- After the Quake, by Haruki Murakami
- After Dark, by Haruki Murakami
- A Red Herring Without Mustard, by Alan Bradley
- Ender’s Game, by Alan Bradley
- The Tempest, by William Shakespeare
- South of the Border, West of the Sun, by Haruki Murakami
- Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins
- The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman
- Bespoke: Savile Row Ripped and Smoothed, by Richard Anderson
- Kafka on the Shore, by Haruki Murakami
- The Catcher in the Rye, by J. D. Salinger
- A Room of One’s Own, by Virginia Woolf
- To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf
- Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett
- John Adams, by David McCullough
- Knowing God, by J. I. Packer
- If You Bite and Devour One Another, by Alexander Straunch
- Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
It’s been a good year, book-wise. Finally got around to reading some non-fiction, as well as a couple of Russian novels. Score! (My 2010 self would be proud.) Also got around to reading Murakami, which I never thought I’d do. (I want to pause here and thank Dan for lending me so many of his copies. Apologies for always returning them in, uh, less than pristine condition…) Still harboring a conflicted, love-hate sort of sentiment towards his novels. The trademark surrealism is interesting, but my gosh, why are so many of his protagonists so angsty? There are a few in particular whom I, while sympathize, nevertheless want to grab by the scruff of their necks and heartily give them a shake, yelling, “Get a grip on yourself, man! There’s no good in moping about! If you like the girl, then by Jove, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT AND TELL HER. UGH.” But I guess angst is kind of necessary for moodiness, and I do like the moodiness… Again, conflicted.
Oh, and let’s not forget Virginia Woolf! Never thought I’d read HER stuff again. (Kinda sorta hated her after reading Mrs. Dalloway in college. Never quite forgave her for her stream of consciousness thing.) I’m glad I’ve had a change of heart. Her books are hard to follow — straightforward, Woolf is not — but they’re rich and profound, not to mention intelligent and very eloquent. (Ugh. Writer envy.)
My favorites from the batch…
After Dark — A funny choice, as I initially felt quite the opposite about this book. Didn’t get it at all when I read it through the first time. (Who is this “we?” What’s going on with Eri? Who in the world is that creepy, faceless man? WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON SOMEONE SPLAIN.) It wasn’t until the second time around — plus some insight from Dan — that I “got” the book. And now, I’d hazard to say that it’s one of my favorites of Murakami. (Sputnik Sweetheart being the other.) I like Mari. I like that she’s a break from Murakami’s typical love-tortured male protagonist. I like that she’s intelligent, and independent, and stand-offish, and soft-hearted, and the spurned ugly duckling of her family. I saw a lot of myself (that is, from high school) in her, especially in the way she constantly felt overshadowed and unloved. I also like the setting of the story — Tokyo in the deep of the night. I’m a night owl at heart, and I’ve always found nighttime to be the most interesting time of the day. The world feels like a completely different place once the sun sets, and I love that.
The Catcher in the Rye — I had no expectations, coming into the book. Didn’t even know what the story was even about, or the protagonist’s name. But I think that’s why I liked the book — in part. Those conditions certainly created the ideal environment. (So frequently does unfulfilled expectations spoil a book. Or movie.) I like Holden and all his flaws. I like that he’s hopelessly himself, comfortable in his own skin and yet unsatisfied with himself, just a little. I like his lack of inhibition, his expressiveness, his love for his kid sister, Phoebe. (So delightfully precocious, she is.) I like that he’s honest about his sense of lostness. He has no idea what he wants to do with his life, and he’s dissatisfied with the options that are available to him. But he returns to what he knows, even if he doesn’t like it, because he knows of no other way. Reminds me of the heroes of the Greek tragedies of old. Ah, cruel fate!
The Graveyard Book — Gah. Nothing short of tear-jerking, especially at the end. I’m beginning to realize that the types of books that I fall in love with are often the books who allow me as a reader to follow and grow along with its characters. The story doesn’t have to be uber original — is there even such a thing anymore, originality? — it doesn’t even need exotic locales. (Although they certainly help!) Just give me emotionally-accessible characters who grow as people, and I’m a goner. The Graveyard Book is exactly that. Bod grows, both physically and as a character, throughout the course of the story. You follow him as he learns how to walk, how to read and write. You watch as he grows closer with his guardian, Silas. You cringe when he gets into trouble. And when it comes time for him to grow up, you get all teary-eyed and sentimental because, darn it, you’ve become emotionally attached to the boy, and you don’t want things to change, and yet you do, but you don’t.
Also, this book was written by the brilliant Neil Gaiman. ‘Nough said.
My goals for 2013: Maintain, at least, my current pace of one book a month. My aspiration is to read more — say, 15 books by December? 20? — but I must remain realistic. I also want to read books that I think I won’t like, just to switch things up. (Also, who knows? Maybe I’ll find my next favorite book!) And some short stories too, because I’ve been talking about writing a collection of short stories, but I have next to no experience with the medium, and heaven help the writer who tries to write a story in a medium she knows nothing about! Well, next to nothing.
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Readers — How has 2012 fared for you? What are some of your favorites? (Or unfavorites?) Any titles take you by surprise? Or tragically disappoint?