Friday, March 16, 2012

Review of 2011 Reading

Ok, so it is March and a little late for a 2011 review but I figure better late than never. In 2011 I was doing really well through June and then life just got incredibly busy and distracting. I only read 20 books in 2011 and reviewed 11 out of the 20 and made 26 blog posts - by far my worst year since I started this blog. I successfully completed Carl V’s Sci Fi Experience and the Once Upon a Time Challenge but then only read one book for the RIP VI Challenge and didn’t even review it. And I totally failed in the Japanese Literature Challenge and the Murakami Challenge. Nonetheless, I read 20 books which is the same that I read in 2008 when I started this blog. I am just going to move on and hope that 2012 is a better year all around.

My five favorite books from 2011 are:

Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
The City & the City by China Meiville
The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry
The Wave by Susan Casey
Finch by Jeff Vandermeer

I didn’t manage to review the Wave or the Manual of Detection. The Wave is non-fiction but I found it a real page turner. I gave it to several people to read and they loved it and passed it on to more people to read who loved it. I don’t know if it particularly resonates because of where we live but it seems to appeal to a wide audience. The Wave is naturally all about waves, specifically especially large waves, and it takes you on a tour of historians, scientists, maritime specialists as well as the big wave surfers. As Bookmarks Magazine says: “Part science lesson and part adrenaline rush, The Wave is an intense thrill ride that manages to take a broad look at oversized, potentially devastating waves.” I had no idea people were actually surfing these incredibly huge waves. I found it so interesting that I then rented some surf movies/documentaries. I especially enjoyed the dvds Step into Liquid and Riding Giants.

The Manual of Detection was amazing and I really need to re-read it. On its face it is a noir detective story but the Detective Agency our protagonist works for was designed by Kafka or Saramago and he is trying to track down his disappeared mentor, catch a murderer and discover why all the cities alarm clocks are being stolen. And of course there is a femme fatale and creepy villains and dastardly deeds. But don’t worry about the plot, this is extremely well written and a fun surreal adventure. I am at a loss as to what else to say so as most of the reviewers/critics seem to have done, I will simply say it reminds me of Kafka, Saramago (All the Names), Borges, the movies Brazil and City of Lost Children. Just read it.

How did I do with my year of reading deliberately? I said I was going to read the following:

Gold Bug Variation by Richard Powers
The Castle by Franz Kafka
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
Lost City of Z by David Grann (nonfiction)

I read the Lost City of Z (enjoyed it) and the Castle (I was disappointed in it). I was enjoying the Satanic Verses but then set it aside to read the Once Upon a Time reading and have not picked it back up. I have the audible version of the Sound and the Fury, which I was finding easier than the print, but only got about a third through it and then moved on. Gold Bug Variations I really want to read but it only comes in print and I don’t even know where my copy is at the moment.

In addition I wanted to read a book about Art, a book about Food, a book about Books or Reading, a nonfiction book as well as something from the Modern Library's 100 Best Novels List. I read a book about Art - Priceless which I enjoyed, a book about Food - Various Flavors of Coffee which was fun, a Book about Reading - The Lost Art of Reading which I hated, three non-fiction books - Lost Art of Reading, Priceless, the Wave but no Modern Library Books. I don’t think I am going to make a list of deliberate reads for 2012 as life is just too crazy. I will simply be happy if I get to read.

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