Happy 2010 everyone! Welcome to the new year! We all know what the new year means: new resolutions. The challenge sign-up sheets will really start to fill this month, but I have decoded to stand firm: my name will not be on any of them, even though Nymeth assures us there is no challenge police. Even though several of the challenges, like the Flashback challenge and Our Mutual Read challenge fit nicely with my plans for 2010…oh. No. Must. Not. Join.
Even though I am not joining challenges, I do have goals. Last year I did a good job of overcoming my snobbery (yes, I admit it–it was snobbery plain and simple) and reading more than my usual short story collections and literary fiction, and that’s something I definitely plan to continue. This year I am being a bit more conscious about it, and I have listed all the areas where I would like to read more, and then made lists of titles I can consult, so I don’t have to face my long, daunting TBR spreadsheet every time I am ready to pick up a new book. Here’s what I have so far:
If you had told me even this time last year that I would be making lists of YA books to read, I would have laughed at you. I stopped reading YA before I was out of junior high and never really looked back. Since I joined the book blogging world, I have read so many great reviews of YA titles by bloggers whose opinions I greatly respect, I find myself constantly scribbling down titles. Here are a few of the titles on my list I think look intriguing:
The Knife of Never Letting Go: Chaos Walking Trilogy #01, by Patrick Ness. Okay, this is probably one I didn’t even need to list, because along with The Hunger Games, this is the one book I see all bloggers discussing, and both of Ness’s titles (the other being The Ask and the Answer: Chaos Walking Trilogy #02, the second in this trilogy,) made so many “Best of” and “Favorites” lists I don’t see how I can not read them.
Hate List, by Jennifer Brown. I saw a review of this on Heather’s blog and immediately wrote it down. A young girl and a boyfriend make a list of all the people in school who bother them, and the boyfriend uses the list to select victims of a school shooting. Not exactly fluffy material, but it sounds very well done.
Wintergirls, by Laurie Halse Anderson. Best friends locked in a competition over who can be the skinniest. I am intrigued by this one because so many women, even in their thirties and forties, are locked into this sort of behavior. Also, I have heard nothing but good things about this author.
A Great and Terrible Beauty, by Libba Bray. I might be asking for trouble with this one, because it’s the first book in a trilogy, so if I like it I will end up reading them all and neglecting something else. Oh well, so it goes…just listen to this description from Amazon: “A Victorian boarding school story, a Gothic mansion mystery, a gossipy romp about a clique of girlfriends, and a dark other-worldly fantasy–jumble them all together and you have this complicated and unusual first novel.”
Liar, by Justine Larbaleister. I could also fit this into another of my categories, Mystery/Thriller. Another one I read about on Heather’s blog. Micah is a compulsive liar, and when her boyfriend is brutally murdered, she sets out to tell the story of what happened. The problem is, you can never know if she’s telling the truth. I happen to love unreliable narrators, so this one sounds right up my alley.
Sweethearts, by Sara Zarr. I first read about this one on Nymeth’s blog last year, and went to Sara Zarr’s website. This was probably the first YA title I put on my TBR. This is essentially a story about growing up: a misfit boy and girl discover young love, and then the boy moves away. He returns a few years later, to find that the girl is no longer such a misfit and not eager to re-live their shared past.
I honestly never know what to call these books, so I’ll just use all the different terms and hope one sticks to each book. I read some great books in these genres last year, and I am anxious to continue exploring. Here are some of my picks:
The Franchise Affair, by Josephine Tey. I read about this on Danielle’s blog, and it seems like a great introduction to the “Golden Age” of mysteries.
Ravens, by George Dawes Green. This was one of Sarah Wienman’s picks for best books of 2009 on her blog Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind.
Dark Places, by Gillian Flynn. Another dark tale with a somewhat unreliable narrator, this one tells the story of Libby Day, a young girl who sees members of her family murdered by a Satanic cult. Her brother is tried and convicted in their murder. Years later, a group of people who believe her brother is innocent reach out for her help, and Libby’s past is reawakened with dire consequences.
American Tabloid, by James Ellroy. Ellroy is a great influence on so many mystery and thriller writers, I thought I should just go ahead and jump in with the first in this trilogy which ends with his latest novel, Blood’s a Rover. This book, set in the mid-1950s, covers a network of government agencies and criminals, all acting to influence events on the political stage. This is one of the most interesting periods in American history, so I think this trilogy (yes, another trilogy) will make for great reading.
