Meet the Class of 2013: Superlative Awards and The Best Book of the Year (according to little old me)

Well friends another year has come and gone and it seems the “thing to do” now is to look back on the last three hundred and sixty five days of my reading habits and to make giant claims about them in a clever, quirky way. Another blogger recapped her favorite books from the year in a yearbook format and I thought that was clever so I’m totally stealing the idea.

I spent a lot of time working on clever graphics for this post (when I probably should have been doing the laundry or paying attention to my loved ones) and the end result is a wee bit on the tiny side here on the blog, so if you can’t read my clever notes you’ll want to click on the image to view the full size. Totally worth it, I swear.

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So on page one of our literary yearbook, I’ve awarded the following books:

Cutest Couple: Like OMG August and Hazel are totes the cutest couple eva, amiright? But seriously, I some kind of adored The Fault in Our Stars by John Green along with everyone else with a pulse. The writing is sharp and snarky, the characters are just the right amount of broken and the love story is one for the ages. You’ll need a box of tissues for this one!

The Book I Was Most Obsessed With: I had a torrid love affair with The Selection by Kiera Cass – it sucked me and refused to let me go until I’d finished this and the following two books in four days. I am quite impatiently waiting for the next book in this series and will likely squeal like a tweeny bopper when it finally comes out.

Most Gossiped About Family: Bernadette’s family certainly gives their town a lot of gossipy material to work with in Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple, which my book club read in May. This is an “epistolary” novel which is always a risky move but for  “book of letters, emails and memos” this book packs a pretty big punch. I found myself relating to Bernadette a lot, which was a little bit scary for awhile there, but it also kept me rooting for her and her family.

Best Vintage Fashion Moments: I loved a lot of things about Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham  of Gilmore Girls fame. I loved to hate on her bad choices. I loved the little day planner doodles in between the chapters. I loved waiting with baited breath for her and a certain male character to finally kiss already and groan with disappointment when she pursued the wrong guy. But perhaps best of all were all the 90’s era references and extremely detailed fashion descriptions that will make a lot of us groan in solidarity.

Most Zen: There are a lot of things I could have chosen to single out when summarizing A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki  – like the horrific teenage bullying the author describes or the wacky Japanese subcultures, the heart wrenching suicide attempts, the strange quantum physics phenomena, the nosy neighbors that the other main character suffers with, the many trials and tribulations you face when you are living in a new place somewhat against your will – but I thought I’d go on the light side of things and award this book for it’s more uplifting qualities – the Buddhist Zen undertones of the book are what my book club most enjoyed referencing in our discussions of the book in September and are often what I first recall now looking back on it. Being, no being, there is no difference. This is another epistolary novel that worked out really well.

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Ready for page two?

Most Likely to Go into Foreclosure: Anyone who has bought or sold a home has their horror stories, their war stories, their nightmare tales that can keep you up at night. None of them come close to the horrific fictional events that happen in Jen Lancaster’s If You Were Here. I am a huge fan of Lancaster and have loved just about every book of her’s that I’ve ever read and this was one of my favorites – it’s one I still think of often and one that inspired me to write a book myself, under the concept of “let’s think about all the crazy things that can happen in scenario A and then amplify those crazy things by 10,000,000,000,000. Love.

The Class Clown: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling is definitely one of the funniest books I read this year. Judging by the reviews on goodreads.com people either love Mindy or loathe her, but I definitely am on the love side. This book kept me up at night laughing loudly from beginning to end, much to my husband’s chagrin. If this book were a classmate, it would be the terribly funny kid in the back of the room that says what everyone else was thinking and consequently gets you into trouble for laughing along but you don’t even mind.

The Class Prankster: Some people excel at pranks and manage to pull of their literary heists all the way to the end. The False Prince by Jennifer A Nielsen had me constantly coming up with lots of theories about how it would end but none of them were exactly right. Well done, Nielsen. I’m always impressed when a book keeps me in suspense until the end.

The Class Rebel: If Mindy Kaling is the class clown, Moranthology by Caitlin Moran is her slightly darker BFF who spends class smoking in the boys room, listening to the Stones on her busted ancient MP3 player that she loved before MP3 players were a thing. Equally as funny as Kaling’s book but in an edgier way and with lots of chapters that made me squeal with glee like “OMG, you like Doctor Who also Moran, we are SO going to be BFFs someday!”

Most Likely To Get Kid Sleeping Through the Night 1st: Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman is one of the few “how to” parenting books that manages to not come across as pretentious or preachy and thus makes her advice actually appealing and intriguing. There were aspects of French parenting that I thought made a lot of sense, some were surprising but great ideas and of course there were some that are just not for me – but I loved reading about how differently other cultures raise their kids and the potential pros and cons to different methods.I’ve already implemented some of these ideas in my own life or plan to soon. I loved the recipe for yogurt bread included in the book – my son and I made it for his birthday last week and it was delicious.  I want to buy this one for every new mother I know.

