)
  • Harry Potter, books 1-7 by J. K. Rowling (We've packed most of our books, and I'm not buying anything new until after we move, so I grabbed these to reread. They're still great! I read book 7 right before the boys were born, so I thought it was fitting to reread the series right before this new baby is due!)
  • Olive Ktteridge: A novel in stories by Elizabeth Strout (Outstanding! Truly loved this. Found the connect short story structure to work very well here.)
  • Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth by Margaret Atwood (This is a non-fiction book. Normally, I'm SOOO in love with her writing, and I must say I wasn't so struck with the prose here. But, it was still an interesting book, and I loved the last chapter that dealt with a lot of environmental issues of debt. Not what I expected, but interesting!)
  • Finger Lickin' Fifteen by Janet Evanovich (Not great literature, but I'm still really enjoying this series! I don't care that it's formulaic. I still find it fun!)
  • Snuff by Chuck Palahniuk (I enjoyed this more than some of his other more recent books, but the ending was pretty disgusting, and the rest of the book wasn't *that* great. Too much shock, not enough greatness to make it worthwhile.)
  • Skin Trade by Laurell K. Hamilton (Anita Blake #17. Not horrid, but I'm not sure why I can't just give this series up.)
  • The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut (a reread for me. Enjoyable book, though not my absolute favorite by him. Still a good book by Vonnegut is better than a great book by most other authors!)
  • The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (Amazing! Loved this novel! It was so incredibly structured, and the story unfolded so beautifully. I was the teeniest, tiniest bit disappointed in the end (felt it was a bit of a quickie neat wrap-up), but it's still one of the best books I've read this year!)
  • The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives by Leonard Mlodinow (Some parts of this were amazing, some were boring. Overall, though, it made me think and is there really any higher praise? Reviewed by me here on The Book Nook.)
  • The Shaktra (Alosha book 3) by Christopher Pike (The best of the series, and the most annoying as it didn't finish the story! It was published a few years ago, and the next book still hasn't come out. Annoying!)
  • The Yanti (Alosha book 2) by Christopher Pike (Better than the first book in the series. I started getting more into the story in this novel.)
  • Alosha by Christopher Pike (Alosha book 1) (Not bad. YA about a girl who discovers creatures from a hidden world. Characters were somewhat unlikable, but the story was good).
  • Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books by Aaron Lansky (A non-fiction book about preserving Yiddish books. Not quite as "Amazing" as the title claims, but still interesting).
  • Coyote Blue by Christopher Moore (Very good. Not quite as wonderful as Lamb, but still entertaining.)
  • Moon Called (Mercedes Thompson book 1) by Patricia Briggs (A book about werewolves. Again, not the most shining example of prose, but a fun light quick read. I'll definitely look for the other books in the series. Recommended only for fans of the genre).
  • Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale by Holly Black (I've been woefully behind in reading YA fiction recently, so I spent some time in the YA section of the used book store and this is what I walked out with. I'm not going to claim it was incredible, but it was a quick read and enjoyable throughout. Not great, but good enough that I'd keep my eyes out for other books by this author!)
  • Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire (I loved Wicked. Let me just get that out of the way. But I've been disappointed by every other one of his books I've read. This was no exception...not terrible, but still disappointing. Not great, many slow sections, annoying unfinished ending. Eh.)
  • In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan (Well, it was no Omnivore's Dilemma, but interesting nonetheless. I'm glad I read it, but I think my expectations were too high.)
  • Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris (the 9th volume in the Southern Vampire series. Better than the last book, but still not quite as strong as the earlier books. I felt like this was a bit of a "clean up" book, getting rid of extraneous characters and plot points. We'll see where book 10 goes!)
  • What is the What by Dave Eggers (very interesting novel based on the true story of one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. Touching and truthful.)
  • A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson (Loved, loved, loved! Reviewed on The Book Nook by me here)
  • Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore (Loved it! Funny, well-written, engaging, amusing! Here's my review on The Book Nook.)
  • Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon (Hmm, I'm admittedly in love with Chabon, but I must say that this was my least favorite of his books. Still readable, but not WOW like some of his others.)
  • Other People's Weddings by Noah Hawley (Wow, terrible editing in this many typos! That aside, it was an okay book. I don't feel it really captured the voice of a woman, but what do I know? It was a quick enough read. Not terrible.)
  • Gig: Americans Talk About Their Jobs edited by John Bowe, Marisa Bowe, and Sabin Streeter (Very interesting. Some of the interviews were depressing, some were uplifting. The only thing I would have liked was some kind of summing up or conclusion to the book. I wrote a review on the Book Nook.)
  • The Host by Stephanie Meyer (I've publicly criticized the Twilight series quite frequently, so let me give credit where credit is due: The Host is surprisingly readable and enjoyable. It isn't my favorite book ever, but I really enjoyed it!)
  • The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde (I don't know why, but I find this series kind of annoying. While I loved his Thursday Next series, this one is lackluster).
  • Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions by Ben Mezrich (Okay, so it's probably more "based on a true story" than actual non-fiction. And it had some of the most ridiculously and unintentionally hilariously bad metaphors. But still a very interesting read, despite (and sometimes because of) those weaknesses.)
  • Saving Fish from Drowning by Amy Tan (Not her best, but certainly not bad. Slightly slow read, though, but I'm glad I read it.)
  • Talk Talk by T. C. Boyle (kind of dull for a thriller, but not terrible. He uses language wonderfully, which is all that saves this book for me. The book just wasn't great, though. The most lovingly crafted, engaging character was the "villian", while the "good guys" were pretty annoying. Maybe that was the intent, but I just didn't love it.)
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (I started this book a few times and couldn't get into it because I was so turned off by the narrator, Amir. However, after about 80 pages, I was hooked and so enjoyed the rest of the novel! Very glad I finally got through the beginning!)
  • An Ice Cold Grave (Harper Connelly Mystery, Book 3) by Charlaine Harris. (I wasn't crazy about the turn this book took with Harper's love life. But it wasn't terrible. However, as with some other series, I'm already feeling the "why does everything go wrong with her life" feeling. I'll check out the next book, but might drop this series eventually.)
  • Grave Surprise (Harper Connelly Mystery, Book 2) by Charlaine Harris. (I am enjoying this series so far, about a woman who was struck by lightening and can now sense dead bodies. However, I'm just not finding Harper as engaging as Sookie. I'm not sure if it's fair to compare an author's series, but what can I do?)
  • Grave Sight (Harper Connelly Mystery, Book 1) by Charlaine Harris. (I've loved Harris's other series, Southern Vampires, so I picked these up. This was pretty good, though not quite as great as the other series.)
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (I didn't dislike this book, but I did find it slow. I didn't feel very captured by any of the characters or the story, so it was never pressing for me to pick it up. I'm glad I read it, though, but honestly didn't love it.)
  • The Alienist by Caleb Carr (A murder mystery set in the late 1800's. Very interesting and entertaining. I'd definitely recommend!)
  • The Bitch in the House: 26 Women Tell the Truth About Sex, Solitude, Work, Motherhood, and Marriage, ed. by Cathi Hanauer (There were a few really interesting essays, and a number of okay ones, and too many far too annoying/whiny/obnoxious ones. I'd pass on this book.)
  • Personal Demon (Women of Otherworld, Book 8) by Kelley Armstrong (Another enjoyable installment in the series. This one focused on an undercover half-demon. There were some good twists and it was fun through and through).
  • Sister of the Dead (Noble Dead Book 3) by Barb Hendee and J. C. Hendee (Okay. Enjoyable, but just somehow not totally grabbing me)
  • Thief of Lives (Noble Dead Book 2) by Barb Hendee and J. C. Hendee (Pretty good series so far, though I'm not exactly compelled to read it. I'll continue to keep an eye out at used bookstores, though).
  • Twinkie, Deconstructed: My Journey to Discover How the Ingredients Found in Processed Foods are Grown, Mined (Yes, Mined), and Manipulated Into What America Eats by Steve Ettlinger (Not terrible, but kind of a slog to get through.)
  • Invasive Procedures by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston (What a disappointment! Just a standard sci-fi-ish medical thriller. The writing was lackluster, the plot far less intriguing than the original short story. Eh).
