Thursday, December 20, 2012

Nat's Best of Books 2012 Edition!

Year In Reading

Everyone else is doing it . . . 

Best {nonfiction} book of the year: Quiet by Susan Cain. And, ok, really the only nonfiction book of the year. Everyone I know who read this book experienced some sort of "Thank the appropriate deity or kiss the sky, I'm not crazy/abnormal/the only one" reaction. That, of course, should tell you how many introverts I know. Cain goes off on tangents here and there and I wish there were a tad more concrete science but what she does for introverts is incomparable. NO ONE else says it's ok if you have to be quiet for an hour after a perfectly normal day of work. She breaks through the groupthink to allow introverts a place in the noisy extroverted world.

Best {fiction} books of the year: The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz, and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. The first for an absurdly excellent bildungsroman set on a college campus. The second for maintaining a fan girl crush and what the man is capable of with language. The third for a beautiful, fun, engaging story that still resonates visually.

Worst book of the year: The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides followed closely by Binu and the Great Wall by Su Tong. Ugh. I don't think I can even talk about this first one. I love The Virgin Suicides but this book made me angry at Eugenides. It's as if he hates every character in the book and cannot contain his condescension. Binu was just so damned boring it's not worth talking about. 

Eh. I'm not impressed: A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers. One of my favorite books, and the single book that made me decide to study late 20th century American literature, is The Names by Don DeLillo. Eggers' book echoes the older book but, for me, fails to do anything new, better, or innovative. I know it's one of Michiko Kakutani's 10 favorites of the year. But, eh. [What I was impressed with was the McSweeney's book cover--gorgeous.]

The "classics": The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carre. Dorian Grey was disappointing for me--too much talk (not even conversation) and not enough action. The le Carre, however, was fantastic and MUCH better than the poorly adapted screen version released last year.

The page turners: The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins and The Strain by Guillermo del Toro. I can't say I'd recommend any of these books to anyone but I inhaled them so if you need a little fluff in your reading diet go for it.

Made me cry: Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. This book packs a punch in the form of a brutally bittersweet and honest look at AIDS in the 1980s.

Awesome idea that failed: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. It IS for children but STILL. The premise is that antique and vintage photographs were "found" and a story was built around them. Didn't work and the book was so obviously written with the idea that it might be turned into a film with sequels that it was absurd.

Also read:
Four Fingers of Death by Rick Moody: Actually, I listened to this one. It's a good enough satire but I like others better and this one dragged toward the end.
There but for the by Ali Smith: This is interesting. I didn't dislike the book but I'm still thinking on whether I liked it.
A Million Heavens by John Brandon: Citrus County hit me in my soul so I'm a tad disappointed in this one even though it's a beautiful idea of a book.
The Angel Esmeralda by Don DeLillo: Some excellent stories, some only ok. I prefer his novels, of course.
Unpacking My Library: Writers and Their Books Edited by Leah Price: I'm beyond nosy so this was satisfying.
The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Goff: It's fun but not brilliant.

Still reading:
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter: So far, I'm loving it.
An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser: The first part of this was ruined because the audio book reader is t.e.r.r.i.b.l.e. and difficult to understand. But I'll grab in it actual physical book form soon.

That's my sad little list of reading this year--a new full-time job mid-year TOTALLY cra

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