It feels like I've hit a milestone of some sort. Ten books I'd probably never have picked up on my own are now behind me, with fifty more to go. I think I'll end every tenth book with an award-type reflection on the previous ten. Everyone wins an award. It's like little-league basketball!
First, the nominees:
#1: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
#2: Fluke, or I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings by Christopher Moore
#3: Ilium by Dan Simmons
#4: The Road by Cormac McCarthy
#5: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
#6: Boy by Roald Dahl
#7: Flatland by Edwin A. Abbot
#8: The Cestus Deception by Steven Barnes
#9: Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
#10: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Now, the winners!
The Most Surprisingly Enjoyable Read Award goes to:
I was almost annoyed at my friend Dave for recommending this one. All I knew going in was that The Road was reputed to be one of the most depressing books ever written in the English language. I went in with this expectation, and sure enough, I found the narrative to be uncompromisingly dreary. As I delved further into the relationship between the man and the boy, however, I found myself more touched by their love and need for one another than I was appalled by their situation. Even knowing that it couldn't possibly end well, I wanted to pull for them. I started finding bright spots in their episodic journey toward the coast. It's hard to explain how this dreary world became an enjoyable read, but it did, and I was surprised, and I'm glad I read it.
The Most Recommendable Book Award goes to:
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
I think just about everybody could take something out of this book. It's a bit of a downer, but I think there's a lot of strong character and relationship to explore and enjoy. The people in Hunter are real to the point that we've all known one or two of those people at some point in our lives. We all enjoy reading something we can relate to, and I think this was a very relateable tale.
The "Yeah, That's Gonna Work..." Award goes to:
Seriously? A novella about about two-dimensional shapes? An entire chapter about the dangers of having one-dimensional women in a world of two-dimensional men? Geometric theory as social commentary? It's incredible that someone thought it would be a good idea. More incredible is the fact that it works.
The "Would Make The Best Movie" Award goes to:
Water for Elephants
The story, the characters, the settings, the events, virtually everything about this story screams, "Cinema! Cinema! Make me into an awesome movie!" I believe the movie rights have been sold, but I haven't found anything on pre-production starting. It'll be a winner. Guarantee. Like Free Willy for grown-ups. Okay, maybe not.
The Best Use of Villains and Shady Characters Award goes to:
I love villains. I think they can be some of the greatest characters to write and to read, and Gaiman's cadre of villains and/or shady characters are what made this story work for me. I was a bit annoyed with the protagonist and the leading lady, but the Hunter, the Marquis, and the fantastic Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar (along with their mysterious employer) totally made this book worth reading. The final confrontational scene is an absolute page-turner.
The "Well That Explains a Lot" Award goes to:
Roald Dahl's autobiographical recounting of his childhood reveals tons of insight into where his famous children's stories came from. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, The Witches, they all unmistakably have their roots in Dahl's own experiences with schools and schoolmasters. Also, a somewhat heartbreaking account of why Dahl considers himself an agnostic.
The Most Disappointed That the Book was Over Award goes to:
This would also win the "most likely to read again" award, but I'm only giving out one award per book. It was almost four in the morning, and it really didn't seem fair. The sequel, Olympos, is certainly going to be one of the first five items on the next reading list.
The Constantly Redeemed Award goes to:
Fluke, or I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings
I can't tell you the number of times I was reading this book when I thought, "Okay, now that's just lame," or, "I know where this is going, and it's going to be lame." Funny thing was, just as Moore was on the verge of losing me, he always managed to pull something cool out of his hat to keep me on board. Many of the developments I originally considered lame ended up being among the best parts of the story. Toward the end, I simply surrendered to the insanity and trusted that it would all make sense in the end. More often than not, it did.
The Would Make the Best Video Game Award goes to:
The Cestus Deception
Is there any surprise? Star Wars and video games go together like roast beef and mashed potatoes. Exciting characters and pulse-pounding battles are the hallmark of this franchise, and it carries over into the books. (At least, into this one) Of all the books I read, this was the story I'd be most likely to recommend anybody looking for a "summer blockbuster" of a book. Turn your brain off for awhile, kids, and just enjoy the Jedi.
The Coolest Combination of Geeky Greatness Award goes to:
Seriously. Mixing sci-fi theory with classic fantasy-style creatures, characters, and ballads. And doing so without making it hokey or glaringly inconsistent. Cheers, Anne McCaffrey. Cheers.
Coming up: some historical non-fiction, science fiction, and Christian theory, among other things. See you next time on The Ten Down Awards!