Wednesday, January 06, 2010

2009: The Year in Books (Fiction)

Inspired by my blog-friend Danielle, who writes a round-up post every year with reviews of the books she read, I decided at the beginning of 2009 to start keeping track of the books I read.

I love to read, and I used to devour books one right after another. Somewhere along the way, I stopped, and I have no idea why. It's not because I don't have time; I read an awful lot of blogs and such. It seems wise to read more books than blogs, generally speaking, so I tried to be intentional about increasing my diet of books in 2009.

I found keeping track of my reading to be wonderfully beneficial, and I ended up reading a lot more books last year than the year before. I plan to take it a step further this year by thinking ahead and mapping out a rough idea of the books I want to read in 2010. I want to read a healthy variety of books--fiction and nonfiction, Christian and mainstream, contemporary and classic.

My list is already too long; I often find myself depressed at the sheer number of great books and the awareness that I'll never be able to read all the books I *want* to read, let alone all the books I *should* read. Alas...

Here's part one, the novels I read in 2009. I'll use a version of Amazon's five-star rating system:
***** - Loved it. Excellent, worth another read.
**** - Liked it. Very good, would recommend.
*** - It was decent.
** - Didn't really like it.
* - Ugh, this was terrible.

Job (Illustrated Edition) – John Piper *****
I wasn't sure how to categorize this one...the story of Job from the Bible isn't fiction, but this is Piper's imaginative poetry, starting with the Biblical account and embellishing/imagining details. Piper's skill as a poet is impressive (I've talked it about it in the past with regard to his Advent poems), and the way he develops biblical characters like this is profoundly moving.

So Brave, Young and Handsome – Leif Enger*****
I picked this up after having read and loved Enger's Peace Like a River a couple of years ago. It met/surpassed my expectations. Enger's style is just beautiful. I loved not only the story but the elegant sentences.

Les Miserables – Victor Hugo*****
Thoroughly enjoyed this classic--unlike many classics, I can easily see why it's on the list of "great books." The version I read was abridged...someday I hope to read the full version.

The Shack – William Young***
Mixed feelings about this one. Whether or not I'd recommend it would depend very heavily on who I was talking to. It had some great passages that stretched my thinking, some beautiful ideas...but it also presented some views of God that I found very troubling, and I tend to agree with Piper when he says that "bad theology dishonors God and hurts people." (For another fascinating perspective: Katherine compares God and The Shack to the new Sherlock Holmes movie.)

The Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyan (part 1 only)**
I didn't get the appeal of this classic. The only parts I really liked were quotes I had already heard before. I asked on Facebook whether it was worth pressing on to part 2, and my favorite English professor from college even said no!

Eighth Shepherd (AD Chronicles #8) – Bodie & Brock Thoene****
I got the first book in this series as a Christmas gift before I was married, and read it only because it was from my in-laws and I felt like I had to :) It was slow going at first, but I am so glad I pressed on, because the series has been stellar. It's set in the time of Christ, and pulls out characters from the gospel accounts and imagines details of their lives. It also includes lots of Jewish cultural background that adds incredible meaning and depth to my understanding of Christ and the Word. The only thing that keeps this from getting five stars is that I feel like they're stretching out the series and milking it for money. The last several books are WAY shorter (like 100 pages shorter) and padded with a long "study guide" at the back. Annoying.

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness – Andrew Peterson
North! Or Be Eaten – Andrew Peterson
Fantasy is generally not my thing, so I was a little wary when I started these, but I loved the first and immediately devoured the second. The story is engaging, inspiring, clever; the characters capture your heart and your imagination. A few beautifully written lines in North! nearly brought me to tears. It's one of those books that, though extremely entertaining, doesn't stop at mere entertainment--it resonates with timeless truth and beauty and transcends a simple story. I can't wait until the next one comes out...and I look forward to revisiting these someday when Elijah is older. They'll make fantastic read-alouds.

So...there's the fiction I read last year. My goal was to read an old book in between every new one, and while I didn't do that, I did at least manage a couple of classics (including a behemoth--even the abridged version of Les Miserables was something like 700 pages!). Hoping to squeeze in more novels in 2010.

What's the best novel you read last year? What's your all-time favorite one (or two or three)?


Robin said...

Amy, this is a great idea. I may just have to keep track of my reading in 2010 in order to do a review at the it!

As far as the best novel I read last year, well, I can narrow it down to three:

The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie,
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan,
Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

--all three very different from each other, but each one kept me reading even as I walked down the sidewalk away from the bus stop to my apartment.

Danielle said...

I'm glad to hear you liked So Brave, Young and Handsome. It's on my list for this year.

I read little Christian fiction but have good memories of Brock and Bodie Theone's books, particularly the series set during WWII.

paul said...

great info on the diet industry's dirty little secrets!

Maroussia said...

It will be great to watch Les Miserables, i have bought tickets from looking forward to it.