Some detailed numbers are coming out for US publishing in 2009, and according to Crains, it was nowhere near as bad as it could have been. Books sales essentially held their own, and if e-books are included, even experienced a slight increase.
I began reading much more in 2009, after a several-year hiatus and self-imposed regimen of nonfiction-only books. There’s a funny thing about some fiction writers. I’m not the only one who finds it slightly difficult to read other people’s fiction to any great extent as I’m writing my own. I especially want to avoid reading in a similar sort of fiction niche to what I am working on. Sometimes.
I have some recommendations of particular books that I enjoyed reading this past year – each is geared toward a different sort of reader, and two are fiction, and two not.
For the adventuresome, my top book of the year is Crazy for the Storm, by Norman Ollestad (Ecco, 2009). This perfectly-told book isn’t just a survival story, it’s a deeply-personal memoir of a son and his father. I first saw Norman Ollestad on my Channel 11 news describing the book and I didn’t like the guy much on TV. After seeing the book in the store several times, I finally picked it up and started reading (because I can’t resist any near-death adventure), and realized what was really behind what felt to me like self-entitlement and arrogance over the television camera. The book is so deeply-felt that it would be difficult for anyone to repeat verbally what Norman Ollestad has written. The book intersperses Norman’s memories of his father, who was really one-of-a-kind, with his story of surviving a horrific plane crash atop Mount Baldy in 1979. At only age 11, Norman had to survive and get himself down off the mountain in a snowstorm, following the deaths of his father, his father’s girlfriend, and the pilot. It’s really one of those books that has to be read for itself; honesty and eloquence are the best words I can think of to describe every page.
Next, a very different book, for very different readers. I think few teen readers would be able to resist Wake (Simon Pulse, 2008) by Lisa McMann. I couldn’t put the book down, and best of all, every line rang very true to me. Wake is the first of a three-book series that introduces the character of Janie Hannagan, who can’t help being sucked into the dreams of her friends or neighbors whenever she and they are asleep at the same time. Janie’s relationship with “bad boy” (or is he?) Cabel Strumheller is great. I remember those days. A real page turner, the book’s honesty puts it far above the average contemporary teen book with extra “supernatural” added elements.
I’m currently super-happy about the fact that I bought Badass (Harper, 2009) based solely on its cover. Here: I’ll show you why.
History grad Ben Thompson, who got his start at Badass of the Week website, selected some of the best Badasses of the Week to feature in this giant swinging nutsack of a book. If you buy this book, I guarantee that your balls will grow into giant, freeway-spanning stainless steel orbs that you can use to smash the face of your mailman or decapitate that bill collector who keeps texting your cellphone. Or, from a female perspective, this book will teach you how to, with a single glare, unman that guy who cut you off on the freeway ramp, fix a five-course meal with both hands tied behind your bank, and give you the agility to leap straight up to your third-floor balcony and kick the living crap out of your neighbor who’s secretly letting his dog take a dump on it when he thinks you’re away.
With not-so-good attention a few years ago, I read at The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold (current edition – Back Bay, 2009). As previously reported, this is the first book that I read on my Kindle. I haven’t read enough on the Kindle yet to authoritatively say, “reading is better on the Kindle,” and that may not be true at all.
Reading this moving, compelling book is great on the Kindle, however. Throughout this holiday week, The Lovely Bones was my companion. I could quibble with a few things here and there, but overall, this is a book that more than deserves its success. It may not deserve the Peter Jackson film adaptation, which looked so interesting in its trailer, but which is still in limited release, with not-very-good reviews, and those, of the rare nature from critics that sort of do ring true. It may be that this is a story that is not easily filmable, even by such a gifted director as Peter Jackson. As it stands, film or no film, this is one of the rare books that can reach a very broad range of ages and types of readers. If you have not read it before, please consider reading it now. It is difficult to put down, mesmerizing, and very moving.