2007 Reading List

Yay, I at least made it to 40 books. That's respectable. I've got one more on the nightstand that I might finish before Tuesday. I got tons of fabulous books for Xmas so now I have to decide what to start next.

40. Lord Foul's Bane (474 pp.) by Stephen R. Donaldson (Dec 27). I don't know what to tell you about this book. I wanted to like it more. This is book one of a classic fantasy trilogy in the spirit of the Lord of the Rings with a land full of lore and history. The protagonist, Thomas Covenant ("the Unbeliever") is interesting, but difficult to like. It's a good story but everything go so bogged down in the lore and it felt to me like dense reading. I originally started it because it was easy to carry on the bus but it didn't work for bus reading. Bus reading has to be something you can read with half your attention. There's a joke I make about certain books that you can read while you're vacuuming. This is not one of those. I'm still tempted to continue with the series. We'll see.

39. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (607 pp.) by J.K. Rowling (Dec 24). I exaggerate little when I say that I enjoyed this book more than the other six combined. I loved this book. I woke up in the middle of the night after I finished it and thought about it. Sure, the ending was a little overwrought and drawn out and there were a few bits that I would have suggested tightening up but I loved it. Everyone had a big moment. Good ending to the series.

38. Chuck Klosterman IV: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas (432 pp.) by Chuck Klosterman (Dec. 9). I'm doing something I don't normally do and I'm reading 3 books right now. Today I was babysitting the Hobbit and brought this one with me since his Mom loaned it to me. He slept in my lap and I finished the book. It's more essays, some fabulous and some annoying. I liked the one about robots and how fiction has taught us to fear robots taking over the world when in reality, robots can barely work on their own, how are they going to turn us all into the matrix?

37. Fargo Rock City (272 pp.) by Chuck Klosterman (Nov. 25). It is hard for me to write this without going off on a 10 screen personal tangent but I'm going to resist the urge. This is a book about hair bands in the 80's and it's part history, part memoir and it's hard for me to read this and not think I should have written it. CK was a teenager in North Dakota during the late 80's. I lived in L.A. and spent every weekend hanging out on the Sunset Strip. Many weeknights, too. Anyway, I had massive self-confidence issues and CK obviously, is the opposite. He wrote a book and I didn't. It's mostly entertaining but sometimes long winded like the man is never bored with his own typing. But here's a quote I have to share from page 260 on Van Halen, "Yet Roth would look like a fool if the original Van Halen ever reunited. The thought of a balding man trying to do backflips is not appealing, and that's basically all Roth can do." There's an asterisk between the two sentences that says, "And I'm really afraid they will." This was probably written around 1999. HA!

36. Julie & Julia (307 pp.) by Julie Powell (Nov. 6). This is the only book I brought on the trip to Idaho. Normally when I go on a trip I bring 3 books and never finish anything. I read over half by the time the plane landed. I had to pace myself. I read the last page as we were taxi-ing to the gate on the way home. Great fun book about a woman who decides to cook every recipe in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking over a year. I loved it. I always think I'm a terrible cook when things go wrong and I'm cussing and weeping and improvising, and the thing I make turns out terrible or ugly or nothing like the picture. Here's a whole book about someone doing just that, for an entire year. Recommend.

35. Conrad's Fate (375 pp.) by Diana Wynne Jones (Nov. 3). This is the last of the DWJ books my sister loaned me (see #18, #21, #22, and #25). This was my favorite. I picked it up because I thought it would be something easy to read on the bus. And it was. This poor kid goes to become a servant at a giant estate because he's under the impression he's cursed and he meets Christopher Chant, easily one of my favorite fictional characters in a long time, who's at the estate for a different reason. Very funny.

34. Flight (181 pp.) by Sherman Alexie (Oct 27). Another excellent Sherman book. It's about a troubled Indian kid named Zits who has been in and out of foster homes and had a miserable life and he does something bad and then vaults into this weird time travel thing. Really sad and really funny. Fabulous book.

33. Cold Skin (233 pp.) by Albert Sanchez Pinol (Oct 24). Great disturbing scary book. The first 30 pages peeled my face off. It's about a guy who goes to man a weather station on a remote island in the Anarctic. All sorts of bad things live on and around that island. It was originally published in Spain and the writing is fabulous.

32. Nine Princes in Amber (172 pp.) by Roger Zelazny (Oct 20). I loved this book. The series was recommended to me a long time ago and I've had it on the list and almost bought it a few times but never did. This summer Zelazny's name came up a bunch of times in different contexts and I finaly made a point of getting the first book. I don't know how to describe it: sci-fi/fantasy but not exactly what you'd expect from that label. Great characters. Can't wait to read the whole series.

