Best of 2009

I suppose at some point I'll have to just resign myself to the fact that I'm no longer reading as much as I used to, and stop telling myself that I "had a slow year." From writing for GeekDad (occasionally writing two reviews of the same book) to renovating our house to being much more involved in the community, I don't sit and just read as much as I used to. I'm gradually learning to be okay with that, although I still own a lot of books I haven't read, I still buy books faster than I read them, and I still read books I don't own first. Some things don't change.

Unlike the past few years, 2009 was a good year for non-fiction, so I'll start the list with a few books that really stuck with me. NurtureShock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, about the science of parenting, was probably the most eye-opening for me, changing the way I look at raising my kids. And Hollowing Out the Middle by Patrick Carr & Maria Kefalas, while not as surprising, is an in-depth look at one of the biggest challenges facing rural towns across the Midwest: I urge you to read this one for a sense of what it's like out here in Tribune. Culture Making by Andy Crouch is a book that asks some important questions about the way the church views culture, and I hope it gets Christians thinking a little more deeply about themselves. Finally, I dare you to read Born to Run by Christopher McDougall and not get at least a little excited about running.

The biggest category this year, however, is kids' books. There were several, ranging from "easy reader" level to some that barely fit in "young adult," that really held my attention. First up, An Awesome Book by Dallas Clayton, a short picture book about dreaming big which I liked so much I wrote it up for GeekDad, too. Then comes The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo, which I first read to Robyn in 2003 before I started making my end-of-the-year lists. I read it again, this time to Ridley, and was again delighted and enchanted. So much better than the movie!

I first heard about The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart on GeekDad and when I spotted it at the library I read it, and then forced it on several other friends. A terrific tale about a bunch of crime-solving kids. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin was a beautiful amalgamation of Chinese folk tales, re-told and woven together into one story.

And moving up in age, two that are categorized as "Young Adult": Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld is an alternate-history steampunk take on World War I, with steam-powered walking tanks versus the Darwinist genetically-modified beasties. Imaginative and ambitious; I didn't want it to end. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is one that I almost wouldn't call a "young adult" book—it's smarter than a lot of "Adult Fiction" I've read. It's a story from World War II about the power of words, a hidden Jew, and Death.

And, a book with a ridiculously long title: Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry by Leanne Shapton. It's the story of a break-up, as told through the couple's material possessions, organized in the form of an auction catalog. A brilliant idea, brilliantly executed, and unlike anything I'd seen before.

You'll notice there wasn't any "Adult Fiction" on the list ... I guess this year I didn't read quite as much adult fiction, and what I did read wasn't the best of the heap. However, I'll throw in one just for fun: Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann, the story of a flock of sheep trying to solve the mystery of their shepherd's murder. Definitely odd, but absolutely hilarious.

Well, I think that about covers it. I suggested it was time to take a year off just to read, but Robyn vetoed that idea, so we'll see what the next year brings. Happy New Year! Go read a book!

Fed to jonathan's brain | December 31, 2009 | Comments (0)


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