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Mike Mehalek writes fast-paced lyrical books that can be enjoyed with one reading but have enough substance for re-reading. He brings stories to life that demand to be told, regardless of the hopes/dreams/fears/desires of his characters--the Story first--always the Story.

In 2008 Mike earned his masters degree in writing popular fiction from Seton Hill University

Visit Mike on twitter @mikemehalek

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

2010 Book List

One of my goals for the last year had been to increase the time I spent reading.  This year I clocked 22 books in all--19 fiction and 3 nonfiction.

I tried to hit a variety of both literary and popular fiction, trying to figure out what made each novel fall into that particular column.  As I analyzed them, a quote from Stephen King--perhaps it's because I returned to several of his works this year, after years away from them (my older brother's ratty copy of Cujo was one of the first novels I read as a teen)--kept coming to mind.

King says, "...there are two types of novelists...those who are bound for the more literary or 'serious' side of the job examine every possible subject in light of this question: What would writing this sort of story mean to me?  Those whose...writing of popular novels are apt to ask a very different one: What would writing this sort of story mean to others?  The 'serious' novelist is looking for answers and keys to the self; the 'popular' novelist is looking for an audience."

With this lens, each novel seemed to fit into its "appropriate" category.  And for me the  books that stuck with after reading and still creep into my head out of the blue, seemed to answer, or at least address, both questions.  Bag of Bones, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, and The Road were a few who successfully pulled this off.

One of the other treats for me this year was seeing how some writers are novelists and some are storytellers.  It's one of those distinctions that makes all the difference to the feel of the story.  With an industry where word counts matter, it was nice to see both types on the shelves.

Lastly, every year I try to take a look at fantasy fiction's past to better appreciate where it is today.  I do this partly because my first manuscript is considered fantasy and partly because I'm amazed with how well fantasy (and science fiction) can be at social commentary.  It's like a snapshot of people's beliefs (or ignorance) is at particular point in time.

Since modern fantasy started in children's literature, this year I chose George Macdonald's The Princess and the Goblin.  According to scholar Michael D. C. Drout, Princess is one of the earliest examples where the protagonists in a children's book face the very real threat of death.  As you read, this becomes obvious.  It definitely is a child's fairy-tale, but unlike Snow White or The Wizard of OZ (which I read last year), where it is pretty clear the characters will be in a better place at the end of their adventure, we don't know if the happy ending is coming in Princess.  In fact as you read, it seems very likely that the the bad-ass with the midnight cloak and bone-colored scythe will be the only one smilingly at the end.

I won't spoil the end, and children's literature is not for everyone, but for a kid's book, I dug it.

So without further adieu, here it is: the 2010 Book list list.  I did rate them 1-5 stars when I read them, but I omitted the ranking from this entry.  If people are interested, I could add them back.

  • The Star Rover--Jack London
  • Your Heart Belongs to Me--Dean Koontz
  • Fahrenheit 451--Ray Bradbury
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime--Mark Haddon
  • Neverwhere--Neil Gaiman

  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius--Dave Eggers
  • The Art of Happiness--Dalai Lama, Howard C. Cutler

  • Last Things--David Searcy
  • Heartsick--Chelsea Cain
  • Princess and the Goblin-George Macdonald

  • None--apparently it was a slow reading month
  • Cemetery Dance--Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
  • The Road--Cormac McCarthy
  • Manhood for Amateurs--Michael Chabon
  • InsideOut--Maria Snyder
  • WWZ--Max Brooks
  • The Bone Garden--Tess Gerritsen
  • The ABC Murders--Agatha Christie
  • Was a slow reader and didn't finish anything this month

  • Bag of Bones--Stephen King
  • Seize the Night--Dean Koontz

  • American Gods--Neil Gaiman

  • The Gunslinger (Dark Tower Book One)--Stephen King
  • The Drawing of the Three (Dark Tower Book Two)--Stephen King

1 comment:

  1. I'm trying for 25 books in 2011. It really should be more, but it's tough to balance reading and writing sometimes.