Monday, December 31, 2012

Books of The Year 2012 and Things to Come

I read forty-three books this year; of which three were non-fiction (a record for me); and only one of which was released this year.  All things considered I feel really good about what I read this year and my ever discerning ability to pick out books in new genres and by new authors that I am predisposed to liking.  Like years past there were some high points, some middling 'blah', and some epochal lows.

This year I have to make special mention of my reading saving grace which would unequivocally be young adult fiction.  Everything and everyone from Cassandra Clare, to Lemony Snicket, to Tamora Pierce: you restored my interest in reading tenfold and I'm forever thankful.  I've managed to find a balance in my reading material that has been lost to me ever since I phased out adult fantasy.  The variety keeps me going and the writer's voice that is so wholly different from the high and mighty stuff that I think I've taken a liking too is really refreshing.   
And now I'm done babbling…

This is officially not a "Best Books of 2012" list.  As previously noted, I've only read one book from this year.  As such, these are the books that stood out to me--enough to merit some special designation--at the end of my year of reading.  

Most Forgettable Reads

I'm conflicted already.  Can I give this to a book I didn't finish?  Maria once told me that bad books make for great reviews and to that end I've noticed that what I think is my best commentary comes from books I didn't enjoy.  For that very reason I tried--actively tried--to get through Eight White Nights by Andre Aciman if only so I could tell people in detail why I thought it was so awful.  This will have to do…  So let's say I have to give this dubious mention to a book I actually finished as there is a chance against all chances that Eight White Nights redeems itself.  I'd have to go with Breakable You by Brian Morton I liked the story better than Fire by Kristen Cashore but the former was more of a mess.  Actually just stay away from both.  

Biggest Surprise

Young adult fiction as a genre has to get mentioned here for reasons I've already given.  Another surprise in this year's reading is how much I laughed.  BADASS is hysterical.  My Cross to Bear is equally funny for completely different reasons.  Nicole Krauss, Michael Chabon, John Green and of all people C.S. Lewis with The Screwtape Letters all got me laughing; not to mention a vast host of short story writers.  The book that surprised me the most was probably Fire by Kristen Cashore in terms of how much I didn't care for it after loving her first book so much.  

Best New Author Discovery

John Green.  

This couldn't have been easier.  Paper Towns doesn't seem to be anything special in Green's oeuvre kinda like Beethoven's second or eight symphony.  And just like Beethoven if Paper Towns isn't special I can't wait to get to the really good stuff.  He's an insanely popular author, number one bestseller on every list ever who doesn't need me to do any cheer leading for him.  All that said, from about twenty pages into Paper Towns Green's fans were officially Legion plus one.  

And now I'm going to invent a category… 

My Favorite book of 2012

Ones favorite and the perceived or proven best of anything rarely coincide.  My favorite college basketball team didn't win the NCAA championship last year (I'll uphold the belief we were the best until made to contend with insurmountable injuries).  UNC will always be my favorite college basketball team but with books it changes year-to-year and therefor I don't state a case for my favorite book and what I thought was the best.  I don't know why I don't, but there it is.  This year, I don't care… 

No one can tell you how badass Katsa is, you have to read Graceling for yourself and find out.  She is so all-around amazing I want her featured in the next installment of Ben Thompson's BADASSGraceling has everything.  If you don't like this book we can't be friends.  

The Best Book I Read in 2012

Anyone remember when the Pulitzer prize committee didn't pick a winner for the fiction category in 2012?  While I wasn't outraged like many in publishing (as if I have anything invested in the matter) I thought it was bullshit.  Now I'm kinda changing my tune.  I read a lot of really good stuff this year.  I can't stress that last sentence enough.  Great stuff like Daniel Martin, The Windup Girl, The History of Love, Hate List, The Glass Room, and The New York Trilogy, but I didn't read anything that absolutely knocked the air out of my lungs.  And I don't want this meager honor to come across as apathetic: all the above books were great, and perhaps that is what I'm struggling with.  The fact that I can't say, "The best book I read this year are the seven books I just mentioned."  It's a good problem to have.

Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr did manage to stand out among all else I read this year.  The tone of voice, pacing, characterization, sensitivity, and sense of reality were all amazing.  It's a sad story but hard to describe as anything but beautiful.  Zarr is without doubt an author I'll be visiting again.      

I didn't read anything from the national book of the year award list for the first time in three years and the oversight was completely accidental.  In 2013 I plan to get through the three books that caught my interest This is How you Lose Her by Junot Diaz, Goblin Secrets by William Alexander and Out of Reach by Carrie Arcos.  Reading three books from those nominated is two more than I usually do but all three of those got me curious. 

As to other books I'm planning on reading in 2013 Andrzej Sapkowski's works are getting further translation and so I hope to look in on Blood of Elves now that it doesn't seem to stand alone.  I have high hopes for this book considering it's acclaim and how much I like The Last Wish, a short story collection by the same author.  Holly Black is a short story writer whose works I've always liked when I've come across them but I've never sought out her fiction.  I plan to do so with Doll Bones, just because it all sounds so bizarre.  Catherynne M. Valente is responsible for the what is easily one of the most original and intriguing series I've ever read with her Dirge for Prester John.  I'm hoping the third and final installment will be out sometime in the coming year.  That's it for what I know of that I'm looking forward but as always this list will grow exponentially as the year goes on.

Lastly, I'm still considering recruiting a few others for the short story blog I mentioned in my previous post and more regular reading of young adult fiction. 

Hoping everyone had an amazing 2012 and that your fridge is overflowing with Bollinger in 2013. 


Marion said...

This is such a fun way to talk about the books of 2012. More people/places should do this instead of "Best of."

Chad Hull said...

Thanks Marion; glad you liked it!