At the end of each year, my dad, my sister, and I send each other lists of the books we’ve read that year, with a little blurb about each book. (Sanguinity makes a list too sometimes, but not every year.) I eschew the letter grades my dad and sister assign to their books; I don’t like my relationship to the books to be one of picking and choosing, or judging. But I do sort my list into categories and mark my favorites, which I put in my LibraryThing collection to admire and remember along with the favorites of other years. (If you really want to see my whole list, you can view it here in Google Docs.)
What strikes me this year is how many of the books I read were part of a series. Two out of three of my adult-fiction favorites: Lisa Lutz’s The Spellman Files and its sequels, and Kage Baker’s Company series. (The other favorite was Molly Gloss’ Wild Life.) In children’s and YA fiction, I loved The Mysterious Benedict Society and its sequel (I’m saving the third book), finished off the Hunger Games and Life As We Knew It trilogies, and read a whole bunch of other books-with-companions:
- Joan Aiken’s The Wolves of Willoughby Chase
- Catherine Clark’s Wurst Case Scenario
- Grace Dent’s Posh and Prejudice
- Dianna Wynne Jones’ Conrad’s Fate
- Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy’s Wedding
- Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s Alice in Charge
- Patrick Ness’ The Knife of Never Letting Go
- Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu’s The Shadow Speaker
- Ellen Emerson White’s The Road Home
Srsly, like half my list of books. At the video store I get much more excited about long-arc TV shows than about standalone movies, but I hadn’t realized how much of a series reader I am. It’s not just the additive value of more books by authors I like: there’s a particular pleasure in tracking everything from book to book, the atmospheric changes, the writing quality, the character constellations. Almost a gossipy element. I hope someday I find a series to write. It must be wonderful to have such a rich field to play in again and again, mixing up the familiar and new aspects. Like seeing a place through many seasons and years.
My very favorite kidlit books of the year, however, were two standalones, and I must, must tell you about them in the hopes of tipping someone toward reading them. Christine Fletcher’s Ten Cents a Dance is that rarest of historical fiction, the kind that feels real and not even slightly like I’m being instructed and educated in history. And Frances Hardinge’s The Lost Conspiracy was my long summer book that took me away to an island with multi-cultural details and twisty plotlines and made me not miss Harry Potter one bit.
Thank God there are books to read, every year.