Here you are, another part of the ABC Staff’s Favorite Reads of the past year. We hope you enjoy reading about what we enjoyed reading the past 12 months, and hopefully we’ll give you some ideas to boot!
The lists this time were sent in by Ester, Karin, and Ward. One got to meet her favorite author in the world (and befriend him in the process!), one finally found some time to catch up on a few classics, and one is venturing boldly into a new type of fiction.
This year we would again love to hear from you what your favorite reads were. Please send us your top 5 (they don’t have to be books published in 2010, just read in 2010). You can mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org, and be sure to include your mailing address so we can send you an ABC gift voucher as a thank you. We’ll publish your lists at the beginning of 2011 so you have all month to mail them in. Thanks to those of you who have already sent in lists!
1. Harold – Kieron Connolly
With Connolly’s wit and brilliant style he has written a beautiful story about love, life, death and everything in between and beyond.
3. Almost an Evening – Ethan Coen
Coen delivers three fantastic little, but complete, stories. With his wit, he drags us into worlds only a brain like his can come up with and put on paper so perfectly.
4. The Turn of the Screw – Henry James
This classic ghost story is a delight to read. James has written an intriguing, horrific plot that sucks you in and doesn’t let go until the last sentence. And what a last sentence it is: total shock!
5. The Knot Garden – Geoff Nicholson
With ease you will be taken through a very strange, twisted and sometimes disturbing labyrinth called human life.
I read several juvenile fiction titles this year as lots of very interesting titles are being published in this genre. More and more adult authors are also venturing out in this genre. Two that I loved were:
The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
Description: Katniss is a 16-year-old girl living with her mother and younger sister in the poorest district of Panem, the remains of what used be the United States. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, “The Hunger Games.” The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed. When Kat’s sister is chosen by lottery, Kat steps up to go in her place.
I Am Number Four – Pittacus Lore
A very good read! I got a beautiful review copy, started reading and it was impossible to put down!
Description: Nine of us came here. We look like you. We talk like you. We live among you. But we are not you. We can do things you dream of doing. We have powers you dream of having. We are stronger and faster than anything you have ever seen. We are the superheroes you worship in movies and comic books – but we are real. Our plan was to grow, and train, and become strong, and become one, and fight them. But they found us and started hunting us first. Now all of us are running. Spending our lives in shadows, in places where no one would look, blending in. we have lived among you without you knowing. But they know. They caught Number One in Malaysia. Number Two in England. And Number Three in Kenya. They killed them all. I am Number Four. I am next.
Girl in Translation – Jean Kwok
As for regular fiction, I found this an insightful story by a “local” author who came to ABC. A great title for book clubs.
Description: Introducing a fresh, exciting Chinese-American voice, an inspiring debut about an immigrant girl forced to choose between two worlds and two futures. When Kimberly Chang and her mother emigrate from Hong Kong to Brooklyn squalor, she quickly begins a secret double life: exceptional schoolgirl during the day, Chinatown sweatshop worker in the evenings. Disguising the more difficult truths of her life-like the staggering degree of her poverty, the weight of her family’s future resting on her shoulders, or her secret love for a factory boy who shares none of her talent or ambition-Kimberly learns to constantly translate not just her language but herself back and forth between the worlds she straddles.
Through Kimberly’s story, author Jean Kwok, who also emigrated from Hong Kong as a young girl, brings to the page the lives of countless immigrants who are caught between the pressure to succeed in America, their duty to their family, and their own personal desires, exposing a world that we rarely hear about. Written in an indelible voice that dramatizes the tensions of an immigrant girl growing up between two cultures, surrounded by a language and world only half understood, “Girl in Translation” is an unforgettable and classic novel of an American immigrant-a moving tale of hardship and triumph, heartbreak and love, and all that gets lost in translation.
Rework – Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson
In the Nonfiction category. Would it really be possible to have not meetings????
Description: From the founders of the trailblazing software company 37signals, here is a “different “kind of business book – one that explores a new reality. Today, anyone can be in business. Tools that used to be out of reach are now easily accessible. Technology that cost thousands is now just a few bucks or even free. Stuff that was impossible just a few years ago is now simple. That means anyone can start a business. And you can do it without working miserable 80-hour weeks or depleting your life savings. You can start it on the side while your day job provides all the cash flow you need. Forget about business plans, meetings, office space – you don’t need them. With its straightforward language and easy-is-better approach, “Rework” is the perfect playbook for anyone who’s ever dreamed of doing it on their own. Hardcore entrepreneurs, small-business owners, people stuck in day jobs who want to get out, and artists who don’t want to starve anymore will all find valuable inspiration and guidance in these pages. It’s time to rework work.
Ways of Seeing – John Berger
Also in the nonfiction category. This book makes you see things differently and how it would be not being able to see all the beauty in this world.
Description: Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak. But, there is also another sense in which seeing comes before words. It is seeing which establishes our place in the surrounding world. The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled. This is a book on art in various languages.
1. Let the Great World Spin – Colum McCann
“Too old to be an acrobat, too young to die.” One of the most memorable lines I’ve come across in quite a while, and lifted from one of the best new novels I’ve read in years. McCann weaves together the lives of a number of very different characters, which are linked together in unexpected and inventive ways, with the 1972 occurrence of a tightrope walker between Manhattan’s twin towers serving as a red thread. And different though the lives of these characters are, they have one thing in common: they all have stories worth reading about, experiences worth sharing. In short: a novel as magical and captivating as the city in which the story is set. Highly recommended!
2. Sweet Land Stories – E.L. Doctorow
This is a wonderful collection of short stories by an author well known of being able to capture the American spirit in words, which he does this time by presenting us with five short stories that are as quintessentially American as anything he’s ever written. From the gold-digging man-eater of “A House on the Plains” to the religious cult commune in “Walter John Harmon,” every story tells a tale worth hearing on its own—combined, they offer us some real insight in the American way.
3 & 4. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck & The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Keeping up with contemporary literature proves difficult when you still have some catching up to do with the classics—especially when you’re reading not nearly as much as you’d like. But letting the classics take precedence is not necessarily such a bad thing though, not when they’re as good as these:
Of Mice and Men: A beautiful and heartbreaking novella, and what it lacks in pages it more than makes up for in characters and story. I have yet to read the rest of Steinbeck’s work, but if Of Mice and Men is an indication of what I can expect, I’m sure I’m in for quite a ride.
The Great Gatsby: A novel I had been meaning to read for years when I finally picked it up this fall. Fitzgerald tears away the glamour of the jet set of the Jazz Age, and shows us that all that glitters is not gold for Mr. Gatsby and companions. A sad but realistic glimpse of life among the ranks of 1920’s high society.
5. Batman: The Long Halloween – Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale
I don’t read a lot of comics, but Batman is a character that has always fascinated me, not least because of his dark side. The Long Halloween is a continuation of the story of Frank Miller’s classic Year One, and is as much a crime novel as a superhero tale. Nicely drawn and very well written, it is a perfect read for a cold and dark winter night.
Image of book stack: Wonderlane