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Friday, January 04, 2013

Top Ten Books Read in 2012

I'm still a slow reader, though I am getting a bit quicker and reading more books each year; but every if I quadrupled my reading rate I'd still never get caught up on the exponentially growing "to read" pile of books before me.

Curse of the book nerd, I suppose.

In any case, I've taken to writing down quick notes about books after I finish them and then, at the end of the year, trying to determine which of those reads were my favourites.

So for this particular blog post, I have a few rules that I try to stick with:

a) The book has to be completed within the calendar year. So, even if I started reading a book the previous year it only counts when I actually finish reading it.

b) This is a list of books I READ in 2012 - so this isn’t one of those “Best of 2012” lists - it’s a personal list of best books that I read in that calendar year.

c) I don’t count the tons of children’s picture books that I still read to my son. Not because I don’t think of them as books - they are wonderful books - but we go through them so quickly that I couldn't possibly keep up with tracking them. (I DO, however, count mostly text based young reader and young adult books that I read - usually because they’re not books that can be read in a single short sitting -- ie, they take longer to consume and thus aren’t likely to be missed on my list)

So, what follows is a list of the top ten favourite books read in 2012 -- but before I begin, a few interesting summary stats.

  • I set a goal of wanting to read 52 books this year
I actually read 56.  Sort of.  Here is where I am torn. Five of the books read were graphic novels. So I was either short of my goal by 1 book, or I exceeded my goal by 4 books.  In any case, I think setting a goal of reading 52 books in a year (a book a week) is an admirable one, particularly for someone like me who is a SLOW reader. And I have set the same goal for 2013. Hopefully I'll make it this year (or surpass it again, depending on the POV assumed)

Here is a breakdown of the formats of books that I read:


  • AUDIO BOOKS: 26 (Approx 46%)
The commute in to work from Hamilton to Toronto has afforded me the ability to fill that time spent in the car with useful listening to books rather than just killing that time.  (I used to listen to audio books while running, but my love of the awesome Zombies, Run! app, which is an interactive "game" for runners replaced that)
  • EBOOKS: 24 (Approx 43%)
 Yes, I read most of these books on the following devices:  Kobo Touch, Kobo Glo, Kobo Vox, Kobo ARC (check out the Kobo family of devices here), as well as various reading apps (mostly Kobo, but also Kindle and iBooks) on my iPad and iPhone  (Gee, one might wonder if I perhaps have a vested interest in Kobo)
  • PRINT BOOKS:  6 (Approx 11%)
Let me quantify this one. I believe I purchased at least 50 print books in 2013 (not counting gifts for others).  Many of them got added to a "to read" pile or were books I had already read or listened to or were bought and placed onto a shelf while I read the eBook version (very handy while traveling) -- yeah I know, I have a sickness . . .

  • NON-FICTION: 16 (Approx 29%)
I did read quite a number of writing and self-publishing books this past year as well as a few other non-fiction titles in an attempt to expand my horizons as a reader and read outside my normal comfort zone (I have long been a fiction junky, so reading non-fiction is a nice "stretch" for me)

A few other interesting Facts:
  • Number of books from this list I purchased in print after reading the eBook: 5
  • Number of books from this list I purchased after listening to the audiobook version:  1

My Top 10 Books Read in 2012















11/22/63 - Stephen King

To me, the true beauty of this novel is not about the whole JFK thing, but rather about the relationship between Jake and Sadie - it’s a fantastic and beautiful love story.  I also enjoyed the "fresh meat from 1950" used by the time traveling diner owner (explaining the more "pure" taste to his meat and the incredibly low price he is able to purchase and sell the burgers for).  There's also a cute scene featuring Ritchie and Bev from Stephen King's IT that I wanted to last much longer. It was like seeing old friends I hadn't seen in a while.














The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
Yes, I waited several years after hearing booksellers and readers rave about this series - I finally consumed the entire trilogy (my desire was to get to the books BEFORE the movie came out - I at least read the first novel before seeing the movie - and then made my way through the rest). I kicked myself for waiting to long to read this book and the ones that followed.















