Celebrating 20 Years of Sonderbooks: Favorites from 2002

August 2021 marks twenty years of writing Sonderbooks! To celebrate, I’m writing posts about favorites I read each year.

This is simple, because I make a Sonderbooks Stand-out post every year, but I’m looking at each year’s list and highlighting a few extra-special favorites. It’s making me want to do a lot of rereading!

2002 was my first full year of writing Sonderbooks. As with 2001, I was still posting in “issues” and trying to review an Old Favorite for every issue — so I reread some truly amazing books each year. Again, I’m not going to highlight those, but let me say that every single one of the books I list as a “Reread” in the Special Edition is wonderful.

Books I read the first time in 2002 and still remember with love:

Heir Apparent, by Vivian Vande Velde

This is a kid-trapped-in-a-computer-game story, so I shouldn’t have loved it, but I did. The computer game is a medieval fantasy tale, and the author pulls it off. I think this was the first book I read by Vivian Vande Velde, and got me started on some other wonderful books.

The King’s Swift Rider, by Mollie Hunter

This one’s a historical novel set in Scotland during the time of Robert the Bruce with a young protagonist riding for him.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, by Ann Brashares

Here’s a classic friendship novel, showing a group of girls each living their own summer, but always having their friends — and having the pants.

The Best of Times, by Greg Tang

I still think this is the best book ever for kids learning to multiply. Instead of just blindly memorizing the times tables, it helps kids understand how multiplication works and be able to figure out answers when they forget the rote memorization.

Cleopatra’s Heir, by Gillian Bradshaw

Another amazing historical novel from Gillian Bradshaw — immersing the reader in a time I didn’t know much about.

Quentins, by Maeve Binchy

I’d read some Maeve Binchy books before this one, but this was the first one I reviewed. I love her immersive fiction, making you feel like you know the characters. I read many more over the years.

Crocodile on the Sandbank, by Elizabeth Peters

The first Amelia Peabody mystery!

Angles of Reflection: A Memoir of Logic and a Mother’s Love, by Joan L. Richards

So good! This book is about a mathematician and a mother who is dealing with her child’s severe illness and trying to juggle her motherhood and her career.

In Code: A Mathematical Journey, by Sarah Flannery with David Flannery

Another wonderful book about a mathematician! This time, she’s a 17-year-old girl who figured out an improved algorithm in cryptography. A very fun story.

Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M. I. T. Students Who Took Las Vegas for Millions, by Ben Mezrich

I read lots of math books that year! This one is about how a team of students from M.I.T. figured out a method to win at blackjack. Though the casinos fought back.

A Mind at a Time: America’s Top Learning Expert Shows How Every Child Can Succeed, by Mel Levine

This was a fascinating look at how people learn. I like this line from my review: “Dr. Levine believes that every mind has strengths and weaknesses. When a child comes up against an obstacle to learning, he does not believe we should blame the child, but help the child get around the roadblock via his strengths.”

Hungry Hen, by Richard Waring, illustrated by Caroline Jayne Church

This is still one of my favorite picture books. Someone gets eaten — and it’s not the hen!

Celebrating 20 Years of Sonderbooks: Favorites from 2001

This month, I’m celebrating 20 years of writing Sonderbooks!

I thought it would be fun to celebrate by posting some favorite books from each of those 20 years, so I’m starting with 2001.

Of course, that task is simple, since each year I made a list of Stand-outs — I called it a Special Edition at the beginning. So I’ll look at my list from 2001 and talk about the books that I especially remember and love twenty years later.

Wow. The first thing I notice is that I was doing more rereading back at the beginning — and covered some of my all-time favorite books that year. This was because I tried to include an Old Favorite in every issue. I’ve gotten away from that and I miss it. But I won’t even go over all the wonderful books I reread that first year — those are all still my favorites, and you can see them in the Special Edition.

But look at the books I read the first time that year!

The Thief and The Queen of Attolia, by Megan Whalen Turner!

These almost-historical fantasy novels in a world similar to ancient Greece deal with the cleverest but also wonderfully flawed main character and the plots of the whole series, but especially at the beginning, have twists that make you want to read and reread to admire the craftsmanship.

Enchantress from the Stars, by Sylvia Engdahl!

