If I could look at one thing I enjoyed throughout 2009, it was the free time I had to read. There were a handful of books I started reading but didn't finish (because I was distracted by other more engaging books) and one or two I simply started and quit reading. There were also books I wasn't impressed with and others that pleasantly surprised or entertained me. All in all, I read 60 books. It's not that impressive a number, but it's significantly more than I've read in a year before. Depending on how the job situation works out, I may be close to that this year. Some of the books took longer to read, and some were quite quick reads. I know that I read some books that people may find offensive, but I have thick skin or something, I guess.
Anyway, here are the books I read:
1-7. The Harry Potter series- I had read these books through once before, and I enjoyed reading them. I wasn't a HUGE fan of the Harry Potter movies I'd seen, but seeing the movies I'd seen got me interested in reading the books. After reading the books, I realized just how much was left out of the movies and how intricate the stories are. I think it is quite apparent that J. K. Rowling spent years and years and years outlining the story for the books, and I think she is a brilliant writer. So, when the series was finally available (and in paperback for much cheaper!), I jumped on the opportunity to own the books. The stories get longer and the writing more advanced as the series progresses, which is brilliant. After all, her young readers get hooked early on and develop along with Harry Potter himself. The language does get a bit more "adult" as well, but there aren't more than a spattering of words in the later books that people might deem unnecessary. I talked my husband into reading the first book, and he ended up reading the entire series. He would read a book, then I would re-read it, and we would watch the movie. The movies became a little disappointing after reading the books, but I fell in love with the series all over again.
8-12. Josi Kilpack is an LDS author I discovered in 2009 whose books I can't get through the library now fill my Amazon wish list. Our church book club read Lemon Tart, a somewhat predictable but entertaining culinary mystery with fattening and delicious recipes sprinkled throughout. One of the older women at church then checked out another of Ms. Kilpack's novels from the library and told me all about it, twice. So I checked out her books Unsung Lullaby (which really spoke to me and had me in tears more than once), Surrounded by Strangers, To Have or To Hold, and eventually the sequel to Lemon Tart, English Trifle. There are a few LDS references in some of her books, but I would venture to say that they are suitable for people who are not LDS if they don't mind the occasional references.
13. Pamela Hansen's Running With Angels- This was another book read through the church book club. It spoke to me in various ways and I thoroughly enjoyed it. This author has lived through some tough situations I couldn't even imagine, and I felt as though I was reading something from someone who understands what it's like to be overweight and live through tough challenges. I felt blessed in my own life as I read some of what she has gone through. What a strong woman! Her sequel, Finding the Angel Within, is on my reading list for 2010.
14-28. James Patterson- Most of his stuff is not for the easily offended (he has some young adult novels that are more clean and a few other books that are not offensive). While his books contain some sex and gore and language, they are not what I'd consider pornographic. They are murder mysteries/thrillers. And they are quick reads and enjoyable. I started out with 1st to Die, the first book of his Women's Murder Club series. I loved it so much, I caught up on the series, reading through 8th Confession and looking forward to the next installment. I was so engaged that I wanted to read more of his books. I recently started the Alex Cross series, finishing Along Came a Spider toward the end of the year. I also read his Sundays at Tiffany's about a woman falling in love with her imaginary friend (it was a very unusual story for him), The Beach House (another murder mystery), Against Medical Advice (a true- and interesting and insightful- story about Cory Friedman's fight against Tourette's and OCD), The Quickie (a disappointing murder mystery), and the first two books of his young adult series (apparently the stories are also available as graphic novels, which I may check out in 2010) Maximum Ride.
29-30. Simply Senusal & Lucky Streak by Carly Phillips- I think I've read one or two of her books before, but I couldn't remember whether or not I really liked them. The cover helped sell me on reading Simply Sensual, which was a very predictable romance novel about a PI hired to get information on a woman's granddaughter. And Lucky Streak was and entertaining-enough story about a couple who got married in Vegas the day they met.
