I was inspired to catalog all the books that I had read in 2012 by Emily Horne (A Softer World). My goal was to read 50 books. I defined a “book” as the following:
- Novels (paper or Ebooks)
- Collection of Novellas
- Collection of Short Stories
- Graphic Novels
I was unfortunately under by 9 books. Regardless, my year was fruitful: I had read my first Asimov, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Salinger, as well as many of the “comic canon”—The Greatest of Marlys, Fun Home, and Watchmen.
Short Stories: 2
Barry, Lynda: Cruddy
I’m sorry, but Cruddy was cruddy. My grade nine English and grade twelve writer’s craft teacher introduced our classes to Barry’s comic strips, and they were fairly decent. Her style of writing was interesting when it was paired with her (relatively) crude art. However, when it was just text it became really difficult to make sense of what she wrote. Also, the story itself gave off a very hallucinogenic vibe, which I’m pretty sure was her intention in the beginning, and it didn’t make much sense in many parts.
Hill, Lawrence: Any Known Blood
Hill visited our school during the year, and I managed to get a free and signed copy of Any Known Blood from the event. You can really see Hill’s journalistic roots in this, and it becomes clear that he had put a lot of research into writing this book—all the streets mentioned in the stories exist in real life, for example. The stories of all the Canes were also fairly compelling, and the characters were very relatable and realistic. However, the romantic relationship between Langston and Annette at the end felt a little bit weak.
Brown, Dan: The Lost Symbol
Not as good as its predecessor. As a thriller, this book did its job, though it may very well be my inexperience with the formula of thriller novels. However, there are times where I wished that Brown would tone down the crazy a little bit. I mean, “Human thought can literally transform the world” (56)? Come on.
Grab, Daphne: Alive and Well in Prague, New York
At first, I hated Matisse, the primary protagonist. She was spoiled, superficial, and stupid. However, later on I realized that it was these qualities that made her the typical teenager; they are all spoiled, superficial, and stupid. Besides, she was hilarious: “Helping Amnesty International end torture was great, but making out was my priority for the day.” (101)
Caldwell, Ian and Thomason, Dustin: The Rule of Four
Hard to imagine that an old book can cause this much fuss, but this was a good read nonetheless. I am also now insanely jealous of anyone that went to Princeton (too bad the Nude Olympics is now banned). In many ways I felt that Tom was envious of Paul, of his brilliance, of the bond he shares with his dead father, and of his ability to have both friends and the Hypnerotomachia. His relationship with Katie was his way of finding something that he had but Paul didn’t. At the same time, there was no doubt that there was a brotherly bond between the two of them. This nuanced friendship, as well as the existentialist themes present in the novel, allowed this book to be both a loud thriller and a quiet bildungsroman.
Abbott, Elizabeth: A History of Marriage
Yawn. Well, I guess I shouldn’t really say that. I’m pretty sure that I’m the wrong audience for this—this book was meant for the academics. The topic was certainly interesting, but the organization left much to be desired. Abbott would often jump across different points in time and space, which sometimes made reading the book very confusing. I did feel less bad that I’m not getting married anytime soon, though.
Archer, E.: Geek Fantasy Novel
In trying to deconstruct the tropes of fantasy genre novels—in this novel it’s more fairy tales, though—I felt that the author sacrificed the essence of a good story. At the same time, a fantasy novel—even a parody of it—requires a well thought-out world, which this novel is also not equipped with. Also, it tries too hard at delivering deadpan humour.
Standiford, Natalie: How to Say Goodbye in Robot
I wondered for a long time what made me like this book—after all, it had all these cliches: the “Edward,” the weirdoes, the dysfunctional family, and finally, an unrealistic goal. Ultimately I decided that it was Beatrice, the narrator, that stood out to me. Here we have a protagonist that was sometimes strong, sometimes wavering. Sometimes she went with the flow, and sometimes she stood proud and tall. She was, in a word, real.
大塚英志(Otsuka, Eiji): The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, vol. 9
Arguably one of the best manga series I’ve read. While numerous elements made the series what it is, the thing that made me like this series the most is its portrayal of the Japanese society. In your typical, run-of-the-mill shounens and shoujos (and even seinens), the Japanese society is always invisible—it is only the background. In this manga, however, society is fleshed out with all its beauty and flaws. In one story, Japan’s rich traditions are shown side by side with its role in WWII. The author also managed to do so with humour, and the grotesque cadavers made the manga even more interesting to read.
Blaise, Clark: The Meagre Tarmac
This collection of short stories about the experiences of Indian immigrants looked good on paper, but struck a “meh” with me. The characters, with some exceptions, just didn’t make me care about them. You would think that a group of people as diverse as Indians would have a wide range of experiences, but in this collection of short stories, all of them seem to be the same: they’re all rich and successful, they were all good looking during their youth, and they all play tennis… I mean, they certainly sound nothing like the Indian people I’ve met.
Bezmozgis, David: The Free World
In comparison with The Meagre Tarmac, this was a much superior story. There was a sadness that resonates throughout the novel, and indeed, the last scene with the train and the man that have both stopped working made me tear up a little bit on the inside.
Birdsell, Sandra: Waiting for Joe
This novel started out slow, and in the beginning I had little sympathy for the characters. But what began as a story about people that were financially destitute diverged into a story about spiritual discovery, and I liked that quite a bit. I particularly enjoyed the bits about the pair of African immigrant siblings Joe encountered on his travels. In the end, even though I still dislike Laurie quite a lot, I was happy that I waited for the character development that Joe went through in the novel.
Aronson Marc and Budhos, Marina: Sugar Changed the World
I chuckled when I read that the two authors updated their progress of their research to grade five students in New York. Here I am, an eighteen year old, reading a book that was meant for grade five students. However, this book was a very informative read.
Birch, Carol: Jamrach’s Menagerie
My only complaint was the book’s title—Mr. Jamrach only appeared at the very beginning and the very end, and most of the book doesn’t take place at his menagerie. The last quarter of the story was heart-wrenching.
Sheinkin, Steve: The Notorious Benedict Arnold
Unlike my fellow Americans, I had no clue who Benedict Arnold was until reading this book. I suspect that this made reading the book more enjoyable for me – there were no pre-conceived impressions that I had to defeat. I liked how Sheinkin injected humour here and there, and the history behind the book itself is also quite hilarious.
Coady, Lynn: The Antagonist
Despite the fact that I was the polar opposite of Rank in so many ways, and despite the fact that I frankly don’t understand some of his actions sometimes, I found myself utterly engrossed in the novel while I was reading it.
Carey, Peter: Parrot and Olivier in America
It’s funny, because until midway through the book, despite all the indications otherwise, I always pictured Parrot to be the same age as Olivier.
Chayil, Eishes: Hush
This was one of the saddest books I’ve read. Chayil also did not stop from describing Gittel’s childish fantasies and beliefs—which made the sadness even more poignant. Throughout the entire novel I kept on screaming at Gittel to tell the police. To tell the goddamn police and avenge her friend. But then I remembered that she was only a child, and she can’t be blamed for her own upbringing.
Barry, Lynda: The Greatest of Marlys
This was a lot better than Cruddy. There is still a lot of text, but the emotions and humour behind them made reading them worth it. My favourite strips were the ones that featured Marlys’ relatives: sister Marybonne, brother Freddie, and cousins Arna and Arnold.
Cole, Trevor: Practical Jean
The premise was one of the best premises I’ve ever read. The execution was terrifying and terrific. You know when you’re empathizing with a serial killer that this was a good novel.
Cameron, Peter: Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You
My grade 11 and 12 English teacher gushed about this novel in front of us, and I was actually looking forward to reading this because—finally—a gay male character whose experiences weren’t exclusively about his homosexuality! I came to like this novel for a lot of other reasons as well. I think a lot of teenagers, no matter how extroverted, can relate to James in his existential angst.
Comeau, Joey: The Complete Lockpick Pornography
I like A Softer World, and you can really see Comeau’s penchant for using one-liners that stay inside your head for a while. I also liked how this book was so short, even though it was made up of two novellas. It was a nice break from all the other books that seem to just be going on and on and on.
