Monday, December 31, 2012

Year-End Book Wrapup '12

I do so love a good year-end book wrapup! So let's get to it, shall we?

This year, I read 44 books, 12 of which were by women. (I would feel more imbalanced about this, except that 24 of them were for the Time 100 list, and all 24 were by men, because books by men are all I have left. Eight of those 24 were part of the 12-novel cycle A Dance to the Music of Time.)

I really really wanted to finish the Time 100 list this year, and really worked hard at it, but I started teaching again in the fall, and it became quite difficult to balance all my responsibilities toward the end of the year. At this moment I am 75% of the way through The Recognitions and after that, I think I have four more books to go. If the fates allow, I should be able to declare triumph on this project (and start my next project) before the year is through!

Top five books of the year:

1. The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenedies
I debated among my current top three, but ultimately it was the beauty of Eugenedies's prose that put this over the top. I love novels that create a quietly melancholy mood, and this one is just perfection.

2. Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow
I decided to teach this novel next semester, which should be more fun than Frankenstein this semester. (The students claimed to enjoy it, but it was kind of a snore, and there was a lot of plagiarism since it's such well-trod territory.) This is such a vibrant, all-American book. I'm excited to re-read it. 

3. Money by Martin Amis
Man, what an awesome book this was. Dark and weird and fucked up and meta and cool. I would have loved to read more Martin Amis this year to see if he's always this good.

4. Call It Sleep by Henry Roth
An end-of-the-year read that I admired more than flat-out enjoyed, but I admired it a lot, so here it is. Incidentally, the top four of this list is all Time 100 novels. Whoever put together that list did a terrific job. It's such an amazing list.

5. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
I've actually seen this book show up on quite a number of year-end best-of lists. I think most people already know if John Green is their jam, and if so, have already read this. It is really good.

Honorable mentions: The Confessions of Nat Turner, Deliverance, Ready Player One, Beautiful Ruins, The Sheltering Sky, Wolf Hall, and parts of A Dance to the Music of Time.

Bottom five books of the year:

1. The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow
Not here because it's a poorly written book (far from it) but here because it is the one book this year that truly bored me to sobs.

2. The Charm Bracelet by Melissa Hill
And now I'm realizing that I really didn't read anything all that bad this year, at least not compared to years past. This is not in the least offensively bad, it's just kind of blah. Hooray?

3. The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
Sorry, but those dialogue tags alone qualify it for a spot on the list. I think it was basically okay though. Just didn't really do it for me.

4. Top of the Rock by Warren Littlefield
Again, not terrible, and I'm overall glad I read it, since several of the oral histories were fascinating. But it could have been so much more.

5. The boring parts of A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell
I finished one book and went straight into the next, and I read twelve of these in a row, so it's difficult for me to keep these straight. The ending went a little off the rails and there were a couple of very boring wartime volumes. But overall I have a lot of affection for this series, as I spent many months with one or the other of its volumes in my pocket at all times. 

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