Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Books of 2011

Top Ten Tuesday

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday—how appropriate! What are my top ten books of 2011. Note: Not all of these books were published in 2011, but I read all of them in 2011.

  1. [amazon_link id=”0385737645″ target=”_blank” ]Revolution[/amazon_link] by Jennifer Donnelly (review): This part-contemporary YA novel/part time-travel story awakened an interest in the French Revolution that I previously did not have (I know, right?). I loved the musical aspect and had a lot of fun discussing this book with students who chose to read it for their summer reading selection. I wish Amadé Malherbeau were real!
  2. [amazon_link id=”1565125606″ target=”_blank” ]Water for Elephants[/amazon_link] by Sara Gruen (review): Jacob Jankowski is my BFF. I loved this story more than I thought I would. I didn’t think I’d like the circus aspect at all, but I found it fascinating.
  3. [amazon_link id=”1439156816″ target=”_blank” ]On Writing[/amazon_link] by Stephen King (review): This book is the best, most practical book about writing I’ve ever read, and its advice has already proven invaluable.
  4. [amazon_link id=”0451202503″ target=”_blank” ]The Songcatcher[/amazon_link] by Sharyn McCrumb (review): I love the idea of handing a song down from generation to generation, and as a family historian, I found that aspect of the novel particularly appealing. Sharyn McCrumb writers about her own ancestors in this novel.
  5. [amazon_link id=”0345521307″ target=”_blank” ]The Paris Wife[/amazon_link] by Paula McLain (review): Stories about the Lost Generation are interesting. I loved this take on what happened in Paris told more from Hadley Hemingway’s point of view than Ernest Hemingway’s (for a change).
  6. [amazon_link id=”1594744769″ target=”_blank” ]Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children[/amazon_link] by Ransom Riggs (review): This book was comical and completely engaging. I can’t wait for the sequel. I giggle every time I think of the Welsh teenagers trying to rap.
  7. [amazon_link id=”1400031702″ target=”_blank” ]The Secret History[/amazon_link] by Donna Tartt (review): I will never turn my back on a Classics major again. They are scary people.
  8. [amazon_link id=”0316068209″ target=”_blank” ]The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian[/amazon_link] by Sherman Alexie (review): I laughed all the way through this while still feeling empathy for Junior. Alexie is a gifted storyteller.
  9. [amazon_link id=”0312343698″ target=”_blank” ]Passion[/amazon_link] by Jude Morgan (review): I loved this novel of the lives of the Romantic poets Byron, Shelley, and Keats told through the eyes of the women who loved them. Mary Shelley comes across as fascinating and sympathetic, and Caroline Lamb was downright engaging.
  10. [amazon_link id=”B0043RSJQS” target=”_blank” ]The Kitchen Daughter[/amazon_link] by Jael McHenry (review): As the mother of two children on the autism spectrum, this novel about an adult with Asperger’s was fascinating. I also liked the cooking aspect and learned a truly good recipe for brownies.

WWW Wednesdays: December 14, 2011

WWW WednesdaysTo play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

I am currently reading Laurie Halse Anderson’s YA novel [amazon_link id=”0142400017″ target=”_blank” ]Catalyst[/amazon_link]. It was, incidentally, mentioned in the most recent book I read by Sherman Alexie: [amazon_link id=”0316013684″ target=”_blank” ]The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian[/amazon_link]. It’s one of Junior Spirit’s favorite books. I also recently read [amazon_link id=”0142402516″ target=”_blank” ]Looking for Alaska[/amazon_link] by John Green. You can read my reviews of these books here and here. John Green will be in Atlanta next month, and I think my daughter wants to go see him. I have also finished Stephen King’s novel [amazon_link id=”0451169522″ target=”_blank” ]Misery[/amazon_link] since I last checked in with WWW Wednesdays. My review of that book can be found here.

I am not totally sure what I’ll read next. It’ll be something from this list. I have a lot of those books already, many on my Kindle, and it seems about time for a Kindle book.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie

[amazon_image id=”0316013684″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” class=”alignleft”]The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian[/amazon_image]Sherman Alexie’s young adult novel [amazon_link id=”0316013684″ target=”_blank” ]The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian[/amazon_link] is the story of Arnold Spirit, Jr., better known as Junior, a fourteen-year-old Spokane Indian living on the reservation and dreaming of a better life. When he begins high school on the reservation and opens his geometry book only discover his mother’s name written the book (it had been her geometry book, too), he becomes enraged at the poverty surrounding him and the way he must live. His teacher suggests he go to the white high school in a nearby small town off the reservation so that he will have a shot at a better education. He decides to do it. He must win the acceptance of his white peers at the high school and contend with his friends’ belief that he is a traitor for going to school off the Rez.

