A Year in Books
Whew…it has been a ridiculously long time since I have graced this dear blog of mine with my presence, hasn’t it? Sorry about that, kids. I’d say I’m going to try to do better in the new year, but, well…we’ll see. I have high hopes. In my defense, my blogging energies have been largely taken up by the posts I did for the Loft during my internship (gonna miss you, Loft!), so now that it’s over, maybe I’ll actually find the motivation to post here with something resembling regularity. Cross your fingers for me, ‘kay? Thanks.
Anyway! I didn’t come here to give you a list of long, drawn-out excuses, so let’s cut to the chase. On January 1st, 2012, I set a goal for myself to read 50 books by the time the next New Year’s Day rolled around. I’m happy to report that the venture has been a profound success! I read a grand total of 52 books in 2012. Granted, a few of them were manga books. And a LOT of them were re-reads (because a book worth enjoying once is worth enjoying twice, dang it! Or several times…). But it was my reading goal and this is my blog, and I get to make the rules. So there!
So since I know you’re all dying to see it, here’s Kristen’s Fancy Book List of Doom:
Books of 2012
- Divergent – Veronica Roth
- Inheritance – Christopher Paolini
- Watchmen – Alan Moore (ill. Dave Gibbons)
- Stardust – Neil Gaiman
- Matched – Ally Condie
- A Game of Thrones – George R. R. Martin
- Impossible – Nancy Werlin (re-read)
- Library Wars Volume 6 – Kiiro Yumi
- Library Wars Volume 7 – Kiiro Yumi
- Ella Enchanted – Gail Carson Levine (re-read)
- The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins (re-read)
- Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins (re-read)
- Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins (re-read)
- A Clash of Kings – George R. R. Martin
- Vampire Academy – Richelle Mead
- The Two Princesses of Bamarre – Gail Carson Levine (re-read)
- Ouran High School Host Club 17 – Bisco Hatori
- The Scorpio Races – Maggie Steifvater
- Insurgent – Veronica Roth
- StarCrossed – Elizabeth Bunce
- Smooth Talking Stranger – Lisa Kleypas
- John Carter of Mars; Book One: A Princess of Mars – Edgar Rice Burroughs
- Frostbite – Richelle Mead
- Peter Pan – J.M. Barrie
- Slaughterhouse-Five – Kurt Vonnegut
- Daughter of Time – Sarah Woodbury
- Looking for Alaska – John Green
- Drums of Autumn – Diana Gabaldon
- Pirates! – Celia Rees
- Masque of the Red Death – Bethany Griffin
- Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1: Unmanned – Brian K. Vaughan
- Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
- Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief – Rick Riordan
- Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson
- Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Sea of Monsters – Rick Riordan
- God’s Debris: A Thought Experiment – Scott Adams
- Abandon – Meg Cabot
- The Goddess Test – Aimée Carter
- Savannah by the Sea – Denise Hildreth
- Redeeming Love – Francine Rivers (re-read)
- The Fault in Our Stars – John Green
- Library Wars: Volume 8 – Kiiro Yumi
- Ophelia – Lisa M. Klein (re-read)
- Forever – Maggie Steifvater
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – J.K. Rowling (re-read)
- The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring – J.R.R. Tolkien (re-read)
- The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis (re-read)
- Graceling – Kristin Cashore (re-read)
- Legend – Marie Lu
- Bridge to Terabithia – Katherine Paterson
- First Date – Krista McGee
- Beauty – Robin McKinley (re-read)
Whew. Just look at all those beautiful titles! I’ve gotta say, 2012 was a pretty ridiculously fun year, reading-wise. I think it’s time for some reviews! Before you run away screaming, don’t worry; I’m not going to talk about every single one of these (no matter how interesting it might be to test my memory thusly), because that would be dumb. But I’m in the mood to write some of my patently vast, haphazard book reviews, so we’re gonna top-three it up.
Let us begin!
1. The Fault in Our Stars – John Green
I’ll come right out and say it–this book broke me in the best way possible, and I can’t recommend it enough. You all know about my deep and abiding adoration for John Green and his works, and this book strengthened that admiration by quite a wide margin. TFiOS is the story of Hazel Grace Lancaster, a 16-year-old with terminal cancer that she’s managed to stave off for a while with the help of a miraculous tumor-shrinking drug. She’s coping as well as she can under the circumstances, but it’s only when she meets Augustus Waters, a cancer survivor and an almost impossibly beautiful human being, that she truly begins to make the most of her life, however much or little of it is left.
