So a while back, Ang and I thought it would be fun to do another comparison post, this time focusing on what each of our three favorite books were from last year.
We kept putting it off until this week and I got started. Then, she went and did her post on fear and gratitude, and I really have nothing better to write about, so I'll still put this up here for now.
Last year was a good year for me with books. I enjoy reading, but it was never a serious pursuit for me, yet I focused last year and read 40 books last, which I'm sure has to be a personal best. I tried a bit of everything-fiction, non-fiction, business, philosophy, historical-I never really knew where I was going next until a day or two before.
I started a reading journal during this time. At one time, I tried sharing the books I was reading online, but I never felt comfortable with the rating systems of these sites. I don't think my opinion of a book has any relevance to other people and what they like or dislike, so I closed the account. Now, I rely on a green Moleskine I keep in my office that I note my details about the book (title, author, page count, genre, year it as written, and when I read it) as well as general impressions. This journal came in handy doing this post.
Also, as a side note, I've tried my best not to reveal anything about the plots of the book-it bugs me when people who synopsize books for their own blog posts-so it should be spoiler free.
1) One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Márquez
I read this one back in February and as you know , things leak out of my brain like water through cheesecloth, so my reading notes definitely helped refresh my mind. The story focuses on seven generations of the Buendía family and their connection to the rise and fall of the mythical town of Macondo.
I'd been interested in magic realism, working with it in my own writing, which lead me to this book. I found it a complex, compelling, absurd, and wonderful read. I became absolutely engrossed in this world, as it slipped between the real and surreal in the breath of a sentence, I often would often feel dazed and lost as I tried to get my bearings.
I know I missed a great deal of the symbolism and metaphor that operated in the work and my lack of knowledge of Latin American history impeded my full appreciation of it. Nevertheless, the beauty and the heartache and the constant struggle of this family to survive stayed with me for a long time afterward.
2) A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean
As a teenager, I had been a fan of the Robert Redford film , and when Coudal Partners said that it was "a perfect book which was made into a seriously imperfect movie," I had to find out why.
The story focuses on Maclean's relationship with his brother and his wife, taking place along the great trout rivers of Western Montana. Autobiographical and more of a long short story than a book, the way he writes is beautiful. I'm a fan of Hemingway's short fiction and "Big Two-Hearted River" is one of my favorites of his but where Hemingway pulls back and remains on the surface, Maclean digs deep into the marrow of history and emotion as he considers rivers, fishing, time, family, and life with humor and tragedy.
In both Márquez and Maclean's stories, I had a very real sense that I knew they'd end tragically, but the writing was so strong and powerful, I hoped they wouldn't.
3) Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig
When I was a teenager, I found this book in the school library and always thought I would read it. I never did, which may have been a good thing, because I don't think I would have appreciated it at that age.
Pirsig said that the book was really "two different book...comingled here, one about ideas and the other about people," and this is what I found so compelling.
The framing story is about a man travelling across the States with his son on a motorcycle. As they move through each stage of their journey, the father reflects on his knowledge of a man called Phaedrus, while also building a philisophical argument around the seemingly opposed ideas of form and quality.
It's an amazing craft of words, a balancing act that consistantly twisted me around with reveals and ideas and emotions that carryied me right to the last page. It was my favorite book of the year.
I wanted to mention a few books that never made the list but still had some importance to me over the last year:
- Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
- River in Dry Land by Trevor Herriot
- The Craftsman by Richard Sennet
All of these books were compelling in their own individual way, making me think or feel deep emotion, whether it was sadness and pain or surprise and happiness.