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One More Best (and Worst) of the Year Post…

Happy holidays!  I’m in California celebrating Christmas with my husband’s family, and enjoying the warm weather (I hope, as I’ve written this in advance.) Hopefully you’re enjoying the holidays and buying and receiving lots of great books for 2012.

Last month I wrote about 2011’s best books (based on what I’ve read anyway) but now the Notable Book lists are in from the New York Times, the Washington Post, in addition to Amazon and GoodReads.

Most of these lists include The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje, The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta, The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes, and The Strangers Child by Alan Hollinghurst.  Nothing unexpected there. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach seems to be the big winner, but that’s about baseball which just never sounds interesting to me. The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht and IQ84 by Haruki Murakami show up on most of the lists.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern,  Jamrach’s Menagerie by Carol Birch, and Swamplandia by Karen Russell sound like more interesting picks from authors we haven’t heard of before.

One book that keeps showing up is The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt.  This book not only made the Man Booker shortlist, but it shows up on most of the other lists as well.  I read the first chapter and really struggled with the writing style — the dialogue felt completely wooden to me — but I’m thinking I should give it another try since it’s gotten so many raves.  Another surprise is the latest Stephen King book, which sounds interesting, but I can’t say he’s written anything great in years. Is this one an exception?  

I haven’t read most of the books on these lists, although I’ll try to in the next year.  My own favorites of the year were The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides, Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman, and When the Killing’s Done by TC Boyle.  I also really enjoyed Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson (mystery/thriller) and Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein (nonfiction).

What do I want to read before the year ends?  Right now I’m reading The Adults by Allison Espach.  I’d like to read Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin, and maybe The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan and the latest by Diana Gabaldon.

And then there’s War and Peace, which I’ll be honest, alternates between fascinating and dull for me.  I love reading about the history of 19th century Russia and I also really like how Tolstoy writes about the psychology of war from the soldier’s and the politician’s perspective.  I’m determined to finish this in 2012.

What were your favorites of the last year?  But an even better question — what book did you find most overrated?  What books did you pick up and not finish?

For me, one of the disappointments, and I’m sorry to the folks who recommended this book, was the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.  Believe me, I know how many people love this book, but I found it unreadable.  Enough said.

Other books I didn’t finish? I struggled with Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell, an author I normally love.  I also didn’t finish Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum, a book about Holocaust Germany, and on the fluffy side didn’t bother to finish Faith Hunter’s Mercy Blade (this author’s books also have the world’s cheesiest covers, which is saying a lot when you think about all the cheesy covers out there).

So, on that note, I’ll leave you with wishes for a very Happy New Year with lots of good reading in 2012!

2 thoughts on “One More Best (and Worst) of the Year Post…

  1. I’m in a small camp of people who ABHORRED A Visit From the Goon Squad, so I know how you feel re: Guernsey/Potato Peel. I enjoyed it, but there are always a few “hype” books that make me want to puke. I was in the same boat with The Lovely Bones which everyone else seemed to love.

    GREAT picks! I did read and enjoy The Sisters Brothers a lot. I understand what you mean by the “wooden” quality of the writing, but that does dissipate a little as you get to know Eli Sisters’ character. He’s full of deadpan humor.

    I’m read The Sense of an Ending now — hoping it lives up to the hype!

    • I think I’ll give Sisters Brothers a try. I loved Goon Squad but really didn’t like Lovely Bones — it always feels weird to hate the book everyone loves, but then that’s kind of the cool thing about reading.

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