The 5th Annual Aaron Book Awards

31 12 2016

Has it already been half a decade since I’ve been doing this?! Wowzers.

Like the Academy Awards, I’ve changed some of the rules and categories this year. I’ve cut the category of Best Non-Fiction Book because it was too difficult to compare, say, a book about the history of Vancouver, to a book on exercise.

Although Classic has been a category for the past couple years, I’ve added all the titles with the rest of the fiction books (or plays if I elected to read a Shakespeare play as a Classic). This year, I’m going to put them in their own category.

Also, I decided a book is only eligible for the category that I had chosen it for. So for example, Sisters by Raina Telgemeier, is both a Children’s Book as well as a Graphic Novel. In past years, I allowed books to be entered in multiple genres if they were multi-genre works, but decided that this was unfair to other books that were, say, simply novels. In addition, some categories had more nominees than others. So Sisters will only be in the running for Best Graphic Novel since that is the category for which I had chosen it.

With that out of the way, let’s start the show!

Total number of books read in 2016: 42 (a new record! Although some books I didn’t actually read all the way through, so maybe not)

Best Fiction Book/Novel

Winner: Sharp Teeth — Toby Barlow

I feel like I should pick Roadside Picnic because it is considered to be an important work in the sci-fi genre, and yes, it is an intriguing story, but I still have to go with Sharp Teeth because it hooked me right off the bat and was one of the most visceral books I’ve ever read, not to mention the experimental way its written is pretty damn awesome.

Nominees:

Sharp Teeth — Toby Barlow
One Man’s Trash — Ivan E. Coyote
Roadside Picnic — Arkadiĭ and Boris Strugat͡skiĭ
The Slow Fix — Ivan E. Coyote

Best Memoir

Winner: The Glass Castle — Jeannette Walls

A very well-written memoir about a family. Not much else to say except that everyone should read it.

Nominees:

Let’s Pretend this Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) — Jenny Lawson
Humans of New York — Brandon Stanton
Paper Shadows — Wayson Choy
Deep Too — Stan Dragland
The Glass Castle — Jeannette Walls

Best Play

Winner: Waiting for Godot — Samuel Beckett

I said it in my review for the book, and I’ll say it again. Man, this was a depressing play about feeling stagnant and stuck. I didn’t think I’d be able to relate so much to an absurdist play like this.

Nominees:

Death of a Salesman — Arthur Miller
The Laramie Project — Moisés Kaufman
The Glass Menagerie — Tennessee Williams
Waiting for Godot — Samuel Beckett
Othello — William Shakespeare

Best Children’s Book

Winner: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire — J.K. Rowling

I had no idea all I read this year was Harry Potter. Jeez. Honestly, it’s difficult to pick one of the HP books (Up and Down, although cute, just can’t compete with books about kids dying), I ultimately picked The Goblet of Fire because it was a turning point in the series for me. The first three books laid the foundation for the series, and near the end of Goblet of Fire, there was a sense that the stakes had been raised quite dramatically with the genuinely shocking death of Cedric Diggory. More horrified I was that Cedric’s death happened in front of a freakin’ teenager who was bound to be traumatized after. Goblet of Fire was the book that finally stepped into mature themes, creating foreboding that permeated throughout the rest of the series. No one was safe anymore.

Nominees:

Up and Down — Oliver Jeffers
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone — J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets — J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban — J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire — J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix — J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince — J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — J.K. Rowling

Best Gay/Queer Book

Winner: The Riddle of the Sands — Geoffrey Knight

Yeah, it’s campy, sexy fun, but I gotta say, it’s well-paced and there’s more (and better) plot than all of the Bourne movies. Plus the sexy guys having gay sex. Woot.

Nominees:

The Hardest Thing — James Lear
Strip — Andrew Binks
The Riddle of the Sands — Geoffrey Knight
The Cross of Sins — Geoffrey Knight

Best Graphic Novel

Winner: The Arrival — Shaun Tan

Extra props for being able to create different atmospheres using only pictures. Truly awesome. As in leaves me in awe.

Nominees:

Adrian and the Tree of Secrets — Hubert
The Shadow Hero — Gene Luen Yang
Bone, Vol. 1 — Jeff Smith
The Arrival — Shaun Tan
Angel Catbird, Vol. 1 — Margaret Atwood
Sisters — Raina Telgemeier

Best YA Novel

Winner: Ghost World — Daniel Clowes

Although none of the nominees really blew me away, at least Ghost World‘s crushing ending was nice.

