There are certain things you can count on in connection with the calendar. In July, there will be magazine issues all about grilling. In September, it’s back to school stuff. November and December is all about food…and January is all about losing weight and looking back on the year and making pointless lists. I love pointless lists. Nothing feels so organized and meaningful to me than the Top 10 Movies of 2011, or the Top Ten Books About Girls, or whatever. So I’ve decided to write my own list, and randomly organize whatever stuff I want to. Here’s the first of those lists.
So here’s my
Top 10 List for Books* I Read, Narrated, or Listened to in 2011.
(*The books aren’t all written in 2011; that’s just when I read them.)
#10 “Eat Me” by Kenny Shopsin
Kealoha bought this for me for last Christmas. I opened it and was like “Oh. Ok. Thanks.” Then I read it. Couldn’t put it down. It’s about this Kenny character who owned a diner in New York where if he didn’t like the looks of you, he’d refuse to serve you. He’s angry, irritated, and has an enormous menu. The book is his philosophy of cooking. It’s surprisingly down to earth and takes all the snobby foodie BS out of food. Plus there are some great recipes. And he finally taught me that I will never make pancakes better than pancakes from a mix, so I can finally stop trying. What a relief.
#9 The Dante Valentine 5-book series by Lilith Saintcrow
I narrated this series at the start of 2011. 5 books right in a row. The books are about a Necromancer and Bounty Hunter set in a futuristic world. There are battles with demons and the Devil, and Dante falls in love with a demon. Talk about complications. The novels were filled with terrific characters, and I got to do some kick ass character voices. (My favorite was a deep and gravelly bounty hunter that pushed my vocal register into the basement.) I also lost my voice during the recording and we had to take a week off.
Strangely, in the book, Dante gets her vocal chords crushed by Satan, so there’s all this talk of her voice being ruined. We plowed through the narration anyway, and used my cracking voice to fit the text.
I was super proud of my performance in these. Sadly, it’s not on iTunes, nor did I ever receive copies of the 5 discs. I’m wondering if they didn’t produce the books after all. And they were never reviewed. It’s a shame. It’s a terrific series.
#8 “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins
Lot of press on this one, but for good reason. This dystopian YA novel should be considered a classic. It fits right in with “Lord of the Flies” and “Catcher in the Rye”.
#7 “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath
I re-read this to consider using it for my Women and Madness in Literature course. It’s still a shocking read. You think you’re reading this nostalgic bit about a girl in the 50s in New York, but then it starts to change. The book makes the reader feel what madness feels like…how it feels utterly normal. It’s devastating and beautiful, and I’m having my class read it.
#6 “Matched” by Allie Condie
Another dystopian YA book. I put it above “Hunger Games” simply because this one didn’t get as much hype. It’s about a futuristic society where The Society.
#5 “Split Second” by Alex Kava (Maggie O’dell series, backlist)
I love narrating the Maggie O’dell series by Alex Kava. She’s a complex character. You can tell she has heart, but there’s been so much that’s happened to her in her life, that she’s shut herself off from feeling. For some reason, they decided to have me narrate one of the earlier books in the series (I think I took over in book four or five). It was fun to see Maggie when she was a little more green as a detective, and meet her nemesis, and the man who ultimately changed her.
#4 “The Silent Girl” by Tess Gerritsen
Loved narrating this. I was tentatively scheduled to narrate this with the instruction that I needed to sound a little tougher. The author thought I was a little too ‘soft’ in “Ice Cold”. So I tried to give the characters more edge. More darkness. My director encouraged me to push the accents and vocal distinctions for the characters. I was nervous, but tried anyway. Audiofile Magazine nominated this as one of the top 10 in mystery and suspense and said “listening to Tanya Eby is like listening to a full cast recording”. That was incredibly satisfying.
#3 “A Visit from the Goon Squad” by Jennifer Eagan
I read this one in the summer. I was immediately drawn into a world of pulsing music and characters who are weighted down by time. I still think about this book. It’s a terrific piece of writing.
#2 “We Need To Talk About Kevin” by Lionel Shriver
One of my favorite books I’ve ever narrated was by Lionel Shriver called “The Post Birthday World.” It was never reviewed, but I feel like I gave the performance of my life. Or at the very least, the book came at a time in my life when I was on the brink between two worlds. It pushed me to change my life.
I decided if I couldn’t narrate all of her books (which I wish I could) I could at least read them. This book “We Need To Talk About Kevin” is a journey of regret, remorse, and an attempt to understand the very human mind of a monster. It’s compelling. Disturbing. And deeply emotional. To read a book about a kid who kills his classmates sounds awful. Who wants to read that? But Shriver manages to tell a story about being a parent; a story of hope and loss; a story that feels very real and reminds the reader that there is so much in life that we have no control over.
#1 “Ready Player One” narrated by Wil Wheaton, written by Ernest Cline
And finally…my top favorite book of 2011… “Ready Player One”. I listened to this and was transfixed. First, the inner geek in me rejoiced that Wil Wheaton (from Star Trek TNG) would narrate it. But the book itself sucked me right in. It’s an epic journey into the futuristic Oasis. A quest for a Holy Grail, imbedded in video game lore. If you liked 80s movies and video games, if there’s anything sci-fi in your little heart, if you like nerds and geeks and outsiders…you’ll love this book. It was entertaining, delightful, suspenseful, and the characters are filled with heart. Wheaton’s performance is also terrific.
Next list? Hmmm. 80s montages, or geek movies, or food I ate in 2011, or....I dunno. Stay tuned.