Top 5 Reads 2009

Here we go. Last year I complied my Top 5 reading list, which, actually, was more like a top 10. I sorted through my GoodReads reviews to come up with short quips about each book noted and sat down to really think things through. This year, well, lets just say 2009 has been, hmmm--a lot. One of those years where point A and B are so far distant the only explanation you can offer yourself is that the tornado picked you up en route to OZ. This time last year, Fosse and I were in our studio apartment, Darling and I were not technically living together yet, and I was still working my college job at the lab. Now, I drive home from my 8-5 office job to my duplex, where Cash and Darling and myself live together in Memphis, TN. I'm telling you friends, points A and B seem so, so very far apart...

(The checklist of the details in between is for a later date.)

All of this rambling is really just a cover, an excuse, for all of the reading I did not do in 2009 in comparison to years past. My goal for 2010 is 45 books. Forty-Five (if the book exceeds 400 pages, I am going to allow myself 2 weeks to read it--counting as 2 reads, I think--logistics later).

Anyone in for a challenge?
There are 52 weeks in a year and I think its do-able. One thing smart people have in common--they read. a lot. The best thing to help memory retention--reading. a lot. Not to mention, I love to read. And I have an enormous list of books I'd like to get my hands on--I'm going to be indulgent in 2010.

Looking at my overall list 2009 was really a year of non-fiction, which is new territory for me. Here we go, in no real order:

The Omnivore's Dilemma Michael Pollan

Pollan is such a conversational writer, which astounds me as there is an overwhelming amount of research presented in his work. I earlier wrote that I believe this book will lend itself to be the topic of 47% of the discussions I have this year--it is fascinating. (Now in retrospect, it was significantly influential in my conversations, decisions, and thoughts about food this year.)

From the overwhelming Corn Industry (everything is made of corn, cheap food=cheap calories), to Industrial Organic (whatever that means, and it's not the pastoral dream of small farming that is brought to mind), to the perfection of Polyface Farm (VA)(which sounds amazing), to finding one's roots as a Hunter-Gatherer (boys in the woods with walkie-talkies treasure hunting) I was enthralled by all of it. All of it.

My highest marks go to Pollan not for his style and easy prose, however, but that everything in his argument is worked back to the evolution and co-evolution (one of my favorite topics) of the food chain and how we as omnivore's--specifically humans--have disturbed our evolutionary co-existence with place and with our bodily needs for alternative motives.

Fascinating. Not to mention it makes a wonderful gift.


The Great Bridge David McCullough

See my review posted yesterday.


The Road Cormac McCarthy

I am really becoming a fan of McCarthy's work. The Road reads the way a traditional zombie movie is seen. America had been burnt down and is covered in gray ash, the roads are desolate--no, people, no food, no water, take what you can find (apocalyptic, distopic). As in Blood Meridian the protagonist(s) remain nameless and are coined by the handles the man and the boy (in the lowercase). These handles feel tragically relevant as there is no one else to be seen in its pages, no age, no time, no date. The books layout is self aware and exemplifies this as there are no chapters, just line breaks from beginning to end. Pages and pages pass in silence without dialog and yet the book never seems to lull*. McCarthy's descriptions and respect for craft fill the novel so expertly that the reader is intimately connected with the small actions portrayed (i.e. the man never "fixes" anything but the actions of going about each task are explicitly explained in a way that's incredibly engaging.) When the pair come across anything or anyone it's as startling to the reader as to the characters themselves. And as always with McCarthy, violence and grotesquities are to be found. This is not to say that The Road is anything like Blood Meridian in it's account of violence. I would say that The Road is a new kind of novel for McCarthy (post Appalachia weirdness, post Western border violence), and, it's surprisingly somber, tender. In true McCarthian fashion the lyrical prose contains no excess--each word for is written only as it is essential, no additional punctuation or filigree of language-- it is simple and perfect.

All this said, in actuality it took me 2 days to read but it took me a week and a half to bring myself to sit down with--it's so sad, so lonely.

* [From my Blood Meridian review: The bare-bones writing style of McCarthy leaves nothing out, but adds nothing extra. Every word, every punctuation mark is there because its absolutely necessary]


No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith Fawn M. Brodie

This one my be a bit controversial for me to go into too much detail about. However, I found Brodie's writing enthralling, informative (I mean, copious amounts of research), engaging, and of high-literary style. I think that because it is (as Wikipedia says) "the first important non-hagiographic biography of Joseph Smith" or, essentially "secular" (I really didn't get any sense of it as anti-Mormon) it gets a bad reputation among the LDS community; however, I found Brodie to portray Joseph Smith as an incredibly fascinating and brilliant young leader. Really fascinating.


After Tupac and D Foster Jacqueline Woodson

The best contemporary children's (teen) book I've read in years. A Newbery Honor book, D Foster is not only compelling as a plot line but is written extremely well. I rarely find myself contemplating over sentences in books aimed for the said demographic. I am looking to read more Woodson in the future. Filled with local color of a neighborhood in Queens, the "dialect" is written conversationally, unlike forced misspellings and horrible stereotypical (and often times offensive) catch phrases that are often littered throughout novels where an "accent" is portrayed. A captivating tale of three girlfriends and the way their lives change in the pivotal ages between years 11-13: family, friends, social justice--made linear though the music of Tupac and a new friend D--Three the Hard Way. It's amazing how rich the text is, how many subversities lay within its few pages, and yet, it manages to stay free of becoming too wrapped up in "issues" it remains readable for both middle-readers and adults alike.

I laughed when all of the 50+ year old ladies working at the King's English Bookshop separately told me it was "just wonderful." Do they even know who Tupac is? It doesn't matter, they were totally right.

5 Additional Reads from 2009

The Rainbow D.H. Lawrence
Women in Love D.H. Lawrence
Gilead Marilynne Robinson
Travels With CharleyJohn Steinbeck
A Hunger Like No Other Kresley Cole (noteworthy as it was my first Romance novel ever: Vampires and Werewolves. However, I think I'll stick to more traditional literary categories.)

5 To-Reads for 2010

(I still have 4 leftovers from last years list--whoops: The Executioners Song, A Mercy, Home, Animal Dreams)

Rabbit Run
Animals Make Us Human
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life
Gravity's Rainbow
Wuthering Heights


Logan said...

You make me wish that I had a college degree in English. I guess I will have to make do with my similar love of reading! But thanks for making me feel smart because I love to read. :) I'm not sure if I could take your challenge of 45 books just this year, but I am very intrigued by the books you read in 2009! I will definitely have to get my hands on some of those.

Happy New Year!!

Ann-Michelle said...

Wuthering Heights is not my favorite. But I do want to read Barbara Kingsolver.