write meg!’s 2008 reading honors

write meg!
2008 reading honors


Another fabulous reading year has come and gone, and it’s always great to reflect on times past and present! I found some great new authors this year, spent a ton of time with Edward Cullen and Bella Swann, discovered the simultaneous awesomeness and craziness of BookMooch and LibraryThing, started my little book/life blog and have stayed up way too late wrapping up novel after novel.

And in honor of the overall bookishness that was 2008, I now present the write meg! 2008 honors! Yes, I know — incredibly exciting! I should have made some little graphics or something, but unfortunately time has been scarce. Perhaps for 2009?


Fastest Read

Cracked Up To Be, Courtney Summers

A fast-paced, surprising and poignant young adult read, I finished this one in a matter of hours.

Runner-up: The Solomon Sisters Wise Up, Melissa Senate

This chick lit book had me captivated from day one: three sisters, a lifetime of distance and a few weeks to make up for it. Great read.

Funniest Read

Marley & Me, John Grogan

Grogan’s story of the wily, “worst dog” in the country and his tender family had me laughing — and crying — the whole time.

Longest Read

Breaking Dawn, Stephenie Meyer

The fourth tome in Meyer’s Twilight series packed in the plot — and page count. It totaled nearly 700 pages but had me running through it like water.

Brain-Hurting Read

Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander, Ann Herendeen

This historical romance couldn’t keep my brain from going into overdrive — the language was antiquated, the plot quite disorienting. I wanted to like it — and tried valiantly to — but couldn’t quiet my headache long enough to really enjoy it.

Most Poignant Read

The Longest Trip Home, John Grogan

Any child will relate to Grogan’s story of rebellion and redemption — and the ultimate power and grace of family. Grogan appears on my list twice — lucky man!

Best Read Outside My Comfort Zone

Maus, Art Spiegelman

Spiegelman’s classic graphic novel following his parents’ experience and ultimate escape from the Nazi regime was spell-binding. As a total graphic novel newbie dating a graphic novel expert, I was hesitant to try this one — but was very pleasantly surprised.

Most Addictive Book Series

The Twilight Series, Stephenie Meyer

Okay, no real surprise here. They might not be the most eloquent, well-written books around (yeah, they’re not), but the story of a difficult, brooding vampire and his mortal lady love had me carrying the books around in my beach bag nonstop. Great books to get lost in — and continue to enjoy discussing after the fact. My sister’s on Eclipse right now!

Biggest Disappointment

Remember Me?, Sophie Kinsella

After enjoying Kinsella’s Shopaholic series and other works, I expected something more than the trite and unappealing Remember Me? Good thing it was an ARC.

And, finally . . .

write meg!’s Top Read of 2009

Belong To Me, Marisa de los Santos

An absolute master of language, De los Santos penned two fabulous books in Love Walked In and Belong To Me. I actually enjoyed this sequel more than the original, though Belong To Me can certainly be enjoyed on its own. Boiling over with beautiful imagery and caricatures as well as love, grief and ultimately hope, I had a difficult time putting this one down — and never wanted it to end.

Book review: ‘The Longest Trip Home’ by John Grogan

About halfway through John Grogan’s affecting and honest memoir The Longest Trip Home, I could feel a strange tightness in my throat beginning to build. I didn’t need to analyze what it was — I knew what was bound to happen. I knew the story could not have an inherently happy ending. But, like Grogan’s story itself, the goal isn’t necessarily about the happiest of endings — it’s all about the journey.

In a phenomenal example of a memoir reading as quickly, briskly and amusingly as fiction, The Longest Trip Home is Grogan’s story of growing up in a strictly Catholic home in Michigan with his mom and dad and older brothers and sister. If you’ve read Grogan’s stellar Marley & Me, consider this the “prequel” — this is everything leading up to where Marley picks up Grogan’s life as a newlywed. For the last few chapters, Marley and The Longest Trip Home cover the same ground — albeit from very different perspectives. But both explore the ending of a well-lived life.

This is a story of many things — relationships with parents, friends, siblings and lovers; aging, deterioration and changing attitudes that accompany growing older; rebelliousness and the need to sometimes fight against the wishes of our parents; growing up and moving on; forging a new identity that has nothing to do with our upbringing; family constituting more than blood . . . and faith.

Largely, this is a book about faith. Richard and Ruth Grogan are staunch, “old school” Catholics who attend mass daily, lead religious organizations in their communities, take family vacations to religious sites where the Virgin Mary is believed to have been sighted and cry after receiving the Eucharist. Growing up in a Catholic family, I noted wryly many of the traditions I’ve witnessed myself over the years, grimacing at points as Grogan began to slowly slip away from the faith his parents embraced so firmly. John notes, at one point, that his father considered himself a Catholic above all else — a Catholic, then a husband, father, son, etc. Mr. and Mrs. Grogan weren’t necessarily defined by their faith — they were their faith.

As John enters his teenager years, makes friends with a few rebellious but kind-hearted boys in the neighborhood and spends more and more time fantasizing about women (and the nuns of his Catholic school) than praying the rosary, his parents begin to adopt a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy with their youngest child. John stops attending mass regularly, smokes with his friends and loses his virginity — all “secrets” he guards, keeping them away from his parents’ attention in an effort to protect them. Despite his rebellious attitudes, he still can’t stand to disappoint them. Even as a thirty-year-old living hundreds of miles from home, Grogan can’t bring himself to tell them news they don’t want to hear.

What makes The Longest Trip Home so powerful is Grogan’s frank, honest storytelling — as a reader, I got the sense that there was little he wouldn’t share if asked. Now a father of three (including two teenage boys), Grogan reflects upon his own relationships with his mother and father, examining how and why he began to lose track of the religion that meant so much to them.

But this book isn’t about religion as it is about how religion can alter, change and come to define relationships. Despite the growing rift in their beliefs, John loves his parents fiercely and unconditionally — often choosing to leave out important details of his new life with girlfriend (and later wife) Jenny in order to spare them the heartache of his behavior contradicting their religious convictions. But over the course of his lifetime, all these little omissions and lies begin to pile up until, at one of the most heartbreaking moments of the book, John is forced to acknowledge a truth Mr. and Mrs. Grogan steadfastly refused to see.

By the close of the book, I was gulping for cool night air while trying to steady myself. John may not have lived his life precisely the way his parents would have wanted him to, but there was certainly no doubt how proud they were of him. By the time his father’s death in 2004, Marley & Me had already become a bestselling novel. Thank goodness Mr. Grogan was able to share in his youngest son’s great success.

There’s an indefinable quality that made The Longest Trip Home one of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time — something real. I think it has to do with authenticity — about honest and sincere acknowledgement of differences, and the opportunity to see past them. This is a book about family — and this is a book about unconditional love.

And I loved it.

5 out of 5!

ISBN: 0061713244 ♥ Purchase from AmazonAuthor Blog
Review copy obtained as a perk of being a bookseller