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Anaya M. Baker's Neverending List O' Books 2012
Here we go, a new year, and a new neverending book list. Although since I've decided to start a new book list for 2012, I guess that means that 2011's neverending list of books did in fact have an end. Oh well. I'm okay with contradicting myself.
In case you are wondering what I'm talking about, last August I started up a list of books I read, those I liked and those I didn't. It was really just a fun personal exercise, a way to keep track of everything in one place, but along the way I did notice that a few people were actually coming to visit.
So I began including mini-reviews for each book, which sometimes grew into full-scale hubs on their own, and now it just feels strange to finish a book without running over to hubpages to mark it down. It's like checking something off your to-do list, so satisfying, but you also feel like you haven't really accomplished it until you put that check mark down-- or horizontal line, whatever your preference. I'm sure there's a personality quiz out there somewhere, what do the markings on your to-do list reveal about your love life?
At any rate, here I am, gearing up for a new year of reading some awesome new books, and a few old favorites. As always, comments, suggestions or disagreements are heartily welcomed! For a short list of titles without the commentary, just scroll down to the bottom.
A Book of Common Prayer - Joan Didion (1977)
I'd been meaning to get around to this for a while, and I'm really glad I finally did. Didion is at her best here. The writing is mesmerizing, the analysis of social power dynamics is spot-on, and the story is intriguing and absorbing. If you only read one book by Joan Didion in your lifetime, have it be this one!
The Angel on the Roof - Russell Banks (2000)
This collection of short stories tackles some tough and rather depressing themes: divorce, breakdown of family, poverty, violence, and lack of future prospects. Yet somehow the stories themselves don't read as that depressing, mainly because Banks' has an amazingly lyrical and powerful voice that manages to soar beyond the low points of human experience that he chronicles.
Freedomland - Richard Price (2010)
Gritty, urban cop drama that highlights some really important issues of race, class, sensationalism, media spectacle, and crime. Huge social value, but also quite a page-turner.
This Month's Favorite
A Practical Wedding - Meg Keane (2011)
Brides-to-be, use this book as your wedding bible! Not so many practical tips like how to choose a florist, but a much-needed grounding in how to stay sane, orchestrate the whole crazy thing, and sometimes even learn to let go, in the crazy and often torturous wedding planning process. If you're getting married, or know someone who's getting married, get this book, read it, and keep it handy until the big day comes.
Sarah's Key - Tatiana de Rosnay (2007)
Both my mother and my sister told me that I had to read this book, so I did! It tells the story of a journalist researching the story of Holocaust tragedy that took place in France, and intersperses historical flashbacks to a young Jewish girl who was caught up in the roundup. The book itself was a great read, very moving, but I did feel that the second half was somewhat anti-climactic. The story abandons the narrative of the young girl in favor of the modern protagonist halfway through, and I wish I could have heard a bit more from her in her own words. That said, I would still definitely recommend it.
Selected Poems - T.S. Eliot (1930)
I picked this up because I wanted to finally have a go at "The Waste Land," which is based on Jessie Weston's From Ritual to Romance and has Arthurian and Grail Legend elements. It was an interesting read given my new knowledge on the subject, but I was surprised to find that I actually enjoyed many of Eliot's other poems, which I'd previously found too esoteric to really get into. Eliot is definitely not light reading, but I'd still recommend him to anyone who enjoys intense poetry.
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court - Mark Twain (1889)
An overall fun read. Combines two great elements, Arthurian legend and Twain's biting social commentary. This time he takes on feudalism, slavery, authoritarian government, and the Church as an institution, amid a backdrop of knights, questing, and spectacular inventions. I thought this might be a harder book to get through, but it actually turned out to be great bedtime reading.
Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen (1818)
Great read! This mock-gothic was loosely based on Ann Radcliffe's Udolpho, and pokes some 19th century fun at literary conventions. Even more than the gothic elements, I especially enjoyed the use of the anti-heroine. Unlike many of the other novels with female protagonists from this time period, the main character, Catherine Moreland is unspectacular in every way. She's not exceptionally pretty, bright, accomplished, cultured, or good. Her only claim to fame is an active imagination, which makes for quite a likeable character and an intriguing read.
The Robber Bride - Margaret Atwood (1993)
I love Margaret Atwood, so this was just one of those books I read for sheer enjoyment, rather than trying to learn something or broaden my horizons or what-have-you. The Robber Bride was pretty good Atwood fare, far better than Lady Oracle or Bodily Harm which I found disappointing, though not quite as knock-your-socks off as The Handmaid's Tale or The Blind Assassin. If you enjoyed Cat's Eye, you will like The Robber Bride, if you've never read any books by Margaret Atwood then I'm surprised you're still reading this.
The Short List
- The Robber Bride (1993) - Margaret Atwood
- Northanger Abbey (1818) - Jane Austen
- A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889) - Mark Twain
- Selected Poems (1930) - T.S. Eliot
- Sarah's Key (2007) - Tatiana de Rosnay
- A Practical Wedding (2011) - Meg Keane
- Freedomland (2010) - Richard Price
- The Angel on the Roof (2000) - Russell Banks
- A Book of Common Prayer (1977) - Joan Didion
- The Crying of Lot 49 (1965) - Thoman Pynchon
- Zeitoun (2009) - Dave Eggers
- The Robin Hood of El Dorado (1932) - Walter Noble Burns
- Losing Clementine (2012) - Ashley Ream
- Soul on Ice (1968) - Eldridge Cleaver
- The Bean Trees (1988) - Barbara Kingsolver