The Wrong Mother, by Sophie Hannah. Sally Thorning has a brief affair, only to learn later through the news that her lover’s wife has murdered their six-year-old daughter and committed suicide. After another accident threatens Sally’s life, she finds she must uncover the truth about her former lover and what happened to his wife.
Citizen Vince (P.S.), by Jess Walter. Vince is a former mob employee who has joined the witness protection program, and as his former associates hunt him, Vince does his best to come to terms with being an ordinary citizen. This one won the Edgar Award for Best Book of the Year in 2008, but I also want to read The Financial Lives of the Poets. Walter seems to be an author to watch.
Even as an English major, other than in survey courses, I managed to avoid pretty much the entire Nineteenth century. I wanted no part of it when I was in school (Eighteenth century British and Twentieth century American were my areas of interest). In my reading, I stop at Jane Austen and tend not to pick things up again until the Edwardians are in charge in England and Dreiser gives up journalism to write novels in America. What piqued this interest, then? I am honest enough to admit that it’s a rather shallow combination of things: Nick Hornby’s great love of Dickens; the gritty atmosphere of Sarah Waters’ Fingersmith and the recent film Sherlock Holmes; Dan Simmons’ Drood, which I realized I probably shouldn’t read until I had actually read more Dickens; and all the blogs talkingtalkingtalking about Wilkie Collins. So I made a list of some Victorian titles:
The Woman in White (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) (B&n Classics Trade Paper), by Wilkie Collins. I might be the last person on earth (or at least in the book blogging world) who has not read this book. I actually bought a copy of this last fall, so I am all set.
The Ambassadors (Penguin Classics), by Henry James. This is the only American on my list. I’ve read The Turn the Screw Aspern Papers and Two Stories (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) (which I also hope to re-read) and Daisy Miller (Penguin Classics) and greatly enjoyed both. I bought this at the same time I bought The Woman in White, so it gets another book off the stacks, if nothing else.
Bleak House (Penguin Classics), by Charles Dickens. I like the idea of the complex plot in this one, and it seems the most suited to my sensibilities as a reader.
The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oxford World’s Classics), by Oscar Wilde. Because I have not read Wilde, only seen his work through film, and it seems about time.
Vanity Fair: A Novel Without a Hero (Oxford World’s Classics), by William Thackeray. Because it’s a classic, for crissakes!
I have been making plans for months to re-read several books on my shelves. I have several running lists, but these are the books that consistently appear on every list I make:
In the Lake of the Woods, by Tim O’Brien. A former Vietnam vet finds his political career derailed by something that happened in Vietnam. He retires with his wife to their cabin in the woods, where the wife mysteriously disappears. An amazing novel about the power of memory, secrets, and imagination.
An American Tragedy (Signet Classics), by Theodore Dreiser. An Horatio Alger story turned on its ear, An American Tragedy tells the story of Clyde Griffiths, a young man who works his way up the ladder only to find his new-found success threatened–and ended–by a murder he commits out of desperation.
Black Water (Plume Contemporary Fiction), by Joyce Carol Oates. The fictional account of Chappaquiddick, told from the point of view of the Senator and the Secretary.
Rebecca, by Daphne DuMaurier. This really needs no introduction, I think. I have not read this since the eighth grade, when I read it several times after seeing it on Masterpiece Theater. I am interested to see if I will love it as much as an adult as I did then.
Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson. I’ve only read this book once. It is dense and beautifully written, and I think it’s high time I read it again.
Books I Missed Last Year
There are several books published last year that I don’t want to let get away from me. Among them are:
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by Alan Bradley
The Help, by Kathryn Stockett (although I heard her on NPR and hope that I don’t hear her squeaky Southern voice the entire time I am reading it)
Too Much Happiness, by Alice Munro
Brooklyn, by Colm Toibin
The Anthologist, by Nicholson Baker
Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel
The Children’s Book, by A.S. Byatt
What are your reading plans for 2010? As always, I would love to hear of you have read any of the books listed here, or if you have other recommendations.
Happy Sunday, everyone!