Nominees:

Ghost World — Daniel Clowes
Gone, Gone, Gone — Hannah Moskowitz
Way to Go — Tom Ryan
You Know Me Well — David Levithan and Nina LaCour
Whatever. — S.J. Goslee

Best Classic Book

Winner: The Bell Jar — Sylvia Plath

The Kite Runner — Khaled Hosseini
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde — Robert Louis Stevenson
Memoirs of a Geisha — Arthur GoldenThe Legacy/A Town Called Alice — Nevil Shute
The Bell Jar — Sylvia Plath

Best Book of 2016

Nominees:

Sharp Teeth — Toby Barlow
The Glass Castle — Jeannette Walls
Waiting for Godot — Samuel Beckett
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire — J.K. Rowling
The Riddle of the Sands — Geoffrey Knight
The Arrival — Shaun Tan
Ghost World — Daniel Clowes
The Bell Jar — Sylvia Plath

Winner: Waiting for Godot — Samuel Beckett

This was the most difficult pick I’ve made since I started compiling these lists. Even I’m not sure I chose the “best” one, since all these books were great in their own different ways. I do think that Waiting for Godot managed to convey so many themes in such subtle ways, and of course it was depressing as hell, which I’m always a sucker for.

Congrats to all the winners! What will I read next year?

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The 4th Annual Aaron Book Awards

1 01 2016

Ah, it’s that time again already? A whole year’s gone by so quickly? Jeez. I don’t know what to say. Except that my mother is cleaning my bathroom right now because I haven’t cleaned it in a while and it annoys me because I specifically told her not to wash my bathroom because she uses gross chemicals. Note to self: clean bathroom more often next year.

At the end of last year, I wanted to try and even out the different genres of material I was reading, since I found that I read very few plays and much more novels and YA books. For the most part, it worked quite well, though I found that sometimes the order got messed up whenever a book abruptly came in for me that I had request a while back and then I’d have to put down whatever I was reading in favour of it). I read or attempted to read total of 41 books, which is up from last year (although I did count a number of picture books that took all of a minute to read).

And now… let’s begin!

Best Non-fiction Book

Winner: No Logo — Naomi Klein

An infuriating and depressing look at the state of the world. I don’t remember feeling so angry while reading something in a really long time. And the saddest thing is, sweatshops and brands still have a ton of power except these days, no one cares anymore.

Nominees:
No Logo — Naomi Klein
Library Architecture + Design
— Manuela Roth
The Ethical Slut — Dossie Easton
Business Affairs

Best Play

Winner: King Lear — William Shakespeare

I feel like it’s unfair to have Shakespeare in this category and I almost decided not to include him simply because, well, he’s Shakespeare. But I realized Dickens, Rushdie, L.M. Montgomery are all still competing against modern authors, so it didn’t seem fair to only exclude Shakespeare.

I do feel like I have to give big props to Christopher Durang for writing two brilliant and hilarious plays. Laughing Wild would’ve won if not for the Bard.

Baby with the Bathwater — Christopher Durang
Laughing Wild
— Christopher Durang
King Lear — William Shakespeare
Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde — Moisés Kaufman
The Comedy of Errors — William Shakespeare

Best Graphic Novel

Winner: Maus — Art Spiegelman

No contest here.

American Born Chinese — Gene Yuen
Shirtlifter — Steve MacIsaac
Fun Home — Alison Bechdel
The Book of Boy Trouble
Maus — Art Spiegelman

Best Children’s Book

Winner: Anne of Green Gables — L.M. Montgomery

Surprised? I am too. Not to say that Anne of Green Gables is bad, but the best kid’s book I read this year? Yeah. I guess so.

Cat Champions — Rob Laidlaw
Swallows and Amazons — Arthur Ransome
What Will Fat Cat Sit On? –Jan Thomas
Anne of Green Gables — L.M. Montgomery
How to Speak Cat — Sarah Whitehead
Cats Meow — Pam Scheunemann
A Christmas Carol — Charles Dickens
A Castle Full of Cats — Ruth Sanderson
The Wind in the Willows — Kenneth Grahame

Best Gay/Queer Book

Winner: Business Affairs

It certainly is the gayest.

Also, I’m not sure about having this category or not.

The Geography of Pluto — Christopher DiRaddo
Fun Home — Alison Bechdel
Shirtlifter — Steve MacIsaac
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe — Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Business Affairs

Best Memoir/Autobiography

Winner: Shaking It Rough — Andreas Schroeder

Yes, I know I’m biased because Andreas used to be my teacher. But also, this is a really good book with some great writing. And also I’m biased.

Tiger Mother Son of a Bitch (Only to be stated here because I attempted to read it and gave up because it was godawful)
Yes Please — Amy Poehler
Fun Home — Alison Bechdel
Shaking It Rough — Andreas Schroeder
Maus — Art Spiegelman

Best YA Novel

Winner: The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen — Susin Neilsen

I’m a sucker for sadness. And Canadian authors!

