Monday, January 26, 2009


Where has January gone? Into fog and inversions and sleet.

Where is Maui when you need it?


I did finally tally up my last year in books on this icy day.

Total Books Read: 114 (almost 20 fewer than last year--I thought so much time in hospitals would have increased my total)

Non-fiction: 30

Young Adult: 13

Fantasy: 14

Historical: 25

Mystery: 52

Although my overall number was down from last year, my percentages stayed pretty much the same. (In other words, you just can't take the genre-lover out of the woman.)

The very best books? Here's my spur-of-the-moment list . . .

Best non-fiction that was not a re-read: DEATH BE NOT PROUD/John Gunther (a 17-year-old's final year of life with a brain tumor, written by his father in 1948)

Best YA: a tie between two wildly different novels--THE BOOK THIEF/Marcus Zusak (young girl in WWII Germany and her friends and family) and SPECIAL TOPICS IN CALAMITY PHYSICS/Marisa Peshl (intricately plotted, exuberantly written, what-is-going-to-happen-next story of a private school girl and underground political movements)

Best Fantasy: THE GOLDEN COMPASS/Phillip Pullman (daemons, witches, armored bears, and the most compelling child character in ages)

Best Historical: OUTLANDER/Diana Gabaldon (a post-WWII woman goes back in time to 18th-century Scotland and falls in love with a Highlander, richly romantic and lushly epic in both story and style)

Best Mystery: has to be subdivided into:

Best Continuation of a Series: a tie--CARELESS IN RED/Elizabeth George (for pulling off the nearly impossible task of following Inspector Lynley after the traumatic death of his wife and unborn child and offering an intricate mystery to boot) and THE LAUGHTER OF DEAD KINGS/Elizabeth Peters (because I love John Tregarth and Peters obviously had nothing but great fun writing this book--I smiled all the way through)

Best First in a Series: VARIOUS HAUNTS OF MEN/Susan Hill (wonderful characters and a twisty plot that ended in a stunning about-face--unfortunately the next two in the series would fit in the category Biggest Disappointments)

Best Stand-Alone: TOUCHSTONE/Laurie R. King (anarchists, British upper-classes, an FBI agent searching for a bomber, and a traumatized soldier with an unusual skill are woven into a wonderful story that I loved every word of)

Best New Series To Me: the Armand Gamache novels by Louise Penney, starting with STILL LIFE (a Quebec officer investigates murder with humanity and grace, compelling characters and plots, wonderful sense of place)

Honorable Mentions:

DREAMS FROM MY FATHER/Barack Obama (biography of our new president's early life)
FIELD OF DARKNESS/Cornelia Read (first in a mystery series set in the 1980s with a journalist who uncovers murderous secrets in her family's past)
A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS/Khaled Hosseini (the unlikely friendship of two very different Afghani women, even better than the author's THE KITE RUNNER)
THE NIGHT VILLA and THE SONNET LOVER/Carol Goodman (I love her atmospheric romantic thrillers and these both had exotic locations and sympathetic heroines)

Do you know what I'll remember most about this last year in books? Where and when I was reading them. TOUCH NOT THE CAT by Mary Stewart, for instance, is the book I took with me to the ER on January 1st and finished reading by my son's bedside later that week after he'd been diagnosed with cancer. Re-reading Bill Bryson's NOTES FROM A SMALL ISLAND during his daily radiation treatments, just to have something familiar and funny to take my mind away for a little bit. Weeping my way through Joan Didion's THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING for book club--I'd recommended it after reading it the previous year but reading it again while my son went through chemo was an entirely different experience.

I wonder what I'll be reading two weeks from now while he has first follow-up MRI since treatment ended.

Maybe I won't be reading--maybe I'll be writing. Now there's a thought! Here's to 2009--The Year of Selling My First Book :)


Katydid said...

Love you book reviews! You make one excited to attempt all sorts of genres--so impressive that you keep track of all you read!

beccaajoy said...

Dude. I got my MIL hooked on Laurie R. King. So, thanks :)

Cornelia Read said...

I'm so honored to have made your list, thank you! And I hope this year is a wonderful and healthy one for you and your family.