Time for the annual list of books read this year! I have a lot of time on my hands since starting the new job, with very little taking up my time outside of school right now. So that at least partially explains why this list is a bit longer than the last several years since I’ve been keeping track. Favorites and least favorites are listed at the bottom, and the full list with ratings can be found on my GoodReads page.
1. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
2. The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
3. What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman
4. The Murders of Richard III by Elizabeth Peters
5. Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz
6. At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances by Alexander McCall Smith
7. The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff
8. Revenge of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz
9. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
10. Jesus Girls: True Tales of Growing Up Female and Evangelical by Hannah Faith Notess
11. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
12. The Unbearable Lightness of Scones by Alexander McCall Smith
13. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
14. The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
15. Little Children by Tom Perrotta
16. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
17. Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay
18. Interred with Their Bones by Jennifer Lee Carrell
19. Black by Ted Dekker
20. The Spellmans Strike Again by Lisa Lutz
21. The Book of the Dead by Douglas Preston
22. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
23. The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt
24. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
25. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller
26. Angry Conversations with God by Susan Issacs
27. The Lost Art of Gratitude by Alexander McCall Smith
28. Sepulchre by Kate Mosse
29. Tea Time for the Traditionally Built by Alexander McCall Smith
30. Fair and Tender Ladies by Lee Smith
31. House Rules by Jodi Picoult
32. Brimstone by Douglas Preston
33. The Double Comfort Safari Club by Alexander McCall Smith
34. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
35. Tyrannosaur Canyon by Douglas Preston
36. The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
37. A River in the Sky by Elizabeth Peters
38. Courduroy Mansions by Alexander McCall Smith
39. The Dog who Came in from the Cold by Alexander McCall Smith
40. The Last Juror by John Grisham
41. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
42. Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon
43. The Language of Bees by Laurie R. King
44. Persuasion by Jane Austen
45. The God of the Hive by Laurie R. King
46. Every Last One by Anna Quindlen
47. Voyager by Diana Gabaldon
48. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
49. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson
50. A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
51. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
52. The Scent of Rain and Lightning by Nancy Pickard
53. Heart and Soul by Maeve Binchy
54. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
55. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
56. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
57. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
58. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
59. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
60. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
61. The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian
62. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
63. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
64. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
65. Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery
66. Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery
67. Anne of Windy Poplars by L.M. Montgomery
68. Restless by William Boyd
69. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
70. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
71. City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare
72. Anne’s House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery
73. City of Glass by Cassandra Clare
74. Anne of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery
75. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
76. Another Thing to Fall by Laura Lippman
77. Monster by Jonathan Kellerman
78. The Book of Lies by Brad Meltzer
79. Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr
80. Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr
81. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
82. The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova
83. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
84. Midwives by Chris Bohjalian
85. Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
86. The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
87. The House at Riverton by Kate Morton
88. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
89. Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern
90. Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson
91. Little Bee by Chris Cleave
92. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
Favorites in fiction:
Curse of the Spellman/Spellmans Strike Again by Lisa Lutz. Still hilarious, excellent continuation of the series about the Spellman family and their detective business. She’s apparently keeping on with writing for the series, which is excellent!
The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Excellent book about the black maids and white mistresses in the deep south in the 1960s.
The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson. Excellent continuation and completion of the series. Very intense, but slightly less violent than the first installment.
Courduroy Mansions by Alexander McCall Smith. Excellent new series in the same vein as his Scotland Street series, except set in London. Followed by The Dog Who Came in from the Cold.
Language of Bees/God of the Hive by Laurie R. King. Excellent continuation of the series following Mary and Sherlock Holmes. Her books will probably always be on my favorites list as long as she keeps writing this series.
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruis Zafon. A book I’ve been meaning to read for a while, and I finally got around to it this year. Takes a little effort at the beginning, but completely worth it! Looking forward to reading his new one.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer. Heard a lot about this one before finally reading it, and it actually lived up to the hype!
Little Bee by Chris Cleave. Another that lived up the hype; a very fast read.
Favorites in non-fiction:
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. Excellent book about editing and writing a better story with your life. Maybe my favorite of his books now.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Well-written book about the history behind the woman whose cancerous cells are the foundation for everything we’ve learned about cancer in the last 50 years.
