While I have said it before, and I am sure I will say it many times again, I am amazed at the comaraderie that I have found in this book blogging community. The simple comments left by total strangers take on a new level of friendship as the year progresses. I feel as though I can call many of you friends, even though I have never met you in person. I value and trust your opinions, I connect with you through the joys and sorrows of life, and I anticipate your posts the way I used to wait by the phone for my friends to call. I have connected with several of you who are considerably younger than I am, older than I am, live nearby in the central states of the U.S.A. or as far away as India, and yet we all have the love of books and good writing in common. The World Wide Web has definitely made this vast universe seem a little more intimate.
I have always enjoyed reading, although there have been times in my life when this hobby was pushed to the far back burner. When I started teaching British Literature 5 years ago, I had to educate myself in this area. I selected key classics to teach and then began reading and re-reading those few books, along with any critical commentary I could get my hands on. This eventually led me to the pursuit of a Master's degree so that I would feel more comfortable teaching the subject matter. At school that first summer I was introduced to others who loved reading, who were very well-versed in focused areas of study, but also well-rounded in their personal reading libraries. I came home that summer invigorated to renew my own passion for reading. It was shortly thereafter that I discovered Book Blogs and soon became totally addicted.
I have always enjoyed mysteries, but through Carl's RIP challenge I learned that I enjoy truly suspenseful mysteries, some that even border on the edge of horror. I am drawn to books of the Victorian time period by such popular authors as Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Elizabeth Gaskell, and Mary Elizabeth Braddon --- but I also enjoy the neo-Victorian novels, like The Thirteenth Tale and The Lace Reader. I read Rebecca for the first time this year and want to read more Daphne duMaurier in 2010. I read Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and I enjoyed these so much that I have decided to re-read those each year during the month of October.
Through reading challenges I have been exposed to different genres and writing styles. Nymeth hosted the Try Something New mini-challenge this spring that paired bloggers together for the expressed purpose of reading outside their comfort zones. I was fortunate enough to be paired with Susan and we decided to read a graphic novel. Susan chose The Watchmen , but I simply could not get into that one, so I settled on the Manga Shakespeare of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Who would have thought that this English teacher would be enthralled with the manga illustrations of the Bard?! If it hadn't been for this blogging community and the challenge to get out of my reading comfort zone, I would never have had this marvelous experience.
Another genre that I have kept at bay until now is that of Fantasy. I am such a realist and any kind of book with such "outlandish" characters as fairies and wizards just did not compute. However, because of your fantastic reviews and gentle encouragement to take my blinders off, I have actually branched out. I read Inkheart and absolutely loved it! I was fascinated with the premise that fictional characters from a book could come to life and interact with humans. I hope to read more books like this in the future as I think they are starting to awaken my imagination which has lain dormant for far too long.
Not only has this blogging community helped me to branch out in terms of literary genre, you have also helped me to branch out in literary formats. I have tried in the past to listen to audio books with absolutely no success whatsoever. I assumed it was my learning style. However with the help of such avid audio bibliophiles (is that a real term?!) such as Candace, JoAnn, and Sandy, I was encouraged to try different narrators. OH my --- were they right! I decided to try the Harry Potter series with Jim Dale as the narrator and I must tell you that I am hooked! It is such an amazing experience to not only hear the story, but experience the different voices and dramatic interpretation. It is almost as if I am envisioning the scene as it is read to me. I want to complete the series in 2010 and then perhaps attempt some other books on CD now that my audio skills have improved.
In reviewing the list of 75 books I have read this year, I can honestly say that I have not read one that I hated. Of course, some books I enjoyed more than others, and some did not really resonate with me at all, but that is a result of personal preference rather than writing ability. I attribute this high rate of success to you and your totally honest, well-written reviews. I know I can trust your opinions, and I know my personal preferences. Those two combined help me to create a TBR list that will be enjoyed for years to come.
There are, of course, a few books that truly stand out from the rest. These are books that I continue to think about and ponder long after the review was posted. These are the books that when someone asks, "What did you read this year?" --- I immediately recommend without hesitation. So as a final posting to this reading reflection of 2009, here are my favorites:
- The Help by Kathryn Stockett
- The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
- Rebecca by Daphne duMaurier
- We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
- Columbine by Dave Cullen
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
- French Milk by Lucy Knisley
- A Big Little Life by Dean Koontz
I hope each of you had a joyous celebration last night, a relaxing New Year's today, and a prosperous 2010.