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.

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

On the surface, On Chesil Beach is the story of one wedding night.  Once you close the last page, however, you realize that this is truly the story of an entire lifetime and how one night can shift our lives into being.

I have been a fan of McEwan’s for a long time.  I loved Atonement, but I thought Enduring Love was just okay.  Saturday is the novel that really shocked me, because when I read it I thought it was good, but not great.  Five or six years after reading it, however, I still think about it and certain parts of the novel, especially the main character’s daughter.  Something about that book has stayed with me, unlike other books I have read.  Just talking about it now has reminded me that I need to go back and reread it.  Needless to say, I was excited about reading another McEwan, but I was curious about where this would fall.  Is this a novel I’m going to be thinking about in 5 years?  Is this a novel like Atonement, that I really loved and enjoyed reading, but probably wouldn’t read again?  Or would it be like Enduring Love, where I don’t regret reading it, don’t think it’s a bad book, but I hardly remember anything about it.

For now, I will say that it lies somewhere between Atonement and Saturday for me.  On Chesil Beach is such an intimate look at one couple, married during the early 60s.  I was continually impressed by McEwan’s insights and how perfectly developed these two characters were.  Florence and Edward are thrilled to begin their married life together, to be no longer seen as young and incomplete members of society.  Florence, however, has a paralyzing anxiety about physical contact with her husband, something she has kept from him, dreading the moment that would consummate their marriage.

I loved the combined narratives in this novel.  We are given glimpses into not only the wedding night, but also their courtship and their futures.  The narration shifts focus from Florence to Edward so we are given both sides to the story.  I really thought that this book was heartbreaking and honest, beautiful and quiet.  I think I just want to stop talking about this novel and share some quotes with you:

The term “teenager” had not long been invented, and it never occurred to him that the separateness he felt, which was both painful and delicious, could be shared by anyone else. (93)

A shift or a strenghtening of the wind brought them the sound of waves breaking, like a distant shattering of glass.  The mist was lifting to reveal in part the contours of the low hills, curving away above the shoreline to the east.  They could see a luminous gray smoothness that may have been the silky surface of the sea itself, or the lagoon, or the sky – it was difficult to tell.  The altered breeze carried through the parted French windows an enticement, a salty scent of oxygen and open space that seemed at odds with the starched table linen, the cornflour-stiffened gravy, and the heavy polished silver they were taking in their hands.  The wedding lunch had been huge and prolonged.  They were not hungry.  It was in theory open to them to abandon their plates, seize the wine bottle by the neck and run down to the shore and kick their shoes off and exult in their liberty.  There was no one in the hotel who would have wanted to stop them.  They were adults at last, on holiday, free to do as they chose.  In just a few years’ time, that would be the kind of thing quite ordinary young people would do.  But for now, the times held them.  Even when Edward and Florence were alone, a thousand unacknowledged rules still applied.  It was precisely because they were adults that they did not do childish things like walk away from a meal that others had taken pains to prepare.  It was dinnertime, after all.  And being childlike as not yet honorable, or in fashion.  (23)

If I had one complaint, it is that the last chapter of the novel that explores life after that wedding night is almost exclusively about Edward.  When the rest of the book had been so balanced, I was disappointed with the lack of information about Florence we received.   Overall, I’m impressed with McEwan’s attention to detail, especially the sensitivity he employed when portraying Florence.   I’m so glad I finally picked this one up.  It might be one of my favorite reads of 2010 and one that I see myself rereading again soon.

So go read this!: now | tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve exhausted your TBR pile

Also reviewed by: Reading & Reviewing, Dolce Belleza, Caribousmom, Small World Reads, Bart’s Bookshelf, Everyday Reads, The Bluestocking Society, Bookie Mee, Care’s Online Book Club, A Guy’s Moleskine Notebook.

TSS – 22 August 2010

Isn’t it always just perfect when two books you are reading speak to one another?  This week I’ve been reading On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan (which I adored – review to come tomorrow) and Teenage: The Prehistory of Youth Culture 1875-1945.  One of the things that I know I have taken for granted over my lifetime is that the concept of youth and being a teenager is something that it is a relatively new contribution of Western society.  How fitting that the two books I randomly chose to read this week dealt with this concept.  I love the combination of a non-fiction history book and a novel about the same topic.

In On Chesil Beach, there are several quotes that so perfectly address this state of in-between that had yet to be named.  Here are a few examples:

Almost strangers, they stood, strangely together, on a new pinnacle of existence, gleeful that their new status promised to promote them out of their endless youth – Edward and Florence, free at last!

The term “teenager” had not long been invented, and it never occurred to him that the separateness he felt, which was both painful and delicious, could be shared by anyone else.

It was in theory open to them to abandon their plates, seize the wine bottle by the neck and run down to the shore and kick their shoes off and exult in their liberty.  There was no one in the hotel who would have wanted to stop them.  They were adults at last, on holiday, free to do as they chose.  In just a few years’ time, that would be the kind of thing quite ordinary young people would do.  But for now, the times held them.  Even when Edward and Florence were alone, a thousand unacknowledged rules still applied.  It was precisely because they were adults that they did not do childish things like walk away from a meal that others had taken pains to prepare.  It was dinnertime, after all.  And being childlike as not yet honorable, or in fashion.

As someone who grew up when being young is known as the best time of your life, this idea is wholly alien to me, but not entirely repellent.  Now that I’m leaving being a teenager behind, I find that my friends are dreading what comes next, that each year brings us closer to something resembling responsibility and adulthood.  I wish there was something in between that both exalted our youth, relished in middle age, and respected old age.  In any case, I’m excited to continue reading Teenage, a book that discusses this transformation of youth from something you grew out of into something desirable.

As Savage claims in his introduction:

This book, therefore, tells the history of the quest, pursued over two different continents and over half a century, to conceptualize, define and control adolescence.  Apart from the dialogue between American, Britain, France and Germany, it contains several different elements that encapsulate the tension between the fantasy and the reality of adolescence, and between the many varied attempts to exalt or to capture this fugitive and transitory state. (xviii)

Teenage is already adding books to my TBR, like the diaries of Marie Bashkirtseff.  I might have to keep On Chesil Beach out from the library just a little bit longer to see if I can understand the lives of Florence and Edward even more after finishing Teenage.

Any happy book connections in your reading lately?

This week in review.

Reviews posted, fabulous links & more!

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This week I posted about two books I really loved: Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi and A Year By The Sea: Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman by Joan Anderson.  They are very different from each other, but both came at just the right time.  Ship Breaker is suspenseful and well-crafted, while A Year By the Sea is certainly imperfect, but a fascinating glimpse into the mind of one woman.

Next week, you can look forward to reviews of On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan and Born Round by Frank Bruni.  I loved both of them.  In fact, I’m loving all these positive reviews I’ve been writing lately!  Let’s keep it up with the good books!

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Photo credit: Flickr user psychbird

At the Bridges is my personal blog and this week I posted about what it is like to finally reach a fitness goal.  For me, this one was kind of abstract, but people always talk about what it is like to be “above” the exercise, to not be constantly thinking about how painful it is to run or how difficult it is to breathe.  I finally reached that goal and you can read about it here.  

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I’ve found some really interesting blogs and posts this week:

One of my old friends has a fitness blog where she talks about her road to getting healthy.  It’s called An Epic Change and she’s so inspirational!  I highly recommend checking her blog out.

In addition to An Epic Change, I somehow found the blog Living! with ZenLizzie.  I love the look and feel of this blog and to top it all off, Lizzie seems really inspirational and fun.

Also, have you checked out this fabulous blog?  Called Reading and Reviewing- Books reviews by Karen Elizabeth, it was originally brought to my attention by Eva.   I absolutely love the idea and think the blog itself is just gorgeous.

Guys!  LOOK AT THIS GORGEOUS BLANKET!  I want to make one so bad and I wish I hadn’t gotten rid of all my yarn when I moved.  (Yarn is the most difficult thing to store ever.  Especially when your room is the size of a closet.  A very large closet, but a closet nonetheless.)  I might have to invest….  Oh Alea, why do you do this to me with your darling crafts?!

I’m not vegan or vegetarian, nor would I probably ever want to be, (stop glaring at me Eating Animals), but this chili looks so delicious it might convert me.

Have a good Saturday!