Monday, February 7, 2011

2010 Reading Challenge: Numero Dos

So yeah, here comes part two. 5 whole days later. Ooopsies. My goal this week is to get caught up with posts I have planned, so if I inundate your feed, so sorry.

The second reading challenge I did last year was also fairly simple. I needed to read 10 award winners, from whatever prize I liked. I went into this a bit skeptically, but ended up reading some of my favorite books of the year as a result. Here are some down and dirty thoughts on what I read.

1) The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell- (Arthur C. Clarke Award) This book blew my mind. To this day, I'm not sure if I would recommend it, mostly because I'm still not sure that I have spent enough time thinking about it to come to my own conclusions. I loved it, but I definitely want to read it again to sort my feelings out and let the themes marinade more. On my re-visit list for summer. (Side note: my kindergarteners hate reading books more than one time, even though I try to convince them often that it's like spending time with friends. Maybe they're not buying it because of the rash of kicking sprees our "friends" in our class have been having lately. Yikes.)

2) Brooklyn by Colm Toibin (Costa Book Award) I really read this book mostly because it was chosen as the Chicago Reads book of the year. I love the concept of the whole city having one big book club, and while I didn't really end up discussing this book with anybody, it packed a quiet punch for being such a slim, easy read. The themes of immigration and reinvention made me think about my students and the reasons behind their moves, as well as the person I am growing into as their teacher. Still waters run deep in this one.

3) Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann (National Book Award Winner)- I devoured this one during a rainy Saturday on a small lake in Wisconsin and loved it. I'm a sucker for literary fiction told from alternating viewpoints and I loved how McCann managed to develop his characters so well when each only narrated such a small portion of the book as a whole. I also loved that much of the book was about the World Trade Center pre 9/11. I'll be passing this one to my bookish friends for sure.

4) A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines (National Book Critics Circle Award) Generally, I dislike books chosen by Oprah for her book club, and for some reason, this one was no exception. One would think I would have loved this story, as I love reading about civil rights and racial struggles, as well as the power of education to make things better, but meh. The book dragged on a little for me, and it seemed to repeat itself a lot. I forced myself to finish this one. (Side note: I am an absolute book monogamist, and I almost always finish a book once I start it, even if I don't like the book. Blame it on the Catholic guilt.)

5) Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (Pulitzer Prize Winner) I adored this book. I love a great sweeping epic novel, and this reminded me of one of my favorite authors in the genre, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I know a lot of people who refused to give this book a chance because of its hermaphroditic plot, but I'm so glad that I wasn't one of them. This might be my favorite book from this challenge. Such passion. Such thoughtfulness. Such simplicity in the heartbreaking narration. Love. Love. Love.

6) Tinkers by Paul Harding (Pulitzer Prize Winner) I really didn't like this book. I feel like Harding tried to hard for gorgeous writing and sacrificed plot as a result. It jumped around between times too much for me, and some of the connections drawn between the main character and his father were kind of obvious. Blah.

7) Vernon God Little by Pierre DBC (Booker Prize) This was another book I went into with high hopes, but it fell short. I understand that it's supposed to be a satire of sorts, but it just felt gimmicky and strange. I also found it to be unnecessarily crude for shock value, which surprises me to say because I'm generally not a prude about such things. Meh. If you want a book that raises great questions about school violence, pick up The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb. The first book to bring me to tears as I finished it since I read Where the Red Fern Grows.

8) Oh. My. God. I don't think I labeled a book on my list as being Award Winner #8. I skipped straight from 7 to 9 in my records. Therefore, I'm just realizing now that I didn't actually finish this challenge at all but that I lied to myself. AGGREWRJAGOWJGHGGHAGJFGGGGGGGGHHHHHH. Epic fail. Maybe people are just skimming this and I'll still look super smart. On to......

9) The BLind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (Booker Prize) This was my first experience with Atwood, and I loved it. The twists and turns in the plot centering around two sisters were fantastic and left me shocked and gasping. I also loved that the narration was sprinkled with articles covering the fictional events in the plot. Atwood juggles first and third person narration with brilliance. I wish I had written this book. Maybe I can count this for numbers 8 and 9....

10) The Finkler Question. That dreaded question won the Booker prize this year, and I have to say, (and said it in the last post) I hated almost everything about that book. I was disappointed that it was so bad too, because my reviews of books that have won that award in the past were generally positive. Yeesh.

This will be the last of the bookish posts for awhile. Do people like them? Not like them? I personally am digging the little bite sized review formats for each book, because I like to save my in depth opinions for people who care to read such things or have read the book as well. Do people want more books? Less books? More of my silly life? More of my mediocre photography? Drop me a line and let me know.

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