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.


ms. yvon said...

b, that is an impressive list! it made me consider how many books i read in a year. i thought i read a lot, but if you discount "bloom county" comic collections, my time spents with books is lowered considerably.
which was the book you'd read that listed that fact about abortion being made a partisan issue? i'm reading james loewen's "Lies My Teacher Told Me" which is about omissions and biases in history texts so this timely bit of information for me. :)

BeeKay said...

E, that was the Jill Lepore book, Mansion of Happiness. It's so interesting! I get so fired up about it!