Friday, January 1, 2010

{Books of 2009}

I love to read. I LOVE to read. Ever since I was a kid I've devoured books. I remember my best friend and I would spend many, many afternoons simply reading on her porch or in our bedrooms. We would secretly compete to see who could read the most pages - neither of us ever said it was a competition but we both knew it was. I would also hide a flashlight under my bed and read at night when I was supposed to be sleeping. I blame my horrible vision on all the straining my eyes had to do to see the words by that dim light!

The funny thing is, I still read with a flashlight in bed at night. Sadly, I usually only get to read once I'm in bed at night, and since Cory is almost always already asleep by the time I hit the hay I have to read with a flashlight. And I'm usually so exhausted that I only read a few pages before I'm struggling to keep my eyes open. Sigh.

This past year both Cory and I decided to keep track of the books we read. I started out well, gobbling up a handful of books fairly quickly. Then Dixon arrived and I was simply too tired to stay awake long enough to do any good reading. So alas, my reading list isn't nearly as long as I hoped it would be. But I read some great books during the year! Here's what I read in 2009 in the order in which I read the books - perhaps you'll pick up a couple of these books and enjoy them this year yourself!

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
If my mother hadn't left this book on my counter and insisted I read it, I likely wouldn't have picked it up at all. I don't like to read books that are fads; I like to kid myself and think that I'm more original than following the trends. But I'm SO glad I gave Twilight a chance! The plot sucked me in right away (no pun intended) and I simply could. not. put. the. book. down. I can totally understand why the series is as popular as it is and why teenage girls, middle-aged women, and even men are fascinated by the characters and the storyline. Pick this one up if you haven't already and get ready to be swept away!

Loving Frank by Nancy Horad
I must credit my mother for this pick as well. She gave me this book for Christmas in 2008 and it looked really interesting so I read it right away. The author used newspaper articles, letters, and other artifacts to piece together a fictionalized version of the famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright's, life. The book focuses primarily on his affair with a woman with whom he spends much of his adult life with and the tragic ending of that love affair. I learned SO much about Wright and his designs that I want to go visit Falling Waters as soon as the kids are old enough! Parts of this book are rather dry, but the overall
storyline is quite engaging.

New Moon by Stephanie Meyer
While I was tempted to jump right into the second book in the Twilight series as soon as I finished the first, I knew I wanted to pace myself. I wanted to enjoy the story of Edward and Bella as long as I could. Once I began this second book, though, I tore right through it just like I did with Twilight. I remember thinking, "Why in the world am I so intrigued by this fictional world of vampires and werewolves? I'm not into this stuff AT. ALL. normally, so why now?" Seriously, this stuff is good. Trust me, even if you don't like sci-fi you'll love this. And if you don't, you're just crazy. ;)

Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani
When Cory and I lived in southern Virginia I taught with a couple gals who raved about the Big Stone Gap books. One such friend loves them so much she bought them in hardcover just so she'd have pretty copies on her shelves. So I figured I'd give the first book a try. It definitely is a southern novel set in the mountains of, um, Tennessee? Virginia? I can't remember. But it takes place in mountains. And it's southern. It was a fun read, but not anything I'd personally rush out and buy in hardcover. The storyline is interesting and a bit quirky, and I'd classify it as something good to take to the beach for light reading.

The Shack by William Young
I first heard about The Shack over a year ago at my Bible Study. Our fearless leader talked about it and it sounded interesting, so I bought it for Cory to read. He read it, loved it, and passed it on to me. I have to say that this book is difficult to read. It is emotionally draining, especially at the beginning, and it forces you to think about what you know about God and His teachings in a whole new way (at least it did that for me). While I don't agree with all the "interpretations" of the Bible's lessons that are presented by Young, I am grateful for the introspection that resulted from them. I HIGHLY recommend this book to

Eclipse by Stephanie Meyer
The third in the Twilight series, this book certainly didn't disappoint. Full of twists and turns, romance, friendship, suspense, and intrigue, I loved this book as much as I did the first two. Again, once I started I could not put it down. Dixon may have even been neglected a bit due to this book. Oops, did I really say that? This stuff is like a drug, folks. Consume it knowing that you'll want more.

The Pact by Jodi Picoult
This was the first Picoult novel that I've ever read. Again, she's a popular author and I don't tend to go for what's popular. And yet again, I am glad I did. Maybe I need to stop trying to be so original with my book selections? Anyway, this was a powerful love story with a tragic twist. I was surprised to find out the Picoult's novels are courtroom-based. I learned a lot about life inside prison, the trial process, and so on from this book and the others I later read. Great read!

Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer
The final novel of the Twilight saga, this book literally is everything an Edward / Bella fan could dream of. I won't give away any plot except to say that readers get what they wish for. Big time. Everything about this book is perfection, except for one thing: it's the last book. Are you convinced that you need to read this series yet?

Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult
I chose this novel as my next read mainly because it was in the stack of books my mother gave me and because I enjoyed The Pact and figured this would likely be good, too. And it was. It was another heartwrenching story centered in a courtroom, and I again learned a ton about our legal system. It's easy to get lost in the storyline of Picoult's novels, so if you pick one up be prepared to be reading for a good chunk of time. And be prepared to shed a few tears.

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
I kept hearing about these "Sookie Stackhouse" books online but really didn't know much about them other than the fact that they are another vampire series. While we were at the beach we went to a bookstore and I inquired about them. I thought the author was Sookie Stackhouse, but it turns out that is the main character. Anyway, these books are totally UNlike the Twilight series. They are super quirky, light, and off-beat. If I hadn't already read Meyer's books I may have enjoyed this one more, but I had a hard time enjoying the author's writing style and the wacky storyline. My mother and sister LOVED it though, and
they both devoured the entire series. I think there's eight books
altogether. I may pick up the next one and give it a shot, but I
doubt it. It was just so-so for me. OH - the show True Blood on
HBO is based on this series, so apparantly lots of people enjoy

How Starbucks Saved My Life by Michael Gates Gill
I spotted this little treasure in the bargain books at Borders. I am a hopeless Starbucks addict so I picked it up for a couple bucks and gave it a whirl. I must say, it was a gem! It is a true story of a man who is at his all-time low in life (in many ways) and lands a job at Starbucks. His experience there completely turns his life around. This book is very inspiring, motivational, and eye-opening. It made me want to rush out to our local Starbucks and give a copy to the familiar faces who serve me my coffee each week. It just made me want to be a better person.
You gotta love a book that does that!

Julie & Julia by Julie Powell
It's extremely rare that I like a movie better than the novel it's based on, but in this case I definitely did. This book was simply OK. There were parts of the story that didn't seem to fit in overall, and there were parts that just drug on too long. I had a hard time connecting with the characters and getting into the story. The movie, on the other hand, was fun and engaging.
I will say that one fun thing that resulted from me reading this book is that I took on my own cooking challenge. A dear friend and I are in the process of cooking our way through an Italian cookbook and it's SO much fun! A happy ending for me from a
book that left me feeling only ho-hum.

Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult
My final selection for 2009 was another Picoult novel. I think this was my favorite of the three I read. But maybe that's because it's freshest in my mind? Who knows. Unlike the other two, this one didn't end the way I hoped it would. There really wasn't any way to have a great ending, because the situation was so complex. That didn't really make much sense. My recommendation is to read it yourself and then you'll understand. It is another heartwrenching novel and surprisingly one that is very spiritual as well. I learned a great deal about religion and the gospels, including the Gospel of
Thomas which I literally knew nothing about before. This is
simply a great read.

So that's it! I went through lots of flashlight batteries and quite a few tissues reading these selections over the past year. I read about everything from vampires to religion and was inspired to travel, be more purposeful in my life, and cook more. I can't wait to dive into my stack of books and read as much as I can in 2010! My goal is to double the amount of novels I read last year. Books are such a joy and a gift!

Happy reading, friends!


  1. Little did you know that I follow your blog religiously. I LOVE hearing about your family and daily life; your writing delights me and leaves me wanting more. I HAVE to comment on this post. I love that you reviewed the books that you read for 2009...funny how I read the first Sookie book recently and loved it, can't wait to read the next one. Then I recently saw that the local library had a book discussion on Twilight last month. I traditionally don't go for vampires either, but figured I would try Twilight now that I have enjoyed Sookie...the exact opposite of your expereince. I am looking forward to reading some of your suggestions, I'm always looking for good reads, but don't want to waste my precious reading time on books that suck (for lack of a better word). Hope you are well and thanks for sharing your journey with me!

    Peggy McAloon

  2. Great recap Annisa! You have inspired me to keep track of the books I read in 2010. I used to do this every year and then got out of the habit a few years ago.