write meg!’s 2010 reading honors

At the end of another year come all the mandatory reflections. Did I keep any of my new year’s resolutions? Am I happier now than I was last year — smarter, wiser, kinder? Did I make an effort to change my life in some positive way?

Or, you know, did I read enough books?

This year marks my third annual recap of the books I devoured in one year’s time, and this year’s tally stands at 85. Last year I awarded top honors to Justina Chen Headley’s North Of Beautiful; Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Interpreter Of Maladies; Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief; Megan McCafferty’s Second Helpings; and Eva Rice’s The Lost Art Of Keeping Secrets. I think I chose well — especially since the details of each of those novels are still crisp, clean and accessible to me — more than a year later. I loved them now as I loved them then.

I can only hope I’ll choose so well moving forward.

In 2010, my reading diet expanded greatly to include many advance reading copies and other novels I might not have picked up on my own — and I’m grateful for their appearance in my life. One of my top choices, Margaret Dilloway’s How To Be An American Housewife, was a review copy sent from Goodreads. As I’m often stingy about buying hardcovers, I might not have grabbed this one on my own . . . and I would have missed out on one of the most compelling reads of the year. I’m grateful that it landed in my mailbox.

This year, I read less young adult fiction than I did the year before — and more historical and women’s fiction, two of my favorite genres. Though I became busier in 2010 and felt like I was making less time to hunker down with a good book, I still managed to finish 86 novels — down only three from 2009.

In 2011, I want to concentrate on reading more of what tickles my fancy and less what I feel “obligated” to crack open. It will be The Year I Read Whatever I Want — within reason, of course! I have plenty of review copies in the queue and am looking forward to serving on the literature panel for the Indie Lit Awards. Beyond that? Well, I’m going to be completely subject to my own whims and fancies.

And without further nonsense from me, I bring you . . .


Meg’s Top Five Reads of 2010

1. Aidan Donnelley Rowley’s Life After Yes

As I wrote in June, “Every now and then, a novel like Aidan Donnelley Rowley’s Life After Yes finds its way into my life, and it’s moments when I’m reading a book like this — where I feel like my own face is reflected back at me — that I experience what I can only call literary magic.”

Six months later, those words are still true — and Rowley has only further endeared herself to me with her fresh, realistic dialogue and a protagonist with whom I could so sincerely relate. For all her quirks and craziness, I love Quinn — and I have the distinct impression that Life After Yes will be a book that I will grow to love more with each re-read. And it’s definitely one I’ll be opening again in the future.

Tell your sister, tell your girlfriends, tell your coworkers — for me, this is The Book. I loved it, pure and simple. It’s my Top Read of 2010.


2. Margaret Dilloway’s How To Be An American Housewife

There aren’t too many books that reduce me to tears in the middle of public places, but Dilloway’s glowing, masterful How To Be An American Housewife was one such book. I

In July, I divulged: “If it’s any further proof of my love, too, I completed Housewife on a long lunch break from work. I desperately wanted to finish it just as much as I didn’t want it to end. I wound up returning late to my desk, shame-faced and tearful, after the conclusion of an exquisite story.”

That’s right, friends: this book made me late for work. If you’re seeking a story about love and loss, the identity we create for ourselves and the one others craft for us, family, hope, grief and hope . . . well, it’s all here. I’ve shared this book with almost everyone I know.


3. Kathryn Stockett’s The Help

I suppose the inclusion of this best-seller comes as a shock to no one, but all the glowing items written about The Help are, in fact, true. Despite its size and weight, I couldn’t put this one down — and actually carried it everywhere for days, including on my way to a blind date in the spring. It occurred to me that my would-be love interest might think it was strange to see me walk up with a fat hardcover, but I figured that if he didn’t get just how into books I was, he probably wouldn’t be for me. (He wasn’t, and I met Spencer a few days later — everything works out.)

Maybe it was because Skeeter, a writer and woman who dreams beyond her world right now, reminded me of the best possible parts of myself — or the parts I hope to be. Maybe it was Stockett’s colorful, memorable characters, or the flawless way in which she wove so many alternating stories and voices together. Perhaps it was the compelling arc of this storyline — and the painful reminder of America’s less-than-just past.

Whatever the reason, The Help has earned a forever spot in my heart — and in my bookcase. Share it and discuss it, then see what changes for you. It’s an inspiration and, for Stockett, a triumph.


4. Robin Brande’s Fat Cat

It’s hard for me to believe I read this book back in February; the details are still so sharp. For all her struggles with weight and her feelings about Matt, the “object of Cat’s ire (and secret desire?),” Cat was someone I would have loved to chat with, walk with, learn from. She’s a realistic, compelling and positive role model — a truly awesome character to get to know.

