This is an overview of the books I read in 2012, minus all the comic books because I already posted about those.
When asked to name a favorite book, I always think of a line from the movie Ever After, when Prince Henry takes Danielle (a.k.a. Nicole, at that point,) to a monastic library and tells her to pick a book, and she says, “I could no sooner choose a favorite star in the heavens!”
So, I don’t think I can narrow down everything I read this year to just one favorite, but my top four would be:
The Fault In Our Stars by John Green. Time magazine named it as the top book of 2012, so having it as a favorite is pretty mainstream, but I would have chosen it anyway. Like Hazel Grace, I, too, now have an Augustus Waters fetish. I cried my eyes out reading this book. It was a great way to spend a weekend, and I am not being sarcastic.
Matched by Ally Condie. From my review:
The first blurb on the inside cover that described it as “Think The Giver, but sexier,” (Lincoln Journal Star), was spot-on and I couldn’t describe it better myself. What I loved most was how important words were, how the main characters realized that a poem could be subversive, that learning to write could be so powerful, that they could be inspired by the memorized words smuggled to them from over a century ago. And the writing of the story itself was just amazing; every other page I found a new quote that I loved and had to mark with a post-it note.
Also, Ky Markham is my literary boyfriend. Well, one of them anyway, I mean I can’t forget about Four or Gilbert Blythe or Jim (from Moccasin Trail.) But Ky is a permanent member of that club now, too.
Battle Royale by Koushun Takami. I picked it up because I kept hearing it in comparison to The Hunger Games, sometimes in an accusatory “Hunger Games ripped off Battle Royale” argument. Having now read both, I don’t think anybody is being copied, (and besides, Suzanne Collins has said she hadn’t heard of Battle Royale until after writing The Hunger Games). They share the basic plot of “kids forced to kill each other”, but they’re very different in tone and agenda, and many of the other similarities (corrupt government, tracking devices, morally beating the system by refusing to go along with its rules) are also shared by hundreds of other stories. I don’t think it’s fair to describe either story as “basically the same” as the other. Take them separately, and then have a discussion about the similarities and differences. From my review:
The way Battle Royale‘s third-person-omniscient narrator keeps switching to different individuals’ perspectives each chapter, and more often than not those individuals end up dying just as we’re really starting to empathize with their unique background, is devastatingly effective. Some of the graphic descriptions of bloody violence pop up so suddenly and in such unexpected detail I was nearly sick. Just now, having finished the book for the most part in one weekend, I feel like my heart has been battered by Yuichiro’s bat and stabbed by Mitsuko’s knife, and I will probably have a nightmare about Kazuo and his machine gun. To me this is all evidence of the excellent writing that crafted this story, (so strong it comes through even in translation). I feel like the memory of each death will be hard to shake, too, since I was such an intimate witness to them all. Excellent, excellent book, but not for the faint of heart or stomach.
A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin. Also, A Clash of Kings and A Storm of Swords. I’ve already babbled extensively about my reactions to and love for the first, second, and third books in his A Song of Ice and Fire series, so I’ll just include a visual representation here of what it’s like to go on the emotional roller-coaster within these books:
Favorite New Author:
Definitely George R. R. Martin. I had never read John Green before this year either, but his books didn’t take over my life and transport me so completely to a fantasy universe that I will be forever longing to visit now (right along with Narnia, Middle Earth, and Hogwarts) the way Martin’s did.
“Can’t Believe I’d Never Read This Before”:
Battle Royale by Koushun Takami. Why had I never even heard of it until this year?!
The Hate List by Jennifer Brown.
