Friday, December 31, 2010

Never Judge a Book by Its Movie

Everyone is running a Best Of list at this time of year, so once again, I am going to jump on the bandwagon and do the same. My medium of choice – books! I read 60 books this year, frontloaded with lots of non-fiction, rounded out nicely by a wide selection of historical fiction, all if it taking place in either England or Italy, and as always, dipping shallowly into the pool of vampire lore. I ended the year rather limply, with just a collection of essays about living with children in New York that had almost nothing to do with children and everything to do with being congratulatory about living in New York. To me, this is a singularly unimpressive feat. There are roughly 8 million people living in Manhattan. You want to impress me? Take your kids to the Antarctic.

After perusing my list, I actually think all of my top reads are non-fiction. The Mockingjay series was engaging, but the last book was seriously flawed and the last chapter was almost insulting. Steig Larsson has gotten enough press and while his books are good, they really aren’t great. I also found myself unimpressed with many second-time around authors such as Stephanie Kallos (Broken), Stephen L. Carter (Jericho’s Fall), and Christopher Moore (Fool).

My top five reads of 2010 were:

1. Columbine – Dave Cullen. He gets the worst over with first and then moves into figuring out exactly what brought the two boys to commit such a heinous crime. Fascinating, horrifying, and moving, it tells the stories of the students, faculty, and law enforcement that were on the scene that day. An absolute must-read.

2. Game Change – John Heilemann and Mark Halpern. The 2008 presidential race was fun to watch, but going behind the scenes of how decisions were made is riveting. Even if you aren’t a fan of politics and didn’t vote for Obama, this book shows the gains and losses of Edwards, McCain, Palin, Clinton, Obama, and Biden in a way that humanizes all of them.

3. My Life in France – Julia Child. I have never eaten French food. I am not a gourmand. My idea of happiness is a cheeseburger and chocolate cake. I have never cooked anything that took longer than 30 minutes and would not eat 99 percent of anything on the Food Network. And yet, the story is more than food, it is about her marriage, her drive to be more than just a housewife, and her love of sharing her passion with others.

4. Monday Night Mayhem – Marc Gunther & Bill Carter. My husband loves football. I love movies and television. This book, found at a library sale, combined both of those loves and made for some really interesting reading. Unfortunately, it was written in the mid-80s, so it definitely more for those who are interested in the backstory of how Monday Night Football was created and not any of the current issues surrounding it.

5. The Blind Side – Michael Lewis. More football, but this time, the story focuses on the machinery behind turning talented kids into pro football players. This book confirmed my already strongly-held belief that no child of mine will ever play pro sports.

And the dubious distinction of the top five books I wish I hadn’t wasted my time reading goes to:

1. In the President’s Secret Service – Ronald Kessler. Too gossipy and bitchy, but not in a good way.

2. A Reliable Wife – Robert Goolrick. If any character had once been honest with another, the entire story would have collapsed.

3. American Adulterer – Jed Mercurio. It could have been a good story, but the structure and narrative killed any chances of that actually happening.

4. Through the Children’s Gate – Adam Gopnik. How he didn’t sprain his arm reaching around to pat himself on the back, I will never know.

5. The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder – Rebecca Wells. Dumb. From start to finish, just dumb.

And that my friends, is that. Happy New Year and happy reading.

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