Sunday, January 2, 2011

2010 Book List

As anyone who looks at my number of posts in 2010 can tell, I was a pretty inconsistent blogger this past year. As a result, I kept forgetting to get online to keep a list of what books I read. Ugh...I hate that I did that as I've really enjoyed having a list of what I've read each year. Just glancing at the lists brings up so many memories of what I was doing while I was reading the book, or ideas I had, or things I felt.

Anyway, I'm sure I've forgotten to list many of the books I've read this year, but by culling through the piles around the house, I've hopefully listed many of them here. As always, my recommended books are in bold.
  • Budding Prospects by TC Boyle (I generally like books by Boyle, and this was no exception. It's about some down-on-their-luck pot growers. Got a little slow in the middle, but still enjoyed it. Not his best, though.)
  • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (Not at all what I expected, though I guess I didn't know anything about the book except that it was pretty popular. This is a dystopian novel along the lines of Brave New World or the like. Very highly recommended!)
  • Frostbitten (Women of the Otherworld #10) by Kelley Armstrong (Enjoyable. Don't know what to say 10 books into a series...not like I'm going to convince anyone to go pick up this book unless they've read the first nine...)
  • Living with the Dead (Women of the Otherworld #9) by Kelley Armstrong (I'm still enjoying this series, though this particular one seemed a little unfocused, and from too many different POVs.)
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (Obviously a reread for like the 25 time or something. Love this was what I chose to read first on my new kindle (which I'm very much enjoying!)
  • The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood (Swoon! I love Margaret Atwood! Another wonderful story that tells some of the background leading up to Oryx and Crake. I read this book months ago, and am still thinking about it.)
  • Parallel Play by Tim Page (I picked this up because it's a memoir of a man who wasn't diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome until he was an adult. It's not really about Asperger's or autism per se, but of course it colors all his experiences of his childhood (and life). An interesting read.)
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (for all the wading through thrillers at library book sales, sometimes you stumble upon a perfect condition hard cover book you've been wanting to read for ages. Like this one. Enjoyed it quite a bit!)
  • Busting Vega$ by Ben Mezrich (a non-fiction story, by the same author who wrote Bringing Down the House. There's something about his writing style that absolutely cracks me up. I don't know...overly filled with similes, a forced "thriller" tone, a "my dad is trying to act cool" vibe. I'm not sure what it is, but it doesn't really bother me--it actually makes me enjoy the books more. Silly, I know.)
  • The Ugly Duckling by Iris Johansen (I read a ton of thrillers in 2010, because I got many of my books this year at library used book sales where thrillers are so easy to find. This one was...terrible. The premise is a plain woman is attacked/injured and gets plastic surgery as a result and becomes super beautiful. The actual story is even worse than you'd guess given that premise. I know, hard to believe, right?)
  • Bag of Bones by Stephen King (and here's where I remembered why I can't read too much King. I've read far more of his books this year than in previous years, and I remember now that when you read a lot of King, it all starts to blend together and seem hack-y and silly. I think I am placing myself on a two-King-books-per-year diet).
  • Desperation by Stephen King (pretty good, classic-type King).
  • The Tenth Justice by Brad Meltzer (Never let it be said that I don't give an author a fair shake. While this was better than The Zero Game, I think I just have to face facts that 1) I'm not especially fond of thrillers, and 2) I'm even less fond of legal thrillers. On the upside, I gave this to my mother-in-law for a yankee swap of used books, and she said this was by far the more popular of all the books there!)
  • The Zero Game by Brad Meltzer (In contrast to Stieg Larsson's books, this was all I don't like about thrillers. Boring, unbelievable, and disappointing.)
  • The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson (Fun. Some loose ends...I was sorry to discover the author has died and those loose ends will never be tied up.)
  • The Girl who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson (Also enjoyable. Liked the whole series.)
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (A strong thriller. Slow start, but once it got going, I couldn't put it down. Rarely am I tempted to reread a thriller, but I put this series on the shelf for a future reread.)
  • I Feel Bad About my Neck by Nora Ephron (Collection of short humorous memoir type essays. Some were super, super funny. Some I couldn't relate to at all. Overall, though, it was a fun read.)
  • Hearts in Atlantis by Stephen King (Collection of related short stories. I loved the first story in the book...the rest couldn't quite live up to the start.)
  • Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (Book 3 of The Hunger Games trilogy. Surprisingly dark for a YA series, but so great. Probably the best books I've read this year.)
  • Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (Book 2 of The Hunger Games trilogy. Less of a stand-alone book than the first, but as part of the trilogy, this was really quite wonderful).
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Love, love, love! A must read for, well, everybody :)
  • The Queen's Fool by Philippa Gregory (Well, since I so enjoyed The Other Boleyn Girl, I picked up this book. Which stunk. Badly. Boring, story wasn't engaging, though still a fairly quick read. I don't know if I'd pick up any other books by Gregory.)
  • The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory (Picked this up at a library book sale, and enjoyed it far more than I expected. Quite engaging, really enjoyed it!)
  • Ordinary Resurrections: Children in the Years of Hope by Jonathan Kozol (His books are such a combination of wonderful and so difficult. Even this one, supposedly a more optimistic book, left me angry about the state of education in America.)
  • The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson (I seem to enjoy Bill Bryson's writing. This autobiography of his formative years was pretty hilarious at times and I really enjoyed it. Unlike many autobiographies, I liked that this was a story of his pretty average, run of the mill childhood. His writing and way with a story is what made this so engaging rather than any insanity in his life.)
  • Monday Mourning by Kathy Reichs (I got this at a used book sale, which is why I started a series on book 7. I'm not much for mysteries, but I do enjoy the show Bones. This book wasn't terrible, but it's not making me run out and buy the first 6 books in the series, either.)
  • So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading by Sara Nelson (Part memoir of a year in the life of the author, part reading list (of the books she read that year). What did I learn from reading this? That I probably would never be friends with the author, but the book was good enough for me to finish anyway).
  • Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler (an interesting fantasy novel that posits an unhappy 21st century woman being transported back to Jane Austen's England. Not great, but good enough for a quick read.)
  • Going Solo by Roald Dahl (Surprisingly interesting and very readable autobiography, primarily dealing with Mr. Dahl's time as a member of the RAF during WWII)
  • Countryside, Garden & Table: A New England Seasonal Diary by Martha Adams Rubin (A must-read for New England locavores. The book was slightly uneven, but still well worth a read and ahead of its time (published in 1993, long before I'd even heard a peep about eating locally!)
  • A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel (Enjoyed this very much. Some very funny parts!)
  • I Rant, Therefore I Am by Dennis Miller (Impossible to read this without hearing his voice. Some wonderful moments of true humor. Some already too dated. Got it for a buck at a used book sale and it was worth all 100 cents ;)
  • Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel (I wish the author the best, but this was a depressing read about depression.)
  • Sizzling Sixteen by Janet Evanovich (Still enjoying this series, though this entry wasn't a standout)
  • The Second Opinion by Michael Palmer (TK picked this up when he was stranded at an airport. It's about what you'd expect of an airport book--fast paced, plenty of suspense, not amazing but good enough to hold your interest while waiting for a plane.)
  • Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (I really enjoy genetics so I was interested in the book from the get go. Finally, something that overcame the curse of Oprah's Book Club--I liked it despite Oprah's vote of approval!)
  • The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd (Meh. Certainly no Secret Life of Bees. Yuck.)
  • A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby (Okay. Not quite as depressing as a book about would-be suicides would suggest.)
  • The Gum Thief by Douglas Coupland (Interesting, but ultimately a letdown. Worth reading once, though)
  • The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (reread for me. Love love love this book!)
  • Our America by LeAlan Jones and Lloyd Newman (Great 1st person account of life in the projects of Chicago. Somewhat out of date; based on NPR interviews from the early 90's, but still quite compelling.)
  • The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer (Interesting. Not super super great, but enjoyable.)
  • Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman (read the book since I love the movie. Turns out I didn't love the book. My advice, and I feel heretical for suggesting it: stick to the movie!)
  • Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Jane Austen and Ben H. Winters (I didn't really like Pride and Prejudices and Zombies so I was hesitant to read this. But I found this at a used book sale for a buck so gave it a try. I'm glad I did...very enjoyable!)
  • Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko (LOVED this! Best fantasy I've read in ages! Beautifully done :)
  • Bullet by Laurell K. Hamilton
  • Flirt by Laurell K. Hamilton (waste of time. I hate myself for reading these.)
  • A Touch of Dead by Charlaine Harris (I'm really enjoying this series. In fact, I reread the entire series when the most recent book came out. This is a collection of short stories...some were pretty uneven. Not highly recommended...stick to the novels!)
  • Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris
  • Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris
  • The Last Days of Dogtown by Anita Diamant (This was sometimes a bit slow, and circled around a bit. Some parts were really great and interesting, some didn't go much of anywhere. Still engaging, though. Kind of a mixed bag, though overall, I enjoyed it.)
Totals for the year:
53 books read (okay, that's ridiculously low. I have to think of what books I've left off this list as I know I read far more than a book a week.)