31-32. Play Dirty & A Whole New Light by Sandra Brown- In the ridiculous story that is Play Dirty, an ex-con football player was hired to impregnate a multi-millionaire's wife. By the time I realized this was what was going on, I decided to finish the absurd story, but don't waste your time with it, even if you like romance novels and don't mind some sex. The only reason I read two of her books is because I recognized her name but forgot that I'd read Play Dirty when I picked up A Whole New Light from the library. The second book was better than the first, but still unimpressive.
33. The Reckoning by Jeff Long- An old co-worker of mine likes Jeff Long. So I finally decided to read one of his books. It was a little hard to get into, but the story was engaging, if not realistic. The story is of a search for lost soldiers' bodies in Cambodia. I don't know if I'll read more Jeff Long after reading this, but some people might enjoy it.
34. My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor- I bought this book after a recommendation from my older sister. I'm glad I did. This was one of my best reads in 2009. It has proved very insightful and will be read again (and again and again, most likely). I was surprised how much I liked hearing the story of a brain doctor's recovery from a stroke and the lessons she hopes others will learn from her experience. I definitely learned. She's a great teacher. Go buy this book.
35. The Hourglass Door by Lisa Mangum- This was a weird, original young adult novel. I believe it's going to become a several book series. I don't know how much I'll enjoy reading the following books, but I probably will read them anyway. It seems like another author's attempt to become the next J.K. Rowling.
36. Believe by Jennifer Silvera- This book was written to appeal to religious people. The author is not LDS, but you can tell she is spiritual. She spends the book talking about becoming a widow when her police officer husband is killed. I felt saddened for her, but the book wasn't nearly as interesting to me as My Stroke of Insight, Running with Angels or Against Medical Advice.
37. Night by Elie Wiesel- This book is engaging. It is heart-wrenching. I cried. And in 2009, I read it again. It served as a great reminder of my blessings and helped me appreciate them more. I will read it again. It is up there with Man's Search For Meaning as one of my all-time favorite books.
38. The Captain of Hear Heart by Anita Stansfield- I had heard of Anita Stansfield (an LDS romance novel author) before 2009, but I'd never read any of her books. My friend is a huge fan and has a lot of her novels. This is volume one of The Buchanan Saga. I have the other 3 books still to read, but it was easy to put off reading them. While the story was engaging and intriguing enough, I tend to have a difficult time getting into period-pieces. Set in the late 1700's, the love story of Kyrah, a servant girl, and Ritchard, an aristocrat, is fraught with challenges and heartache.
39. The Regulators by Stephen King as Richard Bachman- Man, there is gore in this book. I was so curious and interested in learning what was going to happen that I kept reading despite how bizarre the book is. I guess that's just par-for-course for Stephen King. And the book was based on notes from the late Richard Bachman, so I can understand why Stephen King was chosen to write the book.
40. Foul Play by Janet Evanovich- I enjoyed this romance novel about a dancing chicken who goes missing and the main suspect, Amy, working hard to clear her name.
41-44. Mitch Albom- Another author I'm happy to have discovered in 2009. I have actually had an interest in reading his books for quite some time, but I finally got to read For One More Day, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Have a Little Faith, and Tuesdays With Morrie. They were all quick reads but captivating, interesting, inspirational, and thought provoking.
45. Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner- This coming-of-age story illustrates how a Jewish mother and daughter learn more about each other. It was extremely hard for me to get through, and I didn't find it very fascinating or fulfilling. I should've stopped reading it at the first sign of boredom, but I guess I kept hoping it'd get better.
46. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch- Randy Pausch was a professor at Carnegie Mellon University. He found out he had terminal cancer and spent some of his last days preparing to give his last lecture at the school. You can watch his last lecture on YouTube, but I would recommend reading the book instead (or first). He decided to make his lecture about achieving childhood dreams, and I have been inspired by his attitude when facing a terminal illness (much like I was in Tuesdays With Morrie).
