2006 Reading List

42. Fighting Ruben Wolfe (219 pp.) by Markus Zusak (Dec 22). This is another YA book and a great book for a teenage boy. It's about these two brothers who resort to boxing to get some money for their family. It's a good story and well written. Just not my kind of story.

41. Stardust (235 pp.) by Neil Gaiman (Dec 17). The first Neil Gaiman I ever read was a Sandman collection which I loved. The first novel I read was American Gods and I didn't like it. I really wanted to. I didn't read Gaiman again until Neverwhere which I enjoyed and now this which I have liked the most. It's a fantasy-adventure set in Faerie and a great story.

40. Ten Little Indians (243 pp.) by Sherman Alexie (Dec 11). Yay, I hit 40 books this year. That's perfectly respectable. I might even finish a couple more before the year is over but for now the overachiever needs to get over herself already. I've had this book on the shelf a long time and have no idea what took me so long to get to it. Great stories. Great writing. I think I have another collection of Sherman's stories that I never finished somewhere. I'm going to track that down.

39. i am the wallpaper (228 pp.) by Mark Peter Hughes (Dec 9). Another YA book. This one didn't work for me. It's about a 13 year old girl whose bratty cousins stay for the summer and many adventures happen. Too goofy for me. I could see where a 13 year old would like it.

38. keeping the moon (228 pp.) by Sarah Dessen (Nov 23). I used to get my YA book recommendations from critic lists and library lists and 9 out of 10 were awful. This time I used a list from comments by teenagers on a webblog. Not a stinker yet. This is a coming of age girl-power type story that I wish I could have read when I was 14. A teenage girl is stuck for the summer with her quirky aunt and ends up working at a diner with a couple of 20-something girls. Everyone has a personal growth moment.

37. Deep (261 pp.) by Susanna Vance (Nov 22). This is a fantastic YA book about a girl from Oregon and a girl who grew up on a sailboat and how their paths collide. The 5-6 pages of their meeting is one of the most charming scenes I've read in a long time.

36. Shade's Children (345 pp.) by Garth Nix (Nov 19). Since I liked the Abhorsen trilogy (books 28-30) so much, I was thrilled to find this at the library. It's a sort of White Mountains scenario except with technology, powers and it's way more disturbing. It's a future world where evil warring overlords have killed all the grown ups and now farm kids until they're 14. Then they're taken away and their good bits are harvested and turned into warriors. Some kids escape and follow an uploaded grown up personality that's trying to make the world free again. It's way better than I'm making it sound.

35. The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (235 pp.) by Alexander McCall Smith (Nov 15). These books have been traveling around the family and I think I'm the last one to read one. It's about a charming lady in Botswanna who is determined to make it as a detective. Easy to read. Wonderful story. I love the setting. Fun book.

34. Under the Banner of Heaven (365 pp.) by Jon Krakauer (Nov 4). I suppose it won't be a big shock to anyone when I report that although I enjoyed this book, it got a tad long. I'm debating over whether I want to write a more substantial review on my main page because I had a lot of thoughts about this book. It's about the Mormon church, focusing more on the extremists, well written and researched and really good food for thought.

33. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (768 pp.) by J.K. "I Love Adverbs" Rowling (Oct 22). This is 350 p. book parading around in the body of a 768 p. book. The story didn't get good until the very end. I think she could have fixed this by beefing up and/or creating more side plots. But a nice set up for the finale.

32. The Language of Baklava (328 pp.) by Diana Abu-Jaber (Oct 3). Priscilla gave me this book and I started it but then somehow I got into the Sabriel books and this slipped to the bottom of the drawer. This is a wonderful memoir about a woman who grew up in the U.S. with a Jordanian father and lived in Jordan for a short time as a child and again as an adult. The stories are linked by food and cooking and recipes. Good stuff.

31. Fine Prey (288 pp.) by Scott Westerfeld (Sep 23). I found this at the used bookstore and got it because I liked Midnighters so much. (See books #8, 10 and 14) It's not what I was expecting and a little more science fictiony than I normally read. I didn't love it. However, there is an aspect that has to do with languages that is interesting.

30. Abhorsen (518 pp.) by Garth Nix (Sep 16). Book 3. Huge finale. Fantastic.

29. Lirael (705 pp.) by Garth Nix (Sep 10). Book 2. A teensy bit long in getting started but still very, very excellent.

28. Sabriel (491 pp.) by Garth Nix (Sep 2). This book has been on my list since the Oregonian had an article about it that featured legions of misty eyed teenaged girls going on and on about Sabriel. They were right, it's excellent! I'd tell you what it's about but I don't want to give anything away so it would sound like any other swords and magic book: a girl with powers blah blah blah dad is missing blah blah blah dangerous journey blah blah blah evil. But it's fantastic. I spent the early hours of this morning not doing yoga but instead feverishly turning pages to get to the end.

