Saturday, December 27, 2008

Page Turners

In 2007, I set a New Year's resolution for myself to read 12 books that year, which I did. In 2008, I decided to do it again (secretly hoping to do 14 books). Right now I'm reading my 14th book and it's due at the library on January 2nd. So, I might get in all 14 books. Here's the list:

1. "A Long Way Gone" by Ishmael Beah

2. "Love is the Killer App" by Tim Sanders

3. "An Idiot Girl's Christmas" by Laurie Notaro--Her books are always funny. Start with the "Idiot Girl's Action Adventure Club."

4. "Into the Wild" by Jon Krakauer--Loved the book, loved the movie.

5. "Last Lecture" by Randy Pausch--Seriously DO NOT read without a box of tissues.

6. "Marley and Me" by John Grogan--I'm hoping to go see the movie soon. Cute book, even if you're not a dog lover (like myself).

7. "Dispatches from the Edge" by Anderson Cooper

8. "My Life on the Run" by Bart Yasso--My favorite book I read this year.

9. "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald

10. "Girls in Pants: The Third Summer of the Sisterhood" by Ann Brashares

11. "There's a Slight Chance I Might Be Going to Hell" by Laurie Notaro--I only have one of her books left to read. Come on, Laurie! Publish another book!

12. "Twlight" by Stephenie Meyer--My second favorite book I read this year. Loved the book, loved the movie. Dave got me the sequel for Christmas. I can't wait to read it.

13. "Me Talk Pretty One Day" by David Sedaris

And what I'm reading right now:

14. "No Limits: The Will to Succeed" by Michael Phelps

So, what did you read this year that you would recommend?


Jennifer Harrison said...

I am so impressed by some of you that read soo much! LOVE IT..I used too...but those darn kids...hee hee..I read some good ones, but nothing too classy except: Talent is Overrated.
but, I read - here are a few I remember:
1.) Comeback by Claire Fontaine
2.) Complications by Atul Gawande
3.) Blue Water by A. Manette Ansay
4.) BETTER by Atul Gawande
5.) Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
6.) I hope They Serve Beer in Hell (oh my gosh, soo funny but rated X!) by Max Tucker.
7.) If I am Missing Or Dead by Janine Latus
8.) The Road by Cormac McCarthy
9.) SUPER FOODS by Steven Pratt, MD (LOVED this one).
10.) The Five People you Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

ENJOY! :) Thanks for your list too!

Jason said...

I actually read 26 books this year. That has to be a record for me. Where the heck did I find all that free time??? Anyway, here's my list.

