Last year, I set the goal of reading 30 books, and somehow managed to surpass that goal, by reading 40 books. The books are listed, more or less, in chronological order from most recently read.
So, in looking back at the past year of reading, what stands out? How best to categorize or discuss the books? There’s always the easy “best” and “worst” categories, but that may not be very helpful.
Strangest Book: The winner of that prize goes to Kangaroo Notebook by Kōbō Abe. Kangaroo Notebook is a surreal narrative about a man who starts to turn into a radish. It’s creative, bizarre, and sad. I really enjoyed reading it.
Most Overhyped: Hands down this award goes to 1Q84. There was so much buzz around the book and it seemed like people were scared to say aloud that the book(s) wasn’t good. Murakami is repetitive and narrative meanders around for pages upon pages. All around, 1Q84 was a huge disappointment.
Most Unsettling: For this category, Point Omega by Don DeLillo edges out Lamb by Bonnie Nadzam. While Lamb leaves the reader complicit in a dark story, Point Omega stands the reader next to the faceless anonymity of terror. The unknown is more terrible than the known.
Favorite Author: Last year was the first time I read anything by Jonathan Franzen. The Corrections was wonderful and I’m currently reading Freedom and love it.
Least Memorable: The winner is Blackout by Connie Willis. This was the first and last book I’ve read by Willis. Plot holes, generic characters, bad writing, you name it, and Blackout suffered from it. I randomly grabbed this during lunch one day when I was between books. Almost forgot I read it.
Uncategorized: 2666 is one of those books that’s tough to place in a category. It was challenging and made me think. The story went all over the place. At times, the writing was sharp and then it would wander all over the page. Compared to 1Q84, it was wonderful, but again, the novel is so sprawling it’s hard to see how everything relates.
Most Enjoyable: The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. The writing was spectacular and it felt like a complete novel.
If you want to look at the other books, which I didn’t mention, scroll down the list and click on the reviews. Other books, which I didn’t spend time on, but were wonderful include: The Sleepwalker at Sea, Blink, and The Windup Girl (this book may especially appeal to readers who liked Margaret Atwood’s novels The Year of the Flood, and Oryx and Crake). Also, if you have any suggestions of books to read in 2012, let me know.
- Temperance: Malkasian, Cathy
- The Sleepwalker at Sea: Grovier, Kelly
- A Dance With Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire, #5): Martin, George R.R.
- Lamb: Nadzam, Bonnie
- 1Q84: Murakami, Haruki
- The Warsaw Anagrams: Zimler, Richard
- Blackout (All Clear, #1): Willis, Connie
- The Oregon Experiment: Scribner, Keith
- The Heart is a Lonely Hunter: McCullers, Carson
- Laughing Whitefish: Traver, Robert
- The Solitude of Prime Numbers: Giordano, Paolo
- Mademoiselle Fifi And Other Stories: Maupassant, Guy de
- You are Not a Gadget: Lanier, Jaron
- Blink: Gladwell, Malcolm
- The Wise Man’s Fear (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #2): Rothfuss, Patrick
- The Art of Time in Fiction: As Long as It Takes: Silber, Joan
- The Russian Debutante’s Handbook: Shteyngart, Gary
- The Corrections: Franzen, Jonathan
- Sex, Murder, and the Meaning of Life: Kenrick, Douglas T.
- While the Women Are Sleeping: Marías, Javier
- The Haunting of Hill House: Jackson, Shirley
- The Book of Bunny Suicides: Riley, Andy
- The Tough Guide to Fantasyland: Jones, Diana Wynne
- The Eyre Affair (Thursday Next, #1): Fforde, Jasper
- A Visit from the Goon Squad: Egan, Jennifer
- Kitchen: Yoshimoto, Banana
- Hardboiled and Hard Luck: Yoshimoto, Banana
- Great House: Krauss, Nicole
- The Windup Girl: Bacigalupi, Paolo
- Unseen Academicals (Discworld, #37): Pratchett, Terry
- Kangaroo Notebook: Abe, Kōbō
- The Left Bank Gang: Jason
- The Art of Attention: A Poet’s Eye: Revell, Donald
- I Shall Wear Midnight (Discworld, #38): Pratchett, Terry
- 2666: Bolaño, Roberto
- The Walking Dead, Book Two: Kirkman, Robert
- The Walking Dead, Book Three: Kirkman, Robert
- The Walking Dead, Book One: Kirkman, Robert
- Point Omega: DeLillo, Don
- City of Glass: Auster, Paul