Yep, it’s that time of year again. Time for me to look back on a year of books and tell you what was good, what was not so good and hopefully what was outstanding. I usually do this as a month by month list, but I didn’t keep track very well this year. So, here is my list of books read from October 2011 – October 2012. It’s short. Sorry. I’ll try harder.(I am currently reading Jonathan Franzen’s “Freedom” and with just under 100 pages to go, it is getting a huge recommendation from me. It’s funny, warm, and very well written. I also re-read “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” and loved it just as much the 4th time around. Like I said, I didn’t keep track very well this year so this is an incomplete list. When I remember more titles, i will add them. Promise.)
“11/22/63“ & “Under the Dome“ by Stephen King – I read these two huge books back to back, and that was probably not the best idea. Stephen King is a great story-teller, but I should have taken a break after 11/22/63. It was a fun ride and I enjoyed seeing the 60’s through his eyes. Mr. King has a knack for description, and I felt like he understood what Texas is like, even before I moved here! “Under the Dome” was great as well, but I struggled to finish it. I don’t particularly fault the book for that since I read it as I was moving to a new country and getting settled. And reading two 1000 page books by the same author back to back might have done me in.
“Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” by John Le Carre– Don’t try to read this book on the bus. Seriously. I felt like I needed to be in an isolated room with zero distractions to keep track of the characters, the timeline and everything else in this novel. But you know what? I still enjoyed it! I was confused until the end, but I liked it. I even watched the movie, but it just confused me more. And then my fella read it… and he was confused too so I didn’t feel so bad. Fans of thrillers will enjoy this.
“City of Thieves” by David Benioff – Those of you who watch “Game of Thrones” might recognise the author. He is the brains behind the biggest TV show currently on television. But before he started making millions in television he was a writer. And he wrote this lovely little book. It follows two young men and their search for eggs in WWII. It’s a black comedy mixed with a history lesson and a coming of age story. I loved it. It moved fast and was enjoyable from start to finish.
“The Gravediggers Daughter” by Joyce Carol Oates – Yes, I read a Joyce Carol Oates book at least once a year. She is that good, and that prolific. I haven’t even put a dent in her over 36 published novels, and I have read at least ten of them. I enjoyed this book. It was based on Oates grandmother who was an immigrant to America. Like most of her novels, this one spans decades, has a lot of violence, and has a suicide or two. Although it sounds super depressing, it isn’t. I felt up lifted, and a little sad when I finished. I just wanted more.
“In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin” & “Thunderstruck” by Erik Larson– I love everything this man writes. I think I have said that before. Anyway, these two books don’t disappoint. The first tells the story of the American Ambassador to Germany during Hitler’s rise to power. He takes his entire family with him, introduces them to Hitler, high-ranking SS officials, and heads of state all the while watching the world begin to collapse. The best part is, it is all true. Some of it is so unbelievable it could have come straight from a Lifetime TV movie. Love, sex, violence, power set against the back drop of the Third Reich – it’s all in there. And Hitler. The second, “Thunderstruck” takes the true story of Marconi and his conquering of the world, and a murderer named Crippen that you secretly root for and intertwines them. Again, every gruesome detail is true. Read his books people. They will amaze you.
“Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell” by Susanna Clarke – I have been trying to read this book for years. I bought it way back when I worked at Vroman’s and never got around to reading it until now. Boy did I wait too long! Not to sound like a grandmother but what an enchanting, lovely and graceful little book! Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t little by any means. It is a total commitment at 900something pages, and a quarter of those pages are full of detailed footnotes. But the pay off is huge. It has magicians in old-timey England. It has ghosts and mischievous spirits. It even has damsels in distress. It is just really fun.
“Middlesex” by Jeffery Eugenides – Loved it. I know, every one loves it. Well, some books are just awesome and this is one of them. If you think growing up was hard for YOU, then just you wait. This book won the Pulitzer prize for literature for good reason – it is outstanding. It is a family story spanning generations and laced with wit and history. Some find the story ponderous, but I quite enjoyed the story of the grandparents and how it applied to the main character Cal. It takes place in Greece, Chicago and covers growing up, being poor, being middle class and being human. It is a great book.
“Everything Matters!” by Ron Currie Jr – What would you do if you were born knowing the exact date life on earth would end, and exactly how it would end? That is the crucial question of this book. My former roomie lent me this book and I had mixed feelings about it as I was reading it. It wasn’t until I was finished that I decided that I liked it. I liked the ideas presented in the book, and the narration. I didn’t have a whole lot of sympathy for the main character, but I did like his dad. I didn’t like how it wrapped up, but it was minor enough to not make me hate the book. My roomie loved it, I liked it and my fella hated it. So… there you go.