Favorite Reads of 2009

Early this year, I read what I would consider THE best read of the year – An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination: a memoir by Elizabeth McCracken (2008). The author recounts her first pregnancy with her baby boy that was born still beyond full term alongside the experience of her subsequent pregnancy with her second son. It is very powerfully written, in my opinion. Soon after, I finally read The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (2004) after a friend had asked a couple of times if I had read it. I have tried FOUR times to read it over the years. This time I stuck with it – it took until around page 40, and then I couldn’t put it down. I refuse to see the movie, however!

This summer, as I exercised in the fitness room (yes, I can read and use the treadmill at the same time!), I read some interesting books. I met the author of The Dust of 100 Dogs, a YA (young adult) book by A.S. King (2009), this past March at the Tucson Festival of Books. The premise of the book is quite interesting: A teenage girl becomes a pirate in the 17th century, and she is eventually cursed to live 100 lives as dogs. When she finally returns in the 20th century as a human, her full focus is to recover the treasure she had buried three hundred years before. I also read, while exercising, The Memoir Club, ‘adult’ (as opposed to YA) fiction by Laura Kalpakian (2003) – a group of unlikely people attend a class to learn how to write their memoirs, and instead it becomes a group merged in friendship (while, meanwhile, working through their varied and many personal issues).

As antidotes to Twilight, I would recommend two of the vampire-themed books I’ve read this year: The Reformed Vampires Support Group by Catherine Jinks (2009) and Sucks to be Me by Kimberly Pauley (2009). Both YA novels have a different take on vampires. The first is about a group of outcast vampires who are trying to lie low and deal with the changes, or the lack thereof, in their lives. The second is about a girl who has grown up with vampire parents, but now she has to make the decision for herself if she is going to become one as well, or not.

I have read some more fascinating nonfiction this year (not YA) such as the following: Storm Warning: The Story of a Killer Tornado by Nancy Mathis (2007) – about tornadoes and the development of the science of meteorology and tornado warning systems-, Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer’s Life – new literary criticism that says that LIW’s daughter Rose wasn’t as involved in writing the Little House books as others claim and the reasons why – by Pamela Smith Hill (2007), Waiter Rant by Steve Dublanica (2008) – about being a waiter and how tipping is very important, Stitches: a memoir by David Small (this is in graphic novel style) – about the author’s years growing up in a dysfunctional family and his cancer as a teen, Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading by Lizzie Skurnick (2009) – discusses humorously many favorite YA books mainly of the 1970s and 80s, and Wisconsin Death Trip by Michael Lesy (first published in 1973, republished in 2000) – a collection of rather morbid articles, reports and photos from 19th century Black River Falls as well as other Wisconsin locales.

This fall, I discovered several of the old “Career Romances for Young Moderns” in the University of Arizona library. The most entertaining one for me was Miss Library Lady by Ann McLelland Pfaender (1954). Jean has just completed ‘Library School’ and has been guaranteed a position immediately. Many things mentioned in this book are still true in public libraries today (except for the ease of acquiring a job): “As a horrible example she [Jean] added a tattered book that plainly showed wear and tear, plus the greasy imprint of a limp strip of bacon she had discovered tucked into its pages, used by some child as a bookmark” (53).

PS: If you haven’t read The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (2008), I highly recommend it! It won the Newbery Medal earlier this year! A live, human boy is raised by ghosts in a cemetery in this story.

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