As we wrap up the decade, what better time to mention my favorite books of the last ten years? And, yes, I did keep track of all of the books I read this decade, so I can look back, and say, these are the books that still resonate with me. Here's my toast to ten years of book-related pleasure.
But, let me start by mentioning some of the best book-related events of the last ten years. Three items top the list. In 2008, my niece, Elizabeth, challenged me to see who could read the most books. She was in fourth grade by the time we finished (fifth now), and she beat me. It was a fun way to keep both of us reading. My mother made me a pillow that says, "I had a father who read to me," with a picture of my Dad, and then she ended the decade on a high note, with the gift of the Little Women purse.
It's been a wonderful book-related ten years. I had a great time for five years as Chair of the Authors' Programming for the Lee County Reading Festival in Florida. I worked with wonderful friends, and great authors. Thanks to the Reading Festival, I met Stacy Alesi, the BookBitch. She allowed me to review for her for a few years, until I became so involved in my blog, I couldn't keep up. Thanks, Stacy! And, I learned to blog once I arrived here in Glendale, Arizona, when my boss sent me to a workshop. I want to thank all of the authors I've met via my blog, and Barbara Peters at the Poisoned Pen for introducing me to many of them, and giving me the chance to host them at the library. We've now been hosting authors for Authors @ The Teague for just over two years. It's been a wonderful way to bring authors to the community. In the last five years, I've reviewed books for Library Journal, Mystery News, and now, thanks to Janet Rudolph, for Mystery Readers Journal. Thank you to all of the editors for allowing me to share my opinions. I also had the chance to teach Readers' Advisory classes at libraries in Arizona, a fun experience. A special thank you to Jen Forbus, who continues to push me to do more as a blogger, and do it better. Thank you to the bloggers who have allowed me to have a day to talk about a book, my life, or even food! And, of course, the most appreciation goes to Jim, who encourages me in every book-related activity, bought me cameras, and, most of all, reads right alongside me every night, so I can read as much as I do. Thank you, Jim.
Now, here's my toast, year by year, to the books and authors that meant most to me over the last ten years. In 2000, I discovered Dennis Lehane's Kenzie and Gennaro mysteries. Darkness, Take My Hand was my favorite. I corresponded with Dennis for two months before hosting him at the Lee County Reading Festival. He was funny, honest about his weakness as a moderator, and, since he was writing Mystic River at the time, answered my emails immediately. (I think he was trying to avoid writing.) Now, after the success of his standalones, we may finally see another Kenzie and Gennaro book. I read 148 books in 2000, but it's Dennis Lehane's books that stand out.
I have to say, I read 146 books during 2001, but not one book stood out. It was a good year of reading, but there was nothing exceptional.
In 2002, I drove Jim nuts when I stumbled on Emily Rodda's Deltora Quest series, and tore through them, totally ignoring him while I read the books. It was an intriguing fantasy series. I found Margaret Coel's mysteries, and read everything she had written about the Wind River Reservation. And, I fell in love with Jonathon
King's debut novel, The Blue Edge of Midnight. The book went on to win the Edgar Award for Best First Novel, and deservedly so. So, a toast to a book that I pushed so much at my library that we more than doubled the circulation over any other branch in the system. This first Max Freeman mystery included the most atmospheric description of the Everglades that I ever read. These were my favorite books of 2002, out of 170 I read that year.
No matter how you feel about the book, 2003 was the year of Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code. It was also the year I discovered Jim Butcher's Dresden Files, a series I'm still reading. I read 130 books in 2003. In 2004, I changed jobs, moving from Florida to Arizona. That meant much of the year was in upheaval, so I only read 97 books. None of those books stood out.
2005 brought the debut books for two authors who still remain favorites. Louise Ure went on to win the Shamus Award for Best First Novel for Forcing Amaryllis, a book that still has one of the most striking covers I've ever seen. And, Chris Grabenstein's first Ceepak novel, Tilt-A-Whirl, won the Anthony for Best First Novel. A toast to two of my favorite authors. You were the highlights of the 145 books I read in 2005.
2006 was so special. I read 154 books, including Robert Fate's Baby Shark, Louise Penny's Still Life, and Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas. Now, Baby Shark is looking like it will be release shortly as a movie. Since Still Life, Louise Penny has become a special person in my life. I've had dinners with her and her husband, Michael, along with a couple book friends, Patti and Kay. I own autographed copies of all of her books. Her books appear on my favorites list every year. And, no one writes more beautiful blogs. I've loved Sandra Dallas' books since reading Persian Pickle Club. But, I encouraged so many people to read Tallgrass. Now, it looks as if I'll finally have the chance to meet her in May, 2010, when she comes to Phoenix to discuss her new book, Whiter Than Snow.
2007 marked the end of the Harry Potter Decade, when J.K. Rowling's final book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released. Even more than The DaVinci Code, this was a series that dominated the years between 1999 and 2007. Bookstores and libraries held midnight release parties. J.K. Rowlings' books changed the NYTimes Book Review bestsller lists. Kids and adults throughout the world were reading, and talking about Harry, Hermione, and Hogwarts. And, just like everyone else, I preordered this last book, so I could own my own copy and have it on publication day. It was just one of the 164 books I read in 2007.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows was my favorite book of 2008. It was popular with book clubs, featuring a little known story of World War II. It was one of 169 books I read that year. (But, Elizabeth still beat me in our challenge.)
I ended this year with 201 books, a record for me. It was the year I read two fantastic young adult fantasy books by the same author, Suzanne Collins. Her books, The Hunger Games and Catching Fire were riveting, and I can't wait for the third in the series. But, it was also the year I found a new author, and new friend. Beth Hoffman's book straddles two years, and two decades. Most people won't get a chance to read Saving CeeCee Honeycutt until January. I was lucky enough to be assigned Beth's debut novel by my editor at Library Journal. Beth emailed to thank me after the starred review appeared, and we've been writing each other ever since. I'm not going to get a chance to see her on her book tour in 2010, but I wish her all of the luck in the world. Her book, and our new friendship, is one of the highlights of 2009.
I read 1524 books in the first decade of the 21st century. And, since I seldom finish books I don't enjoy, those books represent hours of pleasure. Thank you to all of the authors who shared their thoughts and hearts over those years. And, thank you to all of the bloggers I've "met" who've commented here, and allowed me to comment on their blogs. So, here's my toast to authors, bloggers, books, and readers everywhere. The last decade was a special one. And, here's a salute, with hope, to 2010, and the next decade of books (in whatever shape they take). I'm sure readers will still be sharing our opinions somehow. It's been my treat to share my love of books with all of you. So, Happy New Year's, and, Cheers!