Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The books!

It's been almost three years since I started keeping track of my reading over at Lists of Bests. In March of 2006 I was a grad student who had spent the past 5 years reading nothing but things for school, and I decided I needed to become a reader again, for fun--that if I didn't find a way to fit books into my life again, I would always regret it. I've read 185 books since then--about 1.2 books a week (many of them short children's/young adult books, although I haven't counted picture books, only novels). Because I like making lists of things, I've decided to compile a list of my top ten favourites in each of three categories: fiction, non-fiction, and YA/children's. In some cases I've counted multiple books as one, mainly as a way of cheating.


I don't read that much grown-up fiction, it would seem, as the pickings were a bit slim in this category. The #1 book, What is the What, is actually almost-nonfiction, but most libraries and bookstores put it in fiction so I've done the same. All of these were great. Everything is Illuminated blew me away. Neverwhere was incredible also--the kind of book that was so fun to read, I almost felt guilty carrying it around, like it was porn. And No One Belongs Here More Than You, like everything Miranda July produces, straddles the line between disclosure and discomfort perfectly. It's awkward and sweet and sad.

10. PopCo by Scarlett Thomas
9. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card (this was a re-read)
8. At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances, The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs, and Portuguese Irregular Verbs all by Alexander McCall Smith
7. Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted by Elizabeth Berg (Stories)
6. Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
5. Pretending the Bed is a Raft by Nanci Kincaid (Stories)
4. Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
3. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
2. No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July (Stories)
1. What is the What by Dave Eggers

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle changed my life. I'm not exaggerating. It made me think about food in a whole new way. Amy Krouse Rosenthal's Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life was like this too, although in a different way--it's a book about completely mundane topics that manages to be completely engrossing and relatable. I just finished Chuck Klosterman's book of essays recently (having gotten it for Christmas from James!) and I couldn't believe how provocative and funny it is. I agree with almost nothing the man says, but that hardly matters, does it?
10. Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay by Nancy Milford (Biography)
9. George and Sam: Two Boys, One Family, and Autism by Charlotte Moore
8. Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto by Chuck Klosterman (Essays)
7. Love is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song At a Time by Rob Sheffield (Memoir)
6. One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding by Rebecca Mead
5. With Borges & The Library at Night, both by Alberto Manguel (With Borges is a memoir)
4. World Without Us by Alan Weisman
3. Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
2. City of Falling Angels by John Berendt
1. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

This was the hardest list to compile because I read sooooo many great books over the past few years. I had to collapse Harry Potter into one, even though I read the last three during this time, but numbers 6 and 7 blew my mind. I was amazed by how Joanne Rowling grew into a very sophisticated writer over the course of the series. The Bears' Famous Invasion is a really funny, charming, weird little book translated from Italian, and I really suggest checking it out if you can find a copy anywhere. I've been on a John Green kick lately and of the three of his I've read Paper Towns is my favourite-- it's about suburbia, and identity, and what it means to be in love with someone without really knowing them.

Among the top three I had a lot of trouble choosing because I love all of them almost equally. Neil Gaiman is one of my favourite writers and both The Graveyard Book and Coraline are incredible--although if I had to choose, of the two I prefer Coraline. Lamplighter is the second in a planned trilogy, and although I found the first book intriguing but ultimately kind of unfulfilling, I carried the second one around with me like it was my religion until I finished it, which took all of about two days. And finally, Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World is by one of my all-time favourite writers, someone I have loved since I was a child, and it's an incredibly sophisticated and good-hearted children's story about Nazis and the meaning of art. If that sounds to you like a tall order for a kids' book, then that's all the more reason why you should read it, you fool!
10. Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
9. Bears' Famous Invasion of Sicily by Dino Buzzati
8. Skellig by David Almond
7. Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
6. Several Lives of Orphan Jack by Sarah Ellis
5. Harry Potter (5, 6, 7) by J. K. Rowling
4. Paper Towns by John Green
3. Graveyard Book & Coraline both by Neil Gaiman
2. Lamplighter by D. M. Cornish
1. Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World by E. L. Konigsburg
Ta da! I'll get back to you in 2012 with over 350 books under my belt, hopefully. (Although by then the Internet won't exist anymore, except as a set of signals we beam directly into our brains, and books will kind of still exist, except we'll call them "hovercars.")

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