Fat Cat is one of the most original and memorable young adult novels I’ve ever read, and one I hope to share with my own kids someday. It’s also a great example of the amazing work that can come from the YA community — and the perfect book to hand to a skeptical adult questioning why you, a full-fledged adult yourself, would be reading books “for kids.” It’s not about what’s “for kids” — it’s about books that strike a chord, are well-written, change lives. And this? This is good writing.


5. Melissa Senate’s The Love Goddess’ Cooking School

For as much as I enjoy eating, books and hot guys, The Love Goddess’ Cooking School satisfied me on all levels — plus, I got the happy ending I so crave in stories. With each new novel, Melissa Senate proves to me again why she’s quickly becoming one of my favorite authors — and I closed her latest book with a hankering for a steaming bowl of pasta and a kitchen of my own.

As I wrote earlier this month, “Since beginning this warm and engaging novel, I’ve been dreaming of tiramisu, spaghetti with Bolognese sauce, lasagna and ricotta cheese. As someone who feels she must have been Italian in another life (pasta, I love pasta!), the odd stains scarring the pages of my copy may or may not be drool. The prose was just . . . scrumptious. And Senate describes Holly’s creations so well, you’ll want to throw this one down and make dinner every time you finish a chapter.”

I couldn’t agree with myself more.


Most Surprisingly Awesome

Julie Hearn’s Rowan The Strange

When I first learned I’d be reading Rowan for the Nerds Heart YA tournament earlier this year, I was pretty much horrified. I mean, look at that cover. It’s so creepy and awful. And when I read the synopsis — a story about a disturbed teen sent to live at a mental hospital during World War II — my wariness only increased. What had I gotten myself into?

Well, I’d gotten myself thick into Rowan Scrivener’s world — and what an amazing place that turned out to be. While this wasn’t always a pleasant or feel-good read, Rowan The Strange is definitely a book that will go down in history as Proving Meg Wrong About First Impressions. We’ve all been advised to “not judge a book by its cover,” but I’d never realized how true that was until this book. Though hard to find in the U.S., I promise it’s worth the hunt. And Nicole, my partner in the competition, agrees.


Most Overhyped

David Nicholls’ One Day

Oh, expectations: they can really ruin you on books. Like The DUFF, my runner-up in this category, I went into this novel with such high expectations for greatness. In the end? Well, I wound up angry, disappointed and borderline disgusted. I felt like I’d wasted my time and money, to be honest, and the only reason I didn’t score this one lower than a three — my lukewarm rating that should be accompanied with a shoulder shrug — is because Nicholls is, for better (Starter For Ten) or worse (One Day), a brilliant writer.

And the reason I chose this title as my “Most Overhyped” over, say, Kody Keplinger’s book? Well, at least I could see where other readers were coming from with The DUFF and why they enjoyed it while I loathed it. When it comes to One Day, I seriously missed the boat. I’ll be frank: I just don’t get why people love this book. I truly don’t. (And if you’re in the “rah rah, this book is awesome!” camp, I hope we can still be friends.)


Book I Enjoyed In Spite Of Myself

Lindsey Kelk’s I Heart New York

Reading the first 30 pages or so of Kelk’s debut novel, I thought, “Okay . . . here we go with this again.” It seemed implausible to the point that it was ridiculous, and it never really got any better. Everything about it felt cliche and over-the-top, including the effortless way in which the main character achieved her wildest dreams . . . and landed a hot guy, of course.

But as much as I wanted to dislike this one, I really couldn’t. It was wildly entertaining and good for a few laughs, plus I really identified with Angela’s personal column and attempts at making it in the city. Plus, having gone to New York in May, I really loved seeing the city again — and through the eyes of a Brit. It wasn’t a perfect book by any stretch, it was still a good read. And I’ve been conducting a clandestine love affair with that cover since October.


Book That Awakened An Obsession

Cathy Marie Buchanan’s The Day The Falls Stood Still

So I’m a teeny bit obsessed with Niagara Falls. I visited for the first time when I was in college, then again in August with Spencer. It’s a place I think about often, dream about, read about — and one I’d nearly forgotten until I read The Day The Falls Stood Still,  a moving and melancholy look at a woman’s life on the shores of the famed waterfalls. After I finished, I was eager to consume anything I could find about the natural wonder . . . and when I found out that my new boyfriend was from the Niagara area, you can bet I was plotting a way to find myself up there soon. I loved it — and this lyrical novel.


