As I did last year, I present you with a list of what I read (outside of school-related reading, that is) this past year. This year was a little less impressive, books- and pages-wise, than last year, due to school work, but I still managed to break my goal of 10,000 pages. To help with my commentary this year, I kept a running journal of notes on everything I finished as I finished it.
The Professional, Robert Parker (315 pp.). Robert Parker is an old favorite mystery author whose books my whole family likes to pass around on vacations, as they tend to be entertaining, quick reads. This was one of his later ones, and I felt like it had too many plot lines and no clear climax. I’d like to go back to his older stuff, and read some of the earliest Spenser novels.
Everything is Illuminated, Jonathan Safran Foer (288 pp.). I put this on my notorious “list” a few years back. (This “list” is the list I keep of books I see in stores that I want to read, but ration myself one at a time. I created the list about six years ago, and it continues to grow much faster than it shrinks. Maybe I’ll reach the end someday, maybe not. But it’s a fun way to treat myself to something that caught my eye a few years back.) Because I put in on the list back at the beginning, I wasn’t really sure what to expect, so I was a little surprised by the magical realism feel, but I loved it. I have notes from just after finishing it that curiously read, “Haunting. Beautiful. But not hauntingly beautiful.”
The Gunslinger, The Drawing of the Three, The Waste Lands, Wizard and Glass, Wolves of the Calla, and Song of Susannah, Stephen King (300, 463, 590, 672, 931, and 544 pp., respectively). Just about a year ago my friend very nearly insisted that I read Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. I’m now about a third of the way into the seventh and final novel, and I’m so glad I read it. King is such a master story-crafter. The whole series is sort of his magnum opus, and as a Science Fiction/Fantasy fan, it’s so refreshing to read some that’s not only got a great plot but also reads like well-written literature in parts. Terrifically scary, as well, but I think that’s a given with King.
The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen (576 pp.). Again, from my notes just after reading: “Too body-oriented? One of the more depressing things – yet also one of the best-written – I’ve read in a while. Can I like any of the characters?”
The Knife of Dreams and The Gathering Storm, Robert Jordan (839 and 766 pp., respectively). I have the bulk of my notes on this series from my reading summary post from last year. These two read much more easily than all the ones I read last year, in part because all of the plots that the middle books in the series spent time building up are finally unraveling. It’s exciting to know that there are only two more books (one yet to be published) yet to read in the series.
Wren Journeymage, Sherwood Smith (191 pp.). This was another LibraryThing early reviewers book (as was the infamous Book I Stopped Reading from last year), so I’ll re-post here my review from the Library Thing site: “This was a very nice, simple read that I think many YA readers would enjoy. I was able to understand most of the plot despite not having read the first three books in the series, and I found the characters well-rounded and pleasant. A bit simplistic (especially the final chapter), but I think YA fiction has to really be extraordinary to escape that, which this, while fun enough, isn't.”
The Road, Cormac McCarthy (304 pp.). I try not to swear on this blog (although most who know me in person know that I have a vocabulary like a sailor on leave), but this book calls for it: Damn. (OK, it probably called for something stronger, but I’d like to keep this space relatively polite.) This was a terrifying, bleak, depressing-as-all-hell book. I found it to be very well-written (except for the end, which I think was extremely anti-climactic), but wow, was it hard to read.
The Solace of Leaving Early, Haven Kimmel (288 pp.). Another entry from the list. More religious than I anticipated, but very skillfully and beautifully done. Kept me questioning the characters the whole time, but loving them just the same. Very raw book emotionally, but quite wonderful.
‘Salem’s Lot, Stephen King (427 pp.). The same friend who’s been keeping me in King all year proposed that I interrupt my reading of the Dark Tower series with this classic vampire story this summer, and I loved it. So creepy. So wonderful. Enhanced my already existent fear of ghost towns.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs (348 pp.). This was such a delight – one of the few books I’ve actually let myself buy as soon as I see it at the bookstore. Technically a YA book, but written (and illustrated with some fantastically creepy vintage photographs) well enough to be enjoyed by an adult. I enjoyed how well-constructed the fantasy world was, and was especially satisfied by the somewhat-unexpected ending.
The Fool’s Girl, Celia Rees (297 pp.). This was the other book I let myself buy at first sight this year. It was another YA novel, this one about what happens for the characters in Illyria after Twelfth Night ends. It was actually more engaging than I expected from the summary or the first few pages. There were a few key issues strangely ignored – y’know, like the fact that the heroine’s love interest is her cousin – but on the whole, a very good book.
Tortall and Other Lands, Tamora Pierce (379 pp.). Oh, how I loves my Tammy. I’ve been reading Tamora Pierce books since I was eleven. I have an entire shelf on my desk at my mom’s house devoted to all of her books. I’ve aged out of them very slightly, but I still love her, and loved most of this collection of short stories. The longer stories were excellent, but I thought some of the shorter ones were totally too short to be satisfying.
The Door to December, Dean Koontz (518 pp.). Loaned by a friend for some fun thriller reading. I figured out the twist fairly early on, but it was still highly entertaining and gripping. Fun read.
The Liminal People, Ayize Jama-Everett (205). This was one of the most interesting and surprising books I’ve read in a long while. Jama-Everett (who just so happens to have been my high school counselor!) has constructed an X-Men-esque world of people with super-powers, like the protagonist Taggert, who exist in a constant power struggle among each other. While there were some character inconsistencies (at some moments, Taggert is purely impulsive and violent, and at others, prone to over-thinking things), I was thoroughly engrossed by the world and mythos created. This was the first book I’ve read in a long while to which I’d really like to see a sequel – I want to know what happens in this world next!
The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick (525 pp.). This was absolutely beautiful, both in its magnificent illustrations, which make up a large portion of the book, and its storytelling. It actually brought me to tears, which is unusual for a book, especially a YA book, to do. The movie was beautiful, too, but not as much as the book. Really wonderful celebration of the visual imagination.
An Instance of the Fingerpost, Iain Pears (725 pp.). Which brings us to the last book I finished this year. It took me a long time to read it (primarily because of The Quarter That Tried to Eat Me), which made negotiating the multiple narrators a little but difficult, but it was worth it. Pears did some really interesting things with the use of multiple and conflicting narrators to explore the idea of unreliable narration. Also a very fun plot.
Ok, so 22 books and 10,489 pages. It’s not as impressive as last year, but it’s pretty darn good. I’ve got a good line-up for 2012 (which I can’t believe starts in a paltry seven and some hours!), assuming I can actually get some time to read anything other than what I have to read for my quals! Ha! Anyway, Happy New Year (and happy reading!) to you and yours!