Tuesday, May 31, 2011

31 books in 2011

Back at the start of the year, I posted a resolution to read 100 books this year. Fifty of them would be middle grade or YA books, since those are the age groups I write for. The other were going to be an ambitious mix of non-fiction and fiction from different cultures and in genres that would stretch me. Moreover, I said I would try to learn something concrete about writing from each book.

How am I doing? Well, the first thing to fall by the wayside was my record-keeping. Last week, when a friend asked for an accounting, I started trying to reconstruct a list. I managed to come up with the titles of 31 books I've read this year. Twenty of them are adult books, which surprised me, because the kid books are a much quicker read.

First, here are the books I have reviewed for the New York Journal of Books:

The Emerald Atlas, by John Stephens. Action-packed MG fantasy.
Suddenly, In the Depths of the Forest, by Amos Oz. A beautifully written fable for children.
Dog Tag Summer, by Elizabeth Partridge. MG post-Vietnam fiction.
Feral, by Deena Metzger. Adult fiction; self-realization.
Deadly, by Julie Chibbaro. MG/YA historical fiction about tracking down Typhoid Mary.

Reviewing is a great way to clarify your thinking about a book. I recommend it to other writers.

Here are additional kids' books:

Enna Burning - Shannon Hale. MG/YA fantasy. I blogged about this one.
Trickster's Choice - Tamora Pierce. YA fantasy. Great author in the genre.
The Penderwicks at Point Mouette, by Jeanne Birdsall. Charming MG fiction, with lots to teach about writing humor. Here's my blog post on it.
Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick, by Joe Schreiber. YA humorous thriller. This was an ARC from Book Expo America. The book is due out in October.
The Genius Files: Mission Unstoppable, by Dan Gutman, wacky MG action adventure. Damian liked it.
Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall, by Wendy Mass. YA, told in verse, a quick, fun read.
Wonderstruck, by Brian Selznick. Another advance copy from BEA. Children's, two interweaving stories told in text and art, a fitting follow up to his Cabinet of Hugo Cabret.

Now for the adult books:

Midaq Alley,
The Thief and the Dogs, and
Miramar, all adult fiction by Egyptian Nobel prize winner Naguib Mahfouz, about whom I wrote a blog post here.
God Is Not Great - Christopher Hitchens, adult non-fiction. Here's a blog post about this one.
The Mote in God's Eye, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, classic adult science fiction, one of the genres I resolved to read.
The Brain that Changes Itself, by Norman Doidge, fascinating adult non-fiction (science). I'd still like to blog about this one.
Remarkable Creatures, by Tracy Chevalier, adult historical fiction about fossil collector Mary Anning.
The Immortal Live of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot. Adult non-fiction.
The Uncertain Places, by Lisa Goldstein, adult fantasy.
The Capitol Game, by Brian Haig, a thriller which I enjoyed and promptly forgot.
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand,by Helen Simonson. Adult literary fiction, a November romance and gentle social satire that all of us in the family loved, including the guys.
Tinkers, by Paul Harding. Adult literary fiction, allusive and poetic.
Titus Groan, by Mervyn Peake. Ponderous, richly descriptive adult fantasy. Here's my comment on it.
Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand. Adult non-ficiton, amazing historical account of WWII survival.
Cute Eats Cute by C.B. Murphy. Hilarious adult social satire and coming-of-age story that I blogged about because it should be better known.
Mrs. Woolf and the Servants, by Alison Light. Adult non-fiction, biography/history.
The Mathematical Tourist, by Ivars Peterson, very readable book about modern mathematics.
March, by Geraldine Brooks. Pulitzer Prize-winning historical fiction about the Civil War. I blogged about this book.
I cheated a little by also counting New Frontiers in Formative Assessment, a book only in manuscript form that I'm helping edit for the Harvard Education Press. I've read all the chapters multiple times, so that should count for something, shouldn't it?

That's the list so far. I'm going to have to pick it up a notch to meet my goal by the end of the year. I also have to broaden my genres. Still to read: Books from Asia, Africa, and South American writers. Books in French and Spanish. Poetry, short stories, memoir, myth, literary criticism, and a book about business or money. I'll keep you posted.

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