Fat Books & Thin Women

30 Day Book Meme, Day 1
August 1, 2011, 4:53 pm
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I am totally stealing this from Gillian, whose responses to this 30 day book meme I got weirdly obsessed with back in April. With lining things up for the Fulbright, getting ready to end my service in Macedonia and studying for the GRE, August seems like a good month to let my brains leak all over the place while I write about my favorite books and favorite authors and favorite books by favorite authors. Since I’ll still be posting a short story every Sunday I’ll skip three or four of the month’s prompts. Without further ado, my favorite book of the last year. (Oh – and with the exception of this post, from now on I’ll be looking from Septemberish 2010 when I talk about the “last” year.)

The Best Book You Read Last Year:

When you come right down to it, how do you define a “best” book? I sometimes can’t resist the urge to assign some values to my reading (this month being a case in point), but the numbers I assign to books (best, second best, third best) often owe just as much to the unpredictable order by which they pop into my head as they do to the actual quality of the book. For the sake of not devoting a full month to writing about Nabokov I’ll say, to start, that I’m excluding rereads from my “best book of 2010,” but that still leaves me in a seemingly impossible position: deciding which was better, Stephen King’s Under the Dome or Peter Hessler’s Country Driving, The Time Traveler’s Wife or The Book Thief (in the category of “books that made me cry, maybe.”).

At end, though, it’s The Age of Innocence that wins this enviable award. Wharton’s story of Newland Archer and Ellen Olenska, the impending marriage of Newland to May Welland, his love for Ellen, and his attempt to define his ideals and find a way out of the constraints of his society to the life he longs for with Ellen, is extraordinary in its own rights, but especially so in my mind for awakening me, at long last, to Wharton. She’s one of so many writers cursed by being assigned reading in high school, and while the story of Newland and Ellen was familiar, the details of their society and their failed, sometimes half-hearted efforts to make their way through the social mores of their day, would have been incomprehensible to the sixteen-year-old version of myself. Maybe Wharton is a writer you have to grow into – her style isn’t flashy, and the apparent ease with which she reveals the inner lives and desires of her characters might fool an impatient reader into thinking there are no great revelations in her work. Whatever it is, Age of Innocence led me to read two of my other favorite books of recent memory (Ethan Frome, or the “sled into a tree” book, and The House of Mirth), and is a book that I imagine will improve with time. Any book that you can imagine reading ten years in the future, tears dribbling off your chin (unless, wait, this image is just me last time I read it) as you see how the society whose strictures Newland Archer determined to obey has crumbled around him, is worth a laurel like “Best Book Ellen Rhudy Read in 2010.”

30 Day Book Meme:
Day 02 – A book that you’ve read more than 3 times

Day 03 – Your favorite series

Day 04 – Favorite book of your favorite series

Day 05 – A book that makes you happy

Day 06 – A book that makes you sad

Day 07 – Most underrated book

Day 08 – Most overrated book

Day 09 – A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving

Day 10 – Favorite classic book

Day 11 – A book you hated

Day 12 – A book you used to love but don’t anymore

Day 13 – Your favorite writer

Day 14 – Favorite book of your favorite writer

Day 15 – Favorite male character

Day 16 – Favorite female character

Day 17 – Favorite quote from your favorite book

Day 18 – A book that disappointed you

Day 19 – Favorite book turned into a movie

Day 20 – Favorite romance book

Day 21 – Favorite book from your childhood

Day 22 – Favorite book you own

Day 23 – A book you wanted to read for a long time but still haven’t

Day 24 – A book that you wish more people would’ve read

Day 25 – A character who you can relate to the most

Day 26 – A book that changed your opinion about something

Day 27 – The most surprising plot twist or ending

Day 28 – Favorite title

Day 29 – A book everyone hated but you liked

Day 30 – Your favorite book of all time

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What a fun meme. I’d almost be inclined to do this one if I felt I could keep it up. Any Edith Wharton would be worthy of a year in which I read it, though choosing one book in a year (let alone Day 30s challenge) would almost defeat me!

Comment by whisperinggums

Great post, Ellen! Wonderful to know that ‘The Age of Innocence’ is your favourite read of last year! I haven’t read an Edith Wharton book yet, but am stocking them up right now.

On a different note, have you read Peter Hessler’s ‘River Town’?

Comment by Vishy

I have, I read it after I got my official invitation to the peace corps. hessler is one of my favorite writers of nonfiction, and River Town is one of the best (if not THE best) books about peace corps service there is.

Comment by Ellen Rhudy

What a great book meme idea. I am totally going to steal this. The book recommendation is awesome, because I’ve always been intimidated by Edith Wharton. Reading your post is a double win!

Comment by Matthew

[…] stumbled upon the 30 Day Book Meme at Fat Books, Thin Women and really enjoyed reading the answer. It’s a month-long campaign with daily prompts on books […]

Pingback by 30 Day Book Meme: Best Books Last Year « A Guy’s Moleskine Notebook

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