Tuesday, December 27, 2011

See, our lips bend.

The year will soon be over, and I'll return to documenting other people. These last weeks become pretty navel-gazey for me. Here is one other, a list of all the books I read in 2012. My goal for the year was 24 books. [EDIT Anna reminded me of another book I had read, plus I read one more, so GOAL ACCOMPLISHED soundly].

Those magazines started to pile up, though.

1. Joshua Ferris - The Unnamed
I liked the first half, hated the second.

2. J.M. Coetzee - Summertime
Great structure experiment, really engaging and fun to read.

3. Kristen Hersh - Rat Girl
This surprised me in how well written it is. It's weird at times, but also (again surprisingly) optimistic.

4. Jeff Lumine - Tales from The Farm
Too quiet for me

5. Jay McInerney - Bright Lights, Big City
I'm glad I read it (finally), but I didn't think the second person was actually necessary.

6. Richard Russo - Empire Falls
LOVED IT. Would read it again, happily. Great characters, great plot, great details.

7. Tom McCarthy - Remainder
Great premise taken too far

8. John D'Agata - Halls of Fame
Very original and interesting, but ultimately too experimental for my tastes

9. Isabel Wilkerson - The Warmth of Other Suns
For this, I have mostly expletives. It is so good. Reading it felt very important -- both politically and personally to me. I learned so much about my own family and our region. BUT. It could have been 100 pages shorter easily if she didn't repeat herself so much.

10. Darrin Strauss - Half a Life
I heard this story on This American Life, so I thought it would be repetitive, but it was actually really interesting and well written. It's a quick read.

11. Karen Russell - Swamplandia!
So fun to read. Very imaginative, but still relatable. I definitely want to read it again after some of the details go foggy. Right now, it's still so vivid in my brain. I could have done without some of the near-the-end creepiness/ghost talk, but still, I really liked it.

12. Gabrielle Hamilton - Blood, Bones & Butter
The first two-thirds of this book filled me with such immense pleasure. I couldn't stop telling people to read it. I bought my best friend a copy. All I wanted to do was go home and read it. The last third totally ruined that feeling -- it's boring, off-topic and totally unnecessary. I'm going to forget it exists, though, and just concentrate on the giddiness I felt reading the beginning and middle.

13. Carsten Jensen - We, The Drowned
Epic, a serious masterpiece. It is so long, and it's and not a subject I'd normally be interested in, but it was absolutely worth the time. It's beautifully written, deftly woven and richly detailed.

14. Arthur Phillips - The Tragedy of Arthur
Really inventive. I thought it dragged toward the end, but definitely unlike any other book I've ever read.

15. Yann Martel - Beatrice and Virgil
I liked the play section best. Otherwise, it was very didactic. It tried too hard to convince me that it's important.

16. Myla Goldberg - Bee Season
I never really got into it. The voice is too precious, and at this point (though maybe this was not true when this book came out), spelling bees have been overcovered.

17. John Kennedy Toole - A Confederacy of Dunces
I can't believe I hadn't read it before. I loved every second of this book. It's hilarious, inciteful, vivid. A total blast.

18. Ruth Reichel - Tender at the Bone
I'm so glad I read this after Blood, Bones & Butter because it is so much better. I wouldn't have enjoyed Hamilton's book nearly as much had I known this existed. Also, this doesn't have a bad ending. Really fun to read. I want to be Ruth Reichel's friend at any age.

19. Adam Levin - The Instructions
Possibly the largest book I've ever read. Carrying it around will invite stares. But I loved it. Reading it felt like reading the Bible to me, devotional. I wrote a lot of fragments down in my journal, and despite being so massive, I found it really readable.

20. Rachel DeWoskin - Big Girl Small
Totally hated it

21. Jeffrey Eugenides - A Marriage Plot
After the massiveness of The Instructions and the disappointingness that was Big Girl Small, I stopped reading books for a month or two. This was the perfect return. The characters felt so real to me, and I felt like I was learning something at every turn. It was well written in a way that does not demand to be noted -- it didn't inspire me into sighs and immediate underlinings the way his previous two novels did -- but rather it's written well in a way that makes the language beside the point. I never once found a sentence I didn't like, which left me to the business of just reading instead of critiquing. Totally fun to read and again the kind of book I'd easily read again after I've lost the vivid impressions I have of it now.

22. Dana Spiotta - Stone Arabia
I really liked listening to her interview on Fresh Air, but I didn't really like this book. There are parts I wanted to write down in my journal -- mostly meditations on memory or the way courting changes as you grow older -- but I never felt totally invested. I did read nearly all of it in one day, though, so it's a quick read.

23. Brady Udall - The Lonely Polygamist
Somehow this book was both complicated and simple. Though there are a lot of characters, the three most detailed are very alive and rich. It's a good story, entertaining and fast-paced. The end started to feel a little too dark and long -- and the ultimate end annoyed me -- but I still liked it.

24. Tea Obreht - The Tiger's Wife
I loved this so much. It's whimsical but serious, really well written and engrossing. The novel moves between three different stories/timelines, and critics have said she shifts just when each story gets good. That's true, but it made me so excited to keep reading so I could get back.

25. Tom Perrotta - The Leftovers
This was super easy to read and focuses on one of my life-long fascinations: The Rapture. I like a lot of the situations Perrotta comes up with, but his diction lacks something special for me. Some of the dialogue just seemed too easy. But I had fun reading it.

26. Hank Steuver - Tinsel
I really liked parts of this, but ultimately it felt like a long newspaper article to me. I bet it was really fun to report, so mostly I felt jealous reading it, but I didn't like the way Southerners are depicted as such an other. But I'm probably being sensitive. There were some really fun parts.

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