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2012 Book Wrap-Up

5 Jan

Ah, as always I’m a little late. A little behind the curve. A few minutes after the bell. “Mr. Olson, why are you always late to class?” a student has asked me more than once. But at least I’m only four days late. And who says I’m late anyway? Okay, onto topic…

The following is my 2012 reading review. In 2011, I read 36 novels. Let’s see if I beat that last year. [Note: An asterisk means I particularly liked that title and hopefully convey a slice of why. Side note: Did you know the word is “asterisk” – like ‘risk’ and ‘ass.’ Seriously, I thought it was astrick. That is how I’ve pronounced it my entire life and no one has ever said anything. I feel pathetic, but on the positive, one learn something new…]

  1. *Amusing Ourselves to Death – Neil Postman (Honest cultural criticism by a sharp-witted man. What’s not to love?)
  2. The Forest for the Trees – Betsy Lermer (writing/publishing book)
  3. Tuesdays with Morrie – Mitch Albom (I read this book once every few years.)
  4. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
  5. Every You, Every Me – David Levithan
  6. *Eating Animals – Jonathan Safran Foer (Everything has a story. Some things we remain willfully ignorant of. Perhaps it’s time we give a new narrative to our relationship with food.)
  7. *Don’t Let Me Go – J.H. Trumble (My friend’s first published novel. Strong characters. Intriguing relationships. And did I mention she was my friend? Of course I loved this book.)
  8. *Vast Fields of Ordinary – Nick Bird (Took me three days to read. I ate it up.)
  9. Perfect 10 – Laura Wetterson (Though it’s not published, it’s a book. And I read it. And I really liked it. The story was so unique in terms of gay protagonists/stories. I hope one day it finds a home.)
  10. The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho (Another book I read when the mood strikes, even though I don’t agree with most of it, I find it thought-provoking.  And it’s a quick read.)
  11. *The Elegance of the Hedgehog –  Muriel Barbery (I couldn’t stop talking about this book for two months after I read it. I didn’t even understand half of it. Well, maybe more than that. But it took pretentious to another level. And yet, it did so with perfect grace and believability in the main character. Want to read Barbery’s first book now.)
  12. Gone, Gone, Gone – Hannah Moskowitz
  13. *Fobbit – David Abrams (What a great year for friends to have their debut novels published. This book is compared to Catch-22 and M.A.S.H. and it’s not far off. A strong, quirky debut from a genuinely nice guy. I believe this book will be around for a while.)
  14. *Dante and Aristotle Discover the Secrets of the Universe – Benjamin Alire Såenz (Okay. Like Vast Fields of Ordinary, I ate this up. Seriously. One and a half days and the book was read. I had such a curiosity driving me through this story – and I felt so connected to these characters/their struggles were/are mine. And it ended beautifully. And I can only hope my life parallels the ending of this book with the two characters.)
  15. Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes – Chris Crutcher (Read this twice this year.)
  16. The Pigman – Paul Zindel
  17. Get a Life, Not a Job – Paula Caligiuri (Of course the title alone got me. Who doesn’t want a life? And it was at the Portland State Uni bookstore. If it’s good enough for PSU it’s good enough for me.)
  18. *Indian Creek Chronicles – Pete Fromm (I like the candidness and the horror and beauty of the outdoors.)
  19. *Quiet: The Power of Introverts – Susan Cain (One of my nonfiction books for the year. I really dug the science that is happening with introverts. And of course I could relate. And learn. And feel more confident with my personal leanings.)
  20. The Mindful Writer – Dinty W. Moore (Buddhism + writing = right up my alley.)
  21. *The End of Education – Neil Postman (I love this man. Going to read more of his books this year.)
  22. The Book Thief – Markus Zusak (Longest book of the year. And I’m not a long book fan, but this one had me. Very well done. Cried like a baby towards the end. Cried. Like a baby.)

To wrap-up: I read a miserable 22 books last year (a decrease of 14 books from 2011!!). However, there are a few reasons for this. The largest being that my writing output increased 100% from the year before. I rewrote an entire novel from scratch over the summer (=100s of hours). I wrote and revised a fairly lengthy short story. I wrote the last quarter of my novella. I wrote 30,000 words in my teen comedy novel. I wrote 50 pages in my full-length stage play. So due to my writing output, I read less. I find that’s usually the case. Whenever I’m really involved in my own writing, I have a hard time reading other books seriously. And instead, when not writing, will do more visual activities like watch TV/movies, play online, or will do more physical things like hike, gym, walk, or cook and clean. As much as I love words, language, ideas, I can’t be overloaded with them. I need that balance. So a good reason for such a decline. However, this being said, I hope to read at least 30 books this year. I also only included novels I finished in my list. I read many novels and stopped half-way (more or less) through. Those were left off. And if I end up finishing any of them, they will find themselves on the list this year.

How’d you do in your reading life last year? And writers, do you read less/more or the same when writing?