A few days ago, I posted my favorite books of 2010, but now I'd like to recognize my favorite books that I read this year that weren't published in 2010. I would be remiss if I didn't mention some of the great books I read that were published in years previous to this one.
Rules of the Road by Joan Bauer
Joan Bauer has a knack for writing lovely, accessible, coming-of-age stories. This is one such story. The main character, Jenna Boller, is commissioned to drive the owner of Gladstone's Shoes on a six-week tour of all of her stores as she prepares to retire and pass the reins to her son. As the story progresses, you soon come to realize that Mrs. Gladstone, while well past retirement age, still has some fight in her and is only retiring because her greedy son wants to sell the company to a big-time shoe mogul.
As with any great story, Rules of the Road succeeds on the merit of the characters. Road trip stories very rarely disappoint, and this one is no exception.
Published: May 1998 by Putnam
Audience: Young adult/middle grade
Prada and Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard
On a class trip in England, Callie finds herself surrounded by popular girls from her school who shun her or don't even acknowledge her existence. In an attempt to try to fit in, she goes and buys a pair of real Prada heels and no sooner does she put them on when she falls and klunks herself on the head, transporting her to the year 1815.
I started off reading this book wondering if I was going to finish. It seemed too superficial and lacking of substance for my liking. But the more I read, the more I got sucked into Callie's dilemma and appreciated how the time period changed her and how she had an impact on the people she encountered.
Was it believable? Not in the slightest. Was it a fun, feel-good read? You betcha. In fact, this would be the perfect story for Disney to snatch up and make into the next great romantic comedy, in the same vein of Enchanted.
Published: June 2009 by Razorbill
Audience: Young adult
Beastly by Alex Flinn
In this modern re-telling of Beauty and the Beast, Alex Flinn manages to write a story that speaks to young adults and possesses enough literary merit to be taught in high school classrooms. Not only does this book teach studendts the same literary elements as those dusty classics, but it's also a great talking point for high school kids who think that books aren't written for them.
This is one of those rare books that appeals to both genders equally. Girls like it because it's the re-telling of a fairy-tale, but boys can enjoy it because it's being narrated by a high school boy who doesn't sugar-coat or make the language overly-sappy.
Published: October 2007 by Harper Teen
Audience: young adult
The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
Jenna Fox doesn't remember the accident. All she knows is that her family is keeping a very big secret from her and she's determined to reveal the truth.
This book delves into the world of bioethics and the lengths parents will go to save their child's life. It is gripping, page-turning, and full of questions humans today must answer in this brave new world of genetic engineering and biotechnology.
Published: April 2008 by Henry Holt & Co.
Audience: young adult
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Science fiction is generally so serious and abstruse. Douglas Adams subverts the science fiction stereotype in this hilarious novel about what happens when a human makes it off the earth moments before the entire planet is destroyed. Since science fiction is generally not my preferred genre (unless it's dystopian), I was pleasantly surprised at how entertaining this book was.
Published: October 1979
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
I'm pleased that this year's Newbery winner is a book that kids will actually enjoy reading. Too many Newberys in the past years I think have been too literary for kids to enjoy. This one is written simply enough for kids to understand, yet complex enough for it to be considered the cream of the crop in children's literature.
I loved that the plot keeps you thinking (it even hurts your head a little) and that you don't really know what happens until the last few pages. It's a little realistic fiction, a little mystery, and a little science fiction. This is one book that isn't easy to categorize by genre.
Published: July 2009 by Wendy Lamb Books
Audience: middle grade
Monsoon Summer by Mitali Perkins
When Jasmine "Jazz" Gardener learns that she'll be spending the entire summer in India with her family, she is less than thrilled at the idea. Her mother, the exuberant do-gooder, wants to return to the orphanage where she was adopted to help set up a clinic for the poverty-stricken women and children in the area. Jazz, who still can't shake her own charitable failures, decides to stay as far away from the orphanage as possible. This plan backfires when she meets Danita, the young girl the Gardeners have hired to cook for the family during their stay. Danita has a dilemma that only Jazz can help her resolve, and she slowly begins to let herself be open to the beautiful people who are a part of the Asha Bari orphanage.
The writing in this book is full of so much sensory language that you can feel the rain falling on you, can taste the tantalizing flavors of the Indian cuisine, and you can feel the warmth of the people. It's a book that makes you realize, if you hadn't before, that despite the abject poverty, so much of India's beauty is its people.
Published: April 2006 by Laurel Leaf
Audience: young adult/middle grade
360 Degrees Longitude: One Family's Journey Around the World by John Higham
This is the true story of John & September Higham packing up their lives, their jobs, their responsibilities, and setting off for an around the world adventure with their two kids for an entire year.
Not only was this book entertaining, but it reinforced the importance of travel to learn tolerance and understanding. It forces you to set aside your preconceived notions of culture and actually learn the truth beyond the propaganda.
I especially loved the Google Earth feature that lets you travel along with the family while you're reading the story.
Published: July 2009 by Alyson Books
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
A wonderful children's classic, The Phantom Tollbooth transports lazy, reluctant Milo to magical lands full of adventure and linguistic hurdles. The perfect story for any word lover.
Audience: middle grade
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink
If you are in the business or education world, or you are a manager of employees, you MUST read this book. The old model of external motivation that Pink refers to as "If/then Rewards" ("If you do this, then you'll get this...") is found consistently again and again to subvert motivation and actually prevents us from doing our best work.
Yet businesses, employers, and schools across America continue to use this old model of motivation (Motivation 2.0 as Pink likes to call it... Motivation 1.0 is merely cave-man survival) in an attempt to keep us compliant.
Compliance will no longer get the job done. We must do better. We must create autonomy in our work environments rather than managerial control over minions. Drive gives us the knowledge and tools to make that happen. To paraphrase Maya Angelou, when you know better, you do better. Let's hope everyone who reads this book strives to do better.
Published: December 2009