Book 16 of the shelf-sitter challenge is The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. Two different book-friends have been aghast when I admitted to not having read this yet, and now I see why. It's wonderful. It's rare that I read a genre book that I think deserves to be considered a classic, but this Juvenile Fantasy book qualifies. I am humbled by its greatness, truly.
I kind of cheated by listening to this on audiobook. This is a shelf-sitter challenge, after all, and I do have the dead-tree version of this book sitting on my shelf right now... but I'm short on time and motivation for finishing this challenge by the end of the year, and I thought The Son might enjoy this one, so I made it our car-audiobook. It was a magnificent performance: Pullman himself read the narration, with a cast of actors doing the character voices. Pullman is a terrific reader in addition to being a terrific writer; it makes me forgive him for being such a little bitch about everything in his essays.
The plot in twenty words: Oxford-raised "orphan" girl teams up with river gypsies and a sentient polar bear to stop evil church-sponsored experiments on children. There were three scenes with adults discussing Lyra and how important and special she is that I thought were completely unnecessary and threw me out of the flow of Lyra's POV, but other than that it is basically perfect. The Son loved it, too, even though parts of it were truly wrenching. This is a kid with an extremely high tolerance for peril, tension, conflict, violence, and tragedy in stories, but there was one scene in The Golden Compass that upset him enough that I suggested not continuing with the book-- a suggestion he fiercely rejected.
Are the next two books of the trilogy as good as this one? I read the blurb for The Subtle Knife and it sounded meh.