  • No Humans Involved by Kelley Armstrong (Women of Otherworld book 7. This is one of my favorites to date. I really enjoyed Jaime as the narrator. She's a fake TV spiritualist and real necromancer. Kind of dippy and fun.)
  • Anathem by Neal Stephenson (This book ping-ponged between totally awesome and snooze-inducing boring. Way, way, WAY too long. Far too much philosophy and talking for my taste. If you're going to read something by Stephenson, try Cryptonomicon, one of the greatest books ever, or even Snow Crash for more silly fun sci-fi. This was just eh. I reviewed it on the Book Nook.)
  • Can You Keep A Secret? by Sophie Kinsella (Okay. I reviewed on the Book Nook site. Two-dimensional characters, a disappointing lack of plot beyond "Emma gets a guy", very little redeeming about this book. And yet surprisingly readable. In my opinion, this is a true guilty pleasure book. Read it fast and don't think too much about it and you'll like it just fine! I'd recommend skipping it, though.)
  • Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally by Alisa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon (I found it an odd combination of interesting and off-putting. Loved the eat local stuff: some of the challenges, the successes, the stories, the failures. But there were odd sections where they interspersed things about their own failing relationship. It ranged from boring to disturbing to unlikable. So in the end, I'm lukewarm about this one.)
  • The Book of Lies by Brad Meltzer (A thriller. It held my attention and had an interesting premise (a search for the "book" of lies, related to the Mark of Cain). The end, as with the end of most thriller, was vaguely disappointing, and some of the characters felt forced or poorly developed, but overall, it was very readable.)
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Wolves at the Gate (Season 8, Volume 3. I'm totally loving this. Love, love, love. I have to pull out my Buffy DVDs. This did have one major plot twist that took me by surprise, and I'm not sure yet what I think, but I still LOVED it! Boy, I'm geeking out hard this year with the books I'm reading!)
  • The Tent by Margaret Atwood (She is simply the most beautiful writer, and this collection of short stories is a perfect example of why. Each story is a little gem, only a page or two long, but so full. Stunning!)
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: No Future for You (Season 8, Volume 2. Again, quite enjoyable, though I wish it was on TV rather than a graphic novel!)
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Long Way Home (Season 8, Volume 1. I'm a huge Buffy fan, and I love graphic novels. I don't know what took me so long to read this! It was good, though it made me sad there was no Season 8 on TV.)
  • Shakespeare's Kitchen by Lore Segal (I'm of two minds about this book. Some was wonderful, most...wasn't. 1st: it's a series of interconnected short stories. But it reads more like a lazy author who couldn't connect a full novel. In the intro, she explains that it's more like real life, but no. It's not. It's a cop out, and the explanation sounds like an apology. It's an interesting premise, about how Ilka, the main character, builds a new life in a new town. As someone who has relocated, it is an interesting experience. But I just didn't love this one.)
  • Broken by Kelley Armstrong (Book 6 in the Women of Otherworld series. This went back to the narrator from books 1 and 2, Elena, the only female werewolf. In this book, she's pregnant and in danger from Jack the Ripper, who arrived via a time portal. Kind of a stretch, and my least favorite so far of the series. But still readable.)
  • Haunted by Kelley Armstrong (Book 5 in the Women of Otherworld series. Okay, I was very thrown by the narrator, Eve, who is a witch who has been dead for the entire series. This is about her afterlife! But once I accepted the premise and went with it, I really enjoyed it.)
  • Industrial Magic by Kelley Armstrong (Book 4 in the Women of Otherworld series. Very good. This book was narrated by the witch Paige, same as book 3. This is probably my favorite in the series so far.)
  • Dime Store Magic by Kelley Armstrong (Book 3 in the Women of Otherworld series. I'm really enjoying this series. I was a bit hesitant about this one...she changes the 1st person narrator to another minor character from the second book. But I got used to it, and enjoyed the story!)
  • World War Z by Max Brooks (Okay. I have this thing about novels with's a NOVEL. You've written it BADLY if it needs footnotes! But it kind of made sense in the structure of this book (told as vignettes of many different people's experiences). All in all, it was okay. Not my favorite post-apocalyptic book. Heck, not even my favorite zombie apocalypse book. But okay.)
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, illustrations by Dave McKean (Great! Really enjoyable YA book!)

