2010, what a wonderful year!*

*for reading that is!

2010 seems like the longest year of my life. When I look back to what I was reading at the beginning of the year, I can’t believe that that was still 2010.  You mean I only read Anne of Green Gables this year?!  I only just read and fell in love with Blankets in 2010? That wasn’t last year? Are you sure?

Blogging has had its share of ups and downs this year, but I’m pleased to be ending the year on a strong note, with only more hopes for more excellent reading and blogging in 2011.  Over the past few days I have gone back and reread a lot of my posts from the early days of Regular Rumination and I think that my little blog and I have really come into our own over the last few months.

In terms of reading, there have certainly been some hits and some misses, but for the most part, I would say that my reading of 2010 was great.  So here we are, the 2010 Regular Rumination Awards.  These are the books that struck me as particularly wonderful, that still stick with me all these months later, that I think you should be reading to make your 2011 as excellent a reading year as my 2010 was.

To avoid this just being a normal old top ten list, I’ve added made-up superlatives.

The book that was so good, I had to reread it immediately

Is anyone surprised by this choice?  When I read Blankets back on the 2 of January, I was blown away.  When I turned the last page, I went back and started it all over again.  I stayed up until the wee hours of the night rereading and reliving the relationship between Craig and Raina – in fact, I’m pretty sure I’d like to name a future daughter Raina.

What makes Blankets the best graphic novel I read this year?  The drawings absolutely took my breath away, but so did the story.  Thompson weaves together the story of his relationship with his brother and family with the story of his first love.  It’s heartbreaking and beautiful and changed the way I read graphic novels forever.  I can’t wait for Thompson’s newest, Habibi, to be released.

Honorable mention: On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

Best Precocious Child Narrator

This book was a total surprise.  I don’t even know how it came into my hands, other than the fact that we all know I’m enticed by a blue cover with adorable pictures on it.  What I wasn’t expecting was one of the most intelligent, endearing middle-grade fiction books I have ever read.  Bapu is Anu’s grandfather and one day, while they are out walking, he collapses.  What follows is Anu’s journey to find his grandfather again after he has passed away.  This book with simultaneously crush your heart and heal it again.  Anu has such great friends and such a great family and such wonderful insights that somehow never seem out of place coming from such a young person.  I want everyone to read this book, it is wonderful.  It deals with such heavy topics, but is also so funny.

Honorable Mention: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

Most Underrated Book By A Book Blog Darling

This is a book that I don’t think I ever expected to end up on this list, but here it is: Flight by Sherman Alexie.  Alexie has had his fair share of coverage on a lot of book blogs, especially for his most recent foray into YA with The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.  I loved that book, but this one is better.  Most critics didn’t like it, but I say, they are crazy.  This book is great.

Zits, our narrator, is a homeless and poor Indian boy who, in a fit of desperation, decides to blow up a bank.  Instead of dying when the bomb goes off, he is transported back in time to inhabit some famous historical figures.  Yes, the premise is different, but that is why I loved it so much.  I couldn’t get enough of it.  If I had one complaint it would be that this book is too short.  Probably one of the best compliments you can give a book, now that I think about it.

Honorable Mention: A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle

Best Book Worth All the Hype

Look, this doesn’t necessarily mean that Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen, is my favorite book of 2010, BUT it is a book that I think is worth the hype it received.  Is Franzen the greatest American novelist? Um, no, but he is a great US novelist.  This book so perfectly captures a specific time in our history and has made me even more eager to pick up The Corrections, Franzen’s first novel.  Maybe that will make my list next year?

Honorable Mention: A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick

Best Book I Want To Put in the Hand of Every Girl/Woman I Know

It was tough to choose between the two Robin Brande books I read this year, Fat Cat and Evolution, Me and Other Freaks of Nature, and while I thought Mena was such an amazing role model and the combination of religion and science in Freaks of Nature was brilliant, I had to pick Cat.  Maybe it’s because I saw a little bit (okay, a lot) of myself in Cat.  I wish Cat was real so we could be best friends.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I cannot wait for Brande’s next book, because I know it will be amazing.  It’s as simple as that.  Not enough people are reading these books.  Why aren’t you reading these books?  Hmmm?  Why?