31. Firebirds: Anthology of Original Fantasy and Science Fiction (420 pp.) ed. Sharyn November (Oct 19). I picked this up at the library and found it a bit disappointing. There were only a couple of stories I really liked. My favorite was Chasing the Wind by Elizabeth Wein about an airplane flight in Africa in 1950 and I'm not sure I understand why it's in a SF/F collection.

30. Peeps (304 pp.) by Scott Westerfeld (Oct 6). This is a fun vampire book. The premise is that vampirism is caused by a parasite and these people are trying to keep the parasite in check.

00. Snow (205 of 426 pp.) by Orhan Pamuk (Oct 4). Dear Orhan Pamuk: Sorry I didn't finish your book. I did read the summary on Wikipedia and to be honest, even with that my mind drifted halfway through and I ended up going to empty the dishwasher before forcing myself to come back and skim to the end so I could put some closure on this book. Bob read some of your nonfiction and liked it a lot so I plan to read an essay or two this weekend. See You Soon.

29. Eclipse (629 pp.) by Stephenie Meyer (Sep 22). Looks like they brought in J.K. Rowling's editor for this one. J.K. Rowling had an editor? you say, well yeah, my point exactly. According to the author's website she started the first of these three books in Jun of 03. Cranking out a 500+ book a year would take its toll on any writer and in this case, we have some long passages that are pretty much just typing. Don't get me wrong, I liked the book and today my neck hurts from sitting at a funny angle for the last 200 pages but I don't think we needed 629 pages to finish this story. I could write a lot about this book. For example, although the heroine did have moments of bravery she always seemed to be in some predicament where someone had to hold her or carry her. Her vampire boyfriend was always tucking her into bed and singing her lullabies which seemed weird to me. The whole hanky-panky aspect was kind of funny, brilliant on the author's part because what is more potent than teen longing? But funny because they couldn't do it because as a vampire he could hurt her. But he agrees they can try but she has to marry him first. I loved the characters and all the emotional torment but the website says she's going to write another in this series and I think that's a mistake, the story should end here. Well, except for this one thing that I want to happen to this one charcter that I won't say because it would be a spoiler and I know you are all running out to pick up your 1600 pages of vampire books and I don't want to wreck it for you.

28. New Moon (563 pp.) by Stephenie Meyer (Sep 16). Hey, do me a favor. If you're a friend or colleague of Orhan Pamuk please don't tell him that there's a lady in Washington who can't seem to finish his book because she's too busy reading about teenaged vampires. I saw in the NYT today that they called it "Vampires and werewolves in high school." The werewolves showed up in this book. If there's a word that means more than overwrought, please apply. Loved it.

27. Twilight (498 pp.) by Stephenie Meyer (Sep 8). I did a foolish thing. If you're a regular reader, you know I've been having a problem reading anything resembling serious fiction. Maybe I should call it challenging fiction. The book I'm really reading right now is called Snow and the author won the Nobel Prize and it's really good and I'm halfway through it but it isn't something that I've wanted to curl up with for a few hours. On Friday I used a bookstore giftcard I had and grabbed this book with a couple of others and came home and set them in the immediate "to read" area which is right next to the bed. (Different from the "to read" shelves which are in my room.) I knew better but I decided to peek at this book, just read a few pages to see what I thought. I read some young adult reviewers who were swooning about it. I told Bob it was vampires in high school and it the most overwrought star-crossed lovers romantic teenage wishfulfillment story of all time and I could not put it down until it was finished. And I just ordered the next two in the series, in hardcover, so they will be here by the end of the week.

26. Titans of Chaos (319 pp.) by John C. Wright (Sep 1). Part 3 in the series (#17 and #13). There is no getting around it. These books are weird. But really fun as in you never have any idea what's going to happen next. Also very brainy. I didn't know what was happening half the time. But completely enjoyed it.

25. Witch Week (275 pp.) by Diana Wynne Jones (Aug 24). Same author as book #18, #21 and 22. Another good one. Great author.

24. A Long Way Down (333 pp.) by Nick Hornby (Aug 18). A ridiculous premise that you can't imagine how it's going to work and it totally does. Great characters. Another one that's easy read all afternoon. Loved it.

23. The Ruins (509 pp.) by Scott Smith (Aug 15). This is the same guy who wrote, A Simple Plan, another squirmalicious book. This book is really disturbing and after about page 200 totally impossible to put down. It's about these college grads vacationing in Cancun and they decide to go off into the jungle and help another traveler locate his brother. What a bad idea. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

22. The Magicians of Caprona (273 pp.) by Diana Wynne Jones (Aug 11). Same author as book #18 and #21. Didn't love this one. There were a million characters and I couldn't figure out what was going on half the time. I liked it enough to finish it.

