Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009--My Year in Blogging and Reading (My Top 12)

To sum up the year of blogging feels nearly impossible to me. It has been absolutely huge in scope and so much has happened that I can't even believe it. It has been exciting and fun and discouraging and just like all things in life--I learned lessons. Or at least I took steps towards learning those lessons, I fear I may have to relearn them again, as I can be quite stubborn.

Some of the important things I learned:

*There's great value in meeting online friends. And it's a lot easier and more comfortable than meeting strangers. I am amazed at how connected I feel to some of you now and how much a part of my life you are. We talk nearly every day, we share one of our greatest passions in common (books) and now that I've spent time with you in real life...I can imagine you saying's pretty cool. But even those of you I haven't met in person are still so dear to me and very real. I hope to meet A LOT more of you this year at various events.

*When fun and exciting things happen because of your blog not everyone will be excited for you. It's still easier to say things publicly on a blog about other people than you would do in real life and the written word can still be misinterpreted. The forum for discussion in the blogging world is still very public.

*But I've also learned it's not worth it to stick around for the drama. While people's feelings are valid and their own and people themselves should be respected, I'm a lot happier reading posts that bring life than posts that plant the seeds of dissension. Not all things need to be known or discussed, I want to blog to share the books I love and I want to read blogs that introduce me to new books, that challenge my complacency of thought, that stir my hear to compassion, and remind me of a greater reality.

*The more I blog about books and the more I get to know other people who love books whether they be authors, publicists, readers, or other bloggers, the more I realize how much the written word matters to me. I love the bookish community fiercely and I hope that my blog is a positive contribution. I hope, in some small way, that I'm making a contribution to the good of it more than to the bad of it (honestly I know I had a lot of missteps this year) and my dream remains the same--that I will help people discover the books that will change their lives.


When I reflect on the year in reading, it's much harder. You can see an overview of my top 2009 published works at the Book Smugglers blog but I kept that post to 2009 published works and I want to list the top reads of the year here that are well, the top reads of the year regardless of when they were published.

In no particular order:
The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
I thought this was an outstanding and thought provoking little novel that moved me deeply and whispered of truth even amid it's many questions. I wrote on the book and film, but I'd like to requote my favorite passage of the book again today:
The tectonic layers of our lives rest so tightly one on top of the other that we always come up against earlier events in later ones, not as matter that has been fully formed and pushed aside, but absolutely present and alive.

The Dead and the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer
I liked Life as We Knew It but this one I preferred for both it's darker reality and more hopeful view of faith under trial. Pfeffer's post-apocalyptic world feels so real, that when I'm reading the book I'm fully in the story, and the characters and events continue to live in my mind long after. I can't imagine reading these books without being moved to cherish the quickly passing moments of life just a little bit more and abundant blessings of our times.

The Body of Christopher Creed by Carol Plum Ucci
I loved this YA novel's exploration of how our actions affect others...we do not live and act in isolation...and the mystery of what happened to Christopher Creed. How much do we hold ourselves responsible when our actions have real consequences? What is reality? Highly recommended.

Nothing But Ghosts by Beth Kephart
Beth writes words that can be read multiple times and you will find new meaning. Even now trying to write about this book again makes me want to reread it. I loved the characters and their sadness and their tentative efforts to reach out and find life and hope in each other. Beth writes hope without being cheesy or cliched. She's really one of the best we've got if you haven't read her yet, why not?

Hate List by Jennifer Brown
The rich characterization in this book alone makes it worth reading. I cried A LOT while reading and I suppose it's because you can't really tackle such a heavy subject matter without dragging life's pain into it. I was absolutely consumed by it, I couldn't stop thinking about it, I didn't want to stop reading it..and I hope I'm a bit more of a compassionate person for having read it.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
The follow-up the Hunger Games was better than the first one in my humble opinion as the cruelty grew and the stakes were raised. And Peeta became even more awesome.

The Passion of Mary Margaret by Lisa Samson
I still think of the raw hunger I felt in my belly to know God more deeply when I finished this book. It's so hard to know God on a daily do the little hard things that chip away the walls around my heart. But a lifetime of doing them will result in the deepest, best, and most important relationship in my life. This book illustrated to me again that I can know God, that He's real. I loved this book and I wept through the ending.

Love's Pursuit by Siri Mitchell
Another reminder of the power of hope ("no hope is small") and the fierceness of God's love, I loved this gorgeously crafted novel.

A Disobedient Girl by Ru Freeman
I loved this heart wrenching and beautiful novel about identity. I felt so much for these characters and I appreciated the exploration into their class systems and circumstances.

Short Girls by Bich Minh Nguyen
I suspect Bich Minh Nguyen is one of the great writers of our future if Short Girls is any indication. I really don't think I read a book with equal characterization or attention to detail this year. I don't remember seeing a lot of people having read it, so I hope more will find the time to read it.

The Midwife by Jennifer Worth
Some memoirs are pure gold and this is one of them. I loved the stories shared and the narrator's journey through them. It was addictive reading and pretty much as good as reading gets.

Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr
Last but not least is this fantastic YA novel about a pastor's daughter who has lost her faith. And there's a mystery and maybe a little romance too.

Whew! Honorable mentions include, A Reliable Wife, Sometimes We're Always Real Same-Same, Secret Keeper, The Adoration of Jenna Fox, If You Come Softly, and Tender Grace.

I have no idea how many books I read and I don't even keep a list of what I read, so I have no stats for you on anything. These are just 12 books that stood out for me, that I loved, that I still think about, and that I hope you will consider reading in the coming year.

It's been a great year of's to an even better 2010!



Natasha @ Maw Books said...