47-48. Jason F. Wright's The Wednesday Letters and Christmas Jars- I was able to purchase both of these books for a great price, and I'm glad I did. These quick reads are inspirational. They have awakened in me a desire to start new traditions in my family to show my husband how much I love him and to share hope through service toward others. I read Christmas Jars over a month before Christmas, and it put and kept me in the Christmas spirit. I LOVED that.
49. Tower of Strength by Annette Lyon- This LDS romance novel is also a period time-piece. As such, I had some difficulty getting through it, but I did enjoy the story of two people falling in love in Manti after the deaths of their spouses.
50. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert- I have to say this was the biggest disappointment of 2009. I wanted to quit reading the book more than once, but I kept on, hoping there was some reason I'd heard rave reviews about it. Still, I found myself uninterested in the author's search for balance and moving on through visiting Italy, India, and Indonesia. Most of the story lacked depth and what I saw was a person I didn't care to know. I just don't get what the appeal is. Perhaps someone could explain it to me.
51. Restless Hearts by Marta Perry- I got this book in the mail for free. It was a clean romance novel that I enjoyed much more than I thought I would. The story is about a midwife named Fiona who moves to an area known as the Crossroads to start her own midwife business and gets to know her Amish family and history. The book was a pleasant surprise and not something I would have ever picked out to read on my own. I'm glad I hung on to it long enough to read without throwing it away or donating it.
52. The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks- This was the first novel I have ever read by Nicholas Sparks. I don't know why I waited so long to read it, because I loved the movie. The book was even better. I will read more Nicholas Sparks books in 2010.
53. The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks- I decided to go with this book next because I bought it at a cheap price. It wasn't near as good as The Notebook, but I enjoyed it well enough. I just wish the main character's name was easier to pronounce. I kept wanting to pronounce it incorrectly too, because even though Nicholas Sparks included how to correctly pronounce it in the book, another character kept pronouncing it incorrectly. That made the reading more frustrating than I would have liked it to have been.
54. When Parents Love Too Much by Laurie Ashner & Mitch Meyerson- My divorced friend told me I needed to read this book before getting married. She thought it would give me insight into my (now) mother-in-law and possibly even help prevent some problems in our marriage as a result. I bought the book but hadn't read it. I'm glad I finally read it, because I think I may have received some insight to various people who are or were in my life.
55. Good Service is Good Business by Catherine DeVrye- Catherine goes over various concepts of how to provide good service. This is a great book for those who are running their own businesses, but the insights you can gain can be applied to various aspects of your life.
56. Chocolate Snowman Murders by JoAnna Carl- A murder mystery involving chocolate? I was sold right there. The book was a fairly quick, fairly entertaining read.
57. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold- I didn't realize until I had picked up this book from the library that it was being made into a movie. After reading the book, I'm kind of surprised at that. Unless the movie veers from the book a bit, I don't know that it could work as a movie. The story is not just about the murdered Susie Salmon observing those she left behind but also about how the people left behind try to cope with the loss and adjust to the new normal.
58. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte- I felt the book was somewhat predictable, but I liked it anyway. And no, I didn't know the story, although I had heard a few pieces of it.
59. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcom Gladwell- My brother-in-law read and praised this book, and Joe and I had read two of Malcom Gladwell's other books in 2008, so I gave this one a read. The author used clear and compelling examples to back up his view that a mixture of luck and circumstances often play substantial roles in an individual's success, but I still want to believe that hard work and intellect play larger roles than he would have you think they do. Call me a dreamer, I guess.
60. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins- I was soooo happy to discover this book. It's book 1 of a new series by Suzanne Collins. I bought book 1 and book 2 at the same time, but I haven't had a chance to read book 2 yet, and yet I'm still already super excited for book 3 to come out later this year. This young adult novel is about adolescents fighting to the death (against their will) for some sort of sick entertainment by those in control. It reminded me of a mixture of several different kinds of story lines I've heard before, but it was unique and entertaining. I can't wait to see the movie either! :P
What were some of your favorite reads in 2009? What books did you waste your time on that I shouldn't bother reading, even if they are on the "best seller" list or recommended by Oprah or someone at the local library?