I read a huge number of books this year, so it was hard coming up with a list of my ten favorite reads of this year. Instead I came up with a list of twenty favorites. A lot of the books I read this year were forgettable, nothing special, just OK. But I did read some great books, books that made me laugh, cry, and start them over again. These were books that I felt the need to go out and buy once I finished them, so they could be physically near me. But before I tell you my favorite books, here’s my stats for this year.
Books read: 266
Graphic novels: 37
I think I should read more non-fiction next year.
Alcoholism, incest, lies, betrayal, and missing fathers is just a part of what makes up August: Osage County by Tracy Letts. Winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, August: Osage County is the tale of the Weston family days after the patriarch of the family, Beverly, disappears. This is family dysfunction at its very best. The Westons are people who have gone through so much and the revelation of secrets is too much for some family members to handle. This play definitely deserved the Pulitzer it was awarded.
The Rights of The Reader by Daniel Pennac (2008). Translated from the French by Sarah Adams. It’s hard to believe that this love song to reading is a sleeper in the United States. The Rights of the Reader was originally published in 1992 in France and didn’t find a publisher in the U.S. until a few years ago. Pennac shares with readers his experiences as a high school teacher, teaching children others thought would never come to love reading. He also illustrates beautifully how important reading is. Included in the book is Pennac’s famous ten rights of the reader, which includes the right to not finish a book.
The Negro Speaks of River by Langston Hughes with illustrations by E.B. Lewis. As much as I love children’s books this is only one of two picture books that made my top 20 list. The Negro Speaks of Rivers is a famous poem written by Hughes in 1923. The illustrations by Lewis are so beautiful to look at, don’t be surprise if time just flies by as you take in every brushstroke.
Losing Everything by David Lozell Martin (2009). Losing Everything chronicles Martin’s childhood with a mentally ill mother and a brilliant but painfully shy father who was prone to fits of rage. The memoir also tells of Martin’s troubled marriages and also the day that he almost committed suicide. What sets Martin’s memoir apart from others is that it’s not a story told with self-pity. Martin is brutally honest about his affairs in his first marriage and his reaction to what may have just been flirtation between his wife and another man. The memoir ends with a few of the lessons that Martin has learned throughout his life.
Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson (2003). Lonnie Collins Motion also known as Locomotion is a young boy who has lost his parents in a house fire. Separated from his younger sister, both kids are sent to foster homes where they rarely see each other. Writing poetry helps Lonnie grieve for his parents, for not always being able to see his little sister, for the life he lost when his parents died. It helps him keep going. I cried so many times throughout this book. I cried as a parent for this fictional child who has lost so much. Lonnie with his grief and also his joys comes across realistically. Woodson is a talented author. I won’t hesitate to read anything else by her.
Not Becoming My Mother: And Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way by Ruth Reichl (2009). After the death of her mother, Reichl dives into the letters and diaries her mother left behind. It’s through these papers that Reichl learns so much about her mother’s life and who she was before she became a mother.
The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It For Life by Twyla Tharp. According to Tharp, creativity stems from the habits that we have in our everyday lives. Creativity is something that everyone needs, not just painters or poets or dancers. The Creative Habit is filled with examples and exercises that are enjoyable and helpful.
Wonder Woman: The Circle by Gail Simone. This is the Wonder Woman that every girl, no matter what age she is, needs to read about. The Wonder Woman who is strong, fearless, loyal but also merciful to her enemies. In The Circle the homeland of Wonder Woman is attacked by villains and though banned from ever going home, she searches for a way to save her village.
A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams by Jen Bryant (2008). Illustrated by Melissa Sweet. This was a great picture book-biography to start my kids off with. The book details Williams love of nature and poetry as a child and how he grew up to be the physician/poet that he was. It’s the perfect book that teaches children that if you love something enough you will find a way to do it every day.
Topdog/Underdog by Suzan-Lori Parks (2002). Winner of the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, this play is brilliant. Lincoln and Booth are brothers who were abandoned as teenagers by their parents. Now adults, Lincoln is an ex-card hustler who works in a carnival while younger brother Booth is still a street hustler, going from scheme to scheme to make money. There’s tension between the two brothers as they live together, dreaming of a life that doesn’t include struggling for money. This is the story about family tensions, sibling rivalry, violence, poverty, and so much more.
Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose (2007). I don’t know how I found out about this book, but I am so glad I did. Prose tells readers why reading books carefully while becoming conscious of style, narration, characters, and more helps to get more out of what one is reading. She uses examples by Flannery O’Connor, Philip Roth, Anton Chekhov and more to get her points across. Reading this book is like taking a great literature class with no homework but the enjoyment of reading.
Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes by Tony Kushner. Winner of 1991 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Angels is everything and deals with everything. When I write that, I mean it’s a tragedy and a comedy, it’s about AIDS, and being gay, and being yourself, it’s about justice, and mercy, religion, and so much more.
Touch Magic by Jane Yolen. This collection of essays was originally published in 1981 before being revised and new essays added and published in 2007. The cover of this collection calls it a call-to-arms for Yolen and I have to agree. Throughout the collection, Yolen convinces readers that myths and fairy tales are so important for children to know. They’re a part of our society’s fabric. She illustrates why fantasy as a genre helps people to loosen the armor around their minds and see people who look drastically different from themselves as having the same emotional needs and ties.
Ethel and Ernest by Raymond Briggs (2001). Raymond Briggs takes the lives of his parents and turn it into a tribute to them. Ethel and Ernest Briggs were working class people who were married for almost fifty years. Throughout the story you see their relationship progress and the many changes that society goes through like such things as electricity in the home to the introduction of cars, WWII, to homosexuality.
Fables 10: The Good Prince by Bill Willingham. I have been a fan of the Fables series since I read the very first book last year around this time. With this series Willingham has taken fairy tale characters such as Cinderella, Beauty, her husband the Beast, Bigby a.k.a The Big Bad Wolf, and others and placed them in modern-day New York. The result is a thoughtful and engaging series. Book ten is mostly the story of The Frog Prince, now named Flycatcher, and his overcoming his grief over the loss of his family hundreds of years before with the help of Sir Lancelot. There are many retellings of fairy tales and myths but not many are as bright as this series.
Thanks for reading this long post about my favorite reads. Have a safe and happy new year.