10 Books That Rocked My 2010

A look back at some of last year’s most excellent reads:

10. The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff: If you’ve encountered me in the past year, you might have heard me rave about this book. I got to read an advanced copy, and as soon as I was finished, I was desperate for the book to publish so I could talk about it with the rest of the world. It’s chilling and lovely and weird and not like any book I’ve read before. I’ll be Brenna’s fan for life.

9. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins: I’m hesitant to add this book to this list because I’m sure so many of you have already read it, and also because I had such a complicated with reading this book. I fell hard for the Hunger Games, and harder still for Catching Fire. But I struggled with Mockingjay. I had so many questions about the choices that Collins made. I wanted it to be different. By the time I finished the book, I was satisfied with the way the series ended, but frustrated with a big part of the journey in the third book. Mockingjay goes on my list because it was still an important book for me this year and because it made me think a lot about the expectations readers have at the end of a series.

8. The Glory of Angels by Edward Lucie-Smith: this is an art book that explores artistic depictions of angels across history, religious, and cultures. It’s more a coffee table-stunner than a curl-up-and-read kind of thing, but it is so beautiful and such a great reference that I’m throwing it on the list. I bought it last month in the gift shop of the oldest cathedral in Santa Fe and just know I will be pouring over it when I sit down to write Rapture in a few months. If you’re all about angels, you will surely dig this book.

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The Passion Pastiche

While you’ve been patiently waiting for Torment

I’ve been hard at work on the first draft of Passion. It’s third book in the Fallen series, and a prequel to everything that occurs in Fallen and in Torment. In its conception, this book felt like an impossible project to me: It covers a span of 5000 plus years, dips into a new setting, a new country, and usually, a new century with each new chapter. And it aims to explain just about every important moment that ever passed between Luce and Daniel. Definitely the biggest narrative challenge I’ve ever given myself.

I was nervous before I started writing it. I’d had such a great, fun, charmed experience writing Torment, but I know this book was going to be much more complicated, much more taxing. Just as I did when I started writing Fallen, I turned to books for help. Only this time, in addition to the theological research books I used for Fallen, I also got to look at some of my favorite novels for help with period and setting. Recognize any of these?

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You think YOU read a lot?

Try going head to head with Jason. Behold the list of 100+ books my favorite PhD candidate has spent the past 5 months reading.

Yes, the monster list, taped on the back of our closet door, is taller than both of us and took three photographs to capture. But Jason still managed to slay it. See all the little check marks?

For the past five months he’s been preparing for his oral exam, which he takes this Friday (!!!). For three hours, three professors will grill him on any/all of these books, asking questions like “How would you teach this text in an introduction to Shakespeare class?” And this is just the first of two monster tests he has to pass before he writes his dissertation. Hear that, all you future English PhD’s out there? Are you scared? (I’m scared.)

So around here, it’s been one book a day, every day, for five straight months. He wakes up in the morning, he reads. I take the dog for a hike, he reads. I fool around online for seven hours, he continues to read. Because these are major doorstops of books. Tomes. Like on Tuesday: he sat down and read the Bible. The whole thing! Another day he tackled the very thrilling Shakespeare’s Perjured Eye: The Invention of Poetic Subjectivity in the Sonnets. Sounds like a real page turner, huh? Today he’s reading Paradise Lost. He’s got serious speed-reading skillz.

I marvel at his reading stamina and am feeling very proud that he’s made it through this list. As if it wasn’t already before, his brain is certainly a goldmine now.

So good luck on Friday, Jason, and thank you for always flagging the angel references for me. xx

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Selective Reading (re-post)

Happy torrentially downpouring Monday from Los Angeles. Thought I’d throw this short essay up today in case anyone missed it from my guest blogging at Beatrice last week:

When I was ten months old, my mother made an appointment with our ear doctor because she thought I was deaf. Hearing the story told for the first time to my husband recently, I was impressed by my mom’s verve as she relayed the family lore. Her eyes lit up telling of the placid way I’d stare into space when she tried to reason with me, how often I ignored my name being called.

A half-hour doctor’s visit revealed perfectly sound hearing in both my ears, and left only one explanation: at less than a year old, I was already selectively hearing my mother. (This is when my dad chimes in: “smart kid.”)

When people invoke the term “selective memory” or when my mother refers to my lifelong “selective hearing,” they’re referring to a way of tuning out what, for whatever reason, we don’t want to retain. Those terms get a bad rap, but I’d like to make a case for selective reading—tuning out or tuning up certain moments in a narrative—as a key to reading fiction.

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