As mentioned before, this blog started first as a desire to count how many books I read in a year then as a way to inform friends and acquaintances about what to read next. The first list was compiled in 1999 but by 2002 I was adding comments to each entry and emailing them at years' end. I looked over that first batch yesterday and was struck by what a banner year it was. That's not to say 2002 wasn't without some dogs and disappointments (and I'm not writing about them today) but, as Frank sang, it was a very good year.
Two books that jumped out at me have been made into movies that will soon release: Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being A Wallflower and The Life of Pi by Yann Martel. Buzz on both films is quite high and I'm anxious to see them. Best of all, it will cause people to read the books, some for the first time, others again, and I envy them that.
Perks was new ground for me because I didn't read YA fiction which was just starting to shirk off the taint of being 'crap for kids' and gain an honorable reputation. I wrote:
Squarely aimed at the young adult market, Wallflower rises
well above the typical teen fare even for a cynical former teenager
like me. Consisting of letters written by Charlie to someone whom we
never meet, we get a glimpse into those horrible junior/senior high
school days when you haven't a clue how to live but have a great need
to be loved. Throughout, it feels as though Chbosky somehow read our
diaries and journals as he evokes all those emotions that were then so
near the skin.
I remember finishing the book and immediately mailing my copy to my dear friend, Rocky, with whom I had shared so many of those experiences, imploring him to read it. That the book was set in Pittsburgh further endeared it to me.
To see that ten years later author Chbosky has somehow managed to write and direct the movie version with a major studio and cast Hermione herself as one of the leads, gives me hope the film succeeds and gets this book in the hands of readers again.
An even more striking work, The Life of Pi completely knocked me on my ass. Deservedly, it went on to win the Booker prize and sold millions. Now as a big budget movie directed by Ang Lee, the film should lead millions more to read this absolutely remarkable and original work.
Some of the other notables worth a read or re-read that I wrote about in 2002 include:
Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer (Wow! And a debut, too)
Empire Falls by Richard Russo (My first Russo. Hardly my last)
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (Oh, the ache)
Summerland by Michael Chabon (Proof he can write just about anything)
Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn (a delight for wordsmiths)
Shopgirl by Steve Martin (Steve proves he's a writer)
Niagara Falls All Over Again by Elizabeth McCracken (a haunting tale of friendship)
Less acclaimed but still terrific:
The Half-Mammals of Dixie by George Singleton (where are you now George? Please write)
Tepper Isn't Going Out by Calvin Trillin (love that man)
McCarthy's Bar by Peter McCarthy (damned shame he passed away a couple of years later)
To say the least, looking back has been well worth it.