Last January, I made a note on my blog that I wanted to list all the books I read in 2010. Not only did I remember to keep up with the list, but I was actually a bit surprised at some of the results. Total Books Read: 196. Now that includes everything from books over 800 pages long to chapbooks that are around 20 pages. In a year that included buying a new house, moving, and teaching extra classes, I didn’t think I really spent that much time reading.
I mostly read poetry. According to my list, I read 81 collections, including chapbooks. What did surprise me is that I read just as many fiction books as nonfiction (memoir, history, etc…): 46 in each category. I also read 23 young adult books.
In the past, during this time of year, I usually posted my favorite poetry books of the year. Today, however, I am going to do things a bit differently.
Best Nonfiction Book I Read This Year: It’s a tie! I really liked the book, Half the Sky: Turning oppression Into Opportunities for Women by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. I didn’t think that a book that explored the world’s crimes against women (rape, violence, sexual mutilation, poverty) could be an uplifting read, but it was. This book offers portraits of women survivors around the world — while some parts were hard to read, I have to say that as a whole it was a wonderful and inspiring read. I also loved, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Over 60 years ago, Henrietta Lacks died and her cells were taken from a cancerous tumor in her body. These cells, considered to be the first “immortal human cells” are still alive today and have helped find treatments and cures for both viruses and different types of cancer. Skloot’s account of this woman’s life (and her death) is part history, part memoir, part biography — a fantastic read!
Best True Crime Book I Read This Year: Fans of the Scrapper Poet may not know that I read a lot of true crime books, and this year, thanks to a different public library in my new home town, I brushed up on a lot of my true crime reading. I really enjoyed Starvation Heights by Gregg Olsen and I Am Murdered by Bruce Chadwick, but my favorite read was The Poet and the Murderer by Simon Worrall. Imagine trying to forger an Emily Dickinson poem. Then, imagine almost getting away with it! Worrall’s exploration of criminal Mark Hofman is fascinating. I admit that the whole book does not dwell just on the Dickinson’s forgery, but dives into Hofman’s shady background and his own personal vendettas against the Mormon church (something I found less interesting than the material about Emily Dickinson). Still, all in all, an interesting read.
Best Book of Fiction: I have to say that I did read a lot of fiction, but when I looked over my list, all I remember is being very unimpressed with most of the novels. However, I found the book, The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent, to be a great exploration of the Salem Witchcraft Trials.
Best Collection of Short Stories: Last summer, I mentioned how much I loved American Salvage by Bonnie Jo Campbell, and that book is still my favorite short story collection of the year. However, I have to say that The Name of the Nearest River by Alex Taylor comes in at a few close second. Taylor’s book includes depictions of rural poverty and violence so graphic that it was hard for me to turn away.
Longest Book Read: Stephen King’s Under the Dome at over 1,000 pages. Was it worth it? I’m a King fan, but I have to say, No.
Biggest Disappointment: Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. I waited forever to get my hands on this book, and then I could barely drag myself through it. In spite of the critical praise and the glowing recommendations from friends, I really had to drag myself through this novel.
Best Young Adult Book: I have always enjoyed young adult books, before I was a young adult (when I was in elementary school, and young adult books were supposed to be too hard for me to understand) and now that I am an “old” adult. Many of the books I read were fantasy or science fiction genre. I started reading a series by Susan Beth Pfeffer — the first book titled Life As We Knew It about the world in a small Pennsylvania town after the moon gets hit out of orbit by a meteor. I also read a dystopian book titled The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan about a young girl living inside a village who has only known a world protected within walls against the greater “universe” of zombies. Now, I am not a zombie reader — but I thought that Ryan’s book was a great read — somehow the book reminded me of Margaret Atwood’s latest work.
But recently, I finished Uprising by Margaret Peterson Haddox, a historical fiction look at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. The book doesn’t just explore the fire, but the trials and tribulations of striking girls and immigrant life. It’s a great book to add to my working class literature collection.
Best Collection of Poetry: Of course, my readers know that there’s no way that one book is really going to stand out as the best. 2010 gave me new collections from some of my favorite poets, including Brandi Homan, Barbara Crooker, Jake Adam York, Jehanne Dubrow, Pamela Gemin, Allison Joseph, and Carrie Shipers. However, I was also introduced to many other poets’ work that before this past year, I did not know, including fellow bloggers January O’Neil, M.J. Iuppa, and Diane Lockward. I’m going to take the stance that I just don’t have time to list all the great poetry collections I read this year.
I’m going to keep a list of books read for 2011 — I am not trying to break any type of personal record. I just want to see if my reading patterns change at all in the upcoming year.