Monday, December 31, 2012

Books in Review: What I Enjoyed in '12

2012 was a great year for books, and not just because adults got their own summer book club. (Although that was a bonus, I agree!)

I read some great books for Fall for the Book (FFTB) this year, including (but not limited to) The Submission and Age of Miracles. I was able to meet Amy Waldman, Michael Chabon, Eleanor Brown, Karen Thompson Walker and Alice Walker.  I missed Katherine Boo, but I just finished her book Behind the Beautiful Forevers — and I encourage you to read it, too. Next on my FFTB list: Weird Sisters.

I met authors outside of the festival, including Tom Perotta, whose book The Leftovers made me appreciate how well he can create a story that can end but still carry on.

I read quite a few worthy biographies, including Let's Pretend This Never Happened and How to Be a Woman. I laughed, I cried, I celebrated their lives and foibles. What great tales!

I'm sorry I was so light on my reviews, but I'll try to be better next year — and maybe even catch up, perish the thought!

Now, back to discussing the summer book club (because summer reading is the best).

I loved summer book clubs as a child. I loved my library and sought any opportunity to go there. I remembered the thrill of joining a summer book club, the challenge of reading more than I did last year, more than anyone else the current year (or the previous year, for that matter). I remember there being prizes, but that was always a bonus, never the reason.

And I missed it.

So, rather than lament that there were no adult book clubs, I started my own summer book club. Stacy and Karen were the first to join. It was so fun, and those women put me to shame with their voluminous reading lists. I even read a book with Karen — and did something I never did before: read ahead. (Okay, I didn't exactly read ahead as much as skim ahead to make sure Lady was okay in The Great Stink. I won't spoil it for you, but the ending of that story was satisfying enough for me that I can with a clear conscience recommend the book.)

Chris' Summer Book Club will continue next year, so start planning your summer reading soon. Last year, the timeframe was the summer solstice to the autumnal equinox: did that work for you? Would you prefer to start on Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer? Let's discuss! Oh, and remember to make your reading list ample: if you don't dream, you'll never know how far you can go. I will refer to my 2012 summer reading list when trying to decide what makes the 2013 list, and I know a few more excellent books will survive the cut.

Then there were the books that made my heart sing. Did I mention The Night Circus yet? Well, that's crazy: I've spoken about it ad nauseum since I finished in the spring. For the first few days after I finished it, all I could say was, "Wow." So do yourself a favor and read it. Put down what you're reading and pick it up at your favorite bookstore or library. Actually, get two: one to keep and one to share.

I also learned a few classics aren't all they're cracked up to be, in my opinion. I'm a huge fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs, but he continued to disappoint me with Princess of Mars and The Land that Time Forgot. Also on the classics list were We Have Always Lived in the Castle and A Town Like Alice. With some, they weren't bad, but they weren't all up to my expectations. For example, when the heroine is a strong, resilient woman, one would think she'd shine in the book, but Neville Shute always seemed more amazed by her technology than with her spirit. Others were a slow simmer, or just written in another century (with all of the sensibilities that went along with them).

And we simply won't mention The Devil's Elixir.

I have not read (or re-read) classic books on which the most highly anticipated movies released this year — Anna Karenina, The Hobbit and Les Misèrables (and darned if I always forget how to type the accent on the latter). I can live with that. For now.

I also read enough books that scared me, not the least of which was The Woman in Black, John Dies at the End and This Book is Full of Spiders. I'm proud of myself that I didn't have nightmares (although I didn't sleep as soundly on the nights David was traveling). This buoys me for more shocking books — maybe trying again to get through The Terror. Okay, maybe I'd better not get ahead of myself... Any suggestions? The Woman in White, perhaps, or another classic? What did you read that scared you?

You know, I don't think I have a definitive list. I hope to remedy that soon, with links to my reviews.

In the end, I had a rich reading year — and next year will be equally rich.

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