Carson, Rae: The Girl of Fire and Thorns
At first the main character irritated me. She’s always calling herself fat and falling in love with every handsome man she meets. But then she grew on me. Still, the setting of this novel was unimaginative.
Austen, Jane: Pride and Prejudice
The beginning of the novel was hilarious, but it went downhill from there. The more I read, the more I’m beginning to think that this entire story was a huge satire on the institution of marriage. I didn’t really get the hype for this novel that much, but maybe this is one of those books that require a teacher to guide you through it.
Dee, Jonathan: The Privileges
For the first two-third of the novel I kept on praying to God that something terrible happen to this family full of terrible people. But in the last one-third I actually empathized with them somewhat. I mean, I still hate them, but I get their almost pathological fear of not having what they want.
Asimov, Isaac: The Gods Themselves
My first Asimov was…alright. The first act was good for setting up the premise. The second act, with all the alien sex, was great. It was in the final act that the entire thing just went downhill. Asimov’s human characters, with the exception of possibly Lamont, are all cold and rational creatures that all oddly seem to be able grasp higher-level physics with no trouble at all.
Bechdel, Alison: Fun Home
I know that this comic was pivotal in establishing comics as a legitimate media, but there is something incredibly irritating about autobiography in general. I mean, talk about overanalyzing your life…
Gartner, Zsuzsi: Better Living through Plastic Explosives
Some of these stories were great, but overall they criticize a perceived privilege that I, as a city boy, simply cannot see.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott: The Great Gatsby
When I was very young and I first came across the title, the “great Gatsby” rendered an image of a crack in the Earth akin to the Mariana Trench. After I read the novel, I realized that I was partially right, but it wasn’t a great crack in the Earth, but a great crack in the soul.
Otsuka, Julie: The Buddha in the Attic
I liked the first person plural perspective in the beginning, which enhanced the touching and affecting stories of the Japanese mail-to-order wives, but after a while it became a bit too much. Luckily Otsuda kept it short.
Moore, Alan: Watchmen
Galgut, Damon: In a Strange Room
Strange title, considering that most of the stories took place in the outdoors, in foreign countries. Or is the Galgut perhaps referring to the constant state of travel he is in? The lack of “?” gave this novel, even in its most explosive points, a surreal serenity.
Salinger, J. D.: The Catcher in the Rye
The bildungsroman to end all bildungsroman – this is one of the best novels I have ever read.
Hubbard, Jenny: Paper Covers Rock
I was so pleasantly surprised by this novel – the narrative structure was very effective, and the Jenny Hubbard really knows how to write from a teenage boy’s perspective. The main character’s crush on his teacher was icky, but the beautiful language more than makes up for it.
Hemingway, Ernest: A Farewell to Arms
I have decided that I absolutely hate Hemingway.
大塚英志 (Otsuka, Eiji): The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, vol. 10
Once again a huge success. Even if we didn’t delve into the mythology of the series, these “filler” stories were wonderful, and – especially in the case of Numata’s backstory – emotionally tugging.
Krivak, Andrew: The Sojourn
This novel ties very nicely with A Farewell to Arms – it’s also about WWI, but from the perspective of a Slavic soldier fighting for the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
大塚英志 (Otsuka, Eiji): The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, vol. 11
The first story was very creepy, but I was happy that we got to see more of Makino. The subtle reference to Sasayama’s past was also great.
大塚英志 (Otsuka, Eiji): The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, vol. 12
Not as good as the previous volumes, but still quite entertaining!
McGregor, Jon: Even the Dogs
I actually found the usage of the stream of consciousness and abruptly ending paragraphs to be very well suited for a novel about heroin addicts. The entire story was just tragic, and everything just reminded me of Requiem for a Dream (which I avoided watching after hearing the soundtrack made me cry).
Trevor, William: Love and Summer
This was a good novel to read after Even the Dogs – it was quiet, peaceful, with only a subtle undercurrent of despair flowing through.