This science fiction book tells a story from three perspectives — a super advanced society who has perfected space travel and telepathy, a medieval society on a planet somewhere, and an advanced — but not so advanced — society that also has space travel and wants to harvest the resources of the medieval planet. Without interfering, a young woman from the super-advanced society is sent to the planet to convince a young man she is an enchantress and can teach him to go on a quest and defeat the dragon that’s attacking.

Dark Lord of Derkholm and Year of the Griffin, by Diana Wynne Jones!

In these books, we see a fantasy world where people from our world come for tours. This year, Derk of Derkholm has been appointed the Dark Lord the people on the tour will have to think they’re defeating. Lots of humor plus insight into fantasy tropes.

The Sand-Reckoner, by Gillian Bradshaw!

This is still one of my favorite novels ever — about the life of Archimedes, the great mathematician of Alexandria.

Tales from Earthsea, by Ursula LeGuin!

This went along with rereading all the Earthsea books — but I especially loved some of the additional insights in the stories of this book.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert M. Pirsig!

I can’t believe I didn’t read this until 2001! It’s a classic. Read it!

I read five books about English Speakers moving to live among a different culture! Those are so much fun. Check my Special Edition for the list.

Suburban Nation, by Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, and Jeff Speck

The ideas in this book still fascinate me — about how much the design of cities makes them livable — or not. I could see for myself how much nicer it was to live in a European village, and this book pointed out some of the reasons why suburbs aren’t as livable.

For the Love of Ireland, edited by Susan Cahill

This is still my favorite travel book ever. It very much helped that I read it during my favorite vacation ever — three weeks traveling around Ireland. But I also liked the format — stories and essays about Ireland collected in one volume and tied to places in Ireland.

Okay, there were lots more wonderful books I read and reread that year. It’s made me smile to revisit them. I can tell this way of celebrating is going to make me want to do lots of rereading. No wonder I love writing Sonderbooks so much!

20 Years of Sonderbooks!

Twenty years ago I began writing Sonderbooks.

It started as a sometimes weekly, sometimes biweekly ezine — an email newsletter. I think before the end of 2001, I’d figured out how to make it a website. I posted the back issues on the web and still posted them in “issues.” Here’s Sonderbooks #1.

I like the tagline I used then: “Discover new books. Discuss old books. Order more books.”

In 2007, I took a web design class while I was getting my degree in Library Science and decided it was time to revamp my website. A friend even made a new logo for me!

My last “issue” was Sonderbooks #107, dated June 30, 2006 — the last one I posted while living in Germany. I didn’t post a lot that year when I moved back to America, went to library school, looked for a job, and was on the other side of the world from my husband, who was planning to divorce me. But when I started back up, the website had a new look, I added a blog, and I’ve continued on for twenty years — longer than my marriage lasted before he left!

Once I started writing Sonderbooks, I knew this was just the right outlet for me. I got to write, I got to write about books, and I got to use a little bit of my computer skills. Besides, once I’d started working in a library, I couldn’t keep track of all the books I read, and writing Sonderbooks was a way to keep track. I have even made friends, starting back in 2001 and continuing through the present, by discovering a mutual love of books through Sonderbooks.

Since I didn’t date my first few issues except August 2001, I think that means I need to celebrate all month! I’d like to do twenty posts about my favorite books from each year of reading.

But I’m also hoping to rethink the look of the site again and (finally) make it more mobile friendly. I’ll probably choose a wordpress theme for my blogs, so may have to give up the way the look matches the pages. I need to fix the search box, which stopped working when I switched hosts a few years ago. I want to add a Teen Nonfiction category. And I’m going to think through if I want to change the format out of tables — which don’t show up as well on mobile devices. I might even do like I did in 2006 and just start new pages, with links to go back to the old. But one thing I need to figure out is how I want it to end up.

So stay tuned!

And to readers, old and new, thank you for letting me share good books with you! Writing Sonderbooks continues to bring me great joy!

Watch for more 20th Anniversary posts this month!

Problem Solved!

Forgive me all this drama! But when you got very little sleep the night before trying to upgrade your blog — and then it doesn’t work, it’s easy to overreact.

The last problem was solved when I deactivated a plug-in called “Customizable Permalinks” that a message had warned me sternly needed to be activated! I hope, hope, hope that now the blog is working fine!