In summary, total books read this year: 89
Total number of books I enjoyed and would recommend: 48. A little more than half. Not too shabby.

Favorite books of the year: The Tent by Margaret Atwood, Lamb by Christopher Moore, A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, and Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner.

Least favorite, avoid at all costs, books I read this year: Invasive Procedures by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston (and if you know just how huge an Orson Scott Card fan I am, you'll know how much it pains me to say this!) and Evolution by Stephen Baxter.

Most exciting authors I've just started reading this year: Christopher Moore and Kelley Armstrong (okay, fine, I read the first two novels in her series last December, but I'm still counting it as 2009 since that's when I read the bulk of her work). How did I miss them before?

Like last year, I was struck once again by just how much non-fiction I read. Two of my four favorite books this year were non-fiction, and there were many others I really enjoyed. I think I may have to start listing non-fiction, especially science or math based, as one of my favorite genres!

So, what were your favorite or least favorite books of 2009? Post a link to your own "year in review" if you keep a book list!

And of course, my eternal request: any books to recommend to me? Happy 2009, happy 2010!


Nancy said...

So, I picked up Square Foot Gardening by accident over Christmas (it was someone else's present, I'm keeping it - long story!), and I think we're going to try it. Figured that might go along with your Gardening for Dummies. :) I need to pick up a New England gardening book so I know when to plant what *blush*

Okay, I don't think I saw these in your list... Have a Little Faith by Mitch Album (you may have read my review) and Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult. I have to say, I was engaged by HWC but didn't love the ending. Stay tuned for a review for that one. I think you've probably read all of the other books I've read recently ;)

Impressive reading list :)

Amy said...

seriously?! you are my idol! My goal is to get through 6 books this year:0 yikes 89, I'm so lame. I LOVE Bill Bryson, but haven't read the short history yet, and my dh highly recomends it too. Maybe that will make my list this year. I did just finish The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson and really enjoyed it. I bow to your reading list:)

Amy said...

I just want to finish 1 book. Right now I'm trying to finish Animal vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. Not a bad book, I just don't have enough time!

Unknown said...

OK..I have read ummm. 2 books this year...& that is only cause I joined a book club. How do you find the time? - good going girl!

Anonymous said...

Love this! You and two other friends keep detailed lists like this and that inspired me to do the same. But I just kept a list and didn't write reviews!!

Curious to know which were book club books? Do you track that or note who recommended things to you? I have been trying to do that.

I loved Ender's Game and Shadow of the Wind too and really enjoyed Freakonomics. Mike got Super Freakonomics for his b-day but I am a bit skeptical. Are you planning to read it? I can't decide.

Mike read What is the What and has been raving about it, but I am finding the subject matter hard and haven't picked it up yet.

I have given The Alienist as a gift but haven't read it. Will have to check it out! Olive Ktteridge too - several people have now recommended it to me.

I think that you would like The Thief Series by Megan Whalen Turner. Also Julia Child’s My live in France, Julie and Julia, The Devil’s Food Dictionary, and Heat since you like to cook.

I think that you would also like
The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific and City of Thieves.


Green Gal said...

The Graveyard Book is such a delightful read for Halloweentime! The local book store hosted a Graveyard Book party and I helped with the games and planning. I can't wait to read it again next October!

Janice Erlbaum said...

Wow, Card! You are one erudite reader. I'm glad you found my book, and am edified by your comments on it, as well as by the rest of your reading list -- thank you.