Thursday, January 5, 2012

2011 Book Report: Fourth Quarter

Last quarter, despite the crush of work for my book project, I managed to get 74% of the way to my 100-book-year goal. With my project completed, did I read enough to meet my goal, or did I laze about reading nothing but magazines? Check out my list below.

Key: C: Children's; F: Fantasy; H: Historical; Hr: Horror; M: Mystery; MG: Middle Grade (ages 8-12); NF: Nonfiction; P: Poetry; R: Romance; SF: Science Fiction; SS: Short Stories; V: Verse novel; YA: Young Adult (age 13+); *not in the last ten years at least; ^for work; #e-book.

10/03/11: Clare Vanderpool, Moon over Manifest # (MG, 1)
10/15/11: Roger Zelazny, Nine Princes in Amber (F, 10-15?*)
10/17/11: Zelazny, The Guns of Avalon (F, 15-20?*)
10/19/11: Zelazny, The Sign of the Unicorn (F, 20-25?*)
10/22/11: Zelazny, The Hand of Oberon (F, really, I've no idea how many times I've read these*)
10/22/11: Zelazny, The Courts of Chaos (F, 15ish*)
10/24/11: John Gardner, On Becoming a Novelist (NF, 1)
10/26/11: Mary Burchell, A Song Begins (R, 5-10)
10/27/11: Burchell, The Broken Wing (R, 5-10)
10/28/11: Burchell, When Love Is Blind (R, 5-10)
10/31/11: Liz Murray, Breaking Night (memoir, 1)
10/31/11: Burchell, Music of the Heart (R, 5-10)
11/01/11: Burchell, Unbidden Melody (R, 5-10)
11/04/11: Burchell, Song Cycle (R, 5-10)
11/06/11: Burchell, Remembered Serenade (R, 5-10)
11/10/11: Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks # (NF, 1)
11/13/11: Charlie Price, Desert Angel (YA, 1)
11/17/11: Price, Dead Connection (YA, M, 1)
11/21/11: Jay Asher, Thirteen Reasons Why # (YA, 1)
11/26/11: Walter Mosley, Futureland # (SF, SS, 1)
11/30/11: Gregory Maguire, Wicked (F, 1)
12/04/11: Asher and Carolyn Macklin, The Future of Us (YA, 1)
12/05/11: Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs^ (bio, 1)
12/06/11: Price, The Interrogation of Gabriel James (YA, M, 1)
12/12/11: Price, Lizard People (YA, 1)
12/22/11: James L.Swanson, Bloody Crimes # (NF, 1)
12/26/11: Erik Larsen, In the Garden of Beasts # (NF, 1)
12/30/11: Larsen, Devil in the White City # (NF, 1)

That's right. I cheated. It was the middle of October and I saw I had read only one book, despite being freed from the constraints of research reading. My brain was tired. I didn't want to think. I turned to two favorite series I re-read from time to time; it's like comfort food. Now, just because each book in these series was only about 200 pages doesn't mean ... oh, yes, it does. I cheated. A book a day! Sometimes two! I read each of them all the way through, so these books definitely count, but they were short. I didn't have to think. And so I reached my 100-book goal. Actually, the final count for 2011 is 102 books.

So what was my favorite book of the quarter? That's actually a tough one, and I think I have to go with a tie. My favorite fiction of the quarter was Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why, a young adult novel that deals with an extremely serious subject—suicide—without being preachy, treacly, or otherwise "issue-y." It's frank, occasionally funny, and always emotionally true, and the characters really stuck with me.

My favorite nonfiction book of the quarter was actually the last book I read this year: Erik Larsen's Devil in the White City. It dealt with an era that's become very familiar to me this year—the 1890s—and intertwines the story of the building of the Chicago World's Fair with an account of one of America's first serial killers. It builds suspense and evokes horror as well as any novel I've read, and makes even potentially dry subjects (the history of landscape architecture, anyone?) extremely interesting by focusing on the people behind the history. This is the best kind of nonfiction writing, and the other Larsen book I read this month, about the American ambassador in Berlin in the 1930s, was equally captivating. Nonfiction rules!

At least, I'm pretty sure it did for me this year. Check back soon for my final assessment of my year's reading.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Photo of the Week--1/2/12

Ha! Mother Nature says. Get your picturesque photos of sunlight in a cathedral. That's easy, what with the walls and windows and all. Try this: a lone shaft of sunlight finding you in a forest. Now that's hard! (Or maybe not, if you take a trip to lovely northwest Michigan, as we did a couple of summers ago.)