23 books that I would recommend

Favorites of the year: The Hunger Games trilogy, Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood, and Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko. I'd highly recommend the first two to everyone, and the third to fantasy fans!

Least favorites: There were no books this year I hated so much it made me angry, though The Queen's Fool by Philippa Gregory was pretty appalling. The Ugly Duckling by Iris Johansen is another one I feel guilty about re-donating to the library where some other unsuspecting reader may stumble upon it.

Looking back, I feel like I wasted too much time in 2010 reading thrillers and other books I wasn't excited about. I think that's why I can't recall so many of the books I read this year: they were forgettable. I did read a number of really wonderful books, though, some of which were a complete surprise how awesome they were. In 2011, though, I think I'd like to focus a little more on reading books that appeal to me rather than just because it happens to be sitting around.

On that note, any recommendations for me?

Wrapping with fabric

In an effort to reduce paper waste, I decided this winter to try wrapping presents with fabric (called furoshiki).

Here's a picture of my mom's birthday present:

I also wrapped all the teacher gifts for N-man and B-man's teachers/specialists:

I wrapped a number more, but these turned out the best, probably because of perfectly easy box shape of these gifts.

What's my final call?

  • Pretty! Don't these just look so special and interesting?
  • Surprisingly easy! There are plenty of sites online that give directions. I especially liked this one. You can even find youtube videos.
  • No paper waste. Fabric can be easily reused.

  • Fabric is far more expensive than gift wrap.
  • I bought some flannel fabric because 1) it was half-off and 2) it had super-cute kid-friendly designs. I can use it, but it's not nearly as easy as the thin, silkier fabrics. You'll notice none of the pictures here are with flannel wraps!
  • While fabric can be easily reused for crafts (or for wrapping future presents), you never know if the person who receives the gift will end up reusing it, or if it'll just end up in the trash like wrapping paper would have.
So I guess in the end I'm still kind of up in the air about this one. What do you think?