Monday, January 2, 2012

2012 Books

It's time once again to start my yearly list of the books I have read. This will be my 6th year to record this information here on this blog. It has been helpful for me to be able to look back at what I have read and to recall what I thought about it or how it impacted my life. (Or its lack of impact if I can't even remember what the book was about...)

As always, the rating:

1-3 I wish I could burn all copies of this book.
4-6 Had a few things going for it, but definitely not my favorite.
7-8 I enjoyed or got something out of this book, worth reading.
9-10 One of the best, highly recommended.

Abba's Child by Brennan Manning 9 It's only fitting to begin the year with this book, one I started in December but finished today. It perfectly sums up the transformation I have gone through over the past year as I have come to find my identity in God alone. This book is worth any price just for the one chapter called "The Impostor" because it lays out the false self vs. true self so clearly. However, the entire book is inspiring and encouraging.

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy 7 No, I never read it in high school or college. I knew it's famous. I knew it's supposedly good. Other than that, I had no clue what it would be about. (I didn't even know what a pimpernel is.) I was pleased with this classic novel focused on a daring Englishman's rescue of doomed French aristocrats. Full of twists, turns, and fabulously well-written inner dialog from the main character Lady Blakeley. Very enjoyable!

Spiritual Direction by Henri Nouwen (compiled by Christensen and Laird) 8 Using Nouwen's notes, class material, and other writings these authors created a book on Nouwen's view of Spiritual Direction or how maturity is developed in self and others.

The Pursuit of Man by Tozer 10 Best book on the Holy Spirit I have ever read. I can't imagine a better one exists. Gave words to my experiences of late, challenged me to continue to seek God's presence. Loved the message of this book.

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey 7 Attention holding magical story set in Alaska in earlier part of 1900's. An older, childless couple and their relationship with a child whose origins are unclear. Nice historical novel as well because of the setting.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern 7 Interesting tale of magic that was unusual and held my attention but the ending was not very satisfying.

The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons 8 Well written story of a young Jewish woman who flees Vienna before the outbreak of war and becomes a maid at an English estate. Really, this author writes very well and the book is hard to put down.

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami 5 He's one of my favorite authors but this is not his best work by any means. Far too long, and a little boring. Could have easily be cut by a quarter. The story was not exciting enough to justify the length of this one. I'm a little upset I put so much time into reading it, especially since the ending was weak.

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas 8 If you only read one lengthy Dumas work, let it be The Count of Monte Christo which is better than this one I think.  But Musketeers is still a great story full of action, wit, and well-developed characters.

Mrs. Kennedy and Me by Clint Hill

Escape From Camp 14 by Blaine Hardin 8 Succinct, shocking, honest portrayal of life in North Korea that educated and outraged me at the same time.

1000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp 8  Her writing style bugs the crap out of me...seriously crazily worded sentences that forced me to reread many times to try and understand what she was saying.  BUT, the message was worth my frustration with her style.  Amazing message that inspires me to more intimacy with God.

I am America (And So Can You!) by Stephen Colbert 6  Laugh out loud funny, but some falls flat.  He is an unusual person, and I imagine people either love him or hate him.  For me, the book seemed neither left or right but open to the reader's interpretation.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo 5 A true account of life in an Indian slum.  I felt like this was a book I should really get into, and really feel deeply about but I just didn't and I don't know why.  It has great reviews on Amazon, and it's well written...I just could not stay interested in it and took long breaks between readings.

11/22/63 by Stephen King 9 Wow- what a concept for a book.  So original, gripping, stays with me after the book is finished as I ponder time travel, the butterfly effect, etc.  A bit too long, some could have been cut without any loss.  An especially nice read following the Mrs. Kennedy memoir.  

The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan 8 I almost gave it a 9...this fictional tale focuses on the murder trial of a young woman who was aboard a lifeboat for many days after a ship sunk in the early 1900's.  I'm still wondering about this woman and what her real motives and character is.  Fascinating story that made me dwell on the human psyche.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green 6  Great themes of death, dying, cancer, adolescents...but just too teen-ish for me.  It was written for a teen audience and did not transcend into adult readership in my opinion.

Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey 6  I thought this would be better.  It was a decent mystery story, and decent historical novel but it was a little hard to keep up with all the English royalty.  Too many Edwards, Richards, and Henrys.  And the novel (written in the 50's) seemed a bit dated to me which is not the sign of a classic.

The Inquisitor by Mark Allen Smith 5 Not for everyone, this tale of a professional torturer is fast paced and enthralling.  But at the end of the dark tale I found myself feeling like it was a hollow, unfulfilling, unrealistic read.  This is one of the first times I enjoyed a book while reading it, but disliked it as a whole once I was finished.

Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky 9 Just a beautiful work, so strong in imagery and powerfully written.  A classic in every way and even more impressive when thinking about the circumstances of the book- how it was dashed down practically whole as the author was under persecution, how it was unfinished because the author was taken to Auschwitz (she died there), how the manuscript was discovered 60 years after it was written...the characters in this book came to life for me and will stay with me for a long time.

The Veil by Cory Putman Oakes

The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa 8 a lovely gem of a book, with strong characters and a clever dose of math running through it.  Touching, makes one think of the value interpersonal relationships.