Angry Conversations with God by Susan Isaacs. Read after Kari’s glowing review, and it definitely lived up the hype. Very funny and compelling memoir about a complicated relationship with God and church.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. Nothing really wrong with this book, but I didn’t find any of the characters very compelling, and she tended to pontificate quite a bit.
Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon. Again, nothing really wrong with this book, and it was somewhat enjoyable – but veeeery long and drawn out, especially if you don’t know/care about the history of the Scottland highland clans. Didn’t stop me from continuing the series another book though.
A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick. Blech. Definitely not worth reading – I was driving 7 hours and it was my only audiobook, so I listened to it, but I would definitely not recommend it.
Here is the list of books I read this year – not quite as long as last year (amazing since I wrote my entire thesis last year, but oh well). I didn’t put a description with them this time (I didn’t keep very good records of what I read this year), but I will list some of my favorites, etc at the bottom.
1. Waiter Rant by Steve Dublanica (aka ‘the Waiter’).
2. Fun Home: a Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel.
3. Morality for Beautiful Girls by Alexander McCall Smith.
4. Cage of Stars by Jacquelyn Mitchard.
5. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh.
6. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski.
7. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.
8. American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld.
9. Book of the Dead by Patricia Cornwell.
10. Cat Among the Pigeons by Agatha Christie.
11. Mrs. McGinty’s Dead by Agatha Christie.
12. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.
13. The Reason for God by Tim Keller.
14. The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King.
15. A Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R. King.
16. Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult.
17. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.
18. A Letter of Mary by Laurie R. King.
19. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen.
20. The Moor by Laurie R. King.
21. O Jerusalem by Laurie R. King.
22. Blink: the Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell.
23. Justice Hall by Laurie R. King.
24. The Game by Laurie R. King.
25. When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris.
26. The Magician by Michael Scott.
27. The Sorceress by Michael Scott.
28. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell.
29. Atonement by Ian McEwan.
30. The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner.
31. The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff.
32. Locked Rooms by Laurie R. King.
33. Natural Born Charmer by Susan Elizabeth Phillips.
34. The Savage Garden by Mark Mills.
35. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.
36. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Doulas Adams.
37. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins.
38. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle.
39. Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn.
40. Stolen Innocence by Elissa Wall.
41. Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer.
42. The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir.
43. Real Murders by Charlaine Harris.
44. Escape by Carolyn Jessop.
45. The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga.
46. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
47. Fledgling by Octavia Butler.
48. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.
49. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks.
50. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt.
51. Still Alice by Lisa Genova.
52. The Mermaids Singing by Lisa Carey.
53. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan.
54. The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan.
55. The Kalahari Typing School for Men by Alexander McCall Smith.
56. The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan.
57. The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan.
58. The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan.
59. The Full Cupboard of Life by Alexander McCall Smith.
60. Portuguese Irregular Verbs by Alexander McCall Smith.
61. In the Company of Cheerful Ladies by Alexander McCall Smith.
62. Blue Shoes and Happiness by Alexander McCall Smith.
63. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger.
64. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith.
65. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznik.
66. The Good Husband of Zebra Drive by Alexander McCall Smith.
67. The Miracle at Speedy Motors by Alexander McCall Smith.
68. The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs by Alexander McCall Smith.
Top books of the year:
A Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R. King (Really, the whole series, but if I had to pick just one, it would be this one or Justice Hall). Wonderful stories about what happens after Sherlock Holmes retires.
The Hunger Games and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. Fantastic Young Adult fiction, very intense.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Embarrassing to say that this is my first time reading this, but it was (of course) wonderful.
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. I don’t know how I missed this novel in my many readings of Austen’s works, but Fanny makes a wonderful protagonist.
The 19th Wife by David Evershoff. For book club, and it was a surprising and interesting look into polygamy both historically and in the present day.
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. Again, the whole series really, but this is the first. Another really good YA fiction series that feeds my love of the Greek myths.
Least favorites of the year:
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. For book club, and we had a good discussion from it, but I didn’t care for it at all. (Sorry, Christy)
The Savage Garden by Mark Mills. Just eh. I wanted to like the concept, but it wasn’t well executed.
Real Murders by Charlaine Harris. I didn’t hate this one, I just didn’t relate to any of the characters at all, and it was so short that I didn’t really have time to get to know any of them either.
Fledging by Octavia Butler. Another book club pick, and one that I thought I would like, but I think there were too many issues the author wanted to convey, so everything got very muddled.
