Do you ever feel like a book has it all? Hardly ever. It’s a challenge to find a book that engages you; perfectly utilizes a plethora of literary devices; has poetic writing without seeming over the top or losing you; tells a really good story; and has powerful themes. When you do come across this rare occurrence, you have to pause and think, “Wow. I loved every part of that book.”
Well, I guess you could say 2021 is off to a great start because I’ve already found a book that has everything. And I finished it only 16 days into the year. That greatness came in the form of Marcus Zusak’s historical fiction novel, The Book Thief, which Kyle had — for good reason — been recommending to me for awhile.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t also tell you that this novel somehow made me both laugh and cry. I don’t know how Zusak accomplished so much in 500 pages, but I’m sure glad he did.
I’ve had an interesting year of reading. There have been a few lows and some definite highs. I’ve read blissful and entertaining books, as well as downright depressing ones. The full year has been a whirlwind, but I did manage to get in some solid reading. Let’s take a closer look at my stats as of Dec. 26, 2020:
Read 10,230 pages from 30 books — Goodreads for the win again — compared with 10,904 pages across 31 books the year before (though I’m trying to finish one more before Jan. 1, which would put me at my goal for the year).
The above stats do include one book that I’ve finished but haven’t yet reviewed (coming January 2021). Once, I include that one, my average flameworthiness for the year will be 3.9 flames, just higher than 2019. Now let’s take a look at the individual rankings:
Flipped through one two-flame book, which is a huge improvement from 2019’s five.
Finished six three-flame books, which matches last year’s total.
Enjoyed 14 four-flame books, which is more than 2019’s 11.
Indulged in seven five-flame amazing reads, which is two less than last year.
Anybody else love stats and data and totally nerding out on it, especially when it’s related to books? Nope? Just me? Well OK then. In that case, it’s time for the most important part of my 2020 bibliophile review: assessing my resolutions that I set for myself back in January. Did I hold myself accountable and obtain my goals?
Nobody will ever forget 2020; it’s one for the history books unfortunately. Yes, things have been a garbage fire, but — with everything — there’s always a silver lining. For example, in 2020, I finally decided to go to therapy and invest in my mental health; being quarantined together has been the ultimate validation that Kyle and I are true partners and can get through anything together; and the world has even given the environment a break — albeit a small one.
With so much self-reflection, it’s impossible to not reflect on all of the positives in 2020. One bright spot is that all this time at home has given me a new appreciation for books and allowed me to see new literary themes that bibliophiles and the world over need. With Thanksgiving coming up, I wanted to express my literary gratitude to the books, the authors, and the readers who made a difference this year.
I know I know. It’s a very odd title, but does it grab your attention and reel you in? Of course, and that’s why it’s a great title. That’s what great books deserve, and that’s exactly what Shaffer’s novel is.
I read this novel at the beginning of the pandemic (apologies for the delay!), and it easily earned four flames. It was moving, funny, heartbreaking and heartwarming, and just a great story. It’s also a movie on Netflix that came out in 2018. Many people have recommended this book to me, including my friend Danielle, who I watched this movie with virtually (#coronavirus). After indulging in this adventure yet again — as well as Michiel Huisman who dreamily plays Dawsey Adam — I decided to take the movie and book toe to toe.
America loves its Friday nights on the gridiron. Small towns showing up to the stands in droves as they cheer on their teams of young boys with big dreams. It’s quintessential Americana. It loves it so much that, when a nonfiction book was published about it (along with many other sociological themes) in 1989, a movie by the same name premiered 15 years later and a TV show two years after that. They both starred the great Connie Britton, so you know they have reach and power.
Yes, Friday Night Lights and everything it represents and demonstrates has become ingrained in American culture. Clearly, we’re all a little obsessed with high school football. But with three types of media focused on this theme, which one does Big Little Literature love most?
Although I’ve also watched the television series, that was five years ago, and my memory necessitates more time to relive the show than the movie. So we’re going to narrow our focus a bit. Friday Night Lights, it’s time to go toe to toe: book versus movie.
It’s been a weird year. With a lot of lows and a lot of highs, sometimes I didn’t know how to feel. But one thing that constantly kept me excited, intrigued, and motivated? Literature. Ahh yes, my best friend that has never and will never let me down. In 2019, I read 31 books (the review for #31 will be posted in the new year).
I raved about many of them and stated how interesting they were and how difficult it was to put them down; others were less so. But where do they compare with one another? You’re about to find out.
Lisa Lucas wrote this line in a recent piece for TIME about how books are anything but dead; yes, they are alive more than ever. Although I give credit where credit is due, this declaration from Lucas, the executive director of the National Book Foundation, is far from novel (no pun intended).
Of course storytelling is an innate part of being a human. It’s why our parents tell us stories before we go to bed. It’s why we dream at night. It’s why we listen to music and why we crave the songs’ backstories. It’s why we give speeches to honor and celebrate people at parties, weddings, funerals, etc. It’s definitely why, as Lucas argued, books are not dead. It’s also why we need them to continue to flourish.
That’s right. I said continue. As in books already are flourishing.
This year contained many ups and many downs, so it’s hard to say how I really feel about 2018. One thing I am positive about though is that this year was full of fantastic reads. Twenty-six books fell into my hands these past 365 days, and it’s time I share with my loyal readers the definitive ranking of every book I read this year. Now let’s get down to business!
Indeed, it’s the most wonderful time of year. And for two solid reasons: Christmas presents in the shape of books and cold and cozy days meant for cuddling up with your favorite read. So if you have a bibliophile in need of some holiday magic, here are my picks for the best gifts, Big Little Lit style:
I can’t exactly describe when it happened, but at some point in the past 12 months, books sort of became my life blood. I’ve loved reading as long as I can remember. There was the first story, Dick and Jane, that I read in preschool, and I firmly remember my mom telling my kindergarten teacher that I’d already finished multiple books halfway through the school year. My teacher was ecstatic upon hearing this news, and even though I was proud of the triumph they exuded, I didn’t think it was all that exciting. Reading was a part of my life. It was that simple.
Dick and Jane–my first book!
Next came Little Golden Books, which I devoured, and then I had my “Ah ha!” moment with Harry Potter. (I don’t think I need to explain this. I mean, I was the kid who played Harry Potter at recess and fought with her brother about who got to read the newest book first and what the reading increments were.)
From there I discovered the 50 state books that my elementary school library owned. Around this same time I also read nearly every Bailey School Kids book (any and all fans HAVE to check out this list), and all of this resulted in me completing more book reports than any other child in Mrs. Wrigley’s third grade class. Children’s fiction shortly gave way to my Nicholas Sparks phase. This preceded an intense fascination with chick lit, which still exists by the way, and Emily Giffin, my favorite author. And during my college days, I discovered my love for historical fiction, still my favorite genre.