Per aspera ad astra

Seventy-Two Percent

December 31st, 2008

One of my goals for 2008 was to read 100 books. As of this afternoon, I have 71 (and will at least eke out a 72nd by tomorrow). So no cigar. Regardless, I think I did well. My books are from a range of genres (sci-fi, Judaism, basketball, YA, Russia, grammar, etc.) and I even knocked out a few classics I’ve been meaning to read.

Rather than clog up your page with a list of my books (check out my Goodreads if you’re interested/want longer reviews), here are the best/worst of the bunch:

1. The Kite Runner : Khaled Hosseini
2. Atlas Shrugged : Ayn Rand
3. Three Cups of Tea : Greg Mortensen & David Relin
4. Doctor Zhivago : Boris Pasternak
5. Midnight’s Children : Salman Rushdie

Runners-Up (and equally recommended):
Do They Hear You When You Cry? : Fauziya Kassindja
I Know This Much Is True :
Wally Lamb
The History of Love/Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close : Nicole Krauss/Jonathan Safran Foer (married)

Happily, it was much easier to narrow down the Worst- I read so many fabulous books this year, but the few terrible ones stick out like sore thumbs.

1. A Separate Peace
It bugs me that so many of my Worst Books are required readings in high/middle school/Korean SAT prep courses. There’s not much I can say about ASP except Ugh. John Knowles, next time make a semi-sympathetic narrator, and kill off the martyr character using a disease/complication that actually exists.
2. Island of the Blue Dolphins
As much as I love stories with a self-sufficient female protagonist, this book fell short of my expectations. Fans will say it’s better because it’s based on a true story, but I feel there’s a large difference between a 20-30 year old woman (True Story) and a twelve(?) year old girl being marooned on an island. So, okay, it’s a coming-of-age-Robinson-Crusoe story. I wish it had been written by a woman, preferably a culturally-sensitive one, because O’Dell’s cautious storytelling robs the book of what it could have been.
3. Robinson Crusoe
Some people have a problem with the premise- but I think a novel about someone on a desert island, even with religious overtones, has potential written all over it (look at something like Life of Pi- okay, there’s a tiger, but Crusoe had a dog AND cats). This story was just dry, insensitive, and overly pedantic, without even having the grace to be well-written.
4. Hairstyles of the Damned
Book Summary: Whine Whine Whine. I’m Punk.
5. The Twilight Trio (I didn’t bother with the 4th, after hearing devotees spurn it)
I understand why these are so addictive for the tweens and teens (hell, after the Required Books like RC and ASP, I hardly blame them for wanting some action). But wow, are these terrible. Vampire coolness aside, here’s the summary: Spineless female protagonist with unhealthy addiction for emotionally dependent boyfriend. Thrilling!

Here’s to 100 in 2009!

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