21. The Lives of Christopher Chant (335 pp.) by Diana Wynne Jones (Aug 5). Same author as book #18 and same world but different moment in time. Excellent. I intended to get up early and start my chores but instead I had to read to the very end.

20. Blue Angel (314 pp.) by Francine Prose (Jul 31). Francine Prose was an Arts and Lectures person and I really liked her and have been dying to read one of her books and this was doodoo. It was like a Joyce Carol Oates. Nothing good happened. The protagonist was a doof and was punished unmercifully for it. Sorry. Can't recommend.

19. The Year of Magical Thinking (227 pp.) by Joan Didion (Jul 22). Joan Didion does an incredible job of articulating her grief after her husband of 40 years dies suddenly. She's a great writer.

18. Charmed Life (263 pp.) by Diana Wynne Jones (Jul 20). My sister gave me a couple of tomes by this author, different parts of a series or with the same characters. The cover has a blurb that says, "Mad About Harry? Try Diana." I think there's some sort of subject subject agreement problem there but we'll let it slide. I enjoyed the book right away but it was England and kids with dead parents and a castle and magic and I was thinking: how many of these YA magic books are being turned out these days? Then I noticed this was originally published in 1977. Hm. Poor Ms. Jones must wonder why she isn't a bazillionaire. It's about a boy who doesn't know about his magical powers until great forces of evil force him to step up to the cause. It's wonderful.

17. Fugatives of Chaos (353 pp.) by John C. Wright (Jul 13). Part 2 in the series I started with book #13. I'm enjoying the series a great deal but there's a braniac element that I'm too dense to follow. I should have made a character chart in the beginning to help me keep it all straight. Ended in a cliffhanger and Book 3 is out but still in hardcover. What to do ... ?

16. In Persuasion Nation (240 pp.) by George Saunders (Jul 5). I love George Saunders. He was one of the Arts & Lectures people this year and I wished he could have talked more. His stories are completely loopy in the way where you read it thinking: how on earth did anyone come up with this stuff? A little bit goes a long way and I don't always love every story but I had a good time reading this book.

Mid-year check in. Argh! Barely on track for 30 books this year. Damn Fortress of Solitude! Damn 642 page stupid book about Dracula!

15. The Historian (642 pp.) by Elizabeth Kostova (Jul 3). I don't know who I'm madder at: the writer of this book, the publisher of this book, or the person who loaned it to me without warning me that this book is a Ginormous Waste Of Time. If you're considering reading it, please don't. When I read that the author got a $2M advance I had to be physically restrained from braining myself with the heavy tome. I would say that there might be a decent 300 page book in this bloated mess. I stuck with it. I wanted to find out what happened. I guess I should mention that Dracula is involved and who doesn't love vampire stories? Meanwhile, there were about 200 pages in the middle where I was only reading the first sentence in every paragraph because I felt like I was reading a long boring self-important book about the Ottoman Empire and the Cold War and ancient something or the other. They're all historians and can't wait to dazzle you with every boring arcane tidbit. Also, I felt the book was a structural mess because most of it is the protagonist's father's story within the protagonists story with some of the father's mentor's story thrown in just in case you weren't already confused about what time period you're in and who's narrating. And I think it was lame that we had to wade through 640 pages of history (here's where you chide me for not paying attention to the title of the book) and then the big climax is 1 paragraph where, "Then suddenly ... " and then the story is all over. Just in case you're not clear, I do not recommend the book.

14. Bad Dirt: Wyoming Stories 2 (219 pp.) by Annie Proulx (Jun 16). Annie Proulx is so, so good. I'm going to write longer review on my main blog and will try to remember to link from here. She's such a great writer. So funny. Great descriptions. Great characters. In particular The Wamsutter Wolf had me writhing in my seat. Very highly recommended. (Update: I guess I forgot to do the longer review. Instead, here's the introduction of a character in Man Crawling Out of Trees: "She was an elderly widow rancher in her mid-seventies of the classic Republican, conservative, art-hating, right-wing, outspoken flint-faced type.")

13. Orphans of Chaos (326 pp.) by John C. Wright (Jun 11). This is book one of a fantasy trilogy that I would roughly describe as Golden Compass meets The Secret History. It was a solid 3.5 out of 5 stars. I'm going to get my hands on the rest of the trilogy although book #3 is still in hardcover. It has mythology and a group of kids who don't know exactly who they are or why they're at this school that they never seem to graduate from.

12. The Best From Fantasy & Science Fiction: 40th Anniversary Anthology (376 pp.) Edward L. Ferman, ed. (Jun 1). A couple books ago I read a Sci Fi/Fantasy Anthology for teens that I stumbled upon in the library in a giant section of random anthologies. I found this one in the same spot. Sci Fi has a huge shelf life. That stuff holds up forever and this collection was no different. I already returned it to the library so again, I have no specifics about the book. I loved the story about the "birds" that exploded and turned the environment into glass and the one about the kid in the Spanish Armada. I didn't like the one about cats or Coyote.