I know what you’re thinking; you’re sure this is one of those “cancer books” that takes a lot of emotional cheap shots and goes on and on about the protagonists’ heroism. But before you judge this book as a Lurlene-McDaniel-esque sap-fest, think again; TFiOS is so much more than a book about cancer. It asks some pretty huge questions, such as–how do we find meaning in a seemingly meaningless loss of life? How do we cope with something that’s unbearable? And what, in the end, does it mean to truly love someone?
Don’t be frightened off by all of these deep thoughts, though; there are plenty of funny moments to be had as well. Hazel and Augustus are two teenagers, after all, and are as goofy and witty and pretentious and charming as any teenagers you could hope to meet. In short, they’re some of the more realistic characters I’ve had the pleasure of coming across, and that makes the messages they have to share hit home all the more.
I will warn you, this book pulls no punches. I bawled like a baby through the last fifty pages or so. But like John Green has said in the past, “It hurts because it matters.” You won’t come out of this book unscathed. But then, why would you want to?
2. Watchmen – Alan Moore
Hey, look at that; I read a decently literary graphic novel among the manga books I consumed this year! And what an amazing ride it was. In my opinion, Watchmen is one of those “everyone-needs-to-read-it-at-some-point” books. It’s without a doubt the most interesting take on the superhero genre that I’ve ever read. It paints a pretty believable picture of what the world would really look like if superheroes existed, rather than the idealized worlds we see in most superhero comics.
The story consists of numerous plot threads that are woven together so skillfully that one’s mind is well and truly blown by the end of the novel. Just as in the real world, none of Watchmen‘s characters are fully good or fully evil, and everybody has their own agenda to follow, noble or vile as each may be. Each character has their own unique foibles, some larger than others, that tend to squelch their best efforts, sometimes before they’ve even begun, and though many of them band together to try and stop the insidious corruption that has infiltrated their lives, in the end, they find themselves in a place they never expected (and never wanted) to be.
Goodness…was that vague enough for you? As you can see, I’m finding this book to be a rather difficult one to explain. It’s just that there’s so much to take away from this book that one almost has to pick one thread at a time to follow in order to navigate it. Suffice it to say that this is one novel that would get better and better with multiple rereads, amazing as it already is.
3. Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
Why yes, I am still reading dystopian novels like there’s no tomorrow! This time, though, I veered away from YA for two seconds and read a book for grownups. I’d heard great things about this book from a couple of my readerly friends, so I decided to give it a go. The fact that I wanted to see the movie version that stars Andrew Garfield may also have influenced my choice. But I digress.
Dark as it is, I very much enjoyed this book. It’s set in an alternate-universe Britain during the 1990′s, and the protagonists grow up together in a boarding-school-style living situation, without parents or relatives. They know they’re being raised for a specific purpose, but only when they are older do they realize the truth of that purpose–as well as how sinister it is.
Though the setting and the protagonists’ way of life are far removed from the world as we know it, it’s incredible how deeply real everything feels. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the subtleties and difficulties of social interaction described with such minute accuracy, and even though my situation (or anyone’s, really) is nothing like that of the protagonists, I found them and their interactions with each other to be so relateable it was almost scary (stop reading my mind, Ishiguro!). It was like seeing a spot-on representation of all those little tiny moments between myself and other people that I’ve always wished I could describe but have never been able to.
More than that, the book is chilling and tragic without being overtly depressing. It deals with people who are caught up in, and completely shaped by, a system that is absolutely out of their control, despite their best efforts to find meaning and power within it. One can’t help wondering whether Ishiguro is asking us to examine our own lives and ask ourselves if we are similarly bound. And if so, if there’s anything we can (or should) do about it.
In short, this is one meaty book. I hope to re-read it sometime and delve even more deeply into it than I did during the first go-round.
So there you have it, folks! Though my top three ended up being pretty weighty selections, I’m proud to say that this has been a wonderfully varied and enjoyable year where books are concerned. Here’s hoping for even more awesomeness in 2013!
But enough about me; what are your readerly goals and resolutions for this year? Will you be striving for a 50-book list too, or something different? I’d love to hear about what sort of literary shenanigans you’ll be getting up to this year!