Tuesday, January 19, 2010

2010 and Wrapping Up Old Business: Fifty Books List for 2009

I wasn't sure I was going to finish the fifty books challenge for 2009. I did, but just barely. (What I didn't seem able to finish was blogging about them.) I'd rather focus on what I'm reading/writing in 2010, so I'll just post the 2009 list and a give you quick run-down of my favorites.

Children/Middle School

  1. I Once was Lost: What Postmodern Skeptics Taught Us about Their Path to Jesus—Don Everts and Doug Schaupp
  2. Once Upon a Marigold—Jean Ferris
  3. Gaelic Ghosts—Sorche Nic Leodhas
  4. A Journey of Poems: An Original Anthology of Verse—ed. Richard F. Niebling
  5. Heart of Darkness—Joseph Conrad
  6. Doctor Faustus—Christopher Marlowe
  7. Life is a Dream—Pedro Calderón de la Barca
  8. The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm—trans. Jack Zipes
  9. Housekeeping: A Novel—Marilynne Robinson
  10. Girl Meets God: A MemoirLauren F. Winner
  11. The End of the AffairGraham Greene
  12. One Writer's BeginningsEudora Welty
  13. 1-2-3, Pain FreeJacob Teitelbaum
  14. Little DorritCharles Dickens
  15. The Pope's Children: The Irish Economic Triumph and the Rise of Ireland's New EliteDavid McWilliams
  16. UlyssesJames Joyce
  17. The Hero with A Thousand FacesJoseph Campbell
  18. Calder: Gravity and GraceCarmen Gimenez
  19. Clans and Families of Ireland: The Heritage and Heraldry of Irish Clans and Families—John Grenham
  20. Calder Game—Blue Balliett
  21. The Black Dudley Murder—Margery Allingham
  22. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn—Betty Smith
  23. The Case of the Late Pig—Margery Allingham
  24. Fathers and Sons—Ivan Turgenev
  25. Pictures at an Exhibition—Sara Houghteling
  26. The Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Basil—Wiley Miller
  27. Attack of the Volcano Monkeys—Wiley Miller
  28. The New Kid at School (Dragon Slayers’ Academy) —K.H. McMullan
  29. Revenge of the Dragon Lady (Dragon Slayers’ Academy)—K.H. McMullan
  30. Searching for Dragons—Patricia C. Wrede
  31. The Grapes of Wrath—John Steinbeck
  32. Breathing Lessons—Anne Tyler
  33. Calling on Dragons—Patricia C. Wrede
  34. Talking to Dragons—Patricia C. Wrede
  35. The Joy Luck Club—Amy Tan
  36. The Ugly Princess and the Wise Fool—Margaret Gray
  37. The Short Reign of Pippin IV: A Fabrication—John Steinbeck
  38. Mystery Mile—Margery Allingham
  39. Rice—Nikky Finney
  40. Beyond Style: Mastering the Finer Points of Writing—Gary Provost
  41. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?—Edward Albee
  42. Of Fiction and Faith: Twelve American Writers Talk about Their Vision—ed. W. Dale Brown
  43. Lunch Money—Andrew Clements
  44. A Reliable Wife—Robert Goolrick
  45. Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha—Roddy Doyle
  46. Brave New World—Aldous Huxley
  47. Not Becoming My Mother: And Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way—Ruth Reichl
  48. The Cider House Rules—John Irving
  49. Four Quartets—T.S. Eliot
  50. Emergency! True Stories from the Nations ERs—Mark Brown

That's 9 nonfiction, 3 poetry, 19 fiction, 3 memoir, 3 plays, 11 children/middle school books, and 2 "other" (both happen to be collections of stories). Fifteen of these works are listed on Editor Eric's Greatest Literature of All Time list. After my 2008 list, I'd said I wanted to read more poetry and drama for 2009, but comparing the two lists, I can see that I've finished the exact same amount of work in both categories. I've also been working my way through 1000 Years of Irish Poetry, which is heavier than my cat, so I've technically been reading more poetry, even if I haven't finished more volumes. Maybe I should just try to see more plays?

Favorite Fiction of the Year:
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith—I suppose I could have included this under Children/Middle School because it's often assigned as middle or high school reading. But the best books about childhood are rarely written (entirely) for children.
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

Very Honorable Mention: Pictures at an Exhibition by Sara Houghteling—I hadn't really heard of this book before I won it in a drawing through The Book Studio. The melancholy atmosphere, the aching combination of tenderness and disconnection in the characters' relationships, and sensitively depicted obsession with Art kept reminding me of Potok's My Name is Asher Lev and The Gift of Asher Lev. (The fact that a majority of Houghteling's characters are Jewish, albeit, non-practicing, probably doesn't hurt the comparison.)

