Monday, November 29, 2010

The Reader in Me

Throughout the year we devote most of the space on our blog to discussions about writing. But like most writers, I'm also an avid reader. Occasionally, I hear a novelist or editor say they don't have time to read fiction, and honestly, I don't get it. I know time is precious, but I'd give up an hour (or more) of sleep a night before I'd give up reading fiction. It's the nightcap I look forward to. In 2009, I began keeping a log of the novels I read throughout the year. So far in 2010 I've read 52 novels. The total will probably be close to 60 before the year is through. Plus I read all the entries for our Audience with an Agent Contest, and judged 21 entries for the ACFW Genesis Contest. That doesn't count the non-fiction books I read, or the books on the craft of writing, which I place in a division all their own.
This year I added a grade score to each of the novels I read. Of the 52 novels on my list, 15 received an A, which includes plus and minus; 18 received a B; 9 received a C; 3 received a D; and 7 received "no grade," because, in my mind, anyone who has the tenacity to write a novel and get it published deserves not to get an F, even if I don't care for the book.
So today I'm going to put on my reader's hat and share with you my favorite novels from 2010, those that received an A in my book. I have to start with Where the River Ends by Charles Martin, because it received an A++ from me, as do almost all of his books. Charles is one of my favorite authors, and this is an excellent novel. He's interviewed this month on She Reads, our sister blog. You can read the interviews here, but be sure to scroll all the way down to get all the installments, including a great interview with Charles' wife, Christy.
I'll also add A Conspiracy of Breath by our own Latayne Scott, which also received an A++ from me. Sorry, it's not yet published. (Don't mean to tease.) The others I'll list alphabetically by author:
Try Darkness by James Scott Bell
What We Keep by Elizabeth Berg
Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (read 2 x in 2010; gave it an A both times ; )
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Lost Mission by Athol Dickson
The Sea Wolf by Jack London (I've read at least 5 x over the years)
To Dance in the Desert by Kathleen Popa (3rd time)
The Last Sin Eater by Francine Rivers (3rd time)
They Almost Always Come Home by Cynthia Ruchti (2nd time; 1st time I had the privilege to read an endorser's copy)
The Help by Kathryn Stockett (2nd time)
Some Wildflower in My Heart by Jamie Langston Turner
On my wish list for 2011: (believe me, this list is only in its infant stages)
Paradise Valley by Dale Cramer
Life in Defiance by Mary DeMuth
Wonders Never Cease by Tim Downs (loved his Bug Man series)
Almost Heaven by Chris Fabry
The Rivers Run Dry by Sibella Giorello
Listen by Rene Gutteridge
The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin
Resurrection in May by Lisa Samson
Anything by the amazing women I blog with
The last page of my WIP
So what about you? What were your favorite novels in 2010? And what title/author would you add to your wish list?
As a thank you for your invaluable contribution to the discussions here, I'd like to offer Every Good & Perfect Gift, Lying on Sunday, and/or A Heavenly Christmas in Hometown for $8 each between now and December 15. Email me through my website if you'd like to place an order.
And just for fun, for any Bill Cosby fans, you might enjoy watching these videos. They take a few minutes to load, but they're worth the wait. Here's part 1 and part 2.


Latayne C Scott said...

Sharon, thank you for the kind comments about A Conspiracy of Breath. Somewhere, some publisher....

About the book lists-- you are SO much more organized and better at record-keeping than I'll ever be. But here is a list of books I enjoyed this year that stick out in my mind:

The Snows of Kilmanjaro
The Scarlet Letter
Out of Africa
Bonnie Grove's unpublished Time and Time Again -- incredible
A Friend in the Storm by Cheryl Ricker (great little gift book of poetry)
The Vision of Emma Blau
Judge and Jury (James Patterson)
Carnage and Culture
The Executioner's Song
A Traitor to Memory
The Zero Hour (Finder)
Growing Up (Russell Baker)
I Know This Much is True
The Unlikely Spy (Daniel Silva)

In progress, reading (or listening)
The Hunger Games
River Rising
The Passion of Mary Margaret
The Confession (John Grisham)
Almost Heaven (Chris Fabry)

I wonder how different my list would be if price were no consideration. I confess that my reading/listening would become a serious detriment to our household income if I bought every book I really wanted to read. Many of them are loaned to me or I am able to buy at a discount. So when I pay list (or near-list) price for something, I have to really want it.

I am trying to show my dedication to quality Christian publishing by buying books. If you've not read Sharon Souza's books, you are really missing some provocative and stimulating reading. So I'm ordering all three books from her today. You can't get a better Christmas gift than an autographed book, personalized to the recipient, from an author like Sharon.

Wendy Paine Miller said...

My my. If there's ever a post I'll come back it is!

I've gotten a tasts of Latayne's A Conspiracy of Breath and I have to say it inspires me to write! Love how she strings words together.

I Know This Much is True is one of my favorites and I have to say I'm reading Lamb's Wishin' and Hopin' right now and it is hysterical!!! (a bit crass, but hysterical!!!)

I enjoyed The Thirteenth Tale (but I read that w/in the past month). I really need to start writing down what I read. I'll likely be back to add a few more (and certainly to read what others say).

~ Wendy

Wendy Paine Miller said...

My mind must not have made it back from PA. I meant I've gotten a taste of Latayne's book. You knew that though. ;)

~ Wendy

Cynthia Ruchti said...

How humbling to be listed among these favorite reads of 2010, Sharon, on a blog hosted by authors among my most admired! I thought Thanksgiving was over, but it's still in full swing. Thank you.

Jan Cline said...

I would have to say "Sarah's Key" was my favorite. I dont read very much - I am striving to improve that issue. I have struggled with reading since childhood and Im pushing myself to read more. You have inspired me with your list. Sounds like I need a New Year's resolution and a bunch of books on my Christmas gift list.

Lori Benton said...

Sharon, we must read at about the same pace. I'm reading my 53rd and 54th novels of the year now. This is the first year that I've kept a log on my blog of the books I've read. So far 53 fiction, about 40 nonfiction.

Books that stand out:

The Red Heart, by James Alexander Thom
The Shadowy Horses, by Susanna Kearsely
Courting Morrow Little, by Laura Frantz
Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins
The Mountain Between Us, by Charles Martin (read almost all his books this year, but this one is my favorite)
In The Company of Others, by Jan Karon
A Vision of Light, by Judith Merkle Riley
The Help, by Kathryn Stockett
The Kitchen House, by Kathleen Grissom (haven't finished this one, but I think about it all the time and look forward to bedtime, also reading time for me, for as long as I can keep my eyes open).

Bonnie Grove said...

The reading list grows and grows. I LOVE it!

Reads with meaning for me this year include:
A Conspiracy of Breath (it's time for a publisher to snap this up - this is biblical fiction as no one has written it before. Groundbreaking, revelatory, life changing.)
The Book Thief - I've never before recommended a YA book to adults. I can't stop recommending this one.
Let the Great World Spin (I might have mentioned this one a time or two... :) )
History of Love (Such voice - what a brilliant novel)
The Help (again. Voice, voice, voice.)

I'm writing at the moment, so I always stop reading long fiction when I'm writing long fiction. I hate that I must, but I get so lost in stories I read that I find it interferes in my writing. Thus, I'm snuggling up to oodles of short fiction. I'm reading through several anthologies of Canadian short fiction writers.

Megan Sayer said...

Oooh I LOVE reading lists! Thank for sharing Sharon, and everyone else.

My top 2 for the year - books that I borrowed from the library and then bought because I couldn't bear not to own them; books against which every other book I've read since have been inadvertently judged:

Sleeping Arrangements by Laura Shaine Cunningham (a memoir)
Beloved by Toni Morrison (still can't sing its praises enough!)

By the way Sharon thanks for that generous offer! Ironically I just bought Lying on Sunday via Amazon on the weekend. They promised it will get to me before January (ha!). I'll have to check out your site later today and read up on the others.

Anonymous said...

Latayne, thank you for the nice endorsement! I enjoy seeing everyone's book lists, seeing which books, and adding to my wish list. Thank you for taking time to share some of your favorite titles. Lori, I haven't read even close to 40 non-fiction books, so you have me beat by a mile.

