Best Books of 2012

Booking Through Thursday

In my last post I listed my favorite reads of the year. Here’s why I liked them and why I’m still thinking about them.

  1. Moloka’i, Alan Brennert: This book was a bit of a departure for me. I had never read anything set in Hawaii, and I knew next to nothing about the leper colony on Moloka’i. I absolutely loved this story of Rachel. I think the part I liked best was that she was able to leave and reunite with her sister before the end, and that she was able to connect with her daughter. I was truly swept up into the story. In fact, it might have been my absolute favorite book of the year, and it was also the first one I finished.
  2. Divergent, Veronica Roth: Roth manages to capture her futuristic Chicago in clear detail, and the world she describes is so different. I read on, unable to stop turning pages, so I could find out what would happen to Tris and Four.
  3. The Flight of Gemma Hardy, Margot Livesey: I didn’t give this book five stars, but it’s one that I continued to think about long after I read it. One of my new colleagues was reading it earlier this year, and we talked about it a little bit. I thought it was a great modern retelling of Jane Eyre that made sense. I loved the settings in the book: Scotland’s Orkneys and Iceland. So exotic!
  4. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi: I haven’t read a lot of graphic novels, but this one made me want to read more. It’s an interesting memoir, and I enjoyed both the artwork and the story.
  5. A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway: Actually this may also be the best book I read this year. I love Hemingway’s writing, and this book felt like reading gossip about other writers. He captures that time and place, Paris in the 1920’s, so well that he made me long to go. I created a Paris board on Pinterest after reading it.
  6. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, William Joyce: This book really opened my eyes to the direction that books can go in the future. If you haven’t seen this book, check it out on the iPad. It’s a completely interactive storybook. The story itself is charming—it’s about a man who discovers the joy of caring for books, a monument to librarians. This book isn’t read—it’s experienced.
  7. The Fault in Our Stars, John Green: I am convinced after this book that John Green is the Judy Blume for this generation. This book was excellent. I enjoyed the plucky protagonist Hazel. The book doesn’t flinch in its portrayal of teens with cancer, but it is surprisingly uplifting. In the end, I felt it was much more about living than dying.
  8. Smart Soapmaking and Milk Soapmaking, Anne L. Watson: My new soapmaking hobby has taken over my life! I enjoy it a great deal, and almost all the nonfiction I read this year was about soapmaking. These two books were, by far, the best books I read about the craft of making handmade soap.

 

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Year in Review 2013

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As I have for the past few years, I have spent the last few days reflecting on my reading year. This year wasn’t great. I didn’t meet any of my reading goals.

2012 Reading Challenge

2012 Reading Challenge
Dana has read 27 books toward her goal of 52 books.
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  • Total number of books read: 27.
  • Fiction books: 19.
  • Nonfiction books: 6.
  • Memoirs: 2.
  • YA books: 7.
  • Audio books: 2.
  • Digital books: 10.
  • DailyLit books: 0.
  • Books reread: 5.

Favorite Reads of the Year (in no particular order):

  1. Moloka’i, Alan Brennert
  2. Divergent, Veronica Roth
  3. The Flight of Gemma Hardy, Margot Livesey
  4. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi
  5. A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway
  6. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, William Joyce
  7. The Fault in Our Stars, John Green
  8. Smart Soapmaking and Milk Soapmaking, Anne L. Watson

Least Favorite Books (although this is relative because I didn’t have any less than 3-star books):

  1. Making Soaps & Scents, Catherine Bardey
  2. Delirium, Lauren Oliver

Favorite Book Meme of the Year: Top Ten Tuesdays.

Favorite Reading Challenge: The Mixing it Up Challenge (for at least making me thinking about going outside my usual reading comfort zones).

Favorite Blog Posts (again, in no particular order):

Here is my Where Are Your Reading 2012 Challenge map:


View 2012 Where Are You Reading Challenge in a larger map

I finished a re-read of Wuthering Heights recently, bringing my total to 27 books for the year. I don’t think I’ll finish anything else before the end of the year, so I’m calling it at 27. I have some hopes that if I buckle down, I can finish A Great and Terrible Beauty, but not high hopes.

In addition to not meeting my goal of reading 52 books, I also did not complete any of the challenges I set for myself. I think I over-committed myself on the challenges for sure, but I really did think I could meet the challenges. They didn’t seem onerous. I have decided to limit myself a bit more this year and just try to read things that look interesting.