Honorable Mention: Evolution, Me and Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande and Reading Women: How the Great Book of Feminism Changed My Life by Stephanie Staal
Best Memoir in a Year Full of Excellent Memoirs

 

I read so many great memoirs this year that I didn’t even get a chance to review them all and going back to pick my favorite was difficult.  I finally decided on Flyaway by Suzie Gilbert because it’s just so unique and I learned so much.  Gilbert is a wild bird rehabber and her journey is just so interesting and full of humor.  I dare you to read Gilbert’s memoir and not be charmed.

Honorable mention: Harry, a History by Melissa Anelli

Biggest Disappointment

I don’t think Great House by Nicole Krauss is a bad book, but I had such high expectation for it and it floundered under those expectations.  I don’t know if that’s my fault or the fault of the book.  It was such an even book that it was even more disappointing.  There was real greatness here, but it was ruined (for me) by the inconsistencies.

Honorable Mention: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

But let’s end this on a happy note…

Favorite Classic of 2010

Mrs. Dalloway is beautiful and contains easily some of the most amazing writing… ever.  I would have quoted the entire book if I could have.  I’m so glad the Woolf In Winter readalong made me read it, because I loved it.

Honorable  Mention: Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery (a very close second!)

2010 was a great year for reading, but here’s to hoping 2011 is even better!  Happy New Year, everyone!  I’ll see you next year, lolol.

Blankets by Craig Thompson: Touching, beautiful, perfect

I don’t know how to describe the way I feel about Blankets other than, when I closed its covers, it made me cry.  Not because the ending was sad, because it wasn’t, it was beautiful and hopeful, but because I couldn’t believe  what I had just experienced and I couldn’t believe that it was over.  For the first 200 pages of Blankets, I read slowly, immersing myself in every single drawing, every line, every word.  For the last 350 pages I was consumed by the story.  I have no recollection of anything happening outside of its pages.  I was wholly a part of Craig’s  world and nothing could have drawn me out of it.  Did hours pass?  Possibly.  I honestly couldn’t tell you.  All I can tell you is that I have never been moved by graphic novel like this and there are only a few traditional novels that have  made me feel the same way.

Craig Thompson says that Blankets came from the urge to describe what it is like to sleep in the same bed as someone for the first time.  There is no sentence that sums up Blankets better than that, but there is so much more depth to it than that.  Craig, the son of very religious parents, weaves two stories that have a blanket at their center: sharing a bed with his younger brother when they were children and falling in love for the first time with Raina, a girl he met at a Christian camp.. This is a book about passions (religious, sexual, familial, romantic) and how they are at once complementary and contradictory.  They push and pull against one another as much as they make each other possible.  When one passion cannot be reconciled with another, how we deal with the force of that disappointment eventually defines who we are.

Blankets made me really think about my own religious journey.  Religion is a huge part of this graphic novel and I know that that can turn some people away.  At the center of the story is Craig’s questioning of his faith, that until his young adulthood was a blind faith.  It’s honest, but it’s still reverent.  At the center of this novel is not losing one’s faith, but being able to ask questions about it.  About taking a personal journey to discover your relationship with faith, no matter what that faith or the result of that discovery may be.  I know that I appreciate this part of the novel because the way Craig feels about things really mirrors my own life, but I don’t think it should be a deterrent for anyone reading this novel.  It is about so much more than just religion; it’s one coming of age story in which everyone can find pieces of themselves.

Often after finishing a novel I say, “Wow, that book made me want to go back to the front page and read it again.”  Well, for the first time, I actually did it.  I read Blankets twice in one night and found that there were so many small things and connections that I missed after my first reading.  For example, Raina and Craig begin their relationship as pen pals and at one point we see Craig draw a picture for Raina.  Later, when he finally visits her house, that picture is on Raina’s wall.  It’s details like that that truly make a graphic novel a masterpiece.  But that is not the only thing that makes Blankets perfect.  It’s Thompson’s excellent use of negative space, the recurring themes and images, like blankets and snow (blankets of snow!!), typography and so much more.

Blankets will make you ache.  It will make you pine for the particular way first love consumes you.  It will bring you back to that particular loneliness that is high school, in all that you are forever surrounded by people.  It will remind you of the fits of fanaticism that being a child and a teenager allow.  Even if your life is completely different from Craig’s, I challenge you not to find snippets of your own family here in both Craig and Raina’s.  I challenge you to read Blankets and not be moved.  Please, please read this autobiographical comic: it doesn’t get any better than this.