Ariel Allison Lawhon said...

Sadly, I didn't make a list of books I've read this year. Note to self: do that in 2011.

Here's a great budget tip that I just learned: buy your books on

It's a partner Ebay site and it's not uncommon to find a book for 75 cents. I'll be making my 2011 list soon and will probably score at least fifteen titles for less than $20.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Ariel, what a great tip! Thanks for sharing with us.

Debra E. Marvin said...

I saw Some Wildflower in my Heart on my own Amazon list today and didn't recall putting it there. I guess word of mouth. Thanks for reminding me I put it there for a reason.

Thanks for the list. And thanks for this blog, ladies. It's one of my favorites. Inspiring and encouraging.

Lori Benton said...

Sharon, all that nonfiction reading comes with the territory when writing historicals. My TBR stack for research is always looming. It's like being enrolled in a study course that never ends.

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

So many great books this year. My "A" reads include:

Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen
The Other Side of the Bridge - Mary Lawson
Alias Grace - Margaret Atwood
The Dead don't Dance - Charles Martin
Talking to the Dead - Bonnie Grove
The Shifting Fog - Kate Morton
The Turning - Tim Winton
We were the Mulvaneys - Joyce Carol Oates
The Help
Peace Like a River

And my two A++ novels, the ones that I cannot stop thinking about, the ones that you all MUST READ at once:

Room by Emma Donaghue, and
The Secret River by Kate Grenville

Anonymous said...

Karen, it's hard to ignore an endorsement like that. I'm going to read Room and The Secret River as soon as possible.

Bonnie Grove said...

Karen: I'm honored. Thank you.

Kathleen Popa said...

Thank you, Sharon, for including me on your list - again!

I must confess that I am a painfully slow reader. I don't think I read anything like 52 books this year - in fact, I'm sure I haven't. But you have inspired me to keep a running list of the books I read and to grade them.

And there are great lists here, to get me started - as if I needed a bigger stack of books!

Elizabeth McKenzie said...

Thanks for the list of great reading. My problem is I am a slow reader. I'm a slow reader because I have comprehension difficulties. I did will in school, but it was a struggle to read long assignment, blah, blah, blah. Speed reading classes did nothing but frustrate me. My point is, I wish I could read fifty some books a year. I used to average half that much. If the book is good, my comprehension is 100%. The ADD doesn't help. More than you wanted to know.

I've started reading free ebooks from Smashwords. I am enjoying that a lot. Also I enjoy reading break-out books. You'd be surprised how many good authors there are who self-publish. Soon, I'll be reviewing these books on my blog. All of this, plus I'm publishing my own novel and writing another.

What's this got to do with your blog post? Don't know. You're just so easy to talk to. Thanks for listening.

Anonymous said...

Elizabeth, I feel the same way: you're all so easy to talk to, so accepting. I/we appreciate you so much. I hope your novel does exceptionally well.

Chris Jager - Baker Book House-fiction buyer said...

Hey all,

Love the lists. It is interesting to read what others are reading. I always get ideas of books to add to the pile of to read books. No wonder my husband rolls his eyes when I talk about a new book I want to read. :-) The pile never gets smaller.

I teach a workshop every year for librarians that are review books I have read so I have a pretty good count of how many I read every year. Not included are manuscripts and galley copies, on Oct. 23 when I taught the workshop I had 68 books on the list. I should also point out that these are books I read that I liked.:-) I don't do negative reviews.

I do have some favorites and I think my favorite book for the year will probably be The Pirate Queen by Patricia Hickman.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your contribution, Chris. I know what you mean about your TBR pile never getting smaller. Mine's the same way. My daughter's husband tells her she must return a book to me for every one she borrows(because I always share books with my daughters). We just smile and think to ourselves, what he doesn't know won't hurt him.

Chris Jager - Baker Book House-fiction buyer said...

Sharon, your comment made me laugh because my sister and I are suppose to have the same deal. But like you said, what they don't know won't hurt him.

I have told my husband that if I don't read books I would have to take up drinking. Of course it does help now that I get paid to read most of the books I read.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Chris, I am very jealous!