Neil Gaiman’s blurb on the back cover reads:

Excellent in every way, poignant and really funny and heartwarming and honest and wise and smart… I have no doubt that in a year or so it’ll both be winning awards and being banned.

In fact, it was recently removed from the library shelves and curriculum of a local Georgia system (for “study,” ostensibly). Whether the book will survive the challenge or not is up in the air, but people who pick out a couple of things to be angry about in these books without looking at the context make me so angry. One of the complaints the book received in this recent challenge is that it’s “anti-Christian.” Junior is mad at God after suffering the deaths of two people close to him in senseless accidents within a matter of weeks. Many people going through the grieving process are mad at God for a while. And they may say things that indicate that anger. If the worst thing a kid in Junior’s shoes does is imply Jesus once passed gas, then I would like to think we could all have a sense of humor and admit it’s true. All human beings do that, right?

At any rate, I think this book is great for students in middle and high school to read. It’s funny, even when Junior is describing the tragedy of living with an alcoholic father or losing his best friend, he manages to make you smile and even laugh out loud. More than that, however, the book is perfect for examining the big question of identity that teens grapple with. Junior has more trouble than most teens with this question because he knows he can’t reach his goals on the reservation, but he also feels like he’s betraying the people he loves by going. Junior’s cartoons, sprinkled throughout the text, illustrate his complicated feelings and add to the story.

I have to say I agree completely with Neil Gaiman’s assessment of the book.

[rating:5/5]

Full disclosure: I checked this book out of my school library.

WWW Wednesdays

WWW Wednesdays: December 7, 2011

WWW WednesdaysTo play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

Wow, I haven’t played along with WWW Wednesdays in a long time.

I am currently reading several books. The main one is [amazon_link id=”0451169522″ target=”_blank” ]Misery[/amazon_link] by Stephen King. I have seen the movie, and I thought Kathy Bates was brilliant in the role of Annie Wilkes. I had never read the book, and I admit that reading King’s memoir [amazon_link id=”1439156816″ target=”_blank” ]On Writing[/amazon_link] is what prompted me to finally pick it up. I am enjoying it a hell of a lot. I’m also still dipping into [amazon_link id=”1439170916″ target=”_blank” ]The Emperor of All Maladies[/amazon_link] by Siddhartha Mukherjee. I can totally see why it won the Pulitzer for nonfiction. It’s not just an interesting subject; it’s well written. I tried reading [amazon_link id=”1613821530″ target=”_blank” ]Anna Karenina[/amazon_link] on DailyLit, but I finally had to admit I wasn’t into it when I had a huge backlog of unread book installments and no desire to even open them. I have to just say it: I’m not into the Russians. I have tried them and tried them, several times, and I have given them a fair shake. I think it’s time to give up trying to be cultured. I picked up [amazon_link id=”1466210303″ target=”_blank” ]Madame Bovary[/amazon_link] instead, and while it hasn’t grabbed me yet, I will give it more than two installments. I guess I’m also still reading [amazon_link id=”074348486X” target=”_blank” ]As You Like It[/amazon_link] when I think about it.

I recently finished a re-read of [amazon_link id=”9626343613″ target=”_blank” ]Sense and Sensibility[/amazon_link] read by Juliet Stevenson. I highly recommend her Naxos audio book readings of Austen’s works. I think the only one she didn’t record for them was [amazon_link id=”9626343567″ target=”_blank” ]Pride and Prejudice[/amazon_link]. Stevenson is a brilliant reader. I also recently finished [amazon_link id=”0142411841″ target=”_blank” ]Twisted[/amazon_link] by Laurie Halse Anderson, who consistently writes amazing books for teens that are straight out of the Judy Blume School of writing about what young people are really like and what they care about. I discovered that Laurie Halse Anderson creates playlists for her books, so given that I love creating Spotify lists, I went ahead and put her playlists in Spotify (at least all the songs that were available). Here is her playlist for Twisted. Naturally, you need to have Spotify to listen. Here are my reviews for Sense and Sensibility and Twisted.

The next book I read will be either Sherman Alexie’s [amazon_link id=”0316068209″ target=”_blank” ]The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian[/amazon_link], John Green’s [amazon_link id=”0142402516″ target=”_blank” ]Looking for Alaska[/amazon_link], or Laurie Halse Anderson’s [amazon_link id=”0142400017″ target=”_blank” ]Catalyst[/amazon_link]. I am in a YA mood right now (probably because I just went to NCTE). I also really, really want to read [amazon_link id=”0062024027″ target=”_blank” ]Divergent[/amazon_link] by Veronica Roth soon, but I don’t have it, and neither does my school library. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian was recently challenged here in my home state of Georgia. My daughter, however, says I should start with Looking for Alaska, but that I’d better be prepared to cry. I think I will probably read that one first just because she wants me to and so we can talk about it.

So, what are you reading?