Wednesday, December 28, 2011

YA Highway: Road Trip Wednesday #5

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered.

This Week's Topic
We're combining today's RTW with Highwayer Sarah Enni's End-of-the-Year blog carnival, and asking:
What were your top five favorite books of 2011?

I'm lucky if I remember my top five favorite things in a given week, so a year's time span is a little tough for me. Luckily, I can aid my memory by looking back at my orders on Amazon, and at my reading history on my library account. Side note--I've only been a member of this particular library for a few months, and it's the first I've ever used that had the feature of recording your reading. I know there are privacy concerns about libraries recording the reading habits of patrons. But having the ability to do so for myself rocks. 

(Off to consult the record).

Having refreshed my memory, here goes:

1. White Cat & Red Glove, by Holly Black. I'm torn about whether or not I should give each title its own spot, but really, as a part of the same series, they feel like part of the same reading experience. But they are awesome enough to each deserve their own spot! Just had to put that out there. 

 2. Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family Feuds, by Lyndall Gordon. This biography nicely straddles the line between an academic and a popular work. I learned so much about the craziness of Dickinson's family life. Apparently her brother was having an affair for decades with a woman who was friends with the whole family. The whole family was aware of the affair, and it had huge ramifications for them personally, and for the publication of Dickinson's work posthumously. Truly wild.

3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie. I know, I'm years late to the party on this one. But I loved it, of course, and it's definitely one of the top 5 of my year. 

4. Extras (Uglies Series) by Scott Westerfeld. Again, I'm like 4 years behind the curve on this one. But I just love the series, and somehow hadn't read Extras. The reputation economy idea hits that elusive sweet spot between imagining tech-related concepts that feel relevant today, and concepts that won't be dated almost immediately. 

5. Mortal Instruments Series, by Cassandra Clare. I'm cheating again by lumping together books from a series.  What I love about Mortal Instruments is that it's fun and engrossing. It's not high art, but so what?

I'm going to take a little detour of my own and make a list of the 5 worst books I read in 2011.

1. The Unauthorized Biography of Angelina Jolie, by Andrew Morton. I love trashy celebrity websites/magazines/books, but this one was a total disappointment. I learned nothing new, and half of what was supposed to be new seemed fishy. Bah. 

2. Introduction to Cataloging and Classification (Library and Information Science Text Series) by Arlene Taylor. I can't place all the blame on the author, but after reading this textbook for a course on cataloging and classification, I still have only the most basic grasp of these concepts.  I now view catalogers as the high priests of library science. Their mysterious rites are beyond me.

3.  The Wind Up Girl, by Paolo Bacigalupi. I liked the concept, and I really wanted to like the book. I couldn't get past the first forty or so pages. We just weren't a match.

4. The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, by Steven Pressfield. This book creeped me out. I liked the idea of inner inertia trying to win, but I felt like the book was trying to brainwash me somehow. I would be scared to meet the author, and tossed the book across the room after a few pseudo-chapters (seriously, the chapters are like a paragraph long).

5. Many Lives, Many Masters: The True Story of a Prominent Psychiatrist, His Young Patient, and the Past-Life Therapy That Changed Both Their Lives, by Brian L.Weiss. I only got a few sentences in before I pitched it aside. You can practically feel the author's narcissistic personality disorder oozing from the pages.  Seriously, if you have any interest in reincarnation, this is one book to avoid. It has killed many trees and given nothing in return.


  1. I almost picked up Diary of a Part-Time Indian the other day. Kicking myself now.

  2. An eclectic list. I also want to read Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Maybe my next Kindle buy.

    BTW, your link in the RTW comments isn't working for me. I had to search on your name to find your blog.

  3. @Alison--Yeah, it's definitely worth buying. I don't know why I hadn't read it until recently!

    @Karen--Thanks so much for letting me know about the link! Hopefully my updated comment now works (crosses fingers).

  4. Nice list! And I loved that you included the 5 worst reads ;)

  5. I've read all the UGLIES series apart from EXTRAS. I enjoyed UGLIES, but by the time I got to SPECIALS, I wasn't loving it as much. I'll probably read EXTRAS next year, but it's not high on my TBR list. Sorry! There's something about the characters and premise of Westerfeld's LEVIATHAN series that makes it far more compelling to me than UGLIES.

  6. @Juliana: Thanks! It feels good to get the negative ones off my chest ;)

    @Colin: It's funny, I'm the exact opposite. I don't have any interest in Leviathan. Got to give Westerfeld credit for creating such a diverse body of work!

  7. White Cat is on my TBR pile. I've only heard raves about it.

  8. It's amazing. I bow down before Holly Black!

  9. You know, I am not particularly drawn to Leviathan either... I read (and loved) the UGLIES series but never got around to EXTRAS. Now I feel like I should! Thanks :) And that Emily Dickinson bio looks like a fun read!

  10. I think Westerfield does a really great job of exploring the kinds of issues with which teenagers are typically preoccupied (the significance of physical beauty, identity, authority, popularity) against a pretty legit science fiction backdrop, using the scifi as metaphor but also leading the reader into consideration of "bigger" ideas. And because the central character is undergoing constant transformation -- which is another big force teenagers have to cope with -- the series evolves book to book in a way that seems pretty unique to me.

  11. @Crystal: Go for it! The bio. is a great read but also dense at times. But it's worth it.

    @Pat: I agree. Also, Westerfeld's not afraid of really flawed female protagonists, which is another point in the series' favor.

  12. I still haven't read any Scott Westerfeld, but he's cropping up on everyone's lists, so I'm adding him to my TBR stack.

    BTW, I'm totally stealing your "worst list" idea for next year. Love it!

  13. I have not read the Uglies series yet but they are on my list :-) By the way glad to find another trashy celebrity websites/magazines/books junkie :-)

  14. @Commuting Girl--The trash is the best, right? I'm not at the level where I sit around having conversations about that stuff, but it's such a guilty pleasure. And I like the guilt!

    @Ordinary Addictions: It really felt good to get the bad ones out there :)