American Born Chinese — Gene Yuen
The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen — Susin Neilsen
Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story — David Levithan
The Porcupine of Truth — Bill Konigsberg
How I Live Now — Meg Rosoff
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe — Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Another Day — David Levithan

Best Fiction book/Novel

Winner: The Road — Cormac McCarthy

I almost chose The Bone Clocks but then I saw that I had rated The Road five stars and The Bone Clocks only four. It’s hard to pick The Road when it was one the first books I read last year and I don’t remember it as well as The Bone Clocks, which I read more recently. But like David Mitchell, I love McCarthy’s writing style. Also his bleakness is always appreciated.

The Road — Cormac McCarthy
The Bone Clocks — David Mitchell
Midnight’s Children — Salman Rushdie
Tenth of December — George Saunders
Slade House — David Mitchell
The Geography of Pluto — Christopher DiRaddo

Best Book of 2015

Winner: Maus — Art Spiegelman

Apparently I’ve chosen memoirs several years in a row now. It just goes to show you what a unique and impacting kind of experience it is to read them (ie. everyone should read more!).

Congrats to all the winners and hope to read some fantastic stuff this year!

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The 3rd Annual Aaron Book Awards

30 12 2014

Welcome once again to the 3rd Annual Aaron Book Awards! I will start off with some disappointing news: the total number of books I read this year is 23, down from 35 from last year. And I don’t really have an excuse, since I graduated from university earlier this year and should have had time to read lots… although I was working two jobs for a while. And writing (or procrastinating and pretending to write). And I did read a lot more novels this year than last year, so maybe I actually read more in quantity… anyway! I’m sure you’re not dying to know who won what, so I’ll just get to it.

Without further ado…

Best Play

Winner: The Normal Heart — Larry Kramer

Well, yet again, I only read one play this year, but it was a fucking awesome one. I had been wanting to read it for a while and it was only after watching Ryan Murphy’s film adaptation earlier this year — which left me in a giant puddle of tears — that I was finally able to get a copy from the library.

Can’t recommend this play enough.

Best Children’s Book

Sort of winner? A Pussycat’s Christmas — Margaret Wise Brown

I have to explain.

This book was not on my list of books to read (obviously. Really!). I happened to come upon it while working at the library one day, and took a picture of it to send to someone who looooooves cats. One thing lead to another, and I borrowed the book. But I couldn’t just not read it, so I did.

And honestly, it wasn’t very good. Yeah, the pictures are great because, well, there’s a fluffy cat in them, but the writing itself meanders and is, for a picture book, kind of underwhelming. But I didn’t read any other children’s book this year, and I don’t think this book deserves it. So… I’ll just leave it like that.

Best YA Novel:

Winner:  Openly Straight — Bill Konigsberg

First of all, this was a tough decision. I really enjoyed both Openly Straight and Just Between Us; they both had wonderful protagonists and dealt with a lot of topical gay issues. I have to hand it to Mr. Konigsberg for his fantastic characterization of not just his main characters, but to all of his characters. It’s a skillful technique that has definitely made me think about with my own writing. Plus, the witty humour throughout is simply irresistible.

Nominees: Just Between Us — J.H. Trumble
Openly Straight — Bill Konigsberg

Best Non-Fiction Book

Winner: Toxin, Toxout — Bruce Lourie, Rick Smith

I think this is a difficult category to judge because these books are all so different in their own right. I included It Gets Better because although it is made up of creative non-fiction narratives, its purpose is to educate and provide support to people, the way many self-help and sociological books do.

Ultimately, Toxin, Toxout, the follow-up to last year’s winning Slow Death by Rubber Duck, is our winner this year! Another informative, alarming, and Canadian (!) book about everyday invisible toxins in our lives. If Slow Death by Rubber Duck sounded the alarm on toxins, this book is the therapy session that provides us hope.

Nominees: Toxin, Toxout — Bruce Lourie, Rick Smith

Seven Rules for Sustainable Communities — Patrick Condon

It Gets Better — eds. Dan Savage and Terry Miller

Best Graphic novel/Manga

Winner: Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (vols. 5-7) — Hayao Miyazaki

This might be unfair because I picked Nausicaa last year and I hadn’t even finished reading the series… but too bad.

Nominees: Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (vols. 5-7) — Hayao Miyazaki

Artifice — Alex Woolfson

Persepolis — Marjane Satrapi

Scott Pilgrim (vols. 4-5) — Bryan Lee O’Malley

Best Memoir/Autobiography

Winner: Nothing to Envy — Barbara Demick

A sobering, devastating, horrific, shocking, and moving piece of journalism. Thanks to David Sedaris for recommending it. I think it’s one of the creative non-fiction books I’ve read.

