Wednesday, February 13, 2013

2012 In Review

Life's been busy so I am just now getting to my 2012 wrap up post.  Of course last year I did it in March so maybe I am actually early.  In 2012 I read 26 books which is an improvement of the 20 in 2011 and I had some really wonderful reads.  My favorite books were:    

Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson
Wool Omnibus by Hugh Howey
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I didn't get around to writing reviews of any of them except Something Wicked which is a shame.  I picked these four as my favorites because they not only were very entertaining and well written but surprised me in some way.  

Orphan Master's Son was my clear favorite as it just blew me away.  Jun Do barely survives in the crazy world of North Korea by the skin of his teeth and extreme luck.  If I were to list his adventures here it would seem absurd  (from soldier, to spy, to prisoner, a trip to the U.S., consorting with movie stars and even the Dear Leader himself, Kim Jong Il) but in the context of the story they made perfect sense.  While some of the scenes were hard to read, most of it was either fascinating, funny or touching and throughout I found myself really rooting for Jun Do.  I enjoyed the book so much that every night at dinner I would tell my husband what had happened in the story I had read that day and he finally had to say "You have to stop with the blow by blow account, I am convinced, I am going to read it for myself."  This book surprised me because I don't recall being so excited about a book in a very long time.  I could not wait to continue reading.  And who would expect that North Korea could be so entertaining. Absolutely loved it.  Everyone should read it, right now.   

Wool also surprised me.  It is getting a lot of buzz right now but when I read it it was pure accident.  It popped up on one of those amazon "customers who bought this item also bought" section.  And then it was on sale for the kindle, and it sounded interesting and it was cheap so I bought with one click. I don't really read self published stuff but what the heck.  And then I started reading and the world of an underground silo after some sort of event made the outside lethal just sucked me in and I read the omnibus (5 Wool stories) in one gulp.  I loved that it just dumped you into the story with characters that were interesting and you cared about without explaining this world to you. It is such an amazingly well developed world and yet it is truly a character driven story.  It was such a pleasure to gradually piece together how this world worked.  And I couldn't wait to find out what happened next.  And of course I also read First Shift and Second Shift as soon as they were available and am reading Third Shift now.  I confess, I am now a Hugh Howey groupie and check his web site regularly to see how his progress on the next books are going.   

I was also surprised by how much fun I had reading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.  It had gotten good reviews so I gave it a go, but wasn't expecting much because I am not a gamer.  This book is set in the future where people spend most of their time, including going to school, working and socializing, in a virtual world know as the Oasis.  When the creator of  the Oasis dies, he leaves his entire vast estate to the winner of a complex game he set up all based upon 1980s culture.  The entire story was basically a blow by blow account of Parzival playing this game over many many years.  How fun can it be to read about someone else playing a game?  It turns out in Ernest Cline's hands, surprisingly, incredibly fun. Of course I have very fond memories of the 80's but it was just a blast from the past which was very very well done.   

The other top three books were all new works but Something Wicked this Way Comes by Ray Bradbury was published in 1962.  This was incredibly well written, very atmospheric with amazing characters. (My review is here.)  I was surprised that I had missed such a wonderful classic for all these years.          

In addition I have a few Honorable Mentions, all of which would have made it into the top four in another year with less stellar competition.

Sister's Brothers by Patrick deWitt
Anathem by Neal Stephenson
Demi-monde: Winter by Rod Rees
I didn't give myself any reading goals for 2012 but as I had said "I will simply be happy if I get to read" I think I did pretty well.  I read some wonderful books and read more (26 books) than last year but posted less (17 posts).  I read one book about Art - Provenance: How a Con Man and A Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art by Laney Salisbury - a nonfiction work that was fascinating, and a book about Food - A History of the World in Six Glasses by Tom Standage another nonfiction work which was just ok.  I normally like to try and read something about books or reading which I didn't manage to do.  I have been listening to audio books in my car which I am really enjoying and gives me more "reading" time.  I participated in Carl V's Once Upon a Time and RIP challenges which I enjoyed. 

I don't think I will set any specific goals for 2013 either except that I would like to finish four books that I was enjoying but were abandoned: Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie, 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, Swamplandia by Karen Russell and Drowned World by J.G. Ballard.  I would also like to try and read books that I actually have instead of buying more.  When we moved, we got rid of almost all of our physical books.  I just have one small shelf of books to be read and two bookcases in my office of favorite books to keep.  Although I almost completely stopped buying physical books, I find that I am still in the habit of acquiring electronic books far far faster than I can read them.  It seems that every time I go into the kindle store to select my next read I end up buying at least four.  My kindle wish list currently has 250 titles in it.  My kindle library has 114 books although of course these include a dictionary and several "complete works of" Poe, Saramago, Oscar Wilde, Henry James etc. which are not meant to be read in one go.  But just looking at the individuals books I have 39 that I have actually read and have 47 unread.  As for challenges, I of course intend to do Carl's Once Upon A Time and RIP.  I also really enjoyed following along with the Tournament of Books last year.  It isn't a challenge but I would like to read some more of the books in the competition and of course I will be heartily rooting for Orphan Master's Son.  And once again, I will simply be happy if I get to read!     

No comments: