Wednesday, January 9, 2013

And the Winner Is...

When I decided to undertake a minimum of 52 books this year, I never imagined the breadth of what I would read.  If you hop over to the previous post, you will see some thoughts and some stats reflecting my year on a broader scope.  Today, however, I want to highlight some particular books that I read in 2012.  I thought a fun way to do that would be √† la John and Sherry Petersik over at Young House Love (if you are not already reading their blog, you should be).  At the end of each month, they round up all their posts from that month and award superlatives.  It's a fun way to recap all they've done.  I thought I would do the same, but overlooking the whole year.  Here goes!

While all of George R.R. Martin's works fell in the running for this prize, A Storm of Swords won out at 1,128 pages.  Swords remains my favorite of the series, even though I just finish A Dance with Dragons at the eleventh hour last week.  In all, I read 4,197 pages of the A Song of Ice and Fire series this year.  That makes up 18% of my total 2012 reading!  George R.R. Martin could stand to take a few notes from Hemingway.

Gabrielle Hamilton's memoir practically left me drooling, not only over the descriptions of her life in the culinary world, but also in response to her phenomenal skill as a writer.  This book perfectly blended literature and food.  Anthony Bourdain describes it as "simple the best memoir by a chef ever."  I cannot disagree.  If Hamilton's food is half as good as her writing, I need to get to her restaurant asap.  This post also happens to be one of the ones of which I am most proud to have written this year.

Most Educational: Reading Lolita in Tehran
Despite my love of history, recent Iranian events have, for the most part, evaded my education.  Yet, as our relationship with the country grows increasingly more complicated, Azar Nafisi gave me insider's eyes to their revolution.   I learned so much from this memoir which spans several decades of Iranian history.  Beyond just the political and historical lessons, though, Nafisi centers her story around the classic literature she taught during those years.  This approach provides a depth and intelligence which many memoirs lack.

Most Thought Provoking: Erasing Hell
This book was a tough one to read.  It is not easy to tackle to subject of life after death, especially not when you are focusing on the potential existence of hell.  This response to Rob Bell's Love Wins speaks with love, but also truth. It challenged me in such a good way.

Most Magical: The Night Circus
It would be incredible difficult to select one book as my favorite for the whole year.  If I absolutely had to, though, I would most likely select this one.  The Night Circus creates a beautiful world and fabulous characters.  This ones comes highly recommended.  Pick it up as soon as you can.  Seriously.  Go get it right now and don't finish reading this post until you are done.

I had to call this one a tie.  The Particular Sadness follows the story of a girl who tastes the history of food and the emotions of the people who prepared it.  Overall, the story is heartbreaking, Bender's premise is unique and her approach to storytelling stands out among all the fiction I read this year.  As for Cloud Atlas, despite the movie adaptation's terrible reviews, the book told six separate stories and subtly wove them together as I have seen no book do before.  While I do not contend that these are the most original books ever written, I do qualify them as the two most unique which I read this year.

Most Thrilling: Gone Girl
Every once in a while you read a book that you literally cannot put down.  While I had moments like that with various books throughout the year, this one kept me glued from cover to cover.  It may be the only book for which I lost legitimate amounts of sleep.  Flynn made the best seller lists for a reason.  Nick and Amy Dunne characterize the very definition of a twisted marriage and their actions keep you guessing all the way to the end.

I came across Jenny Lawson's blog back in the summer of 2011 when her post about a giant metal chicken named Beyonc√© went viral.  Both her book and her blog approach life, which Lawson lives with severe anxiety, with levity, realism, and an unhealthy amount of profanity.  While this is not a book I would recommend to just anyone due to language and the heavy subjects she deals with, it is the only book that had me truly laughing out loud throughout its duration this year.  

Most Visited: 11/22/63
Stephen King's dive into science fiction got more hits than any other book I read and reviewed this year.  I attribute that completely to the fact that King provides readers with one very, very confusing moment mid-novel.  At that point, I hit Google to figure it out - which, let me tell you, was difficult to do without spoiling the book.  Others out there must be having the same experience and it's driving them to the blog.  No complaints here!  Glad I can help out!

Biggest Throwback: Anne of Green Gables series
There is something so wonderful about returning to the books of your childhood, especially when those books encapsulate childhood with a girl like no other literary character.  Anne Shirley exemplifies what it is to be a child at heart and to see the glass as half full.  Even as an adult, these books filled me once more with an appreciation for beauty and a love for life.  I very much look forward to reading the rest of the series this year.

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