Here are the books I read last year, starting from last January. I read a lot of lighter fiction and only one non-fiction book. Usually I mix in more of the classics, biographies, history, and other non-fiction, but last year I really just felt like taking a break from the deeper books and reading whatever struck my fancy. So here are the books and my mini reviews!
1. Bergdorf Blondes by Plum Sykes. It was cute, funny, and smarter than I expected. I like it when books are set in Manhattan, one of my favorite places.
2. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. He is one of my favorite fantasy authors. I first read this book in high school and now I'm finally going to read the rest of the trilogy. This book is really good, though controversial because Pullman injects some of his atheistic beliefs into the books. I'm sure you've heard about this in the news or in your e-mail warning you about the movie, which came out last month. My view is that they are his books and he can write whatever he wants. I'm open to how other people view life and religion and God. So even though I disagree with many of his viewpoints, I wasn't personally offended by the story. At least in the first book (I haven't read the other two yet), it's more of a classic fight between good and evil than anything else. I think he's a brilliant storyteller. I saw the movie last month and it was very good and true to the book.
3. The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus. This was a really fun read and I enjoyed the book very much. It too was set in NYC, which provides such a great backdrop for stories. I made sure to read it before the movie came out. I like reading a book and then watching the movie to see how they compare and to see how closely the movie and characters match what I imagined. I didn't get to see it in the theaters but I have it from Netflix right now and I plan on watching it this week.
4. The Ultimate Career by Daryl Hoole. This was an inspiring, helpful book about homemaking and mothering (the ultimate career). This was the one non-fiction book I read in full all year. I finished it in the spring while I was visiting at Penn...kind of ironic, given that the ultimate career at Penn is anything but homemaking!
5. I Heard That Song Before by Mary Higgins Clark. Another good one by one of my favorite mystery writers. I don't know how she keeps coming up with these unique ideas for stories. I have a small connection to Mary Higgins Clark. An editor of hers guest-lectured at one of my NYU classes a few years ago. She actually mentions this editor, Gypsy da Silva, in her Acknowledgments section in almost all of her books. Gypsy and my instructor were co-workers and friends, and I still have their contact information. Pretty cool! I would love to copyedit her manuscripts. She's great, but she could use some fresh ideas....such as, it's not called a "pocketbook" anymore, it's a "purse," and it's no longer a "carriage" but a "stroller." Using the former terms is such an anachronism and it's jarring to read since her books are set in the present. I really think I could help her books be even better by fixing things like that. Think Simon & Schuster will hire me? Nope--I've already tried!
6. The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud. I didn't realize until I started reading it that this is a book involving 9/11. I'd never read a 9/11 novel before, so that was new. This book got a lot of acclaim, but I didn't like it very much. I found it to be depressing and in the end a little bit pointless. I'm not really into dark reads, unless they're murder mysteries or something fun like that.
7. The Big Love by Sarah Dunn. She's a Penn alumni like me and it's set in Philadelphia, a city that I know and love. She's a really good writer--very funny and witty. The story was pretty good. It was a fast, fun read. It has an ex-Mormon character in it who is very much an ex-Mormon in her lifestyle choices. I always find it interesting when writers use Mormonism in their books. It's usually not overly positive, but sometimes they're right on target. It was mostly fine here. (Although now that I think about it, I do remember reading something and wanting to e-mail Sarah Dunn to say, "Hey, that's not true! This is what we really believe!")
8. The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler. This is another one that I wanted to read before the movie came out. (It seems that a lot of movies from books I read or wanted to read came out in 2007.) I'd heard of this book because it's been popular ever since it was published a few years ago, and since I'm a Jane Austen fan, I wanted to read it. It turned out to be just okay. I didn't love it. I didn't see it aligning all that much with Jane Austen and her novels. I wouldn't read it again, but I still want to see the movie. Maybe it will add some insights that I might have missed.
9. Sleeping with Schubert by Bonnie Marson. The best book that I read this year! One of my favorites of all time! The characters, writing, and storyline were so clever and creative. I was sad when this book was over--I really wanted it to keep on going. It was excellent. It was funny. It was touching. I highly recommend it. It's about a 30-something New York City woman who inexplicably becomes inhabited by the spirit of the great composer Franz Schubert. It's so good!
10. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. Oh. my. gosh. This book was so good. I found myself thinking about it a lot during the day while I was reading it because it was so compelling and suspenseful. It came out in 2005 when John was a baby and it was a big New York Times bestseller. Now I can see why. It's an amazing book, especially since this is Kostova's first. She worked on it for ten years. She went to Yale and is extremely knowledgeable about history and European culture and geography and everything like that. I feel like I've been to many different parts of Europe after reading this book, that's how vivid her writing is. It makes you feel like you're there. The story itself is a compelling historical mystery about the legend of Dracula, which came about from a real person in history, Vlad Tepes, a 15th-century tyrannical ruler who lived in Transylvania (Romania) and fought against the invading Ottoman Empire. He was one bad dude and the legend of Dracula comes from him. The book is set in different decades, ending in 2008. I totally loved this book, and I hope Kostova will come out with another book soon.
I'm looking forward to reading more good books this year. Reading is one of my greatest pleasures in life. I think what I'll do is write a book review each time I finish a book, instead of doing a big long list like this at year's end. I haven't decided yet if I will return to my old habits of rotating through different genres during the year or if I'll have another "whatever floats my boat" kind of year, although I'm leaning more towards the latter.