Top Ten Tuesday – My “Favorite” Reads of 2012

Top ten books I read in 2012:

Top Ten Tuesday is an entertaining weekly meme hosted by the imaginative folks over at The Broke and The Bookish. It’s almost impossible to not want to compare one’s own list to others and seeing how many we have in common and/or realizing “I can’t believe I forgot to include X,” etc. It’s also a great way to discover new book blogs and learn about books that weren’t otherwise on one’s radar. Since there are now literally hundreds of participants, I usually pick a digit from zero to nine and try to visit at least the entries that end in that number, e.g. 3, 13, 23…

This week’s topic is “Top Ten Books I Read This Year.” It’s been a great reading year for me, and I’ve certainly read more than ten books that I enjoyed very much. So these are ten of those memorable books, counted down with #1 being my favorite.

10. Earth Abides by George Stewart

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I only learned of this 1949 sci-fi classic this year, but am glad I did. Though parts of it feel a little naive today, what with the explosion of post-apocalyptic literature, this book was a refreshing read and a trailblazing effort of that genre. I liked how in the post-apocalyptic world of this book, the survivors decide to start their new year on the winter solstice (hey, that’s coming up fast!) instead of the arbitrary January first. And how they “named” their years. E.g., “The Year the Dog Died” (sorry, the dog’s name escapes me as I’m typing this). Update: it’s Princess. “The Year Princess Died.”

9. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

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I never blogged about this book, but it was an interesting review of introverts and their place in the current world. Somewhat of an introvert myself, a lot of it rang true with me. Amusing also was the section discussing how many companies are moving toward the (more extrovert-friendly) “open office” concept, eschewing or limiting the number of traditional offices in favor of a cube-farmy feel. I lost my office to this whim last year. “It’ll foster team building and mentoring,” they said. It fosters me buying better headphones… 🙂 I was also reminded of a friend’s telling me of a definition of introvert/extrovert that I’ve always liked: “An extrovert gains energy through interacting with others, while in introvert loses energy.” I’ll second that.

8. Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami

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I just wrote about this one. (scroll down 🙂 ) I only discovered Murakami last year, but will likely devour his entire oeuvre before too long. I really enjoy his odd, supernatural-tinged writing.

7. Poe: A Life Cut Short by Peter Ackroyd

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My 2012 “Author Biography” reading project never really took hold, although I did read a few, and this was my favorite of them. I blogged about this book earlier. Poe’s story is a tragic one…

6. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

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I had heard of this book “for ages” and finally got around to reading it this year. Some of the best writing I encountered, even if the subject matter wasn’t something I’d normally choose.

5. The Class of 1846: From West Point to Appomattox by John Waugh

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A really great history of West Point’s 1846 graduates, many of whom were key players in the U.S. Civil War, including Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson and George McClellan. I still hope to write a blog post about this one someday. I felt like I knew many of these people by the end of the book, and it was difficult to read about some of their deaths, Jackson’s in particular. I am rarely moved to the degree I was in reading it.

4. Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

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Never blogged about this depressing book either, but it was such a great commentary on what our lives have become in “Corporate America” and “Suburbia” it’s hard to believe it was written in … 1962! This one hit home with me.

3. I Am No One You Know (short stories) by Joyce Carol Oates

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Some have argued that Joyce Carol Oates is an “acquired taste” and, if that’s true, I admit to having fully acquired it now. This book is a collection of short stories, many of which are quite powerful and all of which are extremely well-written. My favorite story might’ve been “The Instructor.” You should check out this collection.

2. The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean

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Subtitled “and other tales of madness, love, and the history of the world from the periodic table of the elements,” this book was the most fun I’ve had reading non-fiction in quite some time. The title gets its name from an old chemistry lab trick – a spoon fashioned from the metal Gallium would look like an ordinary spoon, but since gallium has a very low melting point, if it were to be used to, say, stir one’s coffee, the spoon would disappear. (They should use this gag on an episode of Big Bang Theory)

1. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

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Atwood also wrote one of my favorite short stories of the year (“Significant Moments in the Life of my Mother”) and is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. This book is a dystopian masterpiece. I’ve started and stopped a post on it several times but seem unable to do it justice. I’ll keep trying. “Nolite te bastardes carborundurum!” 🙂

Well, those are ten of my favorites. I can’t wait to see what others have chosen as their favorites. Do we share any? Do you have recommendations for other books I might like based on these favorites? I’m all ears. 🙂

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Top Ten Tuesday – Books that Should not be “Forgotten”

Top Ten Tuesday is a very popular (and fun) weekly meme that is sponsored by the creative folks over at “The Broke and the Bookish.” This week’s assignment: “Top Ten “Older” Books You Don’t Want People To Forget About (you can define older however you wish. Basically just backlisted books you think are great. Basically the point is to share books that could be forgotten about in the midst of all the new releases)”

Okay, I’ll take a stab at that. 🙂 (I fear my list is also sort of a “lesser known books people shouldn’t forget about,” though.)

1. Erewhon by Samuel Butler
More famous for The Way of All Flesh, Butler also Wrote this odd (for his era anyway) book. Kind of Shangri-La type theme (his is in remote New Zealand, though) and quite interesting. I love this book cover, too!

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2. The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander
Great “YA” adventure of a different era. Sadly, I rarely hear these being discussed in the blogging world today, but I just started re-reading the first one, “The Book of Three” this past weekend. High adventure!

3. The Iliad and The Odyssey by Homer
God, let us never stop reading these seminal works. They, and the Greek myths in general, served as a great inspiration for so much of later literature.

4. Silas Marner by George Eliot
Everyone else seems to talk about The Mill on the Floss instead of this Eliot work, which is my favorite. Poignant ‘reformation, of a miserly hermit. Once upon a time it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to describe me as such. 🙂

5. The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett
While not in danger of being forgotten, this one should be read more often. When I first read it, I was in something of a rut in my own life and identified with the re-awakening theme of the sickly child.

6. Earth Abides by George Stewart
An early sci-fi classic that I was unaware of myself until this year. Great, fun, post-apocalyptic (In this case the apocalypse is a plague) reading.

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7. The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington
Wonderful story of the decline and fall of an “old money” family set in my home town of Indianapolis. Also a great movie – starring Timothy Holt (of Treasure of the Sierra Madre fame…)

8. The Sufferings of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Sometimes aka “The Sorrows of Young Werther.” I think some are scared off from reading this by Goethe’s intimidating intellectual reputation. I found it very readable, if very tragic.

9. Guy Mannering by Sir Walter Scott
Scott wrote a long series of “Waverley” novels that seem to be largely forgotten today. I’ve only scratched their surface myself, but Guy Mannering (subtitled “The Astrologer”) is my favorite so far. And the gypsy, Meg Mereilles, is one of my favorite “minor” characters in literature.

10. The Town and the City by Jack Kerouac
“Everyone” has read “On the Road” and many of Kerouac’s
other transparently autobiographical works, but this more traditional novel (admittedly still hugely autobiographical) seems largely forgotten. It’s one of my favorite books of the past five years.

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Well, that’s it for me. What books are in your Top Ten Tuesday this week? I’m off to The Broke and the Bookish to check some of them out. (their are so many participants in this meme you can’t read them all. I usually pick a number between one and ten and then read every tenth one. How do YOU pick which entries to read?