Here it is January 4th and I never wrote a 2010 wrap up post or my goals for 2011. I had every intention of doing so, all last week I thought “tomorrow.” Last week ended up being filled with a whole lot of, well, nothing. We watched movies, slept, and read by the fire. The rainstorms battering Los Angeles fueled our desire to hunker down and be bums. I have to say that with very little instruction, we imitate sloths like we were born to it. Alas, all good things come to end. Today, Keith was at work, the kids were at school, and I spent multiple hours in the car.
It seems a little late to go into last year, but I noticed on my twitter feed the question ‘what was the best book you read in 2010′ still popped up today. It’s a question I’ve answered differently the last few weeks. One would think that the term “best” would mean only one, but such a person doesn’t live with an adolescent daughter who names multiple best friends. For me, it’s a toss up between two books, Room by Emma Donoghue and The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt.
Room makes it into the lightening round as a uniquely written book. Donoghue perfectly created a world and kept the reader within a very restricted point of view. The author carefully fiddled with the English language and subtly gave new meaning to everyday words. The story matches the level of writing. Ma is my new heroine. I’ve heard mothers say they’re sure they would have done the same thing. I’m not so sure, really not, I’d like to think so but I plan on never finding out. Most importantly, I’ve spent far more time thinking about the book than it took to read it. (I can probably count on my body parts how many times I’ve thought that about a book.) It’s a quick read packed with questions about our society and lifestyle. Why do we blame the victim? Is TV junk for our brains? We talk about what is important, but does how we allot our time reflect our values? The book is a jewel that surpasses all my criteria: beautifully written, solid story, great ending, and thought provoking.
If Room feels like something new, The Children’s Book is a model of the well crafted family saga. Byatt’s writing is lyrical. The main character is a children’s book author and the tone throughout draws the reader in like a fairy tale. This book is what it describes, but much more. The literary, historical and art references interwoven into the story weren’t just side notes, they were fully incorporated and moved the story forward. In my opinion, Byatt took the family saga genre to a whole new level. It is a 21st century modern Dickensian novel.
I’ve thought a bit about trying to decide between the two. I found that when I answered a twitter or Facebook question about my favorite book, if I picked one over the other my last decision wasn’t intellectual, it was emotional. I read 65 books last year (low for me, but in fact my 2011 goal maybe to read less books rather than more). Deciding the top two was an intellectual exercise, mostly described above. But, the times when I picked Room as the best book seemed to be when I was running around and active, the book charges me. When I shot off a message answering The Children’s Book, it was when I was craving cozy. The Children’s Book is highly thought provoking, but it isn’t really upsetting or jarring, it’s a fabulous curl up on the couch and read.
How did you choose your favorite book of 2010? Was there one stand out or a close match? If it was close, what tips the balance?
Today I decided not to choose. When Vroman’s sent out a tweet asking for my favorite book, I answered both. Maybe that’s a good new year’s resolution, I choose not to choose.