Steve Jobs - Walter Isaacson
One of the things I loved about this book is the attempt by Isaacson to paint an accurate picture - it didn’t try to canonize Jobs, but, rather, paint him accurately from all sides, showing he could be an insensitive asshole, but also how brilliant and effective his pursuit of excellence was. I listened to the audio book version which was performed by Dylon Baker and have to say he is an exceptional narrator who does the book justice.














Enter Night - Micheal Rowe
I loved this book - it was like Salem’s Lot, but set in Northern Ontario -- and it made me feel the same way I felt when reading King's classic vampire tale. I love the fact that Rowe's vampires are scary - and I adore the manner by which the humans struggle against their vampire impulse (and in particular the way the dog does that to save the boy’s life - one of the most riveting and emotional scenes in a novel that I have encountered in years)
















Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void - Mary Roach
Mary has a phenomenal sense of humour, doled out very playfully while teaching the reader new facts and details.  I have to say that the chapter on sanitation in space consistently cracked me up. I suppose it goes to show you just how moved I can be with simply potty humour.















 
Horns - Joe Hill
This was another one of those books that I bought in hardcover when it first came out and it sat around unread. I love Hill's writing, so kept wondering why it took me so long to get to this. One of the most interesting things about this is the main character, Iggy, is a complete jerk, and yet Hill painted him in a way that kept me want to keep reading, despite the despicable things he does.














Dead Air - Scott Overton
Having published Overton's short fiction, I was asked if I would read the ARC and consider blurbing it.  I couldn't wait to sink my teeth into this first novel by a very talented writer. Needless to say, I was not disappointed and adored this thriller.  Here is the blurb I ended up giving the book:  "Scott Overton is a storyteller of boundless skill. Dead Air first intrigues readers by drawing them into a side of radio broadcasting most people have never seen, which is interesting enough, but then begins to craftily unravel an intriguing and suspenseful set of circumstances, further drawing readers in and holding them, breathless, to the last page. Overton is a writer to watch."


 












Clockwork Angels - Kevin J. Anderson
I've been a Rush fan for years, and this tie-in novel written by Kevin J. Anderson (who collaborated with lyricist Neil Peart on the story) was the perfect thing for bringing the story and music to a whole new level.  I had an ARC of this book which I had read before the release, and spent 40 minutes online trying to drop hundreds of dollars on the limited Gold edition. I never made it that far, but DID succeed in getting the Silver boxed edition of it.  As a stand-alone fantasy/steam-punk novel this book stands alone as an excellent example of Anderson's fine storytelling skills. But it also represents multiple complex layers with which which a Rush fan can enjoy the novel. The novel and album are best enjoyed as a wonderful and complex mosaic. For me, listening to the album again from beginning to end in a single sitting after finishing the novel was an almost magic experience, and it continues to be so every time I hear the album.
















Up and Down - Terry Fallis
Like in his first two novels (although this is a stand-alone book about a PR agent who takes on the task of trying to re-vitalize the public's interest in the space program), Fallis employs the use of a character seemingly out of their element to great humour and to also tug on the heartstrings. He delivers a rollicking fun ride with wonderfully dealt humour and a compelling storyline. Fallis hit another home run with this wonderful blend of satire and poignancy. I suppose, though, since it is about the space program, I should say something like: "Fallis blasts another another novel into award-winning orbit territory, offering one small step for an author, one giant leap forward for Canadian literature." (In honour, of course, of the great Neil Armstrong)















 
Amazing Things Will Happen - C.C. Chapman
C.C. was preaching to the choir for this one. I was already a subscriber to his conviction that if you follow your passion and work your hardest and keep at it, amazing things will happen.  I read this book in just a couple of quick sittings because I was riveted by Chapman's prose.  The best way that I can sum this book up is this way:  There are now two books that would make appropriate gifts for students as they graduate. "Oh, The Places You Will Go" by Dr. Seuss and "Amazing Things Will Happen" by C.C. Chapman.

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