27. Magic or Madness (271 pp.) by Justine Larbalestier (Aug 27). This is a fun YA book about an Australian girl who has to go live with her Grandmother who she believes is an evil witch. (As in the spell casting kind, not the just plain mean kind.) The Grandmother has a door that opens into New York City and all sorts of adventures happen. Great book and 1st in a trilogy - yay!

26. Passage (780 pp.) by Connie Willis (Aug 24 ). In the words of one of my favorite movie reviewers Roger Ebert, I give this an affectionate thumbs down. It's about a woman doctor who is studying near death experiences that are simulated from a drug. It's a teeny bit like the idea in Flatliners. The book is fun summer vacation book and I had a hard time putting it down because I really wanted to find out what happened. But it was at least 300 pages too long. There is an endless long segment where a character is frustrated trying to track down information. Then a different character goes through the same long sequence also trying to track down the information. The reader should not have to plow through 300 pages of blow-by-blow repetitious frustration. I think Connie needs a writers group to help her locate unnecessary stuff or perhaps a screenwriting class to help tighten up nonessential action.

25. A Woman In Berlin (261 pp.) by Anonymous (Aug 20). I read this for Mom's book club. Excellent. It's about a woman in 1945 during the fall of Berlin. It's hard to put down. We had plenty to talk about during book club. She was a journalist and fantastic writer so there's a real and honest feeling of being there. Highly recommended.

24. the woman in the wall (185 pp.) by Patrice Kindl (Aug 9). Another from the YA library pile. It's pretty dumb, but got sorta interesting in the middle but ended sorta dumb. I don't know. Better than a sharp stick in the eye.

23. Sexy (263 pp.) by Joyce Carol Oates (Aug 5). I grabbed a few YA books when I was at the library. I picked JCO because I've seen her books on YA "top" lists many times and I haven't read anything of hers in a long time. Geez. Has she ever written anything where something good happens?

22. Tumble Home (154 pp.) by Amy Hempel (Jul 30). I love Amy Hempel. I just read that a collection of all her books has been published into 1 volume. Great, now that I own three including 1 in hardcover. I'm just going to wait until I find that other paperback and not worry about the collection.

21. Lady Oracle (380 pp.) by Margaret Atwood (Jul 22) I didn't read this book in 1 day. I ended up having several books going at a time and am just now finishing them. I thought this book was dreadful. It was published in 1976 and MA has come a long way since then. The protagonist is crazy and an idiot and she fakes her own death in a way that isn't intriguing and musters up zero sympathy. Tedious. Read Alias Grace or The Blind Assassin instead.

20. Saving Fish From Drowning (472 pp.) by Amy Tan (Jul 21) Not my favorite Amy Tan book. I didn't hate it but whatever she was trying to do didn't quite work. It's about a group of American tourists who have a series of misadventures in Myanmar and the things that go wrong are often cartoony. At the same time we're finding out about bad things going on in Myanmar.

19. Botany of Desire (271 pp.) by Michael Pollan (Jul 12) I *loved* this book. It's a science nerd book about plants written by a journalist in a way that is completely accessible and hard to put down. It's about how plants use humans and other means to evolve. I tagged one part for Bob to read and he's reading the whole thing now.

18. Maximum Bob (326 pp.) by Elmore Leonard (Jul 1) Quit a few years ago Bob and I watched a miniseries called Maximum Bob that was based on an Elmore Leonard novel. The show was fantastic. Great writing and Beau Bridges played the judge and he was great. I wanted to read an EL book and bought a used copy of this at Powell's and it's sat on the shelf ever since. He's a fun writer. Loved the book.

Today is June 30 and I know I said that I wasn't going to go for 50 books this year but I've still been monitoring my progress out of the corner of my eye and I'm sorry to see I'm on track for only 34. In my defense, (if I need defending) last year I intentionally chose shorter books to increase my odds of making the 50. This year I've gone ahead and read longer books I might have avoided before because "I'm not counting." I don't know why this is so important to me except there are so many books to read and even at 50 a year, I barely make a scratch in what's available.

17. World of Wonders (316 pp.) by Robertson Davies (Jun 28) This is the third in the trilogy I started last year with Fifth Business and at the beginning of this year read The Manticore. I enjoyed all three books. Great writing, great characters, interesting setting. I would say this was my least favorite of the three. Overall I was involved with the story, but there were some parts that dragged for me.

16. Never Let Me Go (288 pp.) by Kazuo Ishiguro (Jun 8) This book is somewhat similar to the previous in that it's mainly internal. This story has no big action. It's more about what the narrator experiences and her interactions with other characters. Meanwhile, the setting is a sort-of parallel universe where these characters are clones raised for donated organs. More great writing.

15. Saturday (289 pp.) by Ian McEwan (Jun 3) Ian McEwan was in Portland a few years ago for Arts & Lectures and this is the book he talked about. For the first half I was convinced I didn't like it too much. The entire book takes place in a single day and at first I found myself impatient for some sort of forward motion. Things should happen. We need to be going somewhere. But once I accepted the premise and settled in, I enjoyed it a great deal. Fantastic writing.

14. Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight (308 pp.) by Alexandra Fuller (May 29) I started this book, a memoir about a woman who grew up in Africa, thinking it wasn't so special: just an exotic location and a crazy Mom. But the deeper you get into it, the more amazing it becomes. A lot going on here with race/culture/politics and a completely different world. Good one.

13. Midnighters: 3 Blue Noon (378 pp.) by Scott Westerfeld (May 26) Went for the hardcover. Enjoyed the book but not as much as 2. The first one was the set up and what was going on, the second was the why was this happening and who was involved and everyone had a secret and no one was exactly what s/he seemed. I loved that. This one is the epic battle and had a few things I didn't see coming. Overall great series.

12. Oryx and Crake (433 pp.) by Margaret Atwood (May 13) I can't believe how fast I plowed through this book. I remember hearing it was sort-of sci-fi. It's about this guy who's survived a world wide bio-disaster and is desperately trying to keep it together. The story explains how he got there and what led up to it. It's dark, but fascinating.

11. Panther in the Basement (147 pp.) by Amos Oz (May 11) A short, charming book in the POV of Proffy, a kid living in Israel at the time the British leave. There's a lot going on in this book but I wanted more of the British soldier, Sergeant Dunlop who befriends Proffy and teaches him English while Proffy teaches him Hebrew.

10. Midnighters: 2 Touching Darkness (439 pp.) by Scott Westerfeld (May 6) Even better than #1. #3 is only in hardcover. What to do?

9. Suttree (471 pp.) by Cormac McCarthy (May 5). This is a grim, joyless story about scumbags, who when they occasionally get money, squander it on drinking and fighting. It's beautifully written with memorable characters and it's about 100 pp. too long. The last 30 are excruciating. I'm too dim to have fully gotten it so when I was in the library I took a quick look at Masterplots. One of the characters was a male prostitute. I did not get that. What really confused me was the end and even though I doubt any of you will read it, I won't spoil it with details. But I wasn't sure if what I was reading was actually happening or some sort of dream sequence when the guy was dying or drunk or on drugs or something. It's an amazing piece of writing so I will recommend it on that note.

8. Midnighters: 1 The Secret Hour (383 pp.) by Scott Westerfeld (Apr 27) Excellent YA book that was recommended on boingboing.net. I'm still reading a Cormac McCarthy but snuck this in and could hardly put it down. It's about these kids who are awake during the 25th hour, a secret hour at midnight that the rest of us miss and is filled with mysteries and badass creepy-crawlies. Must go buy part 2 on Monday.

7. Consider the Lobster (343 pp.) by David Foster Wallace (Mar 26) To be perfectly honest, I didn't finish the last essay. It was about conservative talk radio which is not of huge interest, especially 68 pages worth. And after reading the whole rest of the book, those footnotes, annotations, asides -- whatever you call them become a nuisance. I love DFW and I enjoyed the book, particular the title essay, although pretty much every piece in the book goes on at least 5 pages longer than you're wanting.

6. Neverwhere (370 pp.) by Neil Gaiman (Mar 10) Finally finished another book. I started two that weren't working for me and also started David Foster Wallace's new book but didn't want to take it on a trip so I picked up this in the middle of that. I liked this much better than American Gods. Dark parallel universe in London. Good one. Thanks Kenman.

5. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers (304 pp.) by Mary Roach (Feb 11.) Wow, what an interesting book. The author uses humor and a lot of research to tell all sorts of stories about the human body after death: how it decomposes, research, disposal of, science, medicine, cannibalism. Might sound icky, and sometimes it is, but good stuff.

4. Gary Benchley, Rockstar (291 pp.) by Paul Ford (Feb 9). Hannah gave us this book and it's hilarious. It's the 00's NYC hipster version of Little Friday (the book I wrote that is now in a box in the garage). It also includes a scene where they get weird outfits to wear onstage. Favorite line: "The only difference between music writers and Star Wars nerds ... is that you can't buy Steve Albini dolls on ebay."

3. The Dirt - Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band (428 pp.) by Mötley Crüe (Feb 5). In terms of pure reading enjoyment, a fun book. I was a fairly big fan for the first 10 years of their career so I followed along greatly entertained. But at some point it became the Behind the Music that never ended. "I was drinking/doing drugs/screwing groupies again because of all my inner pain." wah.

2. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (846 pp.) by Susanna Clarke (Jan 27). Wow. What a treat. They say it's first of a trilogy which is great except now I have to bite my knuckles for the next few years and then when the new one comes out the price will be inflated and I won't remember half of what I read. But don't let that stop you. It's about magicians in England in the early 1800's and it's wonderful.

1. The Manticore (310 pp.) by Robertson Davies (Jan 1). Second in the trilogy. I need to see if I can find #3 at the library. I'm surprised that I like these books as much as I do. It's hard for me articulate in a couple of sentences. Very literary, intelligent writing and interesting characters.