A year in books

(x-posted at BlogHer. I meant to post it here earlier but I've had a wopping headache for the last two days. sigh)

Since everyone else is doing it figure I might as well. I mean, it's not a bridge they're jumping off or anything. It's their 2006 in review and when you are talking books you're talking favourites and "best of's". I struggle so much with these because I'm a fickle being and what I like changes pretty much daily. I'm breaking it down by categories because my brain likes that idea. It's less stress than picking out just a couple of books.

Fiction
Top of the stack: The Birth House by Ami McKay was my break-away favourite this year. I felt compelled to not only to tell people about it but to buy copies to mail to people because I felt that people *must* read it. It also was the first book that I ever blogged about a BlogHer. A truly wonderful first novel and I can't wait for her second one (but unfortunately I will have to since it's not due to be out until 2008, sigh). I was also lucky enough, some months after posting about the novel, to meet Ami McKay at the International Festival of Authors in Toronto and I'm very happy to say that she's a wonderfully genuine and real person - not to mention very modest and I think a bit stunned by the attention she's gotten.

Honorable mentions:
Marc Acito's How I Paid for College: a novel of sex, theft, friendship and musical theatre. I love books that can make me laugh out loud and this one certainly did. And it certainly has everything that's mentioned in the title. The way that I paid for university was far less errr creative and generally involved lots of debt. I must say it wasn't nearly as much fun.

Lauren Willig's Pink Carnation series, which so far consists of The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, The Masque of the Black Tulip, and The Deception of the Emerald Ring. I have trouble thinking of a way to describe these books aside from fun, fun, and more fun. Generally classified as romance but they have lots of action and adventure and spies! Willig takes a few liberties with some historical events of the time so if you are an expert in the era of the Scarlet Pimpernel it may bug you (but she does provide nice author's notes at the end of the book). If you need some escapism I can't recommend these books more. I highly recommend pairing them with a bubble bath.

Nonfiction
This one is hard because the majority of the non-fiction I read is Canadian (and frequently of the elusive type) or about war (I studied the history of war in university, it still sticks with me). I don't have one book that sticks out as the top of the stack so this is going to be a category of honorable mentions!
Honorable mentions:
Breakfast with Tiffany by Edward John Wintle. If you have a teenager, know a teenager or were a teenager that toed the line of the not-so-well-behaved you like this one. Uncle Eddy brings his niece Tiffany to live with him because her home life is less than stellar. There are issue adjusting, as you would expect.

Julia Child's My Life in France written with her nephew Alex Prud'homme. The story of how Julia came to be a cook and co-write Mastering the Art of French Cooking. A must read for foodies. I was left with dreams of Paris and yummy food.

This one is Canadian and harder to find but I had to mention it - Laura M. MacDonald's Curse of the Narrows. It is about the Halifax Explosion of 1917. During WWI Halifax, Nova Scotia was a major port for the war effort. On December 6, 1917 two ships, the Imo and the Mont-Blanc, collided and exploded. It was the largest man-made pre-atomic explosion. MacDonald did her best to tell the personal stories of people who lived through it and I found it a fantastic way to tie together all the events because it allowed the reader to connect to them. Warning: I do *not* recommend snacking once you get to the events following the explosions, especially during the hospital scenes.

YA
Top of the Stack: Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. This book causes obsession. Perfectly sane adult women will find themselves swooning (and no other word will do) over a perpetually 17 year old vampire by the name of Edward Cullens. There is something magical about Edward and Bella's relationship. It's impossible to describe what it is but it pulls you in and won't let you back out until about 2 days after you finish reading this book. And then you'll probably go out and buy the sequel. And once you finish the sequel will curse the fact that the third book in the series doesn't come out until October 2007.

And just because I'm me the Elusive Canadian Book Category:
Top of the Stack: The Boys, or, Waiting for the Electrician's Daughter by John Terpstra. This book was nominated for a Canadian nonfiction literature prize (actually Curse of the Narrows was also nominated for the same prize, neither won) and I positively loved this book. Terpstra wrote this book for his three brothers-in-law who all had muscular dystrophy and died in their early 20s. They were collectively known around the neighbourhood as "the boys" and they will worm their way into your heart. They had just a joy for life that it will make you determined to live yours more fully.

For me this was very much the year of the book blog. I've been blogging about books for about 1.5 years but book blogs seems to have exploded this past year. I went from almost exclusively reading my friend's book blogs to discovering a rich community where people talk about books and examine literature. They walloped my "to be read" list which this year evolved from a simple list to a excel spreadsheet. I've tried my hand at challenges and decided I'm not so good at them (I rebel against lists!) but I love to read about how others are doing with their challenges. I've read more books this year than I have perhaps ever and it's largely thanks to blogs that I've increased the variety of what I read. So my many thanks to those of you who talk about books - you've made this past year richer to me.