I think I did end up reading more non-fiction this yea, which was part of my goal at the end of last year. I would like to get above 75 next year, so feel free to recommend ones you think I should put on that list! Happy New Year!
I know this is another book post, and not a real blog post, but it’s better than nothing – and I will be trying to keep up more with this whole blogging thing a bit more, especially as the semester winds down.
Anyway, on with the geeky-ness! This is from Kari.
1) What author do you own the most books by?
Hmm. Probably LM Montgomery (Anne series plus several others), or JK Rowling, or Jodi Piccoult.
2) What book do you own the most copies of?
I don’t own multiple copies of many – couple of Blue Like Jazz, and I’m pretty sure I’ve got more than one copy of at least one of the Harry Potters.
3) Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions?
Yes. I’ll admit it. I know it’s technically ok now, but it still drives me crazy.
4) What fictional character are you secretly in love with?
As much as I love Pride and Prejudice, I would probably go with the heroes of Sense and Sensibility (Colonel Brandon) or Emma (Mr. Knightley) for Austen men. Or Gilbert Blythe (he was my first literary (or any) crush). Crush.crush.crush.
5) What book have you read the most times in your life?
Until recently, I re-read my favorite books all the time. I’ve re-read Jane Eyre more times than I remember; same with Pride and Prejudice, Harry Potter, the first several of the Anne of Green Gables series.
6) What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?
Probably one of the Mandie mysteries, or Anne of Green Gables. I know that I was hating on Rebecca of Sunneybrook Farm around that time. Hate.
7) What is the worst book you’ve read in the past year?
Hm. I read several that I didn’t care for last year (A Fine Balance, Out of Africa, Wide Sargasso Sea – all book club books). I was also not a fan of The Shack.
8 ) What is the best book you’ve read in the past year?
Prayer for Owen Meany, or maybe Paper Towns. Or The Book Thief. Lots of young adult books last year apparently.
9) If you could force everyone you tagged to read one book, what would it be?
I’m going to agree with Kari and say Pride and Prejudice. Classic for a reason.
10) Who deserves to win the next Nobel Prize for literature?
I don’t really know. I think I agree with Kari – Lee Smith, or Cormac McCarthy. Audrey Niffenegger? or Gail Godwin?
11) What book would you most like to see made into a movie?
The Time-Traveler’s Wife (I know that’s cheating, they’re already making a movie).
12) What book would you least like to see made into a movie?
A Fine Balance. That’s just based on how much I disliked reading it this year.
13) Describe your weirdest dream involving a writer, book, or literary character.
I don’t know if I’ve ever dreamed about a literary character. I think I may have dreamed about living on Prince Edward Island when I was reading the Anne series for the first time.
14) What is the most lowbrow book you’ve read as an adult?
Oy. I have read some doozies, at least based on style. Including a bodice-ripper at the beginning of this past year. Accidentally.
15) What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read?
Difficult based on topic, lately at least, probably The Kiterunner (and slightly less so, A Thousand Splendid Suns), or Atonement. I tend to avoid books about clearly difficult topics (Nazis, etc).
16) Do you prefer the French or the Russians?
The Russians. I haven’t read many French authors. But I do love Anna Karenina. So the Russians win.
18) Roth or Updike?
I haven’t read either. Should I?
19) David Sedaris or Dave Eggers?
Sedaris. But only if I can hear him read it/talk – I don’t find him nearly as funny unless he’s doing the reading.
20) Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer?
Shakespeare, definitely. I’ve only read a little Milton, but I did like Chaucer in high school and college. But I wouldn’t read it for fun.
21) Austen or Eliot?
I do like George Eliot, but I adore Jane Austen.
22) What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?
There are lots of ‘classics’ I have yet to read. Or that I have given up on trying to read (see: Tale of Two Cities – I’m not a fan of Dickens). Like Kari, I have also not read any Hemingway, but I’m not really planning on rectifying that anytime soon.
23) What is your favorite novel?
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I’m agreeing with Kari again. Surprise. (Though I have found myself enjoying Sense and Sensibility more the last couple times I’ve read it, but not enough to overtake P&P)
Much Ado About Nothing. Or Twelfth Night. I’m sure Matthew was in some that I really liked in college, but I can’t remember the names.
27) Short story?
