There are some people who really have it together and posted about their best reads of 2011 by, say, December 31st. I was still frantically reading my last read and trying to beat the clock so I could say that YES, I did meet my goal for 75 books for the year. After that, I was a little exhausted.
Next thing I know, in a fever of New Year zeal, I upped my challenge to 80 books this year, because WHAT WAS I THINKING?
It's so much fun to do these challenges (through Goodreads, where they have a handy thingy that calculates it all but oh beware to you if don't finish a book and then...what then? I'm still trying to figure it out) and it did keep me on track. I never have a problem with reading, it's more a problem of managing my books. I am a self-confessed book hoarder. I love my books. I like them all around me (hence, the Green Bean Kid calling our bedroom 'the library' back in the day) and I like to have plenty to choose from. My county library system is truly the best and they have wonderful NEW books that tempt me all the time. I'm trying to be better about my library queue and not amassing a big pile of books that wait impatiently for me to hurry up and get to them NEXT.
That pile is just INSANE. I soon after weeded through it and am relieved to tell you it's much more manageable.
But after a full year of reading, I really do want to give gold stars to the best of the best. I love seeing the patterns that emerge. 2010, I got on a polygamy kick, but 2011 was the year of the dystopian novel. Not surprising, since it's the hot genre of YA and beyond, but it was really fascinating for me. So we'll start with those.
Would you believe I'd never read The Giver? And now it is the gold standard, the one to whom all dystopian works should be comapred. It was complete and whole and heartbreaking. I quickly read the next two, and oh - Gathering Blue is also really wonderful.
Matched was compelling, and I loved the emphasis on poetry. Pretty much the worst thing you could have me imagine is a world without story or poetry. I really like this series and want to have my own copies. Still waiting to read the second book.
Divergent is just as wild and good as everyone has said. No let down here, just lots of good story. I brought it with me on our anniversary weekend in Mobile and COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN. Romantic, I know! Thankfully, I have a husband who loves to sit on porches and read just as much as I do. (We are a good match.) Which reminds me, I think this is a good crossover book for guys, too, because there's FIGHTING. Ever since I convinced Beaux to read The Hunger Games trilogy, I like trying to convince him to read other good dystopian reads. It makes me wildly happy to read the same books (since it doesn't happen OFTEN) but I tend to plow through way more books. It may have something to do with NOT HAVING A FULL TIME JOB, I don't know?
That porch was the best.
I also finally read The Passage, which I do not necessarily recommend. Mixing up dystopian and vampires is, well, a lot. First of all, it's absolutely gigantic. I don't know what the deal is, but for some reason it seems I keep picking up giant tomes when I have a GOAL of reading a certain large number of books. It stresses me out. You know those kids in elementary school who would brag about "Oh, I'm on page 82?" I hated that. I was too busy reading the story to worry about page numbers. Still, it's a long book.The deal is, I did LIKE The Passage. The beginning was pretty harrowing.Then you leave the first story and end up in a whole new place and set of characters; I kinda needed a chart in the front of the book to keep everyone straight. I think it would have been much better to break it up into two books. Of course, there's a sequel, so I guess this is a story with much to be explained and explored. I do think it will make a really good movie. It FEELS like it was written with a movie in mind, which may be one of the problems I have with it.
Since it seems this post is going to be solely about my dystopian kick and not the other genres I enjoyed (I'll get there) I'll wrap it up with When She Woke. This novel was especially enticing (and scary) after what we dealt with in Mississippi in November. (Oh, we're still dealing with it. It's like a pop-a-weasel with a weasel that just won't roll over and die already.) When She Woke is very much like The Handmaid's Tale, with nods to The Scarlet Letter as well. In this fictional America, abortion is illegal. Fertility is rare and precious. In this world, criminals are not sent to live in jail for lifetime sentences but "chromed" and sent out to live as best they can in society. Hannah is dyed red and everyone knows her crime. It's a riveting story and a subject I take pretty dang seriously.
The element that always causes me to really think, in dystopian scenarios, is the part where all art and literature is lost. That always seems so impossible to me - when I think of all the books in the world. Art can be scattered or destroyed, but still - I would totally be that person who hid books like a box full of gold and made sure some of it survived. It makes me feel like I should assemble an 'in case of the end of the world" must have box/fireproof safe of books. Goodness, where would you even start?