2011: My Year in Reading!

Friends, here is my 2011 year in reading! (Not counting all of the children’s books I read when I was a nanny,  various zines, magazines, newspapers, online articles, and blogs I read.)  I wanted to write a blog for every book I read in 2011 but that didn’t exactly happen. Out of the 31 (almost 32!) books I read this year, I only wrote blogs for 13 or 14 of them…  Better luck next year I suppose.  I had hoped to read more like 36 to 40 books in 2011, but that’s okay. In 2012,  I am setting my goal at reading 35 books, with the knowledge that I will be in school and will not have as much time to read for pleasure.  Also in 2012, I would like to broaden my reading spectrum and include more non-fiction books and more classics, as the majority of what I read this past year was either young adult or contemporary fiction. So friends, here is my year in books broken up by category. In color is my favorite book I read in 2011 from that genre, followed by a brief synopsis. Oh, and I also tried to include the month I read the book, (although the months may not be entirely accurate…)  Oh, and I made a section for all the LGBT books I read this year even though the books are listed by other genres as well.  Enjoy! And feel free to ask me questions about any of these!

Young Adult Fiction

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan (July)

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (February)

Forever and Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume (February)

Crank by Ellen Hopkins (March)

Catching Fire, Hunger Games, Mockingjay (series) by Suzanne Collins (April and May)

Amazing! Highly rated by many “best of” 2011 book lists and not without cause.  Many people that I spoke to about these books had to run right out and get the next book after finishing the first one.  These books are set in a dystopian society in the future where kids are picked from each family to fight against each other to the death in a giant arena filled with traps. It’s the government’s fucked up way of keeping control of the people.  We follow the heroine, Katniss, as she is chosen to be one of those who fights in the arena and how she comes to win “the games” as they are called.  Thrilling and a must read if you are into young adult fiction or dystopian fiction. Disclaimer: The third book isn’t quite as good as the first two.

Uglies/Pretties trilogy (series) by Scott Westerfeld (April-July)

Matched by Allie Condie (December)

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (August)

Empress of The World (March)

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The Passionate Mistakes and Intricate Corruption of One Girl in America by Michelle Tea

Michelle Tea is now well-known for being a San Francisco based writer with works based on the city such as the infamous queer novel Valencia.  However, Passionate Mistakes is from a much earlier time in Michelle Tea’s life when she was a goth high school kid who lived in Chelsea, a suburb of Boston.  It follows her through her teenage years and early twenties in Provincetown and ends with her move to Tucson, Arizona.  This is Michelle’s experience with growing up but it is also contrasted with the larger story of our generation of queers as well as the new generation of feminism.

The memoir follows Michelle through various expressions of  sexual orientation and identity. At the beginning of the book, she starts out as a straight girl who endures boring and awful sex with her boyfriend.   She then explores a little bit further and starts to hook up with girls while still having a boyfriend.  Finally, she comes out with the courage to let her boyfriend go and starts dating women intentionally.  She explores open relationships and is in and out of love triangles and finally has a long-term girlfriend.  And all of this is told with the (intricate) innocence of a Michelle who existed in a time before she even knew what the terms “butch” and “femme” meant and way before she was known as a queer icon of our generation.

The last part of the book chronicles Michelle’s relationship with her prostitute girlfriend, a career which Michelle also chooses to pursue.  Some of Michelle Tea’s experience as a prostitute is chronicled in Rent Girl, her graphic novel which I would highly recommend.  From my understanding she became a prostitute not really because she needed the money but mainly out of her desire to alleviate boredom and lead an unconventional life.

I think Passionate Mistakes is a book that many can relate to because in some sense I think we all have the desire to both find ourselves (Michelle coming out as a lesbian) and the desire to lose ourselves (Michelle choosing to prostitute, even though she loathes it).  I think sometimes that we learn just as much in  losing ourselves as we do in finding ourselves.  I can appreciate this duality and often find myself  living inside the duplicity of lost/found, broken/unbroken, bored/entertained, fulfilled/nihilistic.  Although sometimes being lost can damage I think surrendering to uncertainty and mystery is sometimes necessary in life. Read the rest of this entry »

A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Rebecca Solnit’s writing is wild, wandering, wondering, free, luminous and full of the bittersweet ache of nostalgia.  Her descriptions and stories in this book are fragile, intricate, and determined.

She talks about the feeling of being lost and says:

Lost really has two disparate meanings. Losing things is about the familiar falling away, getting lost is about the unfamiliar appearing….

While reading this work I found myself lost in her words and in the feelings they evoked within me.  She describes things in such a beautiful and nostalgic way, and her words pack a punch of feeling that made me ache.  I felt myself wandering through a harsh but beautiful word climate, much like the physical desert that Solnit describes so wonderfully in this book. Read the rest of this entry »

The Geography of Bliss

So I just moved to Portland 5 months ago and am in a very broke place in life.  Every day I apply for jobs but moneys are very low and it’s stressful.  I look forward to the day when I can buy a cup of coffee without thinking of the  financial repercussions.  As a result of my desperate financial state,  I’m always looking for ways to supplement my income.

I saw an ad on craigslist about being paid to take part in a research study about depression.  I have had depression in the past but am actually happy lately in spite of my financial stress.  So I decided to try and fake being depressed.  I made it through the initial screening process and came in for the next appointment where I was asked a series of questions to evaluate my mood.   I tried my best to sound depressed  but after the evaluation, the psychiatrist looked over my answers and said I did not qualify for the study.

So I got kicked out of the study for not actually being depressed.  Oh man, and American psychology is so weird!  He said something like: “Don’t worry, it doesn’t mean you’re not depressed.  Just not depressed enough for this study.” Ha ha, oh man!  Even though I was not able to participate in the study and would receive no moneys, I went home and felt happy all day about not being depressed.  It felt like a small victory. Definitely one of the stranger ways I’ve tried to make money! Read the rest of this entry »