Nominees: The Bucolic Plague — Josh Kilmer Purcell

Nothing to Envy — Barbara Demick

Persepolis — Marjane Satrapi

Bossypants — Tina Fey

It Gets Better — eds. Dan Savage and Terry Miller

Best Novel (Fiction)

Winner: The Year of the Flood — Margaret Atwood

This was the year of Margaret Atwood. Gotta hand it to her for creating such a frightening depiction of the future. This is what speculative fiction is all about.

I also want to give a shout-out to The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet for being ambitious in language and style. I’d argue that most writers today care more about characters or story or other aspects of writing, and less about language. Mitchell is all about language in this one. It’s not a book for everyone, for sure, but you do have to admire his dedication to words you’ve probably never heard of before.

Nominees: The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet — David Mitchell

Oryx and Crake — Margaret Atwood

Fahrenheit 451 — Ray Bradbury

The Year of the Flood — Margaret Atwood

Maddaddam — Margaret Atwood

And the final category: Best Book of 2014

Winner: Nothing to Envy — Barbara Demick
Honorable mention: The Year of the Flood — Margaret Atwood

Goals for next year: read more plays and children’s books!

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The 2nd annual Aaron Book Awards

30 12 2013

Welcome to the 2nd annual Aaron Book Awards, where I list all of the books I’ve read this year and pick out some of my favourites. Compared to last year’s total of 30 books, I managed to read 35, which surprises me because I felt like I didn’t read very much this year. So, without further ado, here are the awards!

Best Play

Winner: a Shakespeare play I should’ve read

It seems unfair to make My Chernobyl the winner for this since I only read one play this year. I had been meaning to read some Shakespeare but never got around to it, mostly because I feared the translation would be daunting and annoying. But next year!

Nominees: My Chernobyl — Aaron Bushkowsky

Best Graphic Novel/Manga

Winner: Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind — Hayao Miyazaki

Okay, I know I’m not even finished Nausicaa yet, and yeah sure, the last three books could completely ruin the series, but based on what I’ve read so far, it’s a huge, complex, philosophical piece of work. Not that Scott Pilgrim isn’t, but certainly not in the same way. One reads Scott Pilgrim to be entertained; one reads Nausicaa to have their mind blown.

Nominees: Scott Pilgrim — Bryan Lee O’Malley
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind — Hayao Miyazaki

Best Children’s Book

Winner: The Secret Garden — Frances Hodgson Burnett

I will give a shout-out to Evan Munday again though, because I love his humour and his writing style. He’s my bro!

Nominees: The Secret Garden — Frances Hodgson Burnett
Dial M for Morna — Evan Munday

Best Non-Fiction Book

Winner: Slow Death by Rubber Duck — Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie

I would’ve picked A Brief History of Time but I will be honest: I know Hawking dumbed down physics, but there were still parts in there in which I stared blankly at it and just looked at the pretty pictures.

Nominees: The Illustrated A Brief History of Time — by Stephen Hawking
Slow Death by Rubber Duck — Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie
Expert Companions: Household Skills and Tips

Best Memoir/Autobiography
I have to say that this is really tough because I loved all of these books in their own way, and quite frankly, these are all books that everyone should read sometime in their lives.

Winner: i am not myself these days — Josh Kilmer-Purcell

When something makes me cry, I know it’s good. i am not myself these days has that perfect balance of great humour, drama, and tragedy that I so long to write. It’s an incredibly poignant look at a tumultuous relationship of a young gay man’s life and growing up. I only hope to one day that my memoir will be as compelling as this one.

Nominees: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother — Amy Chua
i am not myself these days — Josh Kilmer-Purcell
Me Talk Pretty One Day — David Sedaris
Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls — David Sedaris
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tough Times for Teens
How Poetry Saved My Life — Amber Dawn

Best Novel (Fiction)
I only read three novels this year? I thought I read more. Hmm.

Winner: Life of Pi — Yann Martel

Nominees: Life of Pi — Yann Martel
The Five People You Meet in Heaven — Mitch Albom
The Lovely Bones — Alice Sebold

Best Young Adult Book
I’m surprised this is the biggest category. I guess I didn’t realize how many YA novels I read this year.

Winner: Where You Are — J.H. Trumble

I thought there were great twists and turns, and the narrative was so compelling I couldn’t put the book down, which doesn’t happen very often. A really great novel in its own right, but a really good gay romance too.

Nominees: What They Always Tells Us — Martin Wilson
Hidden — Tomas Mournian
The City of Ember trilogy — Jeanne DuPrau
Six Earlier Days — David Levithan
Where You Are — J.H. Trumble
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tough Times for Teens
Two Boys Kissing — David Levithan
Don’t Let Me Go — J.H. Trumble
Divergent — Veronica Roth

And for the final category: Best Book of 2013

Winner: i am not myself these days by Josh Kilmer-Purcell
Honorable mention: Where You Are by J.H. Trumble

Looking forward to reading tons more books next year!

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