2008 was a landmark year for me and my books – my books tripled in quantity (thanks to BookMooch), my to-be-read stack (TBR) reached crazy heights (now I have a separate shelf for TBR) and was able to read a total number of 230 books.
This month, my book club, Flips Flipping Pages
discussed our best and worst books for 2008.
It was challenging to pick out my best book, as I had a lot to choose from, including:
Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Perfume by Patrick Suskind
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Ptolemy’s Gate by Jonathan Stroud
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (reread)
The BFG by Roald Dahl
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Daughter of Venice by Donna Jo Napoli
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
After much deliberation I decided to choose a book that blew me away:
The Arrival by Shaun Tan.
From the moment I held the book in my hands, I was awed by how beautiful it was, and how it seemed to elicit from me a sense of reverence as I turned the pages. Turning the book on its back cover, the critical acclaim is staggering – it is all praises from an all-star roster of authors and illustrators: Art Spiegelman, Marjane Satrapi, Jeff Smith, Jon J. Muth, Brian Selznick, Craig Thompson, and David Small.
You might be surprised to learn that my best book for 2008 is wordless – The Arrival is told entirely in pictures, in a series of breathtaking pencil sketches that silently convey so much emotion.
The Arrival depicts the story of a man who starts a new life for himself and his family in a foreign land. Tan perfectly captures the emotional roller coaster ride the character goes through: sadness at leaving his family behind; the stress of a long journey; the relief of reaching the destination; the bewilderment towards a new way of life; the slow acclimatization to a different culture; and the joy of being reunited with family.
Surrealism isn’t ordinarily my thing (see my review for The Republic of Dreams), but I loved how it is used in this book, especially in the new country. Everything is strange and outlandish– from the landscape to alphabet, alien creatures (the origami birds remind me of the paper birds chasing Haku in Spirited Away and the pet-like animals remind me of daemons in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy), food, customs, and transportation – and creates a perfect metaphor for the immigration experience. It also makes a grown-up theme simple enough for a young reader to understand without making it childish.
The book exemplifies the power of imagery – it’s pretty hard to “read” this book and not feel the emotions wash over you, and its cinematic quality makes you feel you’re watching the events unfold right before your very eyes. It made me smile and laugh and sigh, and as I turned the last page, I wanted to burst into applause.
This is definitely a book to treasure, and a must-read for illustrators.
(The Arrival images from www.shauntan.net)
My copy: hardcover
My rating: 5/5 stars