This post is a shameless ripoff of Jeremiah, but I like his style… and hopefully, since I’m doing this in an homage-like fashion, he won’t mind.
When I was choosing my Top Five Books of 2012 in my Year in Review post, I was a bit disappointed by the titles I had to choose from. Usually I manage between 40 and 50 books a year, and enough of those were loved enough that whittling the list down to five is a challenge.
I had to dig a bit this year. GoodReads tells me I read 32 books in 2012, but 5 of those I didn’t technically finish. (And while I marked them as “read” on GoodReads, I did shelve them as “not-finished” in an attempt to be honest.)
So. What did I get through last year? (Unfinished books marked with a star):
–A Practical Wedding: Creative Ideas for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration by Meg Keene
–A Civil Action by Jonathan Harr
–Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell
–22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson
–The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell
–Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
–Cracker! The Best Dog in Vietnam by Cynthia Kadohata
–Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson
–London Under: The Secret History Beneath the Streets by Peter Ackroyd*
–Lexapros and Cons by Aaron Karo
–Geoff Hurst, the Hand of God, and the Biggest Rows in World Football by Graham Poll
–The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards
–King of the Badgers by Philip Hensher
–Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
–The Year 1000: What Life was Like at the Turn of the First Millennium by Robert Lacey
–The Domino Effect by Andrew Cotto
–Toast: The Story of a Boy’s Hunger by Nigel Slater
–The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
–After You by Julie Buxbaum
–Fire Underground: The Ongoing Tragedy of the Centralia Mine Fire by David DeKok
–White Teeth by Zadie Smith
–July, July by Tim O’Brien
–Why Have Kids? A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and Happiness by Jessica Valenti
–Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman
–I am the Secret Footballer by the Secret Footballer
–More Baths, Less Talking by Nick Hornby
–The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
–Pray: Notes on a Football Season by Nick Hornby
–Penelope by Rebecca Harrington*
–The Angry Island: Hunting the English by A.A. Gill*
–Scribble, Scribble, Scribble: Writing on Politics, Ice Cream, Churchill & My Mother by Simon Schama*
–The Wars of the Roses by Alison Weir*
(It looks like I finished off the year on a low note of unfinished book after unfinished book, but in reality I started reading Fall of Giants by Ken Follett in early December, and its 1,000-page bulk has taken up all of my reading time.)
Let’s break this down. 13 fiction, 19 non-fiction. That’s roughly 41% fiction, 59% non-fiction. My percentages for 2011 were 60% fiction and 40% non-fiction; I thought it seemed strange that my number of non-fiction outweighed fiction this year. What does this mean?? Am I turning into a grown-up?! Given that some of those non-fiction books were about weddings and babies, that seems like the case. However, my numbers for 2010 were 43% fiction and 57% non-fiction, and 2009 was 37% fiction and 63% non-fiction, so perhaps not.
Of the 5 books I didn’t finish, 3 were unfinished due to lack of present interest, and 2 were abandoned because they were utterly terrible. The War of the Roses; Scribble, Scribble, Scribble; and London Under were all fascinating, but I just couldn’t get into them at the time of reading. They’re on my “to be continued” mental shelf.
On the other hand, Penelope and The Angry Island were just plain awful. Penelope could have been written by someone in my high school creative writing class, and was just so incredibly boring that I couldn’t even make it 100 pages in – 100 pages being how many I make myself read before abandoning, just in case the book redeems itself after a slow start. The Angry Island was just an angry Scotsman moaning about how much he hates English people. For anyone who knows me, you’ll know that wouldn’t be anywhere near my cup of tea.
One theme I noticed as I listed out these books is one of disappointment. Several of the books were recommended highly to me by friends, but upon reading I just couldn’t bring myself to love them. Apart from Penelope and The Angry Island, I certainly didn’t hate any of the books I read… I just found that maybe they didn’t live up to the hype. Included in this category are Sarah Vowell’s books, White Teeth, and The Poisonwood Bible. GoodReads also recommended a few that I didn’t like, such as King of the Badgers (which I came pretty close to hating, but not enough to abandon it mid-read) and Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?
2012 just didn’t include any books that I absolutely *loved*. On GoodReads, users can rate books on a five-star system. In 2012, I didn’t rate any books 5 stars. 13 got 4 stars, which means I liked them but didn’t love them; 12 got 3 stars, which means they were okay; 3 got 2 stars, which means I was disappointed, but didn’t hate the books, and 2 got 1 star for straight-up dislike. To compare, I gave 3 books a 5-star rating in 2011 (The Pillars of the Earth, The Help, and The Hunger Games), and many of my 4-star rated books I really quite enjoyed, and may have even given them 5 stars had I read them in 2012.
Though I have to admit I’m a bit sad about my reading accomplishments for 2012, at least I know I’m off to a great start for 2013… Fall of Giants is amazing, and I know it will be listed as one of my Top Five when (if?) I write my annual review in December. Here’s hoping for more truly good reads this year!