And now for the moment we’ve all been waiting for, drum roll please…

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When it came time to decide which book to award “best of the year” – this was the first that jumped out at me. Maybe it’s not fair because it’s one of the last books I read and to be honest, it was also one of the hardest books to give a “superlative” to (like I almost went with “most likely to die a bunch” or “most likely to make you say ‘Let’s Kill Hitler!’“) – there are certainly some other amazing books that might have been entitled to this award for different reasons. The Fault in Our Stars and A Tale for the Time Being both come to mind.

But what Atkinson accomplished with this book really is extraordinary and it breaks a lot of molds in regards to writing style, chronological order, life, death, the universe and fox references. I can definitely say I don’t think I’ve ever read another book like it and likely never will. It is truly in a class of it’s own and thus I felt it deserved the distinction and honor of being called The Best.

You can read my full review of this book here in which I share with you my deepest thoughts and feelings about it complete with spunky hashtags (#notquitereincarnation #lotsoffoxes #letskillhitler #warsucks). For comparison’s sake – here is my review of A Tale For The Time Being and The Fault in Our Stars. I certainly did my share of fangirling over both of them.

For a full list of all the books I read this year and my thoughts on them, go here

-edit- At the time that I wrote this post and thought for sure that I wouldn’t read any more books, I then went on to read two more books and one of them it seems shameful not to mention because I adored it that much!! I’m too lazy to make any more graphics, but if you are looking for a great, accessible, quick, funny “classic” epistolary story to read, I definitely recommend Daddy-long-legs by Jean Webster. It was fantastic!

I’m linking up with the wonderful Anne @ Modern Mrs. Darcy – if you are looking for even more book recommendations, head over there to see what all of her readers have been loving in 2013.

20 questions for a New Year’s Eve reflection

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As another year draws to a close, one can’t help but reflect on the year – and a blogger cannot help but write all about it, amiright? I read these 20 questions for a New Years Eve reflection at Simple Mom and thought it might be fun to fill in the answers on my blog. I’ve probably done this several years now

20 questions for a New Year’s Eve reflection

1. What was the single best thing that happened this past year? There are so many things I’d consider mentioning here but I think BB starting 4K has probably been the most exciting – she absolutely loves going to school with her brother and riding that big yellow school bus and I’ve loved the few hours a day to myself. I’m sure later I’ll think of something else obvious but right now that’s what is coming to mind.

2. What was the single most challenging thing that happened? Although we love our puppy, learning to be puppy parents has been a very trying experience with a lot of ups and downs – much like becoming parents!

3. What was an unexpected joy this past year? I became a “karate mom” this year somewhat unexpectedly and have been so impressed by the kids’ karate instructor and the influence that it’s had on both kids.

4. What was an unexpected obstacle? I guess the last answer is a bit twofold – karate has been both a blessing and a curse these past months as I’ve struggled to figure out our evenings 3-4 times a week, namely when and what to feed the kids for dinner in between lessons!

5. Pick three words to describe this past year. Busy, enlightening, fun

6. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe your year—don’t ask them; guess based on how you think your spouse sees you. (If you’re not married, have fun guessing the answers from other friends and family, or just skip this question.) chaotic, memorable, new

7. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe their year—again, without asking. busy, productive, athletic

8. What were the best books you read this year? Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, Daddy-long-legs by Jean Webster, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

9. With whom were your most valuable relationships? Aside from my husband, I’ve been very grateful this year for my many friendships here in Wisconsin – I’ve continued to grow closer to a few wonderful ladies and continue to make more friends each month thanks to my women’s group.

10. What was your biggest personal change from January to December of this past year? Having both kids at school this year has been a major change for me.

11. In what way(s) did you grow emotionally? I think I’ve gotten more comfortable with talking to strangers and feeling more confident socially.

12. In what way(s) did you grow spiritually? I don’t know if I’ve grown spiritually so much as gotten more comfortable with my own beliefs and ideals.

13. In what way(s) did you grow physically? Apart from gaining weight, I’m not sure that I have. I’d really like to get more active in 2014.

14. In what way(s) did you grow in your relationships with others? Really just the old slow and steady of making new friendships and becoming closer to them. I don’t know that I’ve done any significant thing to make this happen so much as just kept myself social as much as possible.

15. What was the most enjoyable part of your work (both professionally and at home)? I’ve really enjoyed the new role I took on in my son’s cub scout pack – managing the website for the pack and putting together a monthly newsletter. It’s been challenging at times but it’s really helped me to get to know the other parents a little better and to understand how scouting works.

16. What was the most challenging part of your work (both professionally and at home)? With all of our evening commitments and daily goal, I seem to be constantly behind of cleaning.

17. What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year? probably games on Facebook… shhhh….

18. What was the best way you used your time this past year? I’ve spent a lot of time this year working out better organizational systems around the house – how we store things and use them. This has been a big help.

19. What was biggest thing you learned this past year? I think the biggest lesson I continue to learn is that I don’t know everything and that all life lessons are made to be relearned, with new revelations discovered each time. I am a work in progress and I can only grow by being fluid.

20. Create a phrase or statement that describes this past year for you. It’s getting better all the time.