2010: A year in review in books (part III)

Read part I and part II.

September

September was the start of Spartan football, and at halftime of the first game, I came down with a mysterious illness. This was perfect timing, since I lost my health insurance about ten days later. Of course, at that point we still thought it was just a cold. I canceled my birthday party and had two job interviews, during which I tried my best not to sound like death. It must have worked, however, because I was hired as a contract writer and editor with the State of Michigan. Six days after my interview, I started work.

Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins
The second book in the Hunger Games Trilogy, I didn’t feel the letdown so common to sophomore trilogy books. This book was intense and surprising, and the characters took even more shape. I can’t really talk specifics without risking giving away the first book, but in a general sense, I continued to be impressed by the risks Collins took in developing such an unusual and intriguing heroine. Plus, this book ended on the gutsiest of all cliffhangers. But lucky for me, I had the third book ready to go.

Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins
Ah, the book that started it all for me. Thankfully, when I picked up the book, I didn’t remember a serious spoiler I’d accidentally happened across a few weeks before when, like an idiot, I’d decided to read a review. Like Catching Fire, this book took risks, and there were times when I wasn’t sure what to think. But it was a good feeling, because the author had succeeded in leading me off the beaten path of cliche and archetype. Characters faced choices again and again that, not only was I not sure how I’d react, I wasn’t sure how I wanted them to react, or even what I thought the best choice of action was, proving that Collins had successfully complicated both her story and her characters. Some people have made complaints at the ending of the book, and at the way this book deviates from the previous two, but when I put it down, it felt right to me.

October

October proved that I did not have a simple cold. This month took me through the official diagnoses of a sinus infection and bronchitis and an unofficial diagnosis of whooping cough. All I know is that it was awful, and nothing I took made me better. Finally I took myself off the cough syrup with codeine after it started to actually taste good. Oh, and after a strange incident in which I was being attacked by a gang of invisible cats. I watched more football from my couch than from the stadium this month.

A Crown of Swords, by Robert Jordan

The seventh book in the Wheel of Time series.

Path of Daggers, by Robert Jordan

The eighth book in the Wheel of Time series.

Winter’s Heart, by Robert Jordan

The ninth book in the Wheel of Time series. At this point I’m reading like mad to be caught up in time for the new book, but I don’t make it.

November

Towers of Midnight, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

The newest book in the Wheel of Time series. I think it’s number 13. And let me just say, this book flies by. I won’t go into too much detail, assuming most of my readers aren’t familiar with this series, but a common criticism of the series is that it moves too slowly. We could debate about that (I can see the arguments), but at times I would almost say this book’s pacing was too quick at times. All right, I understand the reasons for this (only one book to go after this, and a lot that has to happen, plus a new author), and I’m really not complaining, but damn! Some general stuff: The pieces are all in place for the final book, and some scenes that I’ve been waiting for finally happened (even if I wasn’t sure exactly what I was waiting for). Some character that annoyed me redeemed themselves in this book, as people are wont to do. All in all, this book was fantastic, and I’m really looking forward to the reread I have planned for early this year. (As an aside for fans: If you missed the who-killed-Asmodean reveal in the text and were pissed when it came out in the glossary, you need to read more carefully. The answer was dropped not once, but twice! I’ll get off my soapbox now.)

Food Rules, by Michael Pollan
This was another one-session read, but it hardly counts since it was so short. Truth be told, I considered not including it on the list, but it is a book. Basically this book made me feel bad about every single one of my eating habits and has be convinced I’m going to die, oh, sometime next week. If only the food I like didn’t taste so darn good!

December

When December started I didn’t seem sick anymore because I wasn’t coughing to the point where I couldn’t breathe, but really, even know in January, I’m pining for my missing health insurance, because I just don’t feel normal. This month, though, marked the time when I was feeling well enough to play some soccer (I played a bit earlier in the fall but really struggled with it). The holiday season was nice with the family, and it was made especially nice by the fact I didn’t have to fly 2,000 miles to enjoy it.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
This was a book I picked up to read back in September for banned book week but somehow never got to until now. (Actually, a friend of mine from Oregon has been recommending Alexie to me for years.) This book made me wish I’d read him sooner. I don’t tend to be a person that appreciates humor in books (I’m not sure what that says about me). I think there’s a fine line that I enjoy. This book hit it exactly, all the while mixing in the deeper emotions that, I believe, must be present to give a book any type of deeper resonance. I’ll be reading more Alexie.

Lush Life, by Richard Price
A gift from a fellow MFA-er, this was a slow read for me, but only because every time I picked it up (which I tended to do right before bed) I kept doing the one-more-chapter thing. “One more chapter,” I’d tell myself, “just one more.” It would be an hour later before I’d finally turn off the light. So I had to proceed carefully with this incredibly addictive book. It came recommended to me for the author’s willingness to look at social issues, and I really appreciate this, because it’s something I try (and often fail) to do in my own writing. Coupled with the police drama going on, it made for a very interesting and engaging (and literary, whatever that means, really) read.

Knife of Dreams, by Robert Jordan
The eleventh book in the Wheel of Time series. And it’s only now that I realize that, though I read the tenth book, Crossroads of Twilight, I never put it on my list. Just imagine that it’s here. Because I only know that I read it in either November or December.

Half Empty, by David Rakoff
My dad bought me this book after hearing about it on the radio. I enjoyed the humor, the wit, and I liked the earlier sections (essays?). However, the deeper I got into this book (I’m not sure if it’s a memoir or a book of essays or what), the more it left me wanting, well, more. I wondered at the shape, at what pulled it together as a cohesive unit. Because something made it feel like more than an essay collection, but it also felt like less than any other type of nonfiction I’ve seen. Anyone that has read this, I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on this. What makes this book exist? And what makes it exist in its particular form?

No pictures in this post. I’m feeling sleepy. There will be one final post to sum up my favorite books, my least favorites, and to offer some stats on how I did meeting all my goals for the year.

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