Book That Made Me Glad I’m Out Of High School

Katie Finn’s Top 8

Back in the stone ages — or, you know, the ’90s and ’00s — email and the Internet were still a relatively new concept. No one had ever heard of Facebook or MySpace; in fact, neither had been invented yet. If we wanted to get in touch with our friends, we had to join an after-school club or group, like drama or cheerleading, then call home to talk to our buddies on our families’ land lines. I got my first cell phone when I was learning to drive at 15, but I never even turned the thing on. We were all safe in the bubble before texting and Twitter. And as much as I love those things, I consider that “the good ol’ days.”

Reading Finn’s Top 8 was enough to make me writhe in awkwardness. The opportunities for humiliation online are endless — especially when you’re communicating with tons of people you actually “know.” I’m glad I avoided all that, let me tell you. And darn if my kids will be all up on The Facebook (or its 2027 equivalent) someday.


Most Likely To Get You In Your Car En Route To Anywhere

Morgan Matson’s Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour

The perfect summer (and beach) read, Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour had me wanting to sit around making mix tapes and traveling the country with a good-looking stranger — all while crafting a new life apart from the lonely one I may have led on a different coast. “Engaging, touching and ultimately hopeful,” it’s a book I’d highly recommend to anyone looking for a fun story to remind them about the restorative powers of travel . . . and true friendship.


Biggest Heartbreaker

Craig Thompson’s Blankets

If ever there were a book perfectly capturing the obsession, euphoria and eventual debilitating loss of first love, it’s Thompson’s Blankets, a hefty graphic novel that cracked my heart in two. Though rarely one to read a graphic novel in the past, it’s the sort of book that really makes you change your misconceptions about other genres. At least, it was definitely that way for me.

Even now, a year later, looking at the cover makes me happy and sad at the same time. Much like thinking about love we’ve lost and learned from — even when it hurt.

Not to be all melodramatic, but you know — losing your first love sucks. And Thompson knows that. And then sketched it. I cried and cried.


Other books I loved in 2010 . . .

The News Where You Are by Catherine O’Flynn
Friday Mornings At Nine by Marilyn Brant
I Remember You by Harriet Evans
Lost by Jacqueline Davies
The Summer We Read Gatsby by Danielle Ganek
Get Lucky by Katherine Center
The Summer We Fell Apart by Robin Antalek
The Evolution Of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

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35 Comments

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35 responses to “write meg!’s 2010 reading honors

  1. What great categories, and what great books! I loved The Book Thief and The Interpreter of Maladies, but I also really loved One Day…sorry! The ending broke my heart in pieces, but I loved it anyway. And you just reminded me I need to see if Get Lucky is in audio at my library…I loved Everyone’s Beautiful! I’m reading what I want this year too. It may end up looking like hodgepodge, but I’m tired of commitments dragging me down.

  2. Thank you so much for your kind words about FAT CAT, Meg! I’m honored!

  3. What a great list! And I love the way you broke it down!
    I’m glad you said that about One Day… I haven’t read it yet but have it in my review queue and just keep not feeling that interested in it. But then I see it on “best of” lists everywhere and feel like I need to read it. I was going to read it now but I’m sort of glad I passed it up for This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper because I’m loving it.

    I have the Day the Falls Stood Still on my TBR. It’s actually one of two that I have regarding Niagra Falls (I think anyway). Glad to hear you liked it because I’m excited to read it and I can see the potential for me to get obsessed with the falls too, lol.

  4. Lu

    Excellent choices!!! I really need to get around to writing my end-of-the-year post, but I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. My favorites on this list were definitely Fat Cat and Blankets.

  5. Ok, I haven’t read any of these, but I think I would like them all! I need to do some serious work!! :)

  6. jpetroroy

    Great choices–I felt the same way about One Day. And just added a bunch more books to my list ;)

  7. scoutlee

    Life After Yes and The Love Goddess’ Cooking School are two purchases that I haven’t read yet. They are on my “Must Read in 2011″ list. I Heart New York is one I have, but yet to read. The title grabbed me immediately as I heart NYC too. Your list is great, although my TBR list doesn’t feel the same as I added more titles to it thanks to you!

    Here’s looking forward to 2011 being the year we read whatever we want!

  8. Really wonderful list, Meg. So glad to see Melissa Senate’s book on your list, too! Happy Holidays! xo

  9. Wonderful list, Meg! I just got an e-copy of “One Day” from my library- I’m going to give it a try, but even if I like it I still wanna be friends, LOL!

  10. I loved this post, Meg…I have read some of these and will read more…have a lovely New Year!!!

  11. Such a great list! Looks like you had a wonderful year of reading. There are many on here I loved as well (and may in fact show up in my own wrap up) and many that I hope to read in the coming year. Many great wishes for the coming year :)

  12. Rowan makes my top surprising picks too.

  13. silverneurotic

    I wish I had read that many books. I’m lucky to get through one-though I flew through The Help on my new Kindle. Maybe that’s the secret to reading books quickly.

