Thursday, January 04, 2007

My Personal "Best of..." Books List for 2006

I've been scrolling through the 2006 archives here to pull together a list of what I read in 2006. One thing I realized almost right away was that I was much better about recording books I read in the early months of the year. As the year wore on, a number of things I read either didn't get mentioned here, or only got mentioned briefly but not really reflected on. To get at least a somewhat more complete list, I've also been going through all the book reviews I wrote for epinions during 2006 (more than I realized!).

I realized several things, good and bad (or perhaps positive and challenging) about my reading habits last year. The first is that I read more than I realized, even during busy seasons (good) but that the busier I get the less I read with depth (bad). By that last I mean a couple of things: I have good intentions about reading a book and start it, but don't always finish it. Sometimes that's fine -- not every book one picks up will be the "right book" for a certain season, and some books are meant to be sipped at slowly and savored over a long period. But there were some books (Dickens, anyone?) that I gave up on too early, mostly because I didn't have the energy to keep plowing through until I turned the magical corner that suddenly makes a book you're reading a book you love to read.

But I also mean that I read fewer books of substance and depth than I supposed. I can chalk this up to a lot of things, and some of them would even be justified -- I worked two jobs most of last year, while writing and parenting and doing about a million other things. I know my mental energy is not always what it should be, or what it used to be, and so it's easy for me to say "oh I'll just read something light right now" -- until the "light" books pile up. Again, nothing wrong with reading for entertainment and enjoyment, but I want to read for formation and understanding and deepening as well. And I think I need to get more intentional about that.

I was also realizing that I read a lot of children's literature last year. I think that's a good thing -- not something I feel a need to apologize for at all. In fact, the older I get the more I seem to enjoy children's literature. Some of that is due to the fact that I'm a mother, enjoying a season of life with a young child who loves books. Some is due to my hope that in reading so much good children's literature, I will learn to better write really good children's literature. But some of it stems from the plain realization that many of the world's best writers, in all times and I would say most assuredly our time, are writing stories specifically for children. Children's stories almost always still have a story shape, and something to teach. One can't always assume either of those things about more "sophisticated" (urgh) books for adults.

Without further ado, here's my personal "best of" list for 2006. I plan to post another post (sometime this week?) with some thoughts on a few of these and why they made the list.

Biography of the year: Alan Jacobs’ The Narnian

Picture book author of the year: a tie between Robert McCloskey and Jane Hissey

Best Devotional Book: You Are My Hiding Place, compilations of devotional writings by Amy Carmichel

Best Novel I Read This Year: C.S. Lewis' Till’ We Have Faces

Best Novel I Re-Read This Year: Jane Austen's Persuasion

Best "pop culture" Book: Samuel Crowl's The Films of Kenneth Branagh

Favorite "new to me" children’s book (8-12 year old category): Kate DiCamillo's The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

Favorite "new to me" young adult book (12-15 year old): Polly Shulman's Enthusiasm

Favorite "new to me" picture book: Anna Dewdney's Llama, Llama, Red Pajama

Best Children’s Book I Re-Read This Year: E.B. White's Charlotte’s Web

Book I Wish I Hadn’t Wasted My Time Reading: Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones’ Diary

Book I Should Have Finished (and still plan to): Shane Claiborne's The Irresistible Revolution

The Book That Most Surprised Me: Melissa Wiley's Little House in the Highlands

The Book That Made Me Laugh the Most: Ron Hansen's Isn’t it Romantic?

Book That Challenged Me the Most: The Bible


Erin said...

Great list! Several there I want to check out. And I definitely agree with you about the children's books! :)

Beth said...

Thanks! It was fun to look back over the year to see what I'd read...what I remembered, and what I loved. A good exercise. I'll have to see if I can do it again in 2007!