Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Top Ten of 2009

EdCan't believe 2009 is over. I spent the entire calendar year in Cameroon and I have about 5 months of service left before I get back stateside. I'm obviously very excited to get home but I've really loved my time here in Babadjou and especially the reading time that it has afforded me. I certainly read more in 2009 than in any other year of my life and I truly hope that this is a trend I can continue for the rest of my life. I've discovered that I genuinely love the written word and I want to take this opportunity thank Chris for inviting me to participate in the project this past year. I hope to be involved for years to come. I've got some really exciting books lined up for the first part of 2010 and I can't wait.

10. Ball Four by Jim Bouton -If you're a fan of baseball or team sports in general, you need to check out this book. It was essentially the first exposé of locker room culture. Hilarious and poignant.

9. Burned Alive by Souda - Gut-wrenchingly shocking and moving story of a woman who survived an attempted honor killing in the West Bank.

8. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides - Smart, witty fictional memoir of a transsexual but its really just about coming of age and dealing with one's family.

7. A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn - Zinn's is a history that needed to be told. Just keep in mind that while most history books are biased in favor of the status quo, this one is just biased against it. Really enjoyed it and I learned a lot. Everyone should read this when they're ready.

6. A Star Called Henry by Roddy Doyle - Thanks so much for sending this Nate. All you need to know about this story is that the protagonist, Henry Smart, is as charming to the reader as he is to every other character in the book.

5. Empire Falls by Richard Russo - Recommended to me by my highly intelligent friend Seb. Straightforward story about a man dealing with the difficulties of every day life amidst the backdrop of a failing manufacturing town. There's a miniseries out there with Ed Harris that I need to see.

4. The Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson (1, 2, 3) - Probably shouldn't list a whole series as one article, but I really think that anyone who likes fantasy should check this out. I do not consider myself a fantasy fan. I've read Harry Potter and Twilight (the former: enjoyable, the latter: garbage) but I only truly follow two series: A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin and The Malazan Book of the Fallen. Ice and Fire remains my favorite, more for sentimental reasons than anything, but the unrivaled scope and intricacy of the Malazan books means that if you have EVER enjoyed a fantasy book in your life, you owe it to yourself to read Gardens of the Moon. I mean that. Pick it up. Do it as a personal favor to me. And you will have NO IDEA whats going on for like 450 pages of each book but somehow everything always comes together and SHIT GOES GONZO and all kinds of badass, awesome things happen.

3. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami -To put it simply, Murakami is a genius and this book is as hypnotically entertaining as it frustrating.

2. Moby Dick; or The Whale by Herman Melville - Glad I finally read this. Melville's use of allegory is what makes the book, not the surface tale of Ahab v. White Whale. Again at the risk of sounding sexist, I think this is a book written for men and I think men are more likely to enjoy it.

1. Lolita by Vladimir Nabakov - I can't say enough about this book (which is ironic since it only warranted a mini-review, apparently). It's funny that when I originally discussed this book in comparison to Middlesex, I said I preferred Middlesex. In hindsight, though, I'm certain this was the better book. Just knowing that the gorgeous prose of this novel wasn't even originally in English blows my mind every time I think about it. Never before have I come across a book where the writing the and subject material were so starkly different and so perfectly harmonized. Everyone should read this book, regardless of your tastes. It's transcendant.

Honorable Mentions

Best Book about FDR Haunting Air Force One:
Air Force One is Haunted by Robert Serling

Worst Shit I Read All Year: (Tie!)
The Secret History of the Lord of Musashi and Arrowroot by Junichirō Tanizaki
Twilight by Stephanie Meyer


Nihil Novum said...

Hey Jim, I'm pretty sure Lolita was written in English originally. It's just that English is Nabokov's third language.

Also, I think I'm going to read Gardens of the Moon this year on your recommendation. I've had it for a couple years but haven't gotten motivated to crack it.

Carlton said...

I agree with your views on Lolita. It is an amazing book.

Christopher said...

Congrats on 52!

Meagan said...

agreed, 52 is huge! congrats. and brent (is that his real name?) is right, Lolita was written in English first then translated to Russian like five years later. but English is not Nabokov's first language, so even more amazing that he can craft that kind of work. i wish i could write a tenth that well in my native language. oh wells.

Christopher said...

Brent's real name is Susan.