Monday, December 21, 2009

Best Books of the Year?

I’m not a good person to make a best of list, as I’m terribly behind on everything and usually get to books a couple years after the copyright date. But, of course, that’s not going to stop me.

The best book of the year for me—as it was for a lot of other people—was When You Reach Me. It was so good it actually destroyed me—I could not see the point in writing a book if it wasn’t going to aim as high as that and thus could not write at all. (This was not what my poor agent was intending when she sent it to me.) Several times while reading it I could feel something in my brain shift, like a statue you turn 45 degrees and it’s suddenly something completely else.

Everything Laurie Halse Anderson writes makes me want to flagellate myself, and Wintergirls was no exception. A student and I are talking about expressionism this semester—it’s dramatization of the interior landscape, art that doesn’t try to portray the world as it is, but as the character experiences it. Anderson’s prose—at once shadowy and piercing—so beautifully expresses the world of her protagonist.

In fantasy, I pick two sequels. The Ask and the Answer, a sequel to The Knife of Never Letting Go-a freakishly dark dystopian series about some particularly nasty futuristic Puritans (and one awesome talking dog.) I don't need to flagellate myself, because there's already plenty of flagellation on the page. And Sacred Scars, the follow-up to our common book, Skin Hunger. I’m in the middle of Libba Bray’s Going Bovine right now and I think that will end up on my list, for voice, humor, and for surely creating one or two more vegetarians in the world.

What about you?


  1. Winter Girls made me want to vomit--literary bulimia?--but I could not put it down. Also in the excruciating-but-sublime category is Stitches by David Small. Talk about turbulence and risk. Man.

  2. Not a kids' book, but try FINANCIAL LIVES OF THE POETS by Jess Walter. Just a hoot. Well-written, too, and quick. And, never fear, not about poetry at all.



  3. I loved Stitches! Laurie Halse Anderson's Chains was great. I just finished The Maze Runner, and although it probably would not go into the category of best book ever, I thoroughly enjoyed it. (I liked it more than Hunger Games Anne)

  4. Okay, I just finished When You Reach Me, and you are right, it is devastating. Brilliant on macro and micro levels. Some of the narration floors me, like when Miranda says, "Sometimes you never feel meaner than the moment you stop being mean. It's like how turning on a light makes you realize how dark the room had gotten." Makes me never want to write again!

  5. Going Bovine is just pure, bizarre genius. I hope you enjoy it. :)