Top ten books, 2006

I woke up this morning, sandwiched between the two Milton men in my life. Greg was facing east, Zack the west (he had joined us around 6 am), and both boys were snoring. Unable to move without waking them, I started thinking about the books I've read this year - the ones I loved, the ones that gave me pause, the ones I read 50 pages from and returned to the library. Here's my top ten.

  • Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli Stephanie Spencer (aka 'Mason's Mom') suggested Stargirl over the summer. YA is my weak spot - I haven't read much of it since I was young, if that tells you anything. No wonder Spinelli is so widely recommended; the writing feels spot on for the tender teenage years.
  • Utterly Me, Clarice Bean by Lauren Child When reading to my kids at night, I need, I demand, something funny from time to time. British author Child writes great picture books as well (Charlie and Lola is a Playhouse Disney cartoon these days). I loved reading this dry chapter book out loud each night. My laughter was genuine.
  • The Doctor's Wife by Elizabeth Brundage Over the summer, I sought out novels by new authors. It just feels good to recommend a fledgling writer; help boost a career. This is a creepy suburban tale, a little dark and spooky, but lots of fun.
  • Possible Side Effects by Augusten Burroughs This was the latest installment of books by the author of Running with Scissors. I read each new book immediately. They are crude and sad, disturbing and hopeful - not everyone's cup of tea, I'm sure. But his personal story is so compelling; I share his disbelief that he is still alive. I root for this guy.
  • Iran Awakening: A Memoir of Revolution and Hope by Shirin Ebadi There has been a lot of talk about Iran over the past year. Edadi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, outlines her life during the Shah years, the revolution and modern day Iran. She has fought for women and children's rights in a country that values neither. I was struck by her commitment to her country, when she could have fled. She dreams a better dream for her fellow Iranians. It's an inspiring story from a strange land - one I don't completely understand.
  • Lipstick Jihad: A Memoir of Growing up Iranian in America and American in Iran by Avadeh Moaveni Ok, so I gravitate towards themes while I am reading. Moaveni grew up in the Silicon Valley, but her family's heart was always back in Iran. I always picture Tehran, and frankly, it doesn't appeal to me. But when I heard her describe her family's estates, or the mountains or the coast, I grew fond of the Persian culture. There was a lot to love. Unfortunately, when she worked as a reporter in Iran, she was subject to the same laws and religious zealots as her native countrymen. Everything she wrote had to be approved by her state-sanctioned companion. It was an interesting contrast to Edadi's book; both haunted me.
  • Aloft by Chang-rae Lee I have picked up this title several times before I finally read it, while sick this fall. I love Lee's writing style. He writes long, beautiful sentences. I can't wait to read his 2 previous books in 2007.
  • Between, Georgia by Joshilyn Jackson Did you read gods in Alabama? Ok, if you haven't please give it a try. Jackson is funny, irreverent, light. (Or check out her blog, Faster than Kudzu) Between is her second novel. I am not a big 'chick lit' girl, but this book made me giggle and cry. She's one of my favorite new writers.
  • Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos This is Kallos's first novel, recommended to me by several people over the year. I was a dope for not picking it up sooner. Do you believe that broken folks can find a happy ending? Kallos did. And so did I after reading this book. I was left with long lasting, if not sappy, warm fuzzies that went on entirely too long after I closed the book. No really.
  • How to Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee The last time I read Mockingbird, some teacher was forcing me to do so. I remembered liking it, but I just couldn't appreciate it under the gun. I reread a couple of months ago. It is a masterpiece, flawless. No only regret is that Lee didn't go on to write another novel.

Did I find 10? I think so. It's time for bed. (After I read a little of the new Stephen King, of course.)


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