The Diving Pool by Yoko Ogawa 6 Thrilling psychological short stories, but extremely vague.  Would have appreciated more reveal.  I picked it up because I enjoyed the precious book so much, but this is not as well done.

The Tennis Partner by Abraham Verghese 8 I really liked this book.  It was different- a memoir about male friendship, the ugliness of drug addiction, with interesting stuff about his patients (the author is a doctor) thrown in to boot.  

The Forever War by Haldeman 8 Unique, sci-fi classic that I am delighted to have found through the suggestion of Cody's uncle.  

Close Range: Wyoming Stories by Annie Proulx 4 Chose it because of traveling to Wyoming and also because the famous short story the movie Brokeback Mountain was based on is included.  The book was terrible.  A different outrageous sexual perversion in each short story...dark, vile, ugly stories that refuse to capture any beauty or good character.  Trash.  Depressing.  Hated it.

The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig 9 Strong characters, historical setting in Montana, beautiful use of prose and story-telling.  Also chosen because of traveling to Montana- Doig is a famous writer who grew up in the area where I was traveling.  Will read more by him.

Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer 8  I really liked this apocalyptic novel centered on a teen girl's diary after an asteroid knocks the moon out of alignment.  I was totally engaged, invested in her family, thought the writing was an example of how to write a teen book that DOES appeal to a wider audience.  Everything was going great until it reached a climax and ended a few pages later.  After such a dramatic build, the ended felt too rushed. 

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart 7 It's meant for kids, but I got caught up in the delightfully interesting and clever tale.  An enjoyable read I'm hoping Ava will read it too so we can discuss it!  

Watership Down by Richard Adams 8 Never read it in high school or college so finally picked it up and was glad I did.  Yes, it's a novel about rabbits.  Yes, it's a commentary on society.  Yes, it's very fun to read and I actually cared about all the little bunny characters.  Highly original classic.

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear 6 Decent historical fiction, excellent information on WWI, a bit overdramatic at times, and I won't be reading the rest of the series...but it was fine.

Skeletons on the Zahara by Dean King 9 Amazing true story of shipwrecked Americans in 1817 who end up living/marching through the Sahara desert as slaves.  Stories like this are fascinating, disturbing, inspiring, and heart-breaking all at once.

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien 9 Classic reading about the Vietnam War...can see why it's a classic.  Just so well done.  Goes into rich detail about loss, war, death, fear, shame, all the emotions that grab me and make me think long and hard.  A string of stories, random yet all tied together...masterful work.

Elizabeth Street by Laurie Fabiano 7 A good look into life for Italian immigrants in NYC at the turn of the century.  Based on the author's true family history. 

One Amazing Thing by Chitra Divakaruni 6 The city's choice for the one book everyone can read together.  Not so great.  Amateur writing style, stupid foreshadowing.  A wonderful concept for a book- strangers trapped by an earthquake each tell a story about their life, but poorly carried out.

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes 6 Oh it was a decent book, and interesting and it kept me reading to find out what happened.  I was a little confused at the end, but I finally understood.  Pretty good twist of an ending.

The Mysterious Stranger by Mark Twain 8 Wow, this was such an unusual read.  Is the stranger an angel or the devil?  Would be fun to discuss this with other people!  Twain is really a master.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell 9 I loved it.  It was so different...unusual.  The structure and themes of the book were stimulating to me.  A word of caution- it's hard to get into the first bit of this book.  Stick with it.

Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxes

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell 5 This was too long, too confusing, and too boring.  Just not interested in the time period and place of the novel or the characters very much.  I felt like stopping halfway through but I stuck it out.

Wool 1-5 by Hugh Howey 8 A relatively unknown author with a huge following and tons of good reviews.  This dystopian novel in 5 parts was really quite good.  Far from perfect, but super interesting and a fun quick read.

What It is Like To Go To War by Karl Marlantes 8 psychological and emotional thriller mixing stories of his time in Vietnam with his theories about war and how it affects soldiers and how we could do it better in order to wreck lives less.  Would love to discuss this with someone else.

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe 9 Love this book.  The bond between son and mother as they discuss books in the last year or so of her life as she dies from cancer.  

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton 7 It was good, but not as much so as her earlier book that I loved The Forgotten Garden.  

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson 6 An okay book that's mildly interesting but I am not a big fan of Jobs.  Oh, and about 300 pages could have been cut.

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch 6 I read this a while back and am finally recording it. It was full of nice wit and wisdom but it jumped all over the place every other paragraph or so and lacked continuity for me.

Born on a Blue Day by Daniel Tammet 8 Wow- very interesting glimpse into the mind of an autistic savant.  Highly recommend.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn 5 Um, nope it didn't really work for me.  Just too weird.   It did hold my interest although it seemed completely implausible.  I can see why this book gets such mixed reviews.  On one hand it's pretty original.  On the other, it's dumb.

The Last Sin Eater by Francine Rivers 5 Not my favorite by her.  Kind of juvenile in style.  Too much overt foreshadowing.  It was terrible, but I wouldn't recommend it.
Also has a weird style being written in a mountain dialect.

Crooked Letter, Cooked Letter by Tom Franklin 6 This isn't my typical genre- crime fiction.  But, it was an okay read with some character development and interpersonal relationships (some characters developed more than others).


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