Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Best Of The Books: A Year In Review

This is the first year I've kept track of what I've read in detail. It was also the first year in a long time that I really made reading a priority again. I have to say that both have been extremely gratifying -- I am really looking forward to this next year of reading and blogging.

I read about 73 or 74 books this year, many of them very large/long. I'd like to reach 100 books this next year (but I'll settle for 75 as a good amount to shoot for). But how do you really quantify books? The number is somewhat irrelevant as page counts vary. Page counts vary as book dimensions vary. You see how it goes. Anyway...

Here is a "Best Of" list of sorts. Rather than just do Top 10, I thought it would be fun to make up categories. Also, some "Worsts" thrown in. So, enjoy.

Best Book Overall
That would be The Terror, hands down. Warning: this book wrecked me for the rest of the year's reading. It really stuck with me and I had a hard time getting into anything else after that. I think I'm just now starting to come out of it. It was just so amazing. Read this book.

Best Young Adult
I read a lot of YA this year, which was really fun. Probably the best of the bunch was The Blue Girl, by Charles de Lint. Also perfect Halloween reading. Light (but not without heart and soul), funny, and tender, with a little bit of spook.

Best John Bellairs
He deserves a category all to himself. I think the first of his YA books, The House With A Clock In Its Walls, is the best. Closely followed by my favorite in the Johnny Dixon series, The Curse of the Blue Figurine.

Best Chunkster (450+ pages)
I seem to have read a lot of these this year (approximately 15, I think). I like big books. Since The Terror already won an award, let's go with Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, with The Witching Hour as honorable mention since it's a re-read. Both were totally worth the time, and I was sad when both ended.

Best Unexpected Delight
This is a close one, but I will go with The Time Traveler's Wife. I don't know what I expected, but it certainly wasn't this intricately devised love story. I can't imagine what this author had to do to get this storyline set up the way she did, but after the first chapter or so, it makes sense and is very hard to put down... oh, and of course The Magician's Assistant, which was so very lovely.

Best Non-Fiction
I didn't read too many of these this year and when I did, they tended to be sort of dreary, unfortunately. The one exception was Will Storr vs. The Supernatural. Scary and so interesting (and funny).

Worst Non-Fiction
It's gotta be Ghost Hunting, by the stars of my favorite TV show, Ghost Hunters. Oh it was BAD. Terrible.

Best/Worst Self-Help
I didn't read too many of these, but I did actually sort of enjoy Tim Gunn's Guide To Quality, Taste & Style. Fun and actually sort of useful. Worst was definitely The 3 Big Questions For A Frantic Family, which I read only because it was free and my computer was down at work and I had to sit there at my desk with nothing better to do, and I had just seen this guy speak and somewhat enjoyed his talk. But it was baaaaaaadly written. So very cheesy and terrible. Skip to the end with the instructions for 'the plan' if you want, but do not read the agonizingly boring 'fable' (which is the bulk of the book).

Best Author I Should Have Been Reading All Along
Hello?! How did I miss Neil Gaiman's adult novels? I read Coraline a few years ago and that was of course an amazing book. This year I read quite a few Gaiman novels and loved them all. My favorite was American Gods, which is a must-read. I have yet to read The Graveyard Book but I know I will in 2009. I would like to read all his comics but that's an investment I'm not willing to make. Maybe the library has some.

Best Lincoln/Child Thriller Novel
Since I read eight or so of these, thought I would mention that the two best were definitely The Cabinet of Curiosities and Still Life With Crows. But it's most fun to start from the beginning, with The Relic.

Best Horror
Well, my quest for actually scary books did not really pan out this year. But, let's go with the classic 'salem's Lot, which is an astoundingly scary book. If you haven't read this yet, it will scare the pants off you. It's pretty good for a re-read, too.

Biggest Disappointment(s)
There's a few here. Definitely Turn of the Screw, which was not at all what I was hoping for. Also disappointing were My Stroke of Insight, The Wheel of Darkness, Outlander, and Storm Front.

Best Re-Read
A tie between Little Women and The Witching Hour. Both favorites.

And, just for fun:
Best Guilty Pleasure
It's another tie between the Twilight series (here and here), the Lincoln/Child thriller novels. Not much there but perfectly enjoyable fluff.

The entire list is here.

I notice that I definitely went on 'kicks' this year. There was the Julia Child kick. The scary-book kick. The John Bellairs kick. The Lincoln/Child kick. The YA kick. The short-lived Nick Hornby kick. I feel a "classics" kick coming on but apparently I'm not quite there mentally yet. I think I have a couple more fluff reads to get through while my brain recovers from the stress of the move.

I attempted to pick up The Name of the Rose again last night but I am sooooo not ready for such a dense book yet. Maybe later... I think I have to go to the library today, I'm out of books. Amazing, but true.

With that, happy reading in 2009!


spazmom said...

Amazing, Daphne! I love seeing someone with the same reading taste I do actually write up reviews. Always wanted to do something similar, but haven't wrapped my head around it thus far. I'm going to print this out and browse the local book stores. Keep the recommendations coming!

Eva said...

I love best of lists! Turn of the Screw disappointed me too. :( I think James works better in novel form than novella, at least for me.

Kate said...

I could chat for hours about your best-of list, but I'm at work! :) I just wanted to mention that I was glad to see Will Storr make your list...I just reread it over the holidays (yeah, great Christmas reading, huh?) and reviewed it for Lit Mob. I do really love that book.

Anonymous said...

Another deLint fan! I just discovered all these wonderful book blogs and I have been browsing yours. I have never met anyone else who read deLint in the real world, so it's always exciting to find someone.

I like your blog and will definitely be checking back. I hope you check my new blog over at http://regularrumination.wordpress.com.

- Leslie

stefanie said...

Fantastic list! You read some really good books this year, and a lot of them!

Daphne said...

Corrie: thanks! it would be fun to see what you think about books!

Eva: I will give James another try later. Much later.

Kate: send me an email if you have further thoughts... I was very sad to let Will Storr go and might have to see if the library has it to read it again.

Leslie: thanks for stopping by! I love de Lint! I will be reading your blog too. Book blogs are excellent things.

Stefanie: Thanks! It's been a fun book-reading year. Thanks for The Terror gossip. :)

Nymeth said...

I so want to read The Terror!

I'm reading The Time Traveller's Wife now, and although I'd heard great things about it I didn't quite expect it to be THIS good. Amazing book.

Happy New Year, Daphne!

Kate said...

I was just looking over this again and saw (again) The Terror - I have to admit that that book doesn't appeal to me but his next one - Drood? I'm looking forward to that a lot. It publishes in February.

Daphne said...

I am definitely going to read Drood! Thanks for the reminder!