I’m going to disagree with Kari – I don’t like Flannery O’Connor at all. I like several of Mark Helprin’s short stories, but in general I would rather read a whole book than a short story.
28) Work of non-fiction?
Girl Meets God by Lauren Winner, or Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller. I think.
29) Who is your favorite writer?
How about a list? I can’t narrow it down to one. Jane Austen, Madeline L’Engle, Ann Patchett, Jodi Piccoult, Alexander McCall Smith, CS Lewis, Charlotte Bronte.
30) Who is the most overrated writer alive today?
Stephenie Meyer? I’m going to agree with Kari about this one (though I admit to being totally hooked on the books when reading them). (But I do like Jonathon Safran Foer – at least Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)
31) What is your desert island book?
Um. I have one volume of all Jane Austen’s novels – does that count?
32) And … what are you reading right now?
I’m reading American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld. And I’m listening to Agatha Christie’s Cat Among The Pigeons on audiobook. Love her.
I am not tagging anyone. But I would like to read your answers if you would like to participate. Leave a link in the comments if you post your answers on your blog.
I know its been a while since I wrote last, and I’m not going to make any promises about writing more regularly, though I hope to in the new year. But I just wanted to share some of my favorite lines about Christmas, as we prepare to celebrate the coming of our Savior as a tiny baby. Feel free to share your favorites, from songs or books or poems or whatever.
But it’s true
Kingdoms and crowns
The God who came down
To find you
Angels on high
Sing through the night
You’ve heard it told
You think it’s odd
The whole thing fraught with complication
The play begins with baby God
And all his blessed implications
~It’s True by Sara Groves (from her new Christmas album O Holy Night)
But the baby in her womb
He was the maker of the moon
He was the Author of the faith
That could make the mountains move
~Labor of Love by Andrew Peterson
A little Child will lead them, the prophets said of old
In storm and tempest heed Him until the bell is tolled
~Cradle in Bethlehem by Sara Groves
So it came to pass that Joseph was the noblest of men
With a woman on a donkey on their way to Bethlehem
And I wonder whether either was aware enough that day
To know the child would bring a Kingdom
and the old would come to pass away
~It Came to Pass by Andrew Peterson
Will he be a king on a throne
Full of power with a sword in his fist?
Prophet, tell us will there be another king like this?
Full of wisdom, full of strength,
The hearts of the people are his
Prophet, tell us will there be
another king like this?
‘He’ll bear no beauty or glory
A man of such sorrow
We’ll cover our eyes
He’ll take up our sickness
Carry our tears
For his people
He will be pierced
He’ll be crushed for our evils
Our punishment feel
By his wounds
We will be healed.’
‘From you, O Bethlehem
Small among Judah
A ruler will come
Ancient and strong.’
~So Long, Moses by Andrew Peterson
He is Mercy’s incarnation
Marvel at this miracle!
For the Virgin gently holds
the Glorious Impossible.
Praise the wisdom of the Father
Who has spoken through his Son.
Speaking still, He calls us to
the Glorious Impossible.
~Glorious Impossible by Gaither Vocal Band
And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”
~In the Bleak Midwinter modified from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Merry Christmas to you all!
So. I have been delaying updating here until I could say something real. And I now can. I will be defending my PhD dissertation this coming Thursday August 14th at 2pm, starting with an open seminar (feel free to come if you’d like!) and then a closed session with my thesis committee. I don’t think I can accurately describe what it feels like to be here, finally at this point I’ve been striving for for 6 years. It’s been a long time coming, and yet sometimes seems to have flown by at warp speed. There’s a strong sense of inevitability now that it’s less than a week away, now that the countdown has begun. I’m also nervous, and proud, and amazed, and exhausted, and a million other things right now. I will be beyond happy to receive my PhD, but also I suspect will feel an intense sense of relief, that this time of constant questioning will be over.
As far as details go, I will be sticking around Winston Salem for this coming academic year. I’ll be working in the lab through the end of September to finish up a couple more papers before the boss leaves. But starting on August 18th, I’ll be teaching my first college class at a local liberal arts college, an introductory class for biology majors. I am very excited (and nervous) about this new opportunity, and the experience it will bring that will make me a more attractive candidate for a faculty position in the near future.
So. There you go. An update, finally. I will try to keep up better now that the big news is out, but given what September is looking like, that might be a tall order. We’ll see. I’ll be sure to let you know how things go this week. Unless the biochemistry kills me first.