2009 Was a pretty good year for me and Books. Not as good as 2008, when I discovered Shannon Hale and all her glory, but better in that I didn’t read anything to do with vampires—and that is a relief. I didn’t get through as many books as I have in the past, but my leisure reading hours were considerably more full of personal relationships (one person in particular) than they have been in past years.
I feel that my selections, though few, were of good quality. Here are the few books I read, ranked for awesomeness.
Bill Bryson is my number one favorite find of 2009. I love his snappy, goofy, witty, laughing-myself-into-tears style. He was recommended to me by B’s wonderful mother, who shares his slightly wicked sense of humor. This book is an account of his farewell walking tour of England after having lived there for 20 years. Being a little bit of a Britophile, who explored a few of the same areas during a B&B tour in 2004, I couldn’t resist his frank look at the charms and quirks of ‘the small island.’ I think he perfectly summed up the American/England dichotomy: “In America 200 years is a long time. In England 200 miles is a long way.” That’s not a quote from the book, but I think it shares the perspective.
Casting aside the fact that you and every character in the book except the protagonist have figured out the love story the first moment it is set up, this is a fantastic work. It follows more the spirit of Fire and the Covenant than The Work and the Never Ending Glory. The first section of the book is an interesting, if overwritten, look at the terrible conditions faced by English miners in the mid 1800’s. The second follows the heroic struggle of one family in a band of pioneers who attempt to settle the extreme South East of Utah in what is known as ‘The Hole in the Rock Expedition.’ The geography of the story was especially interesting to me as it takes place in and around Cedar City in the 1880s. I appreciate Lund’s ability to entwine historical accounts with hard fact and fictional character’s emotional arches. But come on, the love story. Come. On.
My second venture into Bryson’s travels and mind, this time as they criss-cross my beloved land of Australia, was no less disappointing. This is a quote from the first chapter that I hope will help you appreciate both the scope of the book, the country, and this man’s genius wit:
“Australia is such a difficult country to keep track of. On my first visit, some years ago, I passed the time on the long flight reading a history of Australian politics in the twentieth century, wherein I encountered the startling fact that in 1967 the prime minister, Harold Holt, was strolling along a beach in Victoria when he plunged into the surf and vanished. No trace of the poor man was ever seen again. This seemed doubly astounding to me—first that Australia could just lose a prime minister (I mean, come on) and second that news of this had never reached me.”
That said, I recommend you read at least the first chapter, which is conveniently posted here: http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/b/bryson-sunburned.html
Once again I found that Jane Austen is brilliant. You really have to work when you read her. The sentences are long, like, LONG, like this one doesn’t even compare, at all, even in the number of commas department. And the vocabulary is GRE worthy, but in the end she is so funny, and so right. This is really beautiful story can be summed up in the following: Nice girl finally gets her man. I think every girl can relate, especially those who have had to wait little longer than the average, or wade through muddier than normal circumstances to find their love.
I was pleased that I had watched two movie versions before I took the plunge, but it was worth it.
I picked up this book of short stories at the SUU bookstore clearing sale for 30 cents or something ridiculous. It was really wonderful, especially for 30 cents. (by the way, why does the key board have ^ as an option, but ¢ is buried in the symbols—dumb) It was perfect for summer/beach/family reunion reading. It also reminded me how much I love short story collections. They are so manageable.
Now, I’m a Card fan. Granted, he has his flaws, but I have found his works to be emotionally compelling with fascinating characters and, in his historical/biblical fiction, insightful and imaginative looks at people and events. Until this book. For the first half I had to will myself to keep going, and though the second half was better, the action was dull, but for the last forty or so pages. In the introduction Card makes an apology for the hast in which this had to be published, and some unresolved imbalances in the story. Apology accepted. I still want to finish the ‘Women of Genesis’ series by reading Leah and Rachel as ‘Sarah,’ the first book, was excellent.
Hopefully my last attempt at reading Austin spin-offs. This was crap. The end.
The good news at the end of this bad news ending is that 2010 started off with a literary experience I will not soon forget.
If you have not heard about or read the story of Three Cups of Tea and Greg Mortensen’s work building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, I HIGHLY recommend you look into it and read the book. It was amazing. The language is a little baffling at times but on the whole it is a stunning story of a modern hero.
Go forth, and buy/borrow: