Thursday, January 31, 2013

January '13 stats

For most of January, I was on break from school. Although, half of this time was spent at my internship, I felt I still got a fair bit of reading done. One goal was to finish some books that I had started months earlier. The first of these stragglers was Syndrome E, the international thriller by Franck Thilliez, which had been a birthday present from Mr. Bibliotonic. Syndrome E was instantly engaging. Short chapters made the novel a page-turner. For the most part, Syndrome E delivered a unique storyline and two strong characters, but it was not without flaws. Perhaps something was lost in translation. A few plot turns were hard to stomach and suspend disbelief for, but I also believe Thilliez's voice is promising, especially if he brings back Lucie Hennebelle and Franck Sharko.

By contrast, Ray Bradbury's The Illustrated Man, a collection of modern stories, knocked my socks off. The coldness of technology and human psychology form a thread running through all these stories. In fact, most seem to be about rockets or astronauts. The Veldt is prescient in the way it reveals technology and permissive parenting gone amok. This story has been a favorite since I first read it as a high school junior. Many of these stories read like Twilight Zone episodes. I'm looking forward to reading more long-form Bradbury, such as Fahrenheit 451, as well as more stories.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

the year (2012) in books

Happy New Year!! It has been so long since I have blogged that one might wonder if I'm actually able to keep the blog going. School has gotten in the way of record keeping and writing. But I am doing everything in my power to continue reading. 2012 was a good reading year for numbers. Thank you Robert Kirkman and his Walking Dead graphic novels. I'm also still managing to read aloud an occasional book to the boys and to the family as we make road trips to South Dakota. Audio books also ensure that I'm able to "read" even when driving in my car to school and to Minneapolis where I have had an internship at an architecture firm. Finally, my handsome husband and darling boys gave me an iPad for Mother's Day. I have very mixed feelings about e-readers. Up to this point, I have used my Sony PRS almost exclusively when I'm on airplanes. These devises are, after all, a magnificent way to bring a ton of reading material without the bulk and weight of physical books. I have been using Kindle software. I am frightened by how easy it is to download books at Amazon, and I try to augment, whenever possible, with library loans. At any rate, I am certain the number of e-books I read in 2013 will only increase.

Herewith is a list of the forty-four books I read in 2012. A small list of statistics follows.
1.  Zone One, Colson Whitehead--wanted to like this literary zombie novel more than I did
2.  Leviathan, Scott Westerfeld--clever middle reader steampunk with great characters and setting
3.  Charming Quirks of Others, A.M. Smith--Isabel Dalhousie never fails to delight
4.  Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot--compelling character studies and scientific writing
5.  Anansi Boys, Neil Gaiman (audio)--my first adult novel by Gaiman, clever and entertaining
6.  Through No Fault of My Own, Coco Irvine--charming memoir of a flapper, set in St. Paul
7.  Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City, Kirsten Miller--loved Kiki's spunk and drive; strong comparison to Artemis Fowl
8.  Silver Girl, Elin Hilderbrand--cheesy, thin, starting to tire of Hilderbrand
9.  Glaciers, Alexis Smith--debut novel told in vignettes
10. Walking Dead #01: Days Gone By, Robert Kirkman--zombies
11. Walking Dead #02: Miles Behind Us, Robert Kirkman--more zombies
12. Walking Dead Book Two, Robert Kirkman--still more zombies
13. Walking Dead Book Three, Robert Kirkman
14. Pure, Julianna Baggott--book group; loved this dystopic novel of survival and characters with fused parts, first in a series
15. The Forgotten Affairs of Youth, A.M. Smith--more Isabel Dalhousie
16. Walking Dead, Book Four, Robert Kirkman--back to zombies
17. Contents May Have Shifted, Pam Houston--connected stories by a favorite author
18. Walking Dead, Book Five, Robert Kirkman--zombies
19. Walking Dead, Book Six, Robert Kirkman
20. Walking Dead, Book Seven, Robert Kirkman
21. Serpent's Shadow [Kane Chronicles #3], Rick Riordan--read aloud to the boys, last in the Egyptian mythology series
22. Well of Lost Plots, Jasper Fforde (audio)--really enjoyed this Thursday Next as an audiobook; look forward to reading more
23. Caves of Perigord, Martin Walker (E)--last book read on my old e-device; terrible; Clan of the Cave Bears meets the DaVinci Code with some help from the French Resistance (ack)
24, Harriet the Spy, Louise Fitzhugh--missed this as a kid, so glad to have been able to enjoy in now
25. A Question of Belief, Donna Leon (audio)--can't let a year go by without some Brunetti; this one wasn't very memorable
26. Eating Mud Crabs in Kandahar, ed. Matt McAllester--essays about food by leading war correspondents; favorite nonfiction of the year
27. Wild, Cheryl Strayed (E)--first book read on my new device; popular memoir that almost made me want to hike the Pacific Crest Trail
28. Celtic Riddle, Lyn Hamilton--read aloud in prep for Ireland trip, terrible
29. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer--fun, if violent
30. Maleficium, Martine DesJardins--book group; creep-tastic novel of connected stories; one of the year's best
31. Lost City of Z, David Grann--read aloud on Watertown road-trip; Amazon exploration and natural history in a rich narrative
32. Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn--I enjoyed this popular read and loved to hate the awful characters
33. Expats, Chris Pavone (E)--read on vacaton in Ireland; well-paced spy novel filled with unreliable characters
34. Castaways, Elin Hilderbrand--finished a year after I started; Hilderbrand's Cape Cod setting just feels like summer
35. Dumpling Days, Grace Lin--read in one sitting at the swimming pool; charming foodie memoir of author's first trip to visit her family in China
36. Age of Miracles, Karen Thompson Walker--at times, the plot and character's voice veered too close to Susan Pfeffer's Life As We Knew It; made many year-end top lists
37. Gone-Away Lake, Elizabeth Enright--wonderful classic children's novel that I read aloud to the boys in Ireland
38. Gold, Chris Cleave (audio)--I had high hopes for this novel about Olympic track cyclists but it was a bit of a disappointment
39. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee Casts Off, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (audio)--vignettes about knitting by a popular blogger
40. Summerland, Elin Hilderbrand (audio)--Hilderbrand's formula has become tired
41. Beastly Things, Donna Leon (E)--slightly gristly abattoir setting; not my favorite Brunetti
42. Get Jiro! Anthony Bourdain--dark, but well-written graphic novel
43. More Baths, Less Talking, Nick Hornby (E)--glad for Hornby's return to his The Believer column; not sure I can wait a year for the next collection
44. Where'd You Go, Bernadette? Maria Semple (E)--satirical epistolary novel about a washed-up architect; favorite book of the year!
Fiction: 38
Nonfiction: 6
Books written by women: 21
Books written by men: 23
Zombies: 9 (WOW!)
Travel essays: 0
Culinary essays: 1
Donna Leon: 2
Alexander McCall Smith: 2
Elin Hilderbrand: 3
Children’s: 7
Story collections: 0
Audio: 6
Classics: 2
Graphic novels: 9
Memoirs: 3
First novels: 3

Off to get a jump on 2013 reading!