What a beautiful recap and lessons learned from 2009! I loved not only meeting you once but twice this past year and am thrilled to call you MY FRIEND Amy. Here's to a great 2010!

Beth Kephart said...

I, too, look for beauty, and I find that and real friendship here. Thank you so much, My Friend Amy, for this post, for all your posts, for you.

Clare - The Super Mommy Club said...

What a wonderful recap of 2009. I have only heard of one of your top 12 books - might have to add some of the others to my ever-growing wish list!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Wonderful words, Amy!
Your blog always possesses insight and inspiration and I enjoy reading it!

Rel said...

Amy - it has been a pleasure getting to know you this year and I really look forward to that growing in 2010. Great post :)


Unknown said...

What a lovely recap of your reading and blogging year!

I've got a couple of books on your top-ten for reading over the next 12 months, should be fun! :D

Anonymous said...

I've also decided that divisive posts are better off ignored...I like my little bubble. :-D

Happy 2010!!

Sandy Nawrot said...

I would expect nothing else but a thoughtful moving year-end post from you Amy! As a new blogger, I have learned from you and the leadership role you take in our community. I also might add that I have more than a few books added to my TBR list because of you, many of them listed here!

Amanda said...

I can't imagine not keeping stats. The OCD in me won't let me do that! :)

Elisabeth said...

Amy, what a beautiful summary. I totally relate/echo your sentiments in #4. I've been blown away by the community I've been introduced to by beginning to blog about books. And, The Passion of Mary Margaret is now on my TBR pile. I've been needing another book since Captivating (have you read it?) and it looks like that may be it. There may be a few others added as well, including Beth Kephart. I haven't read any of hers, though (obviously) I've been reading a lot about her here. Which of hers should I start with?

Anonymous said...

Amy, thanks for sharing such a thoughtful post with all of us. Reading your blog has been a highlight for me. THE HATE LIST was on my list of top reads for this year as well.

I hope you have a lovely New Year! Big hugs to you and take care!

Julie P. said...

I love your list and really need to read THE PASSION OF MARY MARGARET! I forgot about THE MIDWIFE and how much I loved that book. I guess that's why I just can't bring myself to do a list because I have such a hard time remembering and limiting myself at the same time!

Lenore Appelhans said...

I can't believe you don't keep track of how many books you read!

So honored I got to hang out with you in May and December :)

Beth F said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for introducing me to Beth Kephart's work. I am so happy to have connected with you this year. Really.

Michelle said...

See, again you do the awesome Peeta justice by referencing him in your thoughts here! LOL

I count myself luck to have had the opportunity to meet many bloggers in person (yourself included) this year and I'm excited for the same in 2010. It really is amazing that the extended family that this community provides gets wider, deeper and more diverse with every month. I feel so fortunate to have been included and accepted.

Wishing you a successful and happy 2010!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful recap.

Happy New Year!

kay - Infinite Shelf said...

This is a great list Amy! Which also reminds me that I still have to read Hate List.
Happy new Year!

Literary Feline said...

You did have a big year in blogging and reading this year. You're such an asset to the blogging community. I don't know what we'd do without you, Amy. Best wishes in the New Year.

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

Amy - you are GEM. I'm so glad to have met you this year. Your blog is a wonderful place to be. :)

Have a wonderful new year!

Kelly said...

I'm loving all these "best of" lists! I just posted one too. It looks like we both have Catching Fire, but I see quite a few on your list I need to read. Especially Hate List and Once Was Lost (waiting for the library to get that...argh!).

Florinda said...

A great recap of the year, both in books and life. I'm glad we met in person (a few times!) in 2009, and I hope to see more of you in 2010! SoCal Book Bloggers ROCK :-D! (BTW, my husband just bought us tickets for the first 2 days of ComicCon - are you going again?)

Happy New Year, Amy, and thanks for everything.

Susan said...

I like your choices :) The only one that I've read is The Reader, but I didn't really car for it. Congratulations on having such a rewarding year in reading and blogging!

Happy New Year!

Holly said...

Great list! I love reading your blog. Check out our top of 2009 list here

Looking forward to 2010

bermudaonion said...

Amy, you are the Queen of all Book Bloggers. You do more for this community than anyone else and all of your hard work has a very positive impact. I'm proud to call you a friend. I've only read 2 of your top picks, but I have others in my TBR pile.

Unknown said...

Those are some good lessons you learned in 2009 and I hope other will take example (I definitely will). You have been doing wonderfully this year, taking part and initiating all kinds of events. It was a pleasure to follow you this year Amy.

Have a happy New Year! And never get discouraged by people who might not be as happy for you as they should.

Stephanie said...

What a great list of favorites! The only one I've read is The Hate List. Happy New Year!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

A lovely post as usual! Wishing you all the best for 2010, Amy, including of course another win for GameOn!!!

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

Great post Amy. It has been a great experience starting to blog books this year and to meet so many wonderful bloggers out there like you.

Have a Happy New Year and here's to many wonderful reads in 2010!

Carrie K. said...

Thank you for taking the time to write such a thoughtful post about your year's experiences! I loved getting to know you better in 2009, Amy, and look forward to more fun blog and Twitter conversations in 2010.

Jen - Devourer of Books said...

I'm so happy that I got to meet you this year, Amy! I'm excited to see you again in May at BEA, and I'm hoping we can hang out some other time, like if you want to come to Chicago sometime this year...

Ana S. said...

I need to read The Body of Christopher Creed! You, Debi and Renay can't all be wrong :P

Some of the things I've come to realise about blogging were pretty much the same as yours.

Debbie's World of Books said...

You listed some great books. I really want to read Once Was Lost soon.

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