Sunday, February 24, 2013

Books I read, 2012

The past two years, I've been keeping track of the books I've read. The following is the list for 2012, in the order they were finished. (I suppose it's more of a books I finished in 2012, disregarding when I started them.) This doesn't include magazines or comic books or fictional graphic novels, but it does include novels & other fiction, nonfiction books and nonfiction graphic novels. Basically, I should make a separate list for the more comic-booky books, I guess. But I haven't done that, and I'm not sure I want to make that big list, so take what you can get, I guess.

Making Money by Terry Pratchett
I love Terry Pratchett. What else can I say? This was another good book from the Discworld series.
Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart
This is a silly (in a good way) and then surprisingly meaningful and emotional (right at the end) book that we picked up from the giveaway bin at the library.
The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander
I'm pretty sure I hadn't read any of this series until this year. Possibly The High King because I have a copy from when I was young, but I can't remember reading it then. I sought to amend that this year. Anyway, it's a good start to the series, but only the third best out of five.
The Last Testament: A Memoir by God by David Javerbaum
This is straight-up funny and irreverent. It pokes at many religions, especially the Judeo-Christian ones. Don't think Christianity is singled out — in fact, there's quite a bit of love and/or admiration for it.
The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander
The best book of the series. Hands down.
Nurk by Ursula Vernon
I really enjoyed this fun little adventure of a shy, hermit-like shrew opening up a bit and exploring life. You may notice quite a bit of children's/young adult books here. Partly that's where I hang out in the library most of the time (I have three children, none of whom can yet be labeled teenagers); and partly I just really enjoy a good book written for the younger set. This was one of 'em.
The Castle of Llyr by Lloyd Alexander
Perhaps you'll notice it seems I took a break between the books of this series. I didn't. I just often read two books at once (usually one at home and one at work).
Taran Wanderer by Lloyd Alexander
This and the previous book are the weakest of the series, but they are still very good books. If you're strapped for time, though, you can get away with skipping these two, though. They're more side-quests than main story tales. This one's basically (the main character of the series) Taran's coming-of-age book. It's where he goes from being a pig boy to a man.
George Washington, Spymaster: How the Americans Outspied the British and Won the Revolutionary War by Thomas B. Allen
This was a really good, really interesting book. I had no idea how much espionage factored into the Revolutionary War. Highly recommended, especially for older elementary and middle school kids, as that's the intended audience. There's a big list of recommended reading (that I really should check out sometime) with adult books in the same vein.
The High King by Lloyd Alexander
Second-best book of the series. He closes it out well, with the expected vanquishing of evil. I still think The Black Cauldron is the best book, even though this is the one that won the Newbery. This is more Superman, while The Black Cauldron is more Batman, if that makes sense to you.
What Would Buffy Do?: The Vampire Slayer as Spiritual Guide by Jana Riess
Yeah, so my wife and I are big Buffy fans. This is a more popular (as opposed to scholarly) look at the spirituality in the show. I enjoyed it even though (or perhaps because?) it's a bit of a light read. Which may sound strange given the topic, but I did say it was more of a popular look.
Captain Freedom: A Superhero's Quest for Truth, Justice, and the Celebrity He So Richly Deserves by G. Xaviwe Robillard
This is a funny book that I'd recommend to anyone who likes superheroes. The world of the book is well thought out and feels quite realistic as how our world might be if some people did have super powers. (Hint: follow the money!)
Walking Dead by Greg Rucka
And here is a not superhero novel by someone I normally think of as a comic book writer. This actually seems to be one of a series of books about the main character, and I've come in towards the end of his story — meaning he's decided to settle down after going from being a bodyguard to being an international fugitive. I think his graphic novels Whiteout and Whiteout: Melt (which I think I read this year also) were better, but I enjoyed this, and I'm glad I found it and picked it up.
Feynman by Jim Ottaviani
This is, I think, the only graphic novel on this list. I've included it here because it's a biography, and arbitrary blah blah blah. It just seems different, okay? Anyway, this was a great read, very well done. I learned a lot about Feynman, and it made me want to read more about him, his work, and his life. If you don't know who he is, shame on you: He was a great physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project and figured out what happened in the Challenger disaster, among other things. He had a great way of relating to non-scientists, and he saw things in different ways than others: his diagrams are one of the greatest breakthroughs in helping people understand and work with quantum physics. Seriously, a great read.
Blockade Billy by Stephen King
