My Favorite Reads of 2010: #10, #9, #8

January 11, 2011 § 5 Comments

Happy (belated) New Year! Since there’s a dusting of fresh, 2011 snow on the ground, I thought I’d give all of you out there who are stuck inside due to cold another top ten list to review (does anyone really get sick of top ten lists? I know I don’t).

You’ll note that the “reviews” don’t look exactly like traditional book reviews. This is because I happen to be rather undiscerning in taste and like almost everything I read. I also know about how hard it is just to write and publish a book, so I dislike the idea of bashing another person’s work just to have something to write about. Mainly, I just made a few notes about what I thought, and offer you some pointers to decide whether or not you’d like to read it.

Okay, so without further yapping on my part, here’s the first part of the list: numbers ten, nine, and eight.

10. Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

Some thoughts:

There’s a reason full-fledged kid riots break out every time a new one of these babies hits the shelves: they are hilarious. Every one of them. I’ve chosen the first book for this list, but the truth is I could have chosen any Diary book for this spot and it would still be accurate. Kinney portrays middle schoolers with more accuracy than I’ve ever seen in any book. I’m not completely convinced he isn’t still in middle school himself. My other theory is that he’s got a basement full of middle-school aged elves working for him.

Pick it up if:

  • you’re in the mood for something fast and funny
  • you’re looking for a book for a kid in grades 5-8
  • you want a good “starter” graphic novel to see if you like them

Shelve it if:

  • you want something more literary
  • you’re looking for a “book-report-suitable” book for a kid (many teachers frown on these books as reading choices…a bummer for sure, but better to avoid the hassle)
  • you were born with absolutely no sense of humor

9. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Some thoughts:

Persepolis is a valuable read for a lot of reasons, but I’ll tell you what got me interested: I wanted to learn more about the Middle East, but I didn’t want to read a textbook or a “for Dummies” guide, as valuable as those sorts of resources can be. I wanted to put a face on a place I knew little about, and Persepolis ended up being the perfect read.

It’s not a book about the contemporary conflict in the middle east—in fact, this biographical graphic novel takes place mostly in the late seventies and eighties, and chronicles Satrapi’s coming of age story during the Iranian Revolution.

Pick it up if:

  • you enjoyed “The Diary of Anne Frank” and/or “Fun Home” by Alison Bechdel
  • you’re know little about the middle east other than war coverage
  • you’re looking for an engaging biography to curl up with

Shelve it if:

  • first-person narrative gets on your nerves

8. Parrot in the Oven by Victor Martinez

Some thoughts:

This book works on a lot of levels. As a young adult book, it’s accessible and realistic. As a story about families, it contains a lot of nuance that I think frequent readers of young adult fiction will appreciate. And as an example of how vignettes or short fiction snippets can work together to form a strong novel, it’s fantastic.

With each page, we learn a little more about the difficult life of Manuel Hernandez, a Mexican-American teen trying to grow up despite a chaotic home life. But the amazing thing is that we learn so much about him despite the fact that the plot is set up almost as a series of short-short stories. In fact, one of the best things about this book is the plot is loose enough that you could probably pick up the book in the middle, read it through, and still enjoy it. Great for readers with short attention spans, or those who are looking for a good book to share as an excerpt with a class. I often read it when I’m writing flash (super short fiction) and want good examples of tight, contained writing.

Pick it up if:

  • you’re a fan of Sandra Cicernos
  • you want to read about a range of great characters
  • you’re in the mood for something a little different, but not too different

Shelve it if:

  • you’re in the mood for something more action/adventure
  • you’re looking for a traditional plot line

Alrighty, then. Stay tuned for next three titles on the final countdown (cue cheesy eighties song).


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§ 5 Responses to My Favorite Reads of 2010: #10, #9, #8

  • Carrie says:

    Good start, I’m looking forward to the next batch of reviews. I’ll probably end up adding quite a few to my “52 books in 2011” reading list. 🙂

  • Rachel says:

    Looks like I will be visiting the library again soon.

  • Kait Buck says:

    I read Persepolis last fall, and what you said is dead on! If you want insight into why the middle east is the way it is, this is a good place to start! Right before this I read The Battle for God by Karen Armstrong, and it bored me to tears. Satrapi’s comic actually gave me more historical insight into Iran under the Shah, the Iranian Revolution, the Iran/Iraq War and Islamic fundamentalism in Iran. She also uses her black and white panels to make bold statements that you won’t gather just by flying through the text.

    Oh and she’s really funny. Especially in the first book when her insights are that of a child’s.

    Right on, Marissa! :]

  • Laura says:

    I absolutely loved the film version of Persepolis. Interestingly, Satrapi said in an interview that one of the reasons she wanted the movie animated was so that the story could remain as universal as possible–so the viewers wouldn’t file it away as just another batch of Iranian issues, but rather to look at universal human issues–but I feel like it definitely helped me understand “what’s been going on there” so much better than any other source I’ve tried out. I was happy to see the book on your list!

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