A friend recently read Room by Emma Donoghue on my recommendation and asked if I had any others she should put on her list. Well, her request is perfectly timed because as of yesterday I am at the halfway point in my Goodreads Reading Challenge. I’ve read twenty out of my goal of forty books in 2011. I realize that while I may be halfway there, the year is more than halfway over, so I’m a little behind. But I am confident that if I can continue to read while at the gym and before bed, and if I can figure out a way to read while swimming, doing household chores, and driving, I will succeed.
In any case, a halfway point is a good time to pick some favorites. If you want to see the whole list, I’m keeping it up to date on my original 40 Books in 2011 blog post. In that post, I’m also listing the star rating (1 to 5) that I’ve given each book on the Goodreads website, so you can see where they land on my spectrum of awesome to not-so-awesome. Please check out that post anytime to follow along.
So far, 2011 has been a year of memoirs. In my adult life I haven’t been much of a fiction lover; I tend to gravitate toward memoirs and other non-fiction. Three of my favorites so far this year land in the memoir category:
Mira writes about growing up with her sister, her schizophrenic mother, and an absent father; and the difficult choices she and her sister made to protect themselves, physically and mentally, in their adulthood. She doesn’t hold back, and the experiences that she recounts are rich with heartbreaking, and occasionally jaw-dropping, detail. This book will give you some food for thought about how America’s health system cares for (or rather, does not care for) the mentally ill.
Just hilarious. Tina Fey writes about the awkwardness of her youth, and adulthood, in her trademark candid and witty style. I highly recommend reading this one after reading more serious fare (basically any of the other four books in this list); it will lift your spirits immensely.
Melissa Coleman writes about her childhood growing up on a homestead in Maine with no electricity or indoor plumbing. Her parents were closely affiliated with the Back to the Land movement of the 1970’s which emphasized self-reliance, organic farming, and vegetarianism. Melissa’s account of the joys, hard work, and heartbreak that went along with her parents chosen lifestyle is fantastic. I caught myself second guessing a LOT of the Coleman’s lifestyle choices, which probably says more about me than it does about them. I secretly would LOVE to pack it up and by 60 acres somewhere and live off the grid. (Shh…don’t tell my kid or my boyfriend that, they both would disown me, I’m sure).
Rounding out the top five (so far) are two works of fiction, one which you’ve no doubt heard of, and were perhaps forced to read in high school or college, and one that you may have heard of more recently. Both were made into movies this year, go figure.
Can you believe that I never read this classic before this year?! Me either. I was inspired to read it when I found out that Mia Wasikowska (who I think is a fantastic young actress who stands out from her peers, but that’s another blog) was starring as Jane Eyre. So I committed myself to read the book before the movie came out. I was immediately engulfed in the book. Couldn’t put my Kindle down. I definitely recommend this book if you’re into creepy Victorian England, mental illness, orphans, women’s history, and cradle robbing older men.
I put this book in that class of gut wrenching fiction that once you start you can’t stop; because the story is so heartbreaking you just have to power through. I could also classify it as fiction based on a real historical event, a genre that I love. Specifically, the story alternates between World War II and the modern day, mostly set in Paris. The historical event that the story revolves around is the Vélodrome d’Hiver roundup, when French Jews were arrested and deported. If you are a parent, or HUMAN, be prepared to sob. I never fail to be horrified when I learn new things about World War II.
Now, I embark on the second half of my journey to 40 books in 2011. Onward!