Favorite Non-fiction:
I Once Was Lost: What Postmodern Skeptics Taught Us about Their Path to Jesus by Don Everts and Doug Schaupp
Beyond Style: Mastering the Finer Points of Writing by Gary Provost
Of Faith and Fiction: Twelve American Writers Talk about Their Vision ed. by W. Dale Brown

Favorite Play:
Life is a Dream by Pedro Calderón de la Barca

Favorite Poetry Volume:
Four Quartets
by T.S. Eliot

Favorite Memoir:
Not Becoming My Mother: And Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way by Rachel Reichl

Favorite Children/Middle School:
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede
The Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Basil by Wiley Miller

I'm restarting the challenge this year. (My first book is Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie.) But I can't help thinking that maybe I should make it my goal for the year to keep up with this blog...


  1. I was doing a random search of people talking about Patricia C. Wrede (one of my all time favorite authors) and your list came up! I do hope you also read Dealing with Dragons, even though it wasn't on your list :) It's my favorite of the four, although Talking is also excellent.

    I've seen a lot of these challenge posts around, and I was wondering whether they come from a particular source? Or does everybody make up their own challenge? -D.O.

  2. How was Fathers and Sons, and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? I was thinking about F&S for my next Russian reading (which will be awhile, since I just finished a Gogol).

    I approve of Housekeeping, Life is a Dream, and the Enchanted Forest Chronicles making the best of lists. :) If you're looking for more fun young adult books for this year, and haven't read them already, I recommend Diana Wynne Jones (go either for the Howl trilogy or Dark Lord of Derkholm) and Diane Duane (The Young Wizards series and/or the Feline Wizards series--connected series, but starrring, appropriately enough, pre-teens and cats, respectively. Wow, there were a lot of commas in that sentence. I doubt it was grammatically correct...)

  3. Solsticia: Welcome! Yes, I have read _Dealing with Dragons_. I read it back before I realized there was a whole series. That might be my favorite too. I think I read that one two or three times.

    I first heard about the Fifty Books Challenge on the Reading is Sexy Facebook group. A Suite101.com article (http://literaryculture.suite101.com/article.cfm/all_about_the_50_book_challenge) claims that the challenge started on Livejournal. There don't seem to be any set rules, other than reading fifty books in a year. But a lot of people join groups so they can post their reads.

  4. When I get back I need to make you read 'cecilia and the chocolate pot'. you know the book you bought me for christmas. :P

  5. Cara: Don’t be ashamed. I mean, you’ve *read* my post, right? Every time I look at it, I find something new to fix. I think the internet eats grammar.

    I appreciated some of the ideas in _Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?_, but I didn’t care much for the play. I’ve read Albee’s _A Zoo Story_, and I preferred that. I was actually a little bored by _Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf?_, which is strange because the characters are yelling at and/or doing horrible things to each other every other line, but it started to seem repetitive. (My understanding is that the repetitiveness is part of the point Albee is trying to make about language and communication, but that didn’t make me love it.)

    I don’t have much to say about the storyline of _Fathers and Sons_. I didn’t dislike it, it just wasn’t particularly memorable for me. But I will say that I was impressed by the characterizations. I don’t know of many other (male) 19th century novelists who have as clear an understanding of their female characters as Turgenev does.

    Also, Feline Wizards? Wow.

  6. AinaMoraiwe: Well, you don't think I bought it purely for *your* enjoyment, do you?

  7. Yeah, it's about cats who are wizards and run Worldgates (for traveling between planets) out of train stations, because their claws are better at manipulating the energy strings...

    Duane is possibly the most _scientific_ young adult fantasy writer I know of. In a good way, not in a boring way.

    I second The Enchanted Chocolate Pot, though Mairelon the Magician is still my favorite Wrede Regency Fantasy. The end still makes me giggle, and we're going on over 50+ readings since I first discovered it in middle school.

  8. My captcha was "joyed." It sounds like a word Hopkins would use in one of his poems.

  9. Yes, it does. My last one was something like "munchlito endo," which sounds like the ultimate Spanish snack-food. Or a scary diet camp.