Wednesday, December 30, 2015

End of the Year Top Authors

Ok, so I know I said that I would do Top 5 books of the year, but the problem with that is that though I've took the time to read and review a lot on my blog (and get into the habit of posting on a regular basis), I've read books that sort of did double duty. I reviewed a lot on my blog that I used for my lesson plans and though they are good literary novels, I'm not sure I would rank it as one of my top books of this year.

As I reviewed my past posts, a few books, but most importantly, 2 authors caught my eye that I thought were very noteworthy and I'm so glad that I discovered them this year. In order to be genuine to this blog and most importantly, to myself, I thought I would discuss both of them instead of arbitrarily listing 5 books that I sort of liked.

2. Sherman Alexie

I discovered this author last year when my co-teacher assigned one of his books for her American Literature class. I've read 2 books by him, and I would like to read more when I get the chance. The first book I read by him is Reservation Blues, a book I acquired when a teacher retired at the end of June. I enjoy Alexie's voice and his style. He's a realist, with humor, depression, alcoholism and poverty all rolled into life on the Reservation. He shows the decline of the characters in the book with such gentleness, and also handles the plight of their circumstance due to systematic racism with the same sort of factual gentleness.

My husband has a copy of The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven and I read that one next. Even though he uses some of the same characters from Reservation in The Lone Ranger (or really, he uses characters from The Lone Ranger in Reservation), it's not overdone. They are familiar faces in much of the same circumstances. The Lone Ranger are a bunch of short stories about life on the Reservation, with folklore and mythology thrown in. It was his first book published, and I can't wait to read his other books next.

1. Octavia Butler

I think one of the reasons I enjoyed my last 3 months as an English teacher was because of this book. My husband taught this book to his 9th graders at the beginning of the year, and when I was struggling to rewrite my curriculum for the second half of the year, he suggested this book to me. Butler's writing is just phenomenal and Kindred, a stand alone book, is wonderful as it is horrifying. It allows a fresh take on the Antebellum South, as if it were if someone of color traveled back in time. This slave narrative really hits home for what actual slavery was like, and what our country was built from. Like Alexie, Butler also discusses racism but shows it through the lens of Kevin and Dana, an interracial couple in the 1970s.

I then read some of her other books, such as Parable of the Sower, Dawn and Adulthood Rites. I love her weird science fiction, and even more importantly, I love the diversity of her characters. The books that I've read so far have a majority of strong, female characters and they feel genuine because they are treated like people who make mistakes but ultimately power through.

However, unlike Alexie's books, Butler's books are finite. I look forward to reading them, but I dread the day when I read her last one.

These two authors really affected my literature and novel choices this year. Their gifts with words and their insight, whether it's folklore on the Spokane Reservation mixed in with realism and fiction or it's a science fiction story about the future of the world in the lens of a woman of color, has stayed with me.

What authors did you really enjoy this year? What authors did you discover? Comment below, or tweet me!

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