Well, I didn’t read as many books as I wanted to in 2012 (in fact, I think this is a five year low). Nevertheless, this is always one of my favorite posts and it was no less fun to tally everything up. I also enjoyed almost everything I read this year.
Total books read: 63
Male authors: 37
Female authors: 26
Living authors: 52
Dead authors: 11
Re-reads: 8 (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling, At Home by Bill Bryson, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by JK Rowling, A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, Nine Stories by JD Salinger, Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters & Seymour an Introduction by JD Salinger, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling, Bossypants by Tina Fey)
Total # of authors: 53
Authors I read multiple titles by this year: JK Rowling, Neil Gaiman, Bill Bryson, Stuart Dybek, Nicholson Baker, John Green, JD Salinger, JRR Tolkien, Nora Ephron.
Total # of new authors (authors I hadn’t read anything by before): 36
By year published:
2010s: 33 (including 20 published in 2012)
My favorite books read this year, by genre.
These are, more or less, in order. (As always, I don’t include any book that was a re-read, on the assumption that most everything I re-read is already a favorite.) This year I’m including some thoughts on each one, to make up for the fact that I reviewed exactly none of them during my extended blog vacation.
This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz
Junot Diaz, you have never lost me. I will follow you to the end of the earth, as long as you keep writing fiction that feels like it has a beating heart.
The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
My unexpected journey into Middle Earth was a fantastic adventure. More to come in a future post about my reluctant foray into Tolkien.
A Box of Matches by Nicholson Baker
Nicholson Baker is becoming one of my favorite authors. Actually, he pretty much did that before this one, with The Anthologist. But this slim novel is about a man who wants to know what life is about, so he wakes up early every morning, makes coffee in the the dark, and sits by a fire to think. It’s a beautiful, cozy book that makes you want to slow your life down a little and take note of your mind, routines, and surroundings.
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
As I mentioned, I gave this book to many people this year. It has all the elements of a novel that will be nearly universally liked: great characters, good writing and story build, and it’s un-putdownable. I have yet to meet someone who didn’t like it. I’m not sure I’d trust them. (I also don’t trust people who don’t like pancakes.)
I Sailed With Magellan by Stuart Dybek
Absolutely beautiful short stories. You fall instantly in step with his characters in each story and regret parting with them.
Lost at Sea by Jon Ronson
This is a collection of long form essays by Jon Ronson, and every one of them is fascinating. He covers everything from ICP to robots to a road trip that recreates a James Bond novel. (Sidenote: I listened to the audiobook of this one and it’s fantastic. Jon Ronson reads it himself and has a great voice that’s well suited to tell you about his adventures.)
Without Reservations by Alice Steinbach
I discovered this memoir at the KPL Friends bookstore while I was in Michigan for Christmas. Alice Steinbach tells us about the year she took a sabbatical from her job, packed up, and went to Europe for 8 months. She’s an excellent armchair travel companion and she offers a lot of great thoughts on the experience of traveling alone, especially for women. She also introduced me to the writing of Freya Stark, for which I will be eternally grateful.
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
There’s a lot of popular psychology books coming out lately – it’s quite a trend. Some of them feel forced, but the ones that do it right are great. Charles Duhigg takes us through many fascinating examples of how habits can influence outcomes (from corporate culture to the NFL and everything in between). This book isn’t going to change your life (most likely) but it provides a great understanding into how habits work and what to do if you want to form them.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Ok, I read this *before* Oprah picked it. Cheryl Strayed is a badass, and I admire her guts. She tells her story well and writes with heart. She’s an extreme living example of one of my favorite quotes: “We create ourselves by our choices.” (Kierkegaard). Cheryl Strayed recreated herself by choosing to uproot herself from her life (which wasn’t going so great) and start an awesome and dangerous solo journey on the Pacific Crest Trail. If you haven’t already read this, I recommend it. I listened to the audiobook and enjoyed the narrator, Bernadette Dunne.
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
Like Wild, this book was crazy popular this year, and not without reason. It was the first book I finished in 2012 and helped me think about what I wanted from the year, and from life. This topic could have easily been corny or full of generic advice, but instead it’s filled with great research and meaningful examples from Gretchen’s own happiness experiments.
Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking by Susan Cane
As an introvert, I’m thankful for this book. There are many inaccurate and negative stereotypes about introverts – many people hesitate to admit to being one. Susan Cane shatters any illusion that being an introvert is a bad thing, and helps to highlight all the many reasons why we need both introverts and extroverts in the workplace and society. It should be required reading for both introverts and extroverts. Susan Cane’s TED Talk is a great introduction to the book.
More Baths, Less Talking by Nick Hornby
If I had the opportunity to select any living author to become friends with, Nick Hornby would be high on the list because of all the books and music he’d be able to recommend to me. Just like the previous collections of his Believer columns, this one added dozens of books to my TBR lists. (And also to my TBR piles – because I’ve already bought a number of them.)
Best Poetry: I read a lot of poetry in 2012, but I never feel like reviewing a book of poetry or talking about it much, because poetry is so much more personal and private than novels. So I’ll just share my three favorite books of poetry, all by poets I hadn’t read before this year:
A Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver
Diving into the Wreck by Adrienne Rich
The New Clean by Jon Sands
Cheers to a new year and a new reading slate!