Friday, January 1, 2010

The Books of 2009

I read a lot of books every year. And I keep track of every book that I read: book, author, and number of pages. I've been doing this since 1998. Yes, I'm that crazy about books. It's a sickness, really. But anyway, in 2008 I accidentally read more books than I had read in any year previously. 67. So in 2009 I deliberately set out to do it again, and I made my goal. 76!

MY 2009 TOP TEN LIST, or the books I couldn't put down and had to neglect my children in order to finish.

1. A Girl from Yamhill, by Beverly Cleary. This is a memoir by Cleary, who you probably know better from the Ramona the Pest books she wrote for children. Cleary was one of my favorite authors as a child, so I was thrilled to discover her memoir. The memoir is written for adults/teens, though I think a younger child who's a good reader could read it too. And it's just as well written as those Ramona books, and the story is as gripping as any novel. This book follows her life from early childhood until just before she leaves for college.

2. My Own Two Feet, by Beverly Cleary. I was so disappointed to come to the end of A Girl from Yamhill, because I wanted to spend more time with Beverly Clearly. So I was excited to discover part two of her memoirs. This one starts as she leaves for college, and ends just as her writing career is beginning. I wish there were more memoirs!

3. The Solace of Leaving Early, by Haven Kimmel. I first discovered Haven Kimmel through her popular memoirs, A Girl Named Zippy and She Got Up Off the Couch. I had no idea she'd written several novels too, until a friend of mine randomly picked one up at a used book sale. Wow, these are really well-written, and right up my alley. They combine great story-telling and characterization with intellectual concepts, literature, and theology.

4. Something Rising, by Haven Kimmel. See above.

5. The Used World, by Haven Kimmel. See above. I've loved everything I've read by her!

6. Girl with a Pearl Earring, by Tracy Chevalier. I'd seen the movie a few years ago, and loved it, since I'm a sucker for arty moody type movies, and I finally got around to reading the book this year. It's just as good as the movie, maybe even more so, since there are more details and a better developed back story. Of course, the absence of eye-candy Colin Firth in the book is kind of a downer. After reading this book, I went ahead and read every Tracy Chevalier book I could find at my library, and they were all wonderful stories. Every one is historical fiction, so check it out if you like that sort of thing.

7. Juliet, Naked, by Nick Hornby. You might recognized Nick Hornby's name because there have been a couple of movies made from his books: High Fidelity and About a Boy. Hornby's one of my favorite writers, even though he uses pop culture references a lot. And I mean, a lot! That usually gets on my nerves, but he's such a good storyteller that in his case, it doesn't bother me. This book has nothing to do with Shakespeare, (well, other than the usual allusions the name evokes), rather, Juliet is an ex-girlfriend of a now washed-up indy band singer. The story follows a British couple's obsession with this former singer. This book was the most difficult book of the year for me to put down in order to make the children's dinner. Children? What children?

8. Admission, by Jean Hanff Korelitz. Okay, I'll admit it. You probably have to be a bit of a geek to enjoy this book. It's full of detailed references to college administrative life. If that sort of thing excites you like it does me, read this one! Beyond the collegiate references, there's an interesting love/anti-love story here, and solid storytelling. Plus you'll get all sorts of insights into the selection processes of Ivy League schools. So maybe that'll help you out if you've got a kid applying for college.

9. The Well-Trained Mind, by Susan Wise and Jesse Wise Bauer. This book will educate you in the classical method of home education. Warning: it's not for the faint of heart. If you're just starting out homeschooling, I'd suggest waiting a year, or even two, before tackling this book and trying to put the methods into practice. It's an intense method, and a lot of work for the parents, but I've been using it this year and it's working well for us. The classical method is an ancient and well-proven way of teaching kids to think critically and express their ideas clearly. If you read this book and are overwhelmed and think you should just stop homeschooling right now because it's too hard -- remember, the authors beg you not to use every single thing they talk about in the book. Pick and choose. Don't go overboard. But anyway, these two ladies are fabulous writers, and the book is chock full of curriculum ideas and great books for kids to read.

10. Real Food, by Nina Planck. Wow, if you're concerned about what sort of food you're putting into your body, read this. Or maybe, don't read this. You'll never eat factory farmed meat again. But if you're willing to take that risk, this is a fascinating take on nutrition, particularly on the benefits of pasture raised meats and dairy, and, my favorite, butter. Yes, according to Nina Planck, butter is good for you. Eat more of it! But beware, her list of things you shouldn't eat is long!

My top 10 list is a good sampling of the book subjects I'm obsessed with right now: novels, memoirs, homeschooling, and food/cooking/nutrition. In my next post, I'll list all 76 books that I read this year.


  1. Oh, yay! I'm glad you started a book blog. I need to read Cleary's next book. I loved that first one so much!

  2. I haven't read Admission but heard someone else said she enjoyed it. As I read through your non-fiction list, I think you may enjoy Acceptance: A Legendary Guidance Counselor Helps Seven Kids Find the Right Colleges-And Find Themselves by David L. Marcus, one of my "honorable mentions" in non-fiction in my 2009 favorite list. BTW, just saw your review on a Homemade Life - one of my top Non-fiction in 2009 :) It inspired me to learn to cook, and definitely made me hungry! A Girl Named Zippy had been on my TBD for a while!