This list is somewhat different from the other lists. Due to the fact I’ve only read three books published in 2011 this year, I feel like it would be very uninteresting to only talk about those three books. Therefore, I’ve picked the six favorites out of the books I’ve read this year. And in my eyes, graphic novels and non-fiction are on the same footing.
6.) Phonogram: Rue Britannia by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie (2007)
For those who don’t know, Phonogram is a comic series that follows phonomancers, those who have magic control over music, around London. The first volume, Rue Britannia, follows David Kohl, who discovered his powers after getting into Britpop in the 90s. After his patron goddess Britannia goes missing, he must search for her, bringing back old memories and influences for him.
While many of the references were out of my sphere of knowledge (which was helped by a nice little glossary in the back) and David’s snobby hipster attitude can get fairly annoying, I have never read a work that so perfectly captures what it is to be in love with music. While neither David and I can play our own music, we do derive power from the music that saves us. Part of David’s weakness is that he cannot abandon his goddess, despite the fact she has very little power and most of her followers have switched over. It brought back memories of the music I loved when I realized I wanted music to be in my life forever and how it’s been hard to leave it behind entirely.
While I have yet to read Singles Club, I’m looking forward to knowing more about the world of Phonogram.
5.) Dreadnought by Cherie Priest (2010)
Cherie Priest has become well known for her Clockwork Century novels within the Steampunk community. Centered around a universe where Seattle is underground, the Civil War has gone on for twenty years, and zombies come about from a sickly gas, we see what would happen if war technology had won out in the years of the war between the states. While I have yet to read two of the books in the Century (Clementine and Ganymede), I did read the first two this year. While Boneshaker had a tendency to drag, Dreadnought was an exciting novel that captured a very long and arduous journey in 400 pages.
Following a recently widowed nurse named Mercy, Dreadnought follows her as she makes a journey through air, river, and train from Richmond, Virginia to Seattle, Washington to see her dying father. Crossing through enemy lines, Mercy inadvertently falls into the Union’s war effort. Not only is the action reflective of a very long and dangerous journey, but the characters Mercy meets are interesting and worthy of their own stories. In particular, I’d love to know more about the uppity Miss Theodora Clay, Mercy’s cabin mate through her journey on the Dreadnought.
Cherie Priest has a tendency to bring back characters in her universe. Here’s hoping that we see Mercy Lynch again.
4.) Nation by Terry Pratchett (2008)
I haven’t read much Terry Pratchett outside of Good Omens, but I decided to read Nation after reading a review of it online a couple of years ago. While the book does have some of Terry Pratchett’s traditional humor, the book ends up being a very emotional alternate history about a boy and a girl affected by a tsunami and how they have to rebuild.
The story follows a boy named Mau who was in the middle of his manhood ritual when a tsunami wiped out his entire village. The only person left on the island is a “ghost girl” named Daphne, who was on a wooden ship that washed up on the island on its way to port. As more people from the surrounding islands spill into what is left of Nation, Mau has to work with Daphne and others in order to preserve the island and protect who is left. While he questions the Gods of his culture, he begins to learn the history of his island.
Many have suggested that this story is Terry’s reflection on his Alzheimer’s, and I can sort of see it. Here, we have a story about someone who loses everything and tries so hard to save what is lost. So much of the emotion comes from Mau’s loneliness over being the last person left of his tribe. However, as the tagline of the novel says, “When much is taken, something is returned.” As much as this novel is about loss, it’s also about what you gain from that loss.
3.) Shockaholic by Carrie Fisher (2011)
I became a fan of Carrie Fisher as a writer after watching her one woman show Wishful Drinking late last year. Wishful Drinking is a funny and honest memoir from Fisher about her family, her experience as Princess Leia, and her Bipolar disorder. Shockaholic feels very much like an addendum to Wishful Drinking, but where the previous memoir was all about her, Shockaholic is a very honest reflection on the people she’s known.
The whole idea behind this followup is explained briefly in Wishful Drinking and elaborated on within the first chapter. Fisher has been undergoing Electroshock Therapy to help treat her Bipolar disorder. She explains that it is nothing like in the movies and that it has been a massive help for her. However, a downside of it is that she loses about four months worth of memory. After the initial introduction to her memory loss, Carrie tells us about various memories and reflections of her past. From her retelling of going toe-to-toe with Ted Kennedy while on a date with Chris Dodd to random memories of her first stepfather Harry Karl. However, the most telling chapter is towards the end, where she talks about her father Eddie Fisher, who recently passed away. She talks about how her relationship with him and how he was towards the end of his life. As someone who has lost a grandfather recently, it was an emotional read and so much more raw than anything else in Wishful Drinking. The book is not as funny as Wishful Drinking, but it is so tender and telling, showing yet another side of Fisher that we have never seen before.
2.) Drinking With Strangers by Butch Walker and Matt Diehl (2011)
As I showed in my album review list, I’m a huge fan of Butch Walker. His music has been a life force to me for the past five years and his albums have a special place in my heart and in my CD collection. When I heard he was writing a book, I was ecstatic to read it and soak in what he had to say.
Drinking With Strangers is equal parts memoir and how to guide to make it in the music industry. As a midlevel artist who has been working in the industry for more than 20 years as both an artist and a producer, Butch has stories a plenty to share. Some even include your favorite artists. One of my favorite stories in the book is about him and Gabe Saporta teasing and hitting each other during production of the last Midtown album. Also, it’s probably the first time I’ve ever understood how royalties work.
However, the book is not a rock’n’roll drugged out tell all. In fact, Butch keeps it very tame and doesn’t name names. Partially for legal reasons, I’m sure, but names are only dropped when things are positive. Instead, Drinking With Strangers really becomes a story about following your dreams, overcoming your obstacles, and enjoying life as it comes. It just happens to have stories about other rockstars interspersed throughout.
1.) The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins (2008 – 2010)
Perhaps it is cheating to list three books as my number one, but The Hunger Games is not a series of stand alone novels. It’s not a Battle Royale ripoff. The trilogy is a story about a girl who put herself in danger to protect her family and inadvertently started a war.
The world of The Hunger Games is what I’ve called a post-post-apocalypse. Where the world has rebuilt after an unknown disaster, but where the ones with money really do have all the power. The main concept may be a battle to the death involving children done for entertainment, but through that, we see that the world of Panem is brutal and puts these characters into a never ending cycle of poverty and oppression that keeps those outside of the Capitol bending towards their will. And yet, here we have Katniss Everdeen of District 12 becoming the Mockingjay, becoming a symbol of hope and resistance for a downtrodden nation. However, she’s reluctant and just so very… human. As the series progresses into a full blown war, we see the consequences of it and how it tears down someone so easily. It may be a futuristic setting, but The Hunger Games tells a very painful and very real human story.
Tomorrow, I’ll be talking about my favorite music videos and online videos of this past year!