Recently Wii asked me for a YA book recommendation. I’ve been reading some YA lately, I think because it tends to be an eager, optimistic, cut-the-bullshit genre and I’m definitely in need of some eagerness, optimist and bullshit-cutting. She said, “What’s the best YA book you’ve read?”
Me: blink. blink. “uhhhh….”
Actually I said, “The Book Thief. No, The Hunger Games. Wait, no, Before I Fall. Actually, The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-Time which was originally marketed as a YA novel. What the foonf, I CANNOT POSSIBLY ANSWER THIS QUESTION!!!!”
Seriously, that’s just too much pressure for me! ONE great book?– you must be kidding. I have to go genre by genre, and probably sub-genre by sub-genre.
My advisor at the University of Michigan once told me that a great story — or book — is like a great round of golf: No matter how anyone else plays, it’s still great. (By the way, I just searched on Facebook for my advisor and found him and sent him a friend request.) He told me this once when I took a very small writing seminar and each student had to read another student’s work, and I felt like an idiot compared to the other writers in the class. No matter what the other writers write, it doesn’t detract from my story.
Another issue I search for in writing is CREATIVITY. Someone — Anna Quindlin, I think? — once said that every great story has already been told. (Wii vehemently disagrees.)
“Every story has already been told. Once you’ve read Anna Karenina, Bleak House, The Sound and the Fury, To Kill a Mockingbird and A Wrinkle in Time, you understand that there is really no reason to ever write another novel. Except that each writer brings to the table, if she will let herself, something that no one else in the history of time has ever had.”
I was told by a Russian literature professor in college that Anna Karenina was the basis of most fiction.
So, with those as my parameters (genre and creativity), here is a short list of the best books I read in 2011 (Some came out in 2010)
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Room by Emma Donoghue
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Red Garden by Alice Hoffman
Bossypants by Tina Fey
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Before I Go to Sleep by SJ Watson
Long Drive Home by Will Allison
Night Road by Kristin Hannah
The Good Daughters by Joyce Maynard
This is not an exhaustive list, because I tend to forget books after I read them. I’m looking for some kind of app to put on this page that lists what I’ve read/what I’m reading.