Emily’s short list of books of the year

November 30, 2009 at 3:42 pm (Uncategorized)

I read a lot. For the majority of my life, I’ve been the one who reads at every opportunity. Instead of TV, I read to relax. And I listen to books on CD on every drive I take, unless my CD player is acting up (which unfortunately happens a lot). Each year, though, I have three or four books that stand out. These are the books I’ll return to again some other time in my life, guaranteed. This year, the books that did it for me are as follows:

1. The Art of Racing in the Rain, Garth Stein.

This book is hands down the pick of the year. I read this first in 2008, and recommended it to my mom. She then recommended it to my dad and I recommended it to my fiance (then boyfriend) Charles. My dad listened to it on a long trip with my sister Amy, who then recommended it to my other sister Patti. All in all, this book was read by every member of my immediate family and we all could not get enough!

Enzo is the narrator, a dog living with his owner and watching his owner fall in love, get married, have a child and subsequently lose his wife. The heartbreak and underhandedness of some of the adults in this story is intense, and Enzo gives an unparalelled look into the life of humans at their darkest and at their personal best.

2. An Echo in the Bone, Diana Gabaldon.

If you haven’t read any of Diana Gabaldon’s books, you might want to start with Outlander. This story of a time traveling woman caught between her Highlander husband in the eighteenth century and her historian husband in the twentieth century is one of a kind and completely engaging. This is the eighth installment in the adventures of Claire, Jamie and Brianna Fraser and their many acquaintances and it is amazing. I highly recommend taking all eight in rapid succession, else you might forget some of the more particular details that make the story. There is a companion for quick reference called the Outlandish companion (in the U.S.) and the books in order are: Outlander (1991) • Dragonfly in Amber (1992) • Voyager (1994) • Drums of Autumn (1997) • The Fiery Cross (2001) • A Breath of Snow and Ashes (2005) • An Echo in the Bone (2009) along with several spinoff stories about one Lord John Grey, all of which are entertaining and well worth reading as well.

3. I will break from tradition here, only because this pick, Robert J. Sawyer, has so many wonderful novels to choose from! I read WWW:Wake and The Rollback this year, both of which are science fiction at its best. Robert J. Sawyer also wrote the novel on which the new ABC TV show Flash Forward is based upon and many other adaptations of his novels have made their way to the silver screen. I find Robert J. Sawyer to be one of my personal favorite authors of all time and I highly recommend his work.

4. Stephenie Meyer: The Host, Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn

I know that there is a huge controversy in the literary world about the Twilight phenomenon. True, a great deal of the success of the series has to do with the target audience of teenage girls. That’s all well and fine, but I do not fall into that demographic and neither does my mother, my sister Patti, my best friend Arfa, my fiance Charles… the list goes on.

I first encountered the Twilight phenomenon when my best friend Arfa and I met for lunch in DC last summer. She mentioned something about Edward Cullen. My blank look prompted an indignance at my ignorance that I didn’t expect from her and I promised to read them as soon as possible. One weeklong vacation later, I had read all four books. I was hooked.

Stephenie Meyer has accomplished a level of achievement with Twilight that cannot be overlooked regardless of individual opinion of the books. She has inspired countless people to read who might never have done so otherwise. The Stephen Kings of the world may disagree (see http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/entertainment/books/blog/2009/02/stephen_king_stephenie_meyer_c.html) but the fact remains that Stephenie Meyer’s books are getting at-risk kids and normally uninterested adults  to invest in their reading abilities by giving them something exciting to read about. The subsequent media frenzy over the movies has been a byproduct of this initial boost in reading, and is something of a phenomenon in itself… the recent release of New Moon the film is just the beginning.

And think on this: she has managed to get teenagers interested in a story that doesn’t even mention sex until after the characters are married… in the FOURTH book. No sex, no drugs, and the only violence is that of the age-old vampire/human conflict? You can’t tell me you aren’t at least intrigued enough to watch the movies. And as any movie made from a book will inevitably neglect some key points, you may as well read the books as well.

Another story by Stephenie Meyer, albeit quite overshadowed by the success of Twilight, is her first novel for adults, called The Host. It is about an alien invasion and is quite a stellar accomplishment itself. It follows the cohabitation of an alien and a human inside the human’s mind, and is a unique take on the invasion story made popular since the dawn of science fiction.

Here’s to reading as the rediscovered pastime!

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