I am also not going to host any challenges this year, as I find I am a terrible challenge host. I don’t think I peeked in after January, mainly because folks didn’t seem too interested in the challenge. I think I’d rather just participate in other challenges than host them.

There are good reasons for my failure to meet my reading goals. This year I moved and started a new job. I am not being too hard on myself because it was a huge adjustment. I moved 1000 miles from Roswell, GA (suburb of Atlanta) to Worcester, MA in central Massachusetts. We are all very happy in our new digs, and I love my new job.

In my previous job, I rode the bus to work, and my commute was typically 30 minutes each morning on the bus. I was able to get in a lot of reading that way, and I think my lack of commute now is a considerable factor in the number of books I was able to read. We moved here in June, and from that time onward, my commute was typically five minutes. The only way I could stretch it would be to walk, which I have done when the weather is nice, but it’s not conducive to reading. I actually can read and walk at the same time, but it’s better to have your wits about you. Even riding the bus, I only took about five minutes to get to work, but now that I’m carpooling with a coworker, it’s downright rude to think about. Essentially, one hour of reading time I used to have has been taken away. What I need to do is dedicate that reading time each day at home, even if I have to set a timer. I have often said that if something is important to you, you will make time for it. Well, reading is obviously important to me, but I have not been making as much time for it as I previously have done.

I’m looking forward to trying again to read a book a week this coming year.

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Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi

The Complete PersepolisThe first time I ever heard anything about the country of Iran was when I was in second grade. Americans had been taken hostage at the American Embassy in Tehran. We wrote letters to the hostages, and I remembered very clearly that a boy in my class wrote in his letter, “I hope you don’t get shot.” Miss Johnson, my teacher, made him change it because, she said, while she was sure they would appreciate his hoping they wouldn’t get shot, he shouldn’t remind them of the possibility in a letter. They were already scared enough. I remembered thinking that these people must be crazy to kidnap people they didn’t know for no reason I could understand. I think a lot of Americans came to view Iranians as crazy fundamentalists, and it was easy to lump the entire country together under that label. [amazon_link id=”0375714839″ target=”_blank” ]Persepolis[/amazon_link] is a memoir by Marjane Satrapi, who experienced what it was like to live in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. She paints a different image of Iran and Iranians than many Americans my age and younger grew up seeing. She describes what it was like to feel hopeful when the Shah was deposed, only to find the revolution was not what she and her family expected, and in many ways, their lives were worse. Satrapi suddenly had to wear a veil to school. Satrapi was outspoken and frequently courted trouble. When she was fourteen, her parents sent her to school in Austria. She came back to Iran at the age of eighteen confused about who she was: she didn’t feel completely Iranian because her beliefs were out of step with those of her more traditional friends, but she didn’t feel Western, either.

The version I read contains the complete graphic novel, spanning Satrapi’s life from the late 1970’s to the mid-1990’s. I liked the artwork. It was simple but effective, and I found Satrapi’s story so captivating that I read the novel in a matter of hours (although it is true that graphic novels are quicker to read). I have not read many graphic novels. In fact, this is only my second, the other being [amazon_link id=”0394747232″ target=”_blank” ]Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History[/amazon_link]. I didn’t like Maus all that much, and I have never been much of a comic book reader, so I think I told myself I didn’t like graphic novels. This graphic novel was excellent, though. I found Satrapi’s description of life in Iran and her parents interesting. I think growing up when I did, it was easy to see the people of Iran as “the enemy” and to forget they are not terribly different from us, and what this book does brilliantly is expose that prejudice to the reader. Reading this memoir, I do not have the sense it was written for an Iranian audience. It feels more like it was meant to educate Westerners, and it certainly changed my perspective. We have our own religious extremists here in America, but the difference is that our government allows dissent, and we’re not yet living in the Republic of Gilead.* I enjoyed the fact that the memoir was an unflinchingly honest examination of Satrapi’s coming of age, but also not without quite a fair amount of humor, even the face of difficult circumstances and devastating events. Ultimately, Satrapi’s memoir is the story of how she discovered who she is and what she wanted. I would recommend it to anyone who thinks they don’t like graphic novels. Anyone who already enjoys graphic novels will love this book.

*A reference to the government established by the Religious Right in Margaret Atwood’s novel [amazon_link id=”B003JFJHTS” target=”_blank” ]The Handmaid’s Tale[/amazon_link].

Rating: ★★★★★

I read this novel to fulfill the Graphic Novels and Manga category of the Mixing it Up Challenge.

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