Monday, January 4, 2010

MJ's top books of 2009

We've been really busy at the library already in the new year, and Amy over on Library Ninja helpfully suggested that I might want to list my top five books that I read last year--trying to keep my choices actually published in the past year. So hear they are in reverse chronologically read order (I can't choose in order of favorites).

The Magicians
by Lev Grossman

In the spirit of taking my own advice from this blog, I continue to check NPR books out and read them. This time I grabbed this right before my Christmas vacation because it was billed as a "Harry Potter for adults". The author sort of melds the school vibe of HP with the magical traveling to a Narnia like place in the second half of the book. What struck me most about the book was how the author described most books about magic. They are definitely escapist, but what if magic didn't make you able to escape a dull and dreary life? Maybe no matter how interesting your life is, you've got to learn to deal with the mundane aspects.

Peter and Max
Bill Willingham

I don't read many fantasy books, so as I'm looking down my list of choices I find it odd that 3 out of 5 can definitely be considered in the fantasy realm. Peter and Max is the first hardcover book version of the award winning Fables comic book series. The Fables in the book are ones that are familiar to lovers of fairy tales--the Big Bad Wolf (now reformed and married to Snow White), Little Bo Peep (who lost it all escaping from an invasion of their homelands), and the protagonists of the story Peter and Max Piper; respectively Peter Piper and the Pied Piper. There is no need to read the comic books before reading this book--I honestly think it might detract from the book since I was expecting more characters from the comics to show up. But I loved Willingham's prose so much so that I want more Fables in this text format of lush and vibrant wordplay.

Hands of My Father
Myron Uhlberg

I read this for our Southwest morning book group and I loved this non-fiction book about growing up in the depression with parents that are deaf. He describes 1930s New York and makes me feel if I was there with him while he is helping take care of his seizure-ridden brother and while he is listening to boxing matches over the radio.
Dead and Gone 
Charlaine Harris

For my final of my fantasy books, I give you a mystery/fantasy mixed together. After I wrote a blog post in the summer about werewolves, I promptly went back and read a couple of vampire books--among these, the Sookie Stackhouse books. I loved them all and even went on to check out the True Blood series based on the books. What I think I like the best about her books is that the vampires aren't "other". They live in the world just like us and while they might have different problems, they still have problems I can understand--not big fantastical wars or cabals (just small skirmishes). In fact because I started to like the mystery parts of the books as much as the sexy vampire parts, I started reading J.D. Robb's (Nora Robert's) In Death series.
Free Range Kids
Lenore Skenazy

My life changing book! I first heard about Lenore when she was "America's worst mom" (google it!) when she let her elementary school child ride the subway one stop while she walked along topside to pick him up. Since the uproar, she's written a book and has a blog chronicaling this year's "contenders" for worst mom as well as things children aren't allowed to do any more. My favorite recent incident was when a girl was suspended from school for bringing peppermint oil to flavor her and her friends water (its an "over the counter substance"). While some of the incidents are amusing, her main point is completely serious--from her blog
Any kid killed is a horrible tragedy. It makes my stomach plunge to even think about it. But when the numbers are about 50 kids in a country of 300 million, it’s also a very random, rare event. It is far more rare, for instance, than dying from a fall off the bed or other furniture. So should we, for safety’s sake, all start sleeping on the floor?
The book has the statistics to back her facts up and even if I still won't let my kids play in the front yard (more so they won't run in the street), Lenore has opened my eyes and countless other parents to the idea that maybe they won't try to poke their eyes out on everything.

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