1. Midnight Clear by Jerry B. Jenkins and Dallas Jenkins - This is a pretty crappy book. The only reason I read it is because it was a Christmas present from my ultra-religious mother-in-law, and it's super-short. It SUCKED. Avoid!!!
2. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury - You could label this horror for young readers (but not as young as R.L. Stine's fans). This is a classic novel that a lot of people have read, but I never got around to till this year. It's good, but it's no "The Shining" or anything. Bradbury's writing style takes some getting used to as well. Ultimately, however, the book is a very satisfying read. Recommended.
3. Duma Key by Stephen King - I am one of the biggest Stephen King fans in existence, having read every book he's published. This is his latest novel and, while it's nowhere near his best work, it isn't bad either. Edgar Freemantle is probably one of the coolest characters King has ever created though.
4. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger - Maybe this book just has too much hype surrounding it, but I was a little disappointed with it. It didn't really do anything for me. However, part of the problem might be because I read it as a 38-year-old man. I bet if I read it while in high school or college (i.e., closer to Holden Caulfield's age), I would like this book a LOT more.
5. The Heroin Diaries by Nikki Sixx - Now this was a great book. In 1986-87, Nikki Sixx (the bassist-songwriter for Motley Crue) kept a diary of a year in his life. During this time, however, he was deep in the throes of heroin addiction. This book gives you a real unflinching glimpse into the life of an addict. Unless he added some embellishments to his diary, it is amazing that Sixx made it to 1988 and beyond. Very highly recommended.
6. Christ the King: The Road to Cana by Anne Rice - Even though Anne Rice is a born again Catholic and I am an atheist, I am still going to read her books. After all, she did write "The Vampire Lestat" and "The Witching Hour." And I have to admit that I am interested in her latest endeavor: to create a multi-book interpretation of the life of Christ, in novel format. But if you're already familiar with that story, these books don't exactly hold many surprises. Rice does use the Apocrypha as a source of info, though, which may or may not piss some people off. Anyway, Meredith, I think you, a self-described Jesus Freak, might dig this book, which is the second book in the series ("Christ the King: Out of Egypt" is the first book).
7. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut - This is one weird book, but I loved it. It's part science fiction, part anti-war protest, part character study, all tangled up in a very non-linear plot. My first Vonnegut novel, but it definitely won't be my last. This was the second-best book I read in 2008.
8. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis - Meh. While I'm sure I would've loved this book as a kid, I've since been spoiled by Tolkein's "Lord of the Rings," Stephen King's "Dark Tower" series and even J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" series, all three of these being vastly superior to the two Narnia books I've read thus far.
9. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck - Steinbeck is one of my all-time favorite authors, yet I had never read the book many consider his masterpiece till now. I still prefer "Of Mice and Men" over this, but I can't deny that this is a very important book in the Steinbeck canon. The Joads are one of the most memorable fictional families I've ever encountered. This book is very heavy on symbolism, but the story is also very good and accessible. The ending is kind of out there though. I can see what it wasn't in the 1940 film adaptation (which is also excellent). I recommend this book.
10. Meditation and Relaxation in Plain English by Bob Sharples - I got into meditation this year and this book is a very good intro to the subject.
11. The Ruins by Scott Smith - This book sucked. I can't believe Stephen King recommended it so highly. How much was he paid to say it was good?? Smith's first novel, "A Simple Plan," is great (or at least the movie is... I've never actually read the book), but this book, his second novel, is just run-of-the-mill horror about five college students trapped on a Mayan pyramid by a killer plant. Except for some inventive gore scenes, this book just blew.
12. Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin - This book, however, is a classic in the horror genre. It's on most peoples' lists of all-time greatest horror novels, yet I'd never read it till now. The reason for that is because I've seen the movie numerous times, and heard that it's an extremely faithful adaptation. But I needed a quick book to read on the flight to and from Rocklahoma and saw this at the library.
13. Son of Rosemary by Ira Levin - Since "Rosemary's Baby" was so great, I decided to check out the sequel, written almost 30 years later. Bad idea!!! This book not only sucks, but it shits all over the first book. I won't spoil it, but the ending of this book really destroys the first book. The less said about this, the better.
14. Hell House by Richard Matheson - Early 1970s horror from an author most famous for "I Am Legend" and numerous episodes of "The Twilight Zone." While it can get a little cheesy at times (for example, one of the characters builds a device called the Reverser, which is supposed to "clean" haunted houses), it is for the most part a very enjoyable and creepy haunted house story. Recommended, but maybe only to horror fans.
15. Diary by Chuck Palahniuk - My best friend recommended this book to me. I did not enjoy it as much as she did, but then again, she was able to indentify with the main character much better than I could. While it wasn't the best book I read this year, I liked it enough to want to seek out other Palahniuk books.
16. The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle - One of the best science fiction books I've ever read. Even though it features faster-than-light travel, aliens, force fields and whatnot, it is very firmly grounded in science. Probably the best, most realistic book on first contact with an extraterrestrial species that I've ever read.
17. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch - You already read this, Meredith, so I'll just say you seemed to like it more than I did. I feel terrible for the author, of course, who has since died, but I also have to admit that none of the advice he dishes out in this book is exactly groundbreaking or new. The guy was a hell of a character though, and that shines through gloriously in this book.
18. The Taking by Dean Koontz - Koontz is my guilty pleasure. For some people it's trashy romance novels, for me it's this dimestore Stephen King. Koontz has written dozens and dozens of novels, yet very few can be considered masterpieces ("Phantoms" and "Twilight Eyes" being exceptions). The guy comes up with some great ideas though. It's too bad his characters are tissue paper-thin and he constantly recycles plot devices from book to book. Starting in the mid-90s, Koontz seemed to start shying away from the horror genre, focusing instead on suspense thrillers, but this book is firmly rooted in horror, which is why I read it. It is still typical Koontz though: a good way to pass time when you want something to read, but once you're finished, it doesn't stick with you.
19. World War Z by Max Brooks - What a great book!! I had enough people recommend this to me--people I trust, too--that I had to read it. I was not disappointed. This book is a chronicle of a fictional war between humans and zombies, where the author interviews people who were part of it. It sounds corny, but the author took the idea very seriously and wrote a very good, very thought-provoking book. Imagine a cross between "Night of the Living Dead" and Tom Clancy's "Red Storm Rising." How would the U.S. military fight an enemy that is impervious to anything other than destruction of their brains or complete disintegration? Chemical warfare has no effect on the living dead, and neither do most other conventional weapons. They don't even have any morale you can break, or supply lines you can attack. And they vastly outnumber you. I cannot recommend this book enough. Probably the third best book I read in 2008.
20. 1984 by George Orwell - Everyone knows the basic story of "1984." I'll just say that this was the best book I read in 2008, and one of the best books I have ever read in my life. It wouldn't surprise me if one of the reasons there aren't that many dystopian societies on Earth is because so many people have read this book.
21. The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks - Brooks wrote this book before "World War Z," and while it's nowhere near as good, it's still an entertaining read. Just as WWZ was a fictional account of a battle between the living and the undead, this book is a mock survival guide for how to survive an outbreak of the living dead. It starts to get old after a while, but the last section of the book, which describes zombie encounters all over the world, from the time of the Egyptian pharoahs to today, is entertaining as hell.
22. Just After Sunset by Stephen King - As mentioned before, Stephen King is my all-time favorite author, and I bought this book the week it came out. I love his collections of short stories, and this, his fifth such anthology, is right up there with the rest of them. While it may not have as many classic stories as the others, it also has a LOT less crappy throwaway stories. Every story is a worthy addition to King's legacy, in my opinion, and three of them are among the best stories King has ever written. "The Things They Left Behind" is King's reaction to 9/11 and I must admit it brought tears to my eyes. "A Very Tight Place" is reminiscient of his legendary story "Survivor Type." If you are familiar with that story, you know what I'm talking about. In other words, King goes for the gross out, but it's just one part of a very imaginative and very entertaining story. "N." combines the cosmic, unnameable horrors descibed by another iconic horror writer, H.P. Lovecraft, with obsessive-compulsive disorder. The result is something so cool I can't believe no one ever thought of it before. Anyone who thinks King is past his prime or can't come up with an original idea anymore should read these three stories.
23. Animal Farm by George Orwell - Again, most people have a basic understanding of this book, whether they've read it or not, so I won't go into detail describing it. I will say that while it's nowhere near the masterpiece "1984" is, it is still a powerful book, and worthy of being named one of the top 100 English-language novels written since 1923, as chosen by "Time" magazine.
24. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess - Most people have probably seen the Stanley Kubrick movie, which for the most part is very faithful to the book. I have to admit that it took me a while to read it because it was hard to decipher the slang (called "nadsat") used by the narrator of the book. Also, the overall message of the book, whether or not it's better to be inherently evil or to be artificially modified to be good, didn't resonate with me. I had no problems at all with what the government did to Alex, the narrator. And that probably lessened my enjoyment of the book.
25. Lord of the Flies by William Golding - Yet another 20th century classic I read this year (that was my main reading goal for 2008: to make myself more cultured). Again, I won't go into detail with this book because most people have probably already read it. I'll just say that I did enjoy it very much and this time the theme--how frighteningly easy it is for civilization to resort to violence and anarchy--did resonate with me.
26. The Dark Tower: The Long Road Home by Peter David - This is the second graphic novel based on Stephen King's "Dark Tower" series. If you are a fan of the Dark Tower, then recommending this is a no-brainer. For the rest of you, you might want to know more first. The Dark Tower is, in King's own words, a cross between "Lord of the Rings" and Clint Eastwood's spaghetti westerns. I say throw in some King Arthur legends and "Mad Max" and you start to get an idea of what's going on here. I myself love the Dark Tower stories, so of course I enjoyed this, but not as much as the first graphic novel. That's probably because the first novel's plot was lifted directly from the first and fourth books in the Dark Tower series, while this one was all original. I know King is guiding the story along behind the scenes (think of him as being the literary equivalent of an executive producer) but he is not writing these novels.