Sunday, January 1, 2012

great books & one movie I found in 2011

On New Year's Eve I watched this amazing movie for the first time. It's by Miyazaki, who made Spirited Away, one of my true faves.  It was great, really beautiful, really special.
It's called Ponyo. Ponyo is a little goldfish with a cute human face who meets this little boy named Soskei by accident. They become best friends.  Ponyo decides she wants to become a human girl and grow up with Soskei, but that decision upsets the balance of the earth.  Soskei has to save the day!


This year was a good one for books. I read some really great ones, some real junk too.  But that's how it goes.  Here are the ones that stand out over all the rest:

1. The Silent Land, by Joyce Graham.
This one gets the top spot.  You have to read it to understand why.

2. Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman
South of the Boarder, West of the Sun
Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
all by Haruki Murakami
A very good year for HM. He came out with a brand new big fat novel, and to celebrate I read these three books, and I couldn't possibly pick my fave. They were all so different and all so Murakami. He is absolutely my favorite writer ever.

3.Neither East Nor West: One Woman's Journey Through the Islamic Republic
by Christiane Bird
When she says it's ONE woman going THROUGH the Islamic Republic, she's not kidding. All alone this woman traveled the entire country of Iran. She really can paint a picture of what she's seeing and experiencing.  This was a good year for reading about Iran, I read maybe 5 or 6, but this one was the stand-out for me.

4. The Good Daughter: A Memoir of my Mother's Hidden Life
by Jasmin Darznik
I loved this one too, about Darznik's mother growing up in Iran and escaping the cultural revolution for California in the 70's. What made reading this one even better was that the author and I had an on-going conversation thru while I was reading it. She answered all my questions and even directed me to a great old picture of her mother on the web. It made the experience of reading the book very personal and I really appreciated it!

5.The Winter Ghosts, by Kate Mosse
Wow, this one was great. An old ghost story set in a secluded French village in the middle of a blizzard. Beautiful woodblock prints throughout really enhanced the reading. 
6. I Shall Not Hate, by Izzeldin Abuelaish
This was a heartbreaking memoir of Abuelaish's life, and the senseless loss of half his family through war.  Abuelaish is a surgeon who truly lives a life of peace in Isreal, even though he rarely experiences such kindness himself.  This book taught me a lot about the Palestinians and life in Israel.

7.Going to Extremes, by Joe McGinniss
Fantastic memoir of life in Alaska from the point of view of an outsider. Really well-written and readable. He takes in all Alaskan walks of life.

8. Breaking Stalin's Nose, by Eugene Yelchin
The story of a young boy who idolizes Stalin. He is his hero. But when his officer dad is carted off by soldiers, he slowly starts to see his world very differently. Harsh charcoal drawings make the reading even more moving. 

9. Untangling my Chopsticks, by Victoria Abbott Riccardi
A memoir of the author's time in Kyoto and her culinary studies. The descriptions of the food she eats while she lives in Japan is unbelievable.  I think I ordered out from Tomo three times that week.  But she doesn't only talk food. It's a great gaijin-in-Japan memoir.

10. Drinking at the Movies, by Julia Wertz
Wertz,  you slay me. This was a riot.  A graphic novel memoir of Julia Wertz's experience moving from San Francisco to New York City: her awful jobs, her even worse apartments, and a lot of bawdy jokes and swearing.  It was great.

I'm  keeping the "bests" list to 10, even though there were plenty more that I loved to death. If you fancy some more excellent suggestions, see my page. Insomniacs unite in love of reading!  Happy 2012 folks!