Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Year in Review: Part 4

Hard as it may be to believe, I do occasionally read some adult fiction. Though not nearly in the same numbers as children's and young adult literature, I still enjoy reading books intended for people my own age. I didn't snag as many ARCs of adult books at ALA, so my top ten list of adult books includes a couple titles I read this year that were published prior to 2011.

Top 10 adult books:
 - The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
This stunning debut novel blew me away (and I think most critics agree as well, seeing as how it has found a place on a number of year-end best-of lists). It's a book about baseball, about a scrawny up-and-coming shortstop who surprises everyone who sees him play. But it's about so much more, too. I don't think it's a new idea that baseball is sort of a metaphor for life and Harbach plays on this idea beautifully. This book is heartbreaking and hilarious and deserves all the praise it's received. I cannot wait to see what Harbach writes next as this was definitely one of my favorite reads of the year.

 - Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
This book got a lot of pimping at ALA and already had a movie deal before its publication. I've seen a lot of mixed reviews for this since, but for me, this was a fun and extremely well-constructed novel. Featuring an Everyman you can't help but root for, villains you can't stand, and an epic quest through virtual reality that would be so extremely cool if it actually existed, this book delighted the nerd and trivia freak in me while also satisfying me as a reader.

 - Triangles by Ellen Hopkins
I've read all but one of Hopkins' YA novels and have enjoyed them so I was extremely excited to delve into her first foray into adult fiction. I found that while it didn't rachet up the level of risque from her YA novels, it explored more complex relationships. A book with strong appeal to readers of "women's literature," I'm happy to say that Hopkins made a strong entry into adult fiction.

 - Practical Jean by Trevor Cole
This was a surprise read for me. I had never heard of it but snagged a copy at ALA this summer and thought I'd give it a shot. I believe it was first published in 2010 but it's the first work by Cole to be published in the U.S. Jean is an endearing and confused protagonist who is wonderfully crafted by Cole. An absurd black comedy, I really enjoyed this book.

 - A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Hope, Deception and Survival at Jonestown by Julia Scheeres
One of the very few non-fiction books I read this year, Scheeres writes thoughtfully and beautifully about the tragedy of the Peoples Temple at Jonestown. She personalizes the story without making it cheesy and makes it very easy to see how this horrific bit of history came to pass. Incredibly well-done.

 - Among the Wonderful by Stacy Carlson
For some reason, circuses are very big right now. Me, I've always loved the circus. So, this was one of two titles (the other being The Night Circus, which I haven't found time yet to read) about circuses at ALA that I spent a great deal of time looking forward to. Carlson has crafted a richly imagined and insular world at P.T. Barnum's New York museum of wonders in the mid-19th century. She presents the dual narratives of the museum's taxidermist and giantess, creating a compelling and delightful novel.

 - Next to Love by Ellen Feldman
This was another book I grabbed on a whim at ALA and I'm very glad I did. A richly detailed and thoroughly engrossing historical novel, Feldman looks at the effects of war and those who get left behind. Alternating the stories of three women, she creates a wonderful story. I connected with all the characters and loved charting their development through the course of the novel. Glad to have discovered this one.

 - The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock
A deeply depressing but incredibly well-done novel, this was yet another serendipitous find at ALA. Pollock's first novel introduces us to a host of unique and disturbing characters and follows them through the post-war (WWII) years to the 1960s. A meditation on violence and evil, this is an incredibly strong and provocative book. Excellent.

 - Monster, 1959 by David Maine
This was a book I had sitting in my collection for a few years and finally picked it up early this spring. Published in 2008, this is a take on "King Kong" from the ape's point of view. A monster, created from radiation testing, follows the drums to a human sacrifice and gets more than he bargained for. The beauty of this book is that is provides social commentary without coming across heavy-handed. A surprising read that I really enjoyed.

 - Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
Published in 2006, I listened to the audiobook version of this at the very beginning of 2011. A dark and creepy mystery with a very unusual protagonist, I found this complicated and well-drawn with a twist right at the end to show me that, no, I don't have everything all figured out. I can't wait to read more of Flynn's novels.

2011 by the Numbers:
For the curious, here are my 2011 stats, according to my Goodreads account (where I log all my books read):
- 263 books read (far down from the 412 I read in 2010, though a larger percentage of those were picture books) for a total of 67,436 pages
 - 15 five-star reviews, 164 four-star reviews, 73 three-star reviews, 8 two-star reviews, and 3 one-star reviews (including one book I didn't finish)
 - longest read of the year: Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
 - the majority were tagged as either young adult or juvenile

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