Even though it may not have been favorite book this year, it was really good. I haven’t heard as many people talking about this one, so I don’t think it’s as well known, but that’s a shame and I think more people should read it. To quote from my own goodreads review:
This was a really good idea for a story. It’s “about” a school shooting, but it’s really about dealing with the truth of the way people treat each other, which is unfortunately often negative, and how to realistically try to change the world or yourself for the better. The story focuses on Valerie, girlfriend of the shooter, who targeted people from the “hate list” they had compiled, that Valerie thought was just venting. It follows her surviving and having to deal with the fallout, and her healing process. The complex emotions are really, really well portrayed. The pain of so many characters feels so real, my heart was literally aching while I read much of this book. And I really liked that nothing was simple; Nick (the shooter) wasn’t a completely evil villain, and at times you could really sympathize with his pain. The student body wasn’t united in its reaction to the event. Valerie’s parents even had their own flaws and serious issues. I would recommend this to be required reading for all high school students, because I think it would be a great discussion-starter and it really helps you empathize with multiple points of view. I mean, shootings don’t happen in every school, but bullying does, and they COULD always happen, unless we try to change the culture. I also really loved the therapist, (and in the Author’s Notes you find out her husband is a clinical psychologist and helped her authenticate Dr. Hieler’s dialogue and Valerie’s healing process). Plus, I really liked that it was set in Kansas, so a lot of the little place-mentions were familiar to me. I’ll probably check out the other books by this author.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I re-read it to refresh my memory because Baz Luhrman’s new movie adaptation was originally scheduled to be released this Christmas. It has since been pushed back to summer 2013, but I’m glad I read Gatsby again because I had forgotten some of it, and probably didn’t appreciate everything when it was required for high school English, anyway. It wasn’t a pleasant read though, since there isn’t a single likeable character (to me) in the whole story.
The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien. Because, obviously. Bilbo is such a wonderful, faithful and unflashy hero.
Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery. I didn’t really read the whole book, but I downloaded the full Anne collection on my kindle and would sometimes read a chapter or two on lunch breaks when I was in-between other books or projects. It just reminded me how much I love Anne Shirley, how many great quotes there are in those books, and how excellent the movie adaptation of the first book is. (We shall not speak of the monstrosity that is the third movie. We shall pretend it does not exist.)
Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver. It’s the sequel to Delirium, but I don’t think it’s as good. I was annoyed with Julian and didn’t like the relationship that developed between him and Lena. In a lot of ways it was the opposite of what I liked about Delirium, but maybe that was intentional, and maybe the conclusion to the trilogy will be better.
Thumped by Megan McCafferty. It’s also the second in a planned triology–middle books in series are often weakest, it seems. As I said in my review, what I liked about Bumped was the complexity of the issues it was questioning, but in Thumped the philosophical, theological and social questions were hardly included, and the plot twists became a bit ridiculous. For once I would like to read a dystopian story where the teenaged main character doesn’t spark a national or global revolution, but rather a small one. Even if it’s just within themselves. When it invariably blows up into this huge, unplanned thing it just feels less likely.
And a little bit The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling, but that was a different kind of disappointment. It was just a depressing story, but still very well-written.
I joined The Sword and Laser Bookclub, (one of the elements of Felicia Day’s brainchild Geek and Sundry), in September. It’s nice to be participating in a book club again, after my local in-person group meetings lapsed into inactivity because too many of the other ladies were having babies. The online format is convenient in that I can go read the discussion forums whenever I’ve finished reading that month’s book rather than having to scramble to finish by a set date and time. But I do miss having in-person discussions, and I’m always less likely to participate in group conversations when they’re online, especially in such a big group. Also, the convenience of “I’ll look at the discussions whenever I finish” can also be a too-easy cop-out for not finishing the book on time. And you don’t get fun little themed snacks! Oh well, I didn’t even try to read their November pick, The Dirty Streets of Heaven by Tad Wiliams, because I was busy making dwarf beards, so I guess I’m not really taking it too seriously.
The two new books that I read this year through Sword and Laser were Foundation by Isaac Asimov and Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. I rated them both 3 stars, but I think I might have liked Foundation better. I wish goodreads would allow rating by half-star increments.
The books I am most looking forward to reading in 2013 are all series that I need to finish.
Reached by Ally Condie is waiting impatiently for me (oops, finished reading it before I finished writing this post! I loved it.), as are the fourth and fifth books in A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin. Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy finale, as yet untitled, is supposedly maybe being published this fall and if so I will seriously consider staying up to begin reading it at the midnight moment of its release.
What was your favorite 2012 read? And what are you most looking forward to reading in 2013?