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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March Reading – The Month Ahead

Here it is, already March 4th, and I need to come up with a game plan for what reading I might get done this month. We’ll start with my required reading…

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While Mortals Sleep – Kurt Vonnegut

This is the selection of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library Book Club for March. I look forward to reading it. Well, I’ve actually already started, having read the first of the sixteen previously unpublished short stories in this book, just released in January of 2011. My only fear is that they were unpublished for a reason, but that fear is tempered by my rationalization that Vonnegut’s “rejects” are likely better than almost everyone else’s polished final product. We’ll see.

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Unstuck in Time – Greg Sumner

This one is kind of “required” as it is part of my main 2012 reading project of “one author biography per month.” THus far, I’ve finished Hawthorne and, almost, Kerouac, and since I just went to a talk and book signing by this author on Friday, it’s a natural pick for the next one.

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The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements – Sam Kean

Wow, what a long title! This one’s for fun, and I’m already about one-third of the way through it. Very readable for non-fiction and particularly for science-related non fiction. I’m learning a lot. I won’t spoil the “Disappearing Spoon” reference in the title in case you want to read the book yourself, just trust me that it’s a funny story…

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Lost Moon – Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger

On loan from a co-worker (for a few months now), I need to get around to reading this one so I can return it (Ben Franklin would be ashamed of me!). Everyone knows the story of Apollo 13 (especially if you’ve seen the great film dramatization with Tom Hanks), but I’d like to read Lovell’s own thoughts on it as well.

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Henry V – William Shakespeare

Trying to read one Shakespeare play a month this year (A Midsummer Night’s Dream and MacBeth? Already done). In 2008 I attempted a reading project which involved reading ALL of his plays (yes, overly ambitious of me) and made it about 2/3 of the way through. Unlike the prior two, this is one I didn’t get to during that project. I will break out my trusty Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare to help me find the way…

Short Stories (and something by James Alexander Thom)

My one story per week project rolls on (see my reading selections). I also would like to read something else by author James Alexander Thom, (pictured below & a favorite author of my Mom’s) who I had the pleasure of meeting in person last week. Perhaps his From Sea to Shining Sea would be the logical choice since I just read his other Lewis and Clark Expedition book (Sign Talker) last month.

Well I guess that’s about it (& isn’t that enough?!) – but what about you? What are your reading plans for March?