  14. What a great list! Wow on the 86 books! Way to get some good reading in. :)

  15. I loved reading your post for the wrap-up of your favorite reads. I may have to come back to it from time to time. But one thing I took away is that I will be making sure that I read Life After Yes!!

  16. Great post! I can see my TBR list is going to be expanding a bit.

  17. Your blog inspires me to read more! I love it :) I’m so happy LSATs an applications are going to be over within days of the new year because I’d love to read, read, read as you do. Many of your Top 5 are already on my list of things to read and I’m glad to see you liked them; it makes me so much more excited to read them.

  18. i’m putting 4 of your top 5 in my to-read pile (i’ve read the help and LOVED it) as somehow i’ve missed those.

    i love reading all of your recommendations!

  19. Okay, I guess that we can still be friends even though you didn’t like One Day. I wasn’t really aware of the hype, just finally got to reading the ARC earlier this month. Maybe you have to be older, have a checkered dating past, or need to have a “one that got away and never even knew that you liked him”. It also probably helped that I am the same age as the characters, so much of it I could relate to and remember…fondly, I guess. It made me cry and not many books do that unless they are about dogs dying or grandparents with Alzheimer’s.

    Merry Christmas to you and Spencer:)

  20. Looks like I need to get to Fat Cat, I keep hearing such great things about it. I loved Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, such a great road trip story along with some depth of meaning.

    You had a great year :)

  21. Thank you so much, Megan! I’m so touched and honored to be on your list (your blog is a favorite and a morning stop of mine). And huge thanks for the Amazon review–I am blowing kisses at you!

    And I added a few new books to my ever growing to-read list, so thanks for that too!

    (And thanks wonderful Rebecca!)
    :) Melissa

  22. What a fantastic ‘Best Of’ selection! i definitely want to read ‘Life After Yes’. It sounds wonderful.

    Happy New Year, Meg. I hope 2011 is filled with happiness and awesome books.

  23. Oh, what a fabulous post! Love superlatives. Reminds me of high school.

    I haven’t read many books on your list. I definitely need to read LIFE AFTER YES, especially after how much you liked it!

  24. This is my favorite “Best of…” list that I’ve seen so far (and you know there have been 100s!). I loved the different categories and although I’m typically a YA reader, your top 5 of the year have me seriously considering changing my reading habits. I did read The Help and was completely obsessed with it. Thanks for being such a constant source of reading inspiration!

  25. Meg

    Thanks for all your kind words, everyone — I loved putting together my favorites list! And you’re all hereby ordered to report back with your findings in each and every bookish case.

  26. Thanks Meg, I may pick up a few of your favorites, I think there were 2 I haven’t read.
    Wishing you joyous reading in 2011!!

  27. fantastic list! i remember going out and buying ‘life after yes’ after reading your review of it, but i just haven’t had the time to read it. seeing it on your list reminded me that i need to read it.

    hope you’re having a great holiday!

  28. So lovely to see The Day the Falls Stood Still on your year end round up. And thrilled to have awoken an obsession.

    Cathy

    http://cathymariebuchanan.com/
    http://www.facebook.com/cathymariebuchanan
    http://twitter.com/CathyMBuchanan

  29. This is a great list Meg! Thanks for sharing it!

  30. I know what you mean by One Day. I really liked it while I was reading it and wrote a positive review of it on my blog, but I was also disappointed and angered by the end. Most of all, looking back on it now, despite the pleasure of reading a well-written and fast-paced book, I ended up just feel manipulated, never a good feeling when reading a book.

  31. I too really loved Rowley’s Life After Yes. I have been trying to get everyone and anyone to read it hoping that they could connect to the Quinn the way that I did. Ahhh … just hearing you talk about it makes me want to delve in all over again.

  32. I loved the way you structured this list – it was so creative! I’ve read a good number of these, and you can bet I’ll be taking a very close look at the ones I haven’t.

  33. kay

    Great list Meg, I love that you didn’t only talk about your favorite books! Your top five is all either on my TBR pile or on my TBR list, but this makes me sad that I forgot to include Blankets in my list – it certainly deserved a spot!

  34. Great post! How to Be an American Housewife made my “best of” list, too. Happy new year!

  35. i’m glad you made it to 86!
    the 100 book challenge was harder than i thought it’d be,
    and i ended up reading a bunch of novellas toward the
    end because i felt so pressured. awful, lol. i think
    this year i’m going to read whatever i want too.

    i’m sad that i didn’t read any of the ones you listed in this entry (except for ‘amy & roger’, which i really liked), but i suppose that means i can read them this year (well, the good ones anyway)! ;)

    i also crave books with happy endings :P
    <3