66. Bridget Jones The Edge of Reason by Helen Fielding (338 pages) Umpteenth reread. Love these books, and I think I like the second one better. That hilarious Christmas card scene. Also, I love how it is a clever and poignant modern take on Jane Austen's Persuasion, which proves again how awesome Jane is.
"He would take a roadside attraction, no matter how cheap, how crooked, or how sad, over a shopping mall, any day."
"If the truth isn't big enough, you print the legend. This country needs its legends. And even the legends don't believe it any more."
"I'm a culture hero. We do the same shit gods do, we just screw up more and nobody worships us. They tell stories about us, but they tell the ones that make us look bad along with the ones where we came out fairly ok… this is not a good country for gods…But we never built churches. We didn't need to. The land was the church. The land was the religion. The land was older and wiser than the p[eople who walked on it… What I'm trying to say is that America is like that. It's not good growing country for gods. They don't grow well here. They're like avocados trying to grow in wild rice country."
67. American Gods by Neil Gaiman (592 pages) Shadow is released from prison days early to attend the funeral of his wife. On the way, he is hired to work for Wednesday, a mysterious stranger that wants Shadow to help him recruit the old gods in a war against America's new gods. On a road trip through America and Americana, through cheesy tourist stops and cultural settings, Shadow must deal with his undead wife and the cast of gods, goddesses, and heroes that have immigrated to America in the souls of its people. Gaiman's mythological tale is one part American road trip, one part Joseph Campbell, one part Beatnik poetry, a fascinating and clever blending of the physical, psychological, sociological, cultural, metaphysical, and theological in the American identity. Gaiman's portrait of mythology in a very non-mythological setting perfectly blends the American psychology and the American reality into a brilliant, refreshing and new American Romance novel in the vein of Hawthorne or Melville. The idea that this country of immigrants became a country of immigrating gods and cultural heroes is not only absorbing and original, but beautifully and richly realized. Though not my favorite of Gaiman's novels (it does meander and can be slow at many points), American Gods cements him as one of my most beloved authors. Grade: A-
"She didn't believe in or like books because she feared being a character in them and thus not a real person, whatever that was, and not knowing what a real person was made her hate the books even more…"
"Was this what love for a book did to you? Did love for a book make you act like a child again? Or was this what love did to you, period, book or no book?"
"And maybe this was another reason why people read: not so that they would feel less lonely, but so that other people would think they looked less lonely with a book in their hand and therefore not pity them and leave them alone."
68. An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England by Brock Clarke (317 pages) OK, so, yeah, I totally bought this book because of the title, because I live in New England, and--more importantly--am a lit nerd and have gone to many writers' homes in New England. My thinking was correct: this was the book for me. Sam Pulsifer accidentally burned down Emily Dickinson's house, killing two people. Years later, other writers' homes in New England are being torched, and Sam is accused. As his life starts to unravel, he begins a very bumbling attempt to unravel not only the mystery of the destruction of these writers' homes, but also the mystery of the destruction of his family and what caused him to burn down Emily Dickinson's house in the first place. The book is a tragic and comedic satire of the literary world, both at once critical and appreciative of the beauty and power of literature and authors, their power to capture reality, and how that power torments us. The book refreshingly captures our relationship with literature and its creators. Sam Pulsifer is a bumbling, pathetic, yet sadly likeable Everyman, descending into a literary fantasy world that perfectly and charmingly blends reality, satire, the literary world, and the world within the literary. Probably the greatest meta novel ever written. Grade: A-
69. Sword of the Rightful King by Jane Yolen (361 pages) Merlinnus, King Arthur's mage, places a sword in a stone and whoever can pull it from the stone shall be king. Of course, it is rigged. But will the North Witch (or one of her sons) pull it out first? And what about the mysterious boy, Gawen, that shows up at the castle and becomes Merlinnus' student? Yolen is in terrific form; her reworking of the familiar (but good!) tale with clever, surprising twists brings refreshing new meaning to the Arthurian legend and makes a intriguing read. Grade: A
70. Incantation by Alice Hoffman (166 pages) Estrella's world is turning upside down: her best friend hates her, she has fallen in love with the neighbor, and the Jewish people of her town are being horrifically persecuted. Then she makes a shocking discovery: her family is Jewish. Hoffman's tale is beautifully described, like poetry and magic and tragedy in one, with a moving and powerful voice. Grade: B+