I used to love Stephen King, partly because of the length of his works. I'm a sucker for an epic, and King's full of them. I still like him, and some of his books are among my favorites, but I've been able to see the flaws in his writing moreso lately, and maybe he's lost a bit in his later years. But I think he's still got it, and I like when he goes for the short form. It doesn't give him as much of a chance to go overboard and weird for weird's sake. This novella about baseball is one of the good ones. King just tells the story and is done.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
This is where I read nothing but the Hunger Games trilogy. And man, it was good. This quickly became one of my favorite book series. Most everything feels like it would actually happen that way; people would actually act and react that way. Very powerful, very emotional, very good. I can't recommend them enough.
Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
I have a bunch of old classics like this, and I haven't read many of them. (Okay, not so many anymore, but not until the last few years, at least.) This was fun with a clever twist at the end.
The Traitor's Gate by Avi
This is another one we picked up somewhere for cheap because, hey, it's Avi. It's a fun tale of mystery & intrigue set in mid-nineteenth century London. Highly recommended, especially for the younger set who like complex stories & characters and endings sans pretty little bows.
The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry
The Willoughbys is my favorite kind of book. It's very quirky with Monty Python-esque humor, and it's a very fun book. Another book aimed at teens & preteens but very enjoyable for anyone.
The Silent Boy by Lois Lowry
Without realizing it, I read two Lois Lowry books at the same time, this being the second. It was very easy to overlook this fact because the books are extremely different in every way. This is a rather painfully tragic story about a girl and her mentally handicapped neighbor. Well worth the read.
Nation by Terry Pratchett
Here we are again with a Terry Pratchett book, one I've been meaning to read for a while. I am so very glad I did. This was an excellent excellent book with a great meaning for me and an honest ending. (As opposed to the fairy-tale ending that many others would give, even though it wouldn't make a whole lot of sense.) I always enjoy Terry Pratchett's novels, but this is in the more select groups of those I absolutely love.
The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff
This is the second book I read last year that includes the pregnancy of a student by her professor (the first was Absurdistan). I just thought that was interesting. We picked this book up (again, somewhere for cheap) based mostly on the beautiful cover art. It's a story of a young woman finding herself. In the process, she finds out quite a bit about her family history (hint: it's much more twisted — in more than one way — than the neat & somewhat wholesome story she thought). All-in-all, it was an enjoyable read.
Trackers by Patrick Carman
I'm sorry to say I was really disappointed in this book. I'd been meaning to read it for a while after glancing at it in the library. The first page or so gives so much promise — a teenage boy is being questioned about some mission of sorts that went awry. It's implied his friends didn't make it out — alive? healthy? In any case, things did not go well. It's all told in this transcript style, even directing you to a website with some video & other evidence in the case. Which was interesting, though somewhat gimmicky. (For me, anyway, but I could see myself at a younger age or the intended audience today finding it exciting.) The problem, however, is that this book is all exposition with little real payoff. It's the first act, which would be fine if this were a serial medium like comics. But the first book of a series should stand up on its own, and this does not. I got to end wondering where the rest of the pages went. I'm not even sure if I'll read the next book for closure or completeness purposes because of the bad taste this left in my mouth. Also, the very incorrect science in the book (mostly with how computers work) made me cringe throughout, especially considering the degrees to which the author goes to emphasize realism. This is probably the only book I read last year that I'd pass on given another opportunity to read. Seriously disappointing.
The Pearl by John Steinbeck
Where do you go from there? The classics. This had been on my mind (I forget why) and I hadn't read it since high school, so here we are again! What do I say? It's a classic; it ends tragically — what's not to like?
Televised Morality: The Case of Buffy the Vampire Slayer by Gregory Stevenson
Also, from there you go to comfort foods. This is a scholarly look (much more so than What Would Buffy Do?) at the morals of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I didn't agree with all the conclusions, but it was an interesting read.
The Friendship Doll by Kirby Larson
And now, the last book I finished in 2012. This is another one I'd seen at the library for a while and wanted to read because of the lovely cover. (Yes, covers matter quite a bit. And yes, I like good art & good design.) I convinced my daughter to read it and she nearly begged me to read it, too, afterward so we could talk about it. It's a really sweet story about a Japanese friendship doll and the lives she touches over many years. The book is written in four parts, each about a different girl in a different place and time in America, and each part could stand as a wonderful (and sometimes painful) tale on their own. The doll ties them together, and overall this a sweet book which I greatly enjoyed.

Okay, finally done! That took much longer than I thought. (I started writing this post just after the new year.) Maybe I should write the blurbs as I go this year?

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