Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

Wordful 2009: What I Read

A year ago, George wished me a “wordful, birdful  2009” so I figured I’d wrap up my year of words and birds on the blog starting with the books I read.

I read 58 books this year. As I look at the list, I see a few groupings and so I’ll mention some favorites in each category.

The newest thing in my reading was chapbooks. I bought Ten Poems about Highways and Birds by Sarah Bennett after reading a review at Via Negativa. I guess that turned me on to chapbooks and I really fell in love with the form and even tried my hand at it (more on that later in the week).

Of the chapbooks I read, my favorite was Bennett’s, but they were all enjoyable and I discovered a number of poets whose work I hadn’t read before. I’ve now got a small collection of chapbooks going, and I expect I will continue to buy them. Two others that stood out were Heartland by Howard Good and Raven Feathers by Nicole Nicholson, and I’ll be posting my review of Pamela Johnson Parker’s A Walk Through the Memory Palace on January 28 as part of Read Write Poem’s Virtual Book Tour.

I read a bunch of young adult stuff. Every few years, I bring a stack of YA books home from the school library so I can read what my kids are reading and talk about their books a little bit. I read all of Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Shadow Children series and even had my summer school students read the first book, Among the Hidden. A few continued through the rest of her books and decided that maybe reading isn’t so bad after all.

My favorite of the YA books, though, was The Body of Christopher Creed by Carol Plum-Ucci, a dark tale of outsiders and insiders at a small town high school. The writing was sharp and the book held my attention better than most YA books.

I also read my usual assortment of novels and nonfiction books about random things that interest me. I continued my obsession of reading every book shown or referenced on ABC’s Lost, the most substantial of which was James Joyce’s Ulysses. Click here for a list of all the Lost books along with links to my reviews.

For novels, I happened to read two of the books that are showing up regularly on all those best-of-the-decade lists: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell and The Road by Cormac McCarthy, both of which have post-apocalyptic settings. While I agree with many reviewers that The Road is a brilliantly crafted novel, and one of the best to come along in a great while, I liked Cloud Atlas more. Those two books, along with Rafi Zabor’s The Bear Comes Home were my favorite novels for the year and they’re the three I’m recommending most frequently.

Other highlights include finally reading Joyce’s Dubliners (“The Dead” may be one of the best short stories I’ve ever read) and David Allen Sibley’s Sibley Guide to Trees, which though I haven’t read it yet, looks beautiful and will be a fine companion to his excellent Sibley Guide to Birds.

Here’s the full list:

  1. The Tales of Beetle the Bard – JK Rowling
  2. Alabama Wildman – Thurston Moore
  3. Twilight – Stephanie Meyer
  4. The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches – Matsuo Bashō
  5. JRNLS80s: Poems, Lyrics, Letters, Observations, Wordplay and Postcards from the Early Days of Sonic Youth– Lee Ranaldo
  6. Tao Te Ching – Lao Tsu (tr: Gia-fu Feng & Jane English – reread)
  7. At-Risk Students: Feeling Their Pain, Understanding Their Plight and Accepting Their Defensive Ploys – Bill Page
  8. Siddhartha – Herman Hesse
  9. The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  10. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
  11. Zen and the Birds of Appetite – Father Thomas Merton
  12. The Survivors of the Chancellor – Jules Verne
  13. Through – Rachel Barenblatt
  14. Ulysses – James Joyce
  15. The Crucible – Arthur Miller (reread)
  16. A Separate Reality – Carlos Casteneda
  17. Preventing Death by Lecture – Sharon Bowman
  18. Lucy – Jean Valentine
  19. The Secret Life of Words: How English Became English – Henry Hitchings
  20. Dewdrops on a Lotus Leaf: Zen Poems of Ryōkan – Ryōkan
  21. Among the Hidden – Margaret Peterson Haddix
  22. Restless Astronomy – Michael Gilmore
  23. The Devil’s Arithmetic – Jane Yolen
  24. Ten Poems about Highways and Birds – Sarah Bennett
  25. No Country for Old Men – Cormac McCarthy
  26. Monster – Walter Dean Myers
  27. Heartland – Howard Good
  28. Stuck in Neutral – Terry Trueman
  29. Among the Imposters – Margaret Peterson Haddix
  30. The Road – Cormac McCarthy
  31. Among the Betrayed – Margaret Peterson Haddix
  32. Among the Barons – Margaret Peterson Haddix
  33. Raven Feathers – Nicole Nicholson
  34. Among the Brave – Margaret Peterson Haddix
  35. Among the Enemy – Margaret Peterson Haddix
  36. Among the Free – Margaret Peterson Haddix
  37. The Intellectual Devotional: American History – David S Kidder & Noah D Oppenheim
  38. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – Philip K Dick
  39. The Bible of Lost Pets – Jamey Dunham
  40. Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card
  41. Book Made of Forest – Jared Stanley
  42. The Imperfection of the Eye – Steven Schroeder
  43. Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman
  44. The Body of Christopher Creed – Carol Plum-Ucci
  45. Red Bird – Mary Oliver
  46. Inside Bone there’s Always Marrow – Rachel Mallino
  47. Hemispheres – Jeanpaul Ferro
  48. The Bear Comes Home – Rafi Zabor
  49. Leaf Weather – Shira Dentz
  50. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier – Ishmael Beah
  51. Lord of the Flies – William Golding (reread)
  52. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing & Life – Anne Lamott
  53. Mars: The Lure of the Red Planet – William Sheehan & Stephen James O’Meara
  54. Bicycle Diaries – David Byrne
  55. The Day-Glo Brothers – Chris Barton
  56. A Walk Through the Memory Palace – Pamela Johnson Parker
  57. Nuclear Meditations – Cathy McFann
  58. Dubliners – James Joyce


  1. Great reading list. I’ve read about six of Howie Good’s chapbooks, and Heartland is one of my favorites. The Ender series by Orson Scott Card is another favorite represented here, not to mention Ryokan (I like the Burton Watson translation), Basho, and Laozi. Glad I was able to turn you onto chapbooks!

    • I suspect I’ll probably be following up with the rest of the Ender books. I haven’t read Laozi; I figure I should check him out. Chapbooks are definitely one of the cooler things from this year so thanks for getting me into them.

  2. No Russians? May I suggest “My Life”,by Chekhov?

    • My last excursion with the Russians was Brothers K (also a book I read for Lost), but it’s been a while since I’ve visited them, which is odd since I do like the Russians. What I’ve read, anyway. I haven’t read Chekhov in years so maybe I should put him on my list for this year.

  3. I also read Ulysees last year and a couple of Howard Good chapbooks too

    • I need to read more of Good’s stuff. I liked Ulysses a lot, which led me back to Dubliners. Doubt I’ll try to tackle Finnegan’s Wake.

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