11. Fledgling (316 pp.) by Octavia Butler (May 21). I read a good review of this book last year and finally grabbed it at the library. It's about a young vampire who wakes up with no knowledge of who she is and how she figures out what's going on and who's trying to hurt her. A different spin on the vampire tale and lots of interesting ideas about gender and sexuality and family.

10. Mrs. Kimble (394 pp.) by Jennifer Haigh (May 12). This book has been on my list for years - I must have read a book review that recommended it. Do you remember thinking, after watching Episode III, jeez, that Padme Amidala is a woman who made poor choices? Mrs. Kimble is about three Amidalas, except not in outer space. It's about three women who married the same man (not at the same time) and how he sort of hypnotized them into not noticing what a jerk he was. It's well written and I zoomed through it in 24 hours which has not happened in a long time.

9. The Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy for Teens (282 pp.) Jane Yolen and Patrick Nielson Hayden, eds. (May 11). The title is missing a critical piece of information as in which year it is talking about. The copyright is 05 so I guess it's 04. I found all kinds of anthologies while I was shuffling around the library. Sometimes I love story collections because of the variety of voices and styles. Other times I get frustrated with it because by the time you get into a story, it's over. This was a good collection and I'd love to tell you my favorite but I had to return the book this morning and I can't remember the author. Instead I'll mention that in the anthology section there seemed to be a lot of cat story anthologies.

8. The Blue Mirror (119 pp.) by Kathe Koja (May 4). I read about this author's YA books on boing boing and picked this up last time I was at the library. I read one of her early horror books eons ago and didn't love it. But I liked this book. Well written, interesting characters, dark story. If I had the task of getting a surly teenager to read, this is the book I would give him/her.

7. The Leopard (320 pp.) by Guiseppe Di Lampedusa (Apr 29). I saw this book on a couple of "recommended reading" lists and bought it a couple months ago. The first time I picked it up and started reading the historical note that sets the scene, I almost put it away. It's set in Italy in 1860 and there was a lot going on. I started the book anyway and quickly got into it. It's about Sicilian prince and how the political changes influence his life and family. I'm not making it sound very interesting but really, it's good.

6. From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (162 pp). by E.L. Konigsburg (Apr 29). As I was walking up the steps to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC, I wished I'd reread From the Mixed-up Files before my visit. I was in the bookstore last week with a gift card and had a few leftover bucks so I grabbed a copy. I still love it. This is the 35th anniversary edition and the author writes an afterward about what has changed in 35 years and a lot of the stuff in the book like the fountain aren't even at the museum now. Great book.

5. Love is a Mix Tape (224 pp.) by Rob Sheffield (Apr 27). Hannah gave me this book and it inspired this post and a trip to the basement in search of mix tapes and listening fun. It's a memoir by a music writer and it was surprisingly hard to put down.

4. Accordion Crimes (381 pp.) by E. Annie Proulx (Apr 15). Yay, finally I finished a book. Annie Proulx is a fabulous writer and this is a good book but there isn't a character you can get behind like Quoyle or Bob Dollar. It's a hundred plus years in the life of an accordion and the various people who come in contact with it. Most of them are unpleasant and meet disastrous ends. What's amazes me is that so many side characters who may only appear for a page or two are fully developed and interesting and worthy of an entire book of their own.

3. Eat Pray Love (334 pp.) by Elizabeth Gilbert (Feb 10). Fantastic book that was a recommendation from Kim. Elizabeth Gilbert is a writer that Bob and I liked a lot way back when we subscribed to Spin magazine. She wrote an article about rodeos and buckle bunnys so we refer to her as that buckle bunny writer. This book is a memoir about after going through a bad divorce she traveled for a year and went to Italy, India and Bali and all her adventures. I loved it.

2. The Traveler (456 pp.) by John Twelve Hawks (Jan 19). I liked this book and I read it quickly but I think the potential of the story is more interesting than the story that came out. It's set in these times except the country is run by a secret society of control freaks that want the power to keep the general population in line. Meanwhile, there are these Travelers who can move into other realms and the bad guys first want to destroy them. Lots of violence. I wanted more about the Travelers and what they do and less about the bad guys chasing them around everywhere.

1. Servant of the Bones (387 pp.) by Anne Rice (Jan 4). This book came out in 1996 which means I've had it sitting on my shelf for about 10 years. I hated the last 2 or 3 Anne Rice books I read so I never picked this one up. I finally decided to read the first 25 pages and if I didn't like it, get rid of it. I liked it much more than expected. It's about an immortal (but not a vampire) who was created in ancient times and ends up in present day New York and him figuring out what he is and what part he plays in the NY drama.