Saturday, January 5, 2013

2012 in review: Books

For the seventh year, here are the books I read between last January and December. Number crunching to follow:

1. Blow Fly - Patricia Cornwell
2. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet - David Mitchell
3. Austenland - Shannon Hale
4. Haunted Kenosha - Candice Shatkins
5. House of Prayer No. 2 - Mark Richard
6. Blood, Bones & Butter - Gabrielle Hamilton
7. The Tiger's Wife - Téa Obreht
8. The Nerdist Way - Chris Hardwick
9. The Leftovers - Tom Perrotta
10. Life Itself - Roger Ebert
11. In Zanesville - Jo Ann Beard
12. Contents May Have Shifted - Pam Houston
13. Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses - Claire Dederer
14. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? - Mindy Kaling
15. Midnight in Austenland - Shannon Hale
16. The Actor and the Housewife - Shannon Hale
17. Stories I Only Tell My Friends - Rob Lowe
18. The Mermaid Chair - Sue Monk Kidd
19. Best American Science Writing 2011 - Rebecca Skloot & Floyd Skloot, Eds.
20. The Stand - Stephen King
21. Carry the One - Carol Anshaw
22. SEAL Team Six - Howard E. Wasdin & Stephen Templin
23. The Westing Game - Ellen Raskin
24. Happy Accidents - Jane Lynch
25. Cool, Calm, & Contentious - Merrill Markoe
26. Maphead - Ken Jennings
27. Looking for Alaska - John Green
28. The Fault in Our Stars - John Green
29. On Celestial Music - Rick Moody
30. Drowning Instinct - Ilsa J. Bick
31. 1Q84 - Haruki Murakami
32. Inside Scientology - Janet Reitman
33. Defending Jacob - William Landay
34. Inventory - The Writers of the A.V. Club
35. Paper Towns - John Green
36. This Is How - Augusten Burroughs
37. An Abundance of Katherines - John Green
38. Menu Design in America - Steven Heller, Jim Heimann (ed.), John Mariani
39. Travels in Siberia - Ian Frazier
40. Graceling - Kristin Cashore
41. Nerd Do Well - Simon Pegg
42. Will Grayson, Will Grayson - John Green, David Levithan
43. Fire - Kristin Cashore
44. Looking for Calvin and Hobbes - Nevin Martell
45. The Road - Cormac McCarthy
46. The War for Late Night - Bill Carter
47. The Machine Gunners - Robert Westall
48. The Lightning Thief - Rick Riordan
49. The Curfew - Jesse Ball
50. The Sea of Monsters - Rick Riordan
51. The Age of Miracles - Karen Thompson Walker
52. The Magicians - Lev Grossman
53. Pulphead - John Jeremiah Sullivan
54. This is Not a Test - Courtney Summers
55. A Hologram for the King - Dave Eggers
56. The Red House - Mark Haddon
57. The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky
58. River Town - Peter Hessler
59. The Likeness - Tana French
60. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe - Benjamin Alire Saenz
61. The Garden Intrigue - Lauren Willig
62. Faithful Place - Tana French
63. Unaccustomed Earth - Jhumpa Lahiri
64. Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea - Barbara Demick
65. Bitterblue - Kristin Cashore
66. A Complicated Kindness - Miriam Toews
67. Trip of the Tongue - Elizabeth Little
68. My Life Next Door - Huntley Fitzpatrick
69. Betsy-Tacy - Maud Hart Lovelace
70. Betsy-Tacy and Tib - Maud Hart Lovelace
71. Broken Harbor - Tana French
72. The Dog Stars - Peter Heller
73. Penelope - Rebecca Harrington
74. Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep - David K. Randall
75. The Lost Prince - Selden Edwards
76. State of Wonder - Ann Patchett
77. Bel Canto - Ann Patchett
78. Betsy-Tacy Companion: A Biography of Maud Hart Lovelace - Sharla Whalen
79. Out of My Mind - Sharon M. Draper
80. Where'd You Go, Bernadette - Maria Semple
81. If I Stay - Gayle Forman
82. The Guardian of All Things - Michael S. Malone
83. Visiting Tom - Michael Perry
84. Before I Fall - Lauren Oliver
85. The First 20 Minutes - Gretchen Reynolds
86. In the Woods - Tana French
87. The Mansion of Happiness - Jill Lepore
88. Rebuilt - Michael Chorost
89. No Easy Day - Mark Owen
90. A Season for Tending - Cindy Woodsmall
91. The Art of Fielding - Chad Harbach
92. Shadows - Ilsa J. Bick
93. Sweet Tooth - Ian McEwan
94. The Raven Boys - Maggie Stiefvater
95. Flight Behavior - Barbara Kingsolver
96. Elsewhere - Richard Russo
97. Curse of the Thirteenth Fey - Jane Yolen
98. The Scorpio Races - Maggie Stiefvater

Total books read: 98. 14 more more than I read in 2011, and tantalizingly close to triple digits.

Previously read: 1 (1%) Much less than last year's 18%.

Marketed for children/teens: 26 (26%) More than last year's 17%, and I think this is directly related to the "previously read" statistic above. When I read books I've read before, my goal is usually easy entertainment. If I know a book already, I don't need to think about it too hard to enjoy it. In 2012, I realized that books written for juvenile readers can offer the same benefits even if I have not read them before. Which isn't to say they're all mindless fluff - some of those books were really awesome.

Fiction: 63 (64%)
Nonfiction: 35 (36%)
Lighter on fiction than last year's 71% - 29% split.

You should definitely read: Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick, and The Mansion of Happiness by Jill Lepore. Nothing to Envy tells the stories of a handful of North Korean citizens over the past fifteen years; their lives in North Korea and their lives today. The Mansion of Happiness is a collection of pieces that originally appeared in the New Yorker, all touching on some aspect of how Americans have historically viewed life and death. Both of these books taught me a startling number of things I didn't know before (a hallmark of excellent nonfiction), while still being so engaging that I had trouble putting them down (for me, much more common to fiction). And the things I learned from each book weren't just filed away for future reference. They inspired multiple animated conversations with friends, because I simply had to discuss them with people. ("Oh my god, did you know abortion wasn't even a partisan issue until 1971, when the Republican Party decided to make it one in hopes of dividing the Democratic Party!?")

Don't bother reading: The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale. Okay, I know, you're probably thinking, "Well, it is called 'The Actor and the Housewife.' And you still read it." This is true. But I am a non-snobby reader; an unashamed consumer of a good, fluffy novel. That's not what I got with this book. It seemed promising for awhile, but fell completely flat in the end. The events in the story require a truckload of disbelief suspension, which isn't a deal breaker by itself. But when the characters' actions don't even make consistent sense from one chapter to the next, there's nothing to fall back on.