Friday, December 04, 2009

Best book 2009.

If it weren't for my book club, I'd have very little to choose from for the Best09 prompt for day 4:

December 4:  Book. What book - fiction or non - touched you? Where were you when you read it? Have you bought and given away multiple copies?

Since I've gone back to school, I don't read fiction for pleasure as broadly, deeply, or ambitiously as I would like. It's impossible for me not to read:  however it has to be relatively light, not too thinky, and quite often, familiar -  something I won't get so engrossed in I can't put it down because I need to know how it ends. Thus, I find myself picking up and re-reading books by Jane Austen, Agatha Christie, Patrick O'Brian, or Dorothy Dunnett. (The latter two can get a bit thinky, but since they're re-reads, I don't mind).  Alternatively, I'll often pick up children or young adult books that my kids read.

I'll only break out of this pattern to read something for my book club. Each member picks a book for the month, and with our diverse tastes, more often than not it's something I would never, ever choose on my own.  I generally prefer borrowing book club selections from the library, as about half the time it's something I can't get into, bail out of, or don't like well enough to want my own copy.

But every year, there's a book that I run out and buy for myself as soon as I finish the library copy because I know I'll want to re-read it, and in this case, ensure that my kids read it. This year, that book was The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

the Book Thief

I was astonished this was classified as a children's book: set in Germany before and during World War 2 and narrated by Death, it is necessarily dark, disturbing, and at times despairingly sorrowful and bleak. Yet even Death's narrative voice has a sort of compassion and self-deprecating humour that allows us to witness the events lived out by the characters; Death almost seems to have an emotional investment in the fates of those we watch through his eyes.

If the prose doesn't move you to tears, the illustrations (ostensibly a book written by one of the characters) will. Even if I had read a lot more books this year, this one would still be the best of 2009.

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