I have a piece of unfinished business from last year: my book reviews. It’s like a piece of food left between my teeth from breakfast that I have to get out so I can concentrate more fully on my lunch (which will, undoubtedly, consist of processed cheese product and buttered starches).
But listen: I’m busy; you’re busy. Who has time to read 25 bloated book reviews from a Mommy blogger? If you have that kind of time you either have insomnia or a trust fund. Either way, God speed.
But for the rest of you, I am paring down my review to a mere 140 characters as an ode to Twitter, which is rich irony, considering that Twitter is the antithesis of a real, actual book that I hold in my hands and can pass on to another reader. (I’m not a Kindle convert.)
So, without further ado, here are my reviews for the books I read in 2012:
Undress Me In the Temple of Heaven, by Susan Jane Gilman
Read this travelogue about two girls romping through Communist China- one went insane and the other wrote an incredible book of a harrowing journey. (How jealous must the insane girl be today?)
The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain
At one point, she lost all of Hemingway’s drafts, which I think of whenever I lose snippets of my WIP. This book proves many things we already know (H was an ass), but it’s a masterful read from the view of his first wife.
Everything Changes, by Jonathan Tropper
Bad mood? Read Tropper. Wanna get inside a thinking man’s head? Read Tropper. Funny and heartfelt, but still our beloved, irreverent Tropper.
The Magician’s Assistant, by Ann Patchett
Patchett’s first novel– how the hell did she do that? Even the names of her characters are perfect. I envy her talent and her unforgettable stories, especially this one.
Make Me Into Zeus’ Daughter, by Barbara Robinette Moss
Meh. Horrible alcoholic family from which emerged an articulate daughter who lives to tell the tale. Skip this and read Glass Castle.
5Am Fifth Avenue, by Sam Wasson
Light as air, but if you care to learn more about where Breakfast at Tiffany’s fits within the popular imagination, read it. Stoked my love for Capote, Hepburn, and “old” Hollywood.
Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls
Un-f*cking-believable story. How Walls survived the mayhem and chaos of her early years is nearly impossible to imagine, but thank God she did, because her writing is truly art. Put this at the top of your list: memoir at its finest.
Swamplandia, by Karen Russell
Another first novel. The most original book I have ever read. Still smarting on its behalf for the snub from the Pulitzer’s. Seriously– this book is odd and memorable. Also: disturbing because of the rape scene deep in the Everglades.
Little 15, by Stephanie Saye
Star basketball player has an affair with her coach while she’s still in high school. Strikes fear in the heart of any mother, and illuminates a story behind headlines we see too often. An important read.
The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides
No, it’s not Middlesex, but you have to move on. I loved this story about precocious Ivy Leaguers figuring out love while also meditating on spirituality and semiotics. Made me feel smart to read this.
Truth & Beauty, by Ann Patchett
Read this. Read this. Read this. Incredible portrait of a long friendship between two writers. Codependence galore from my favorite Ms. Annie P, but I loved the peeks into her writing process that are woven through the story.
Art & Fear, by David Bayles and Ted Orland
Not gonna lie, this one is a little dry. Anyone struggling with whether she/he is worthy of creating art or who battles fear of the blank page/canvas/clay, this book puts fear in context and reminds the artist: just do it.
The Kiss, by Kathryn Harrison
The protagonist has a sexual affair with her father. How, in good conscience, can I recommend this to anyone? Still turns my stomach to think of it. Don’t know what else to say.
Say When, by Elizabeth Berg
Sweet read about a marriage that falls apart and then falls together. Didn’t change my life, but also didn’t hurt it.
Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James
Don’t make me review this again. Just don’t.
Fifty Shades Darker, by E.L. James
Yes, I went back for a second helping. There were some long days of summer that I had to get through while Jeff was away. Don’t judge.
Drop Dead Healthy, by A.J. Jacobs
Hilarious year-long project recorded by Jacobs, who tried to become healthy in every aspect of his life. I actually got a lot of health information from this book, which is fascinating. He taught me to cook on the back burners of the stove because it’s safer.
Bringing In Finn, by Sara Connell
Her mother gave birth to her son. Think about it, then read this gorgeous tale of healing, family and triumph. Then give it to your mother and see if she freaks out because she thinks you are asking her to carry your baby in her womb.
The Finkler Question, by Howard Jacobson
A humorous meditation on what it means to be Jewish. As a shiksa married to a Jewish man, I thoroughly enjoyed the questions raised and the answers suggested. Won’t lie: it’s a little ponderous, but there are some brilliant characters.
Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown
You, and 7 billion people have seen her YouTube videos from TED about shame. So, go read her book. Unless you’ve never felt shame, in which case, read Arnold Schwarzenegger’s book, because he hasn’t either.
Too Good To Be True, by Benjamin Anastas
Know anyone intimately involved with CoinStar machines because times are tough and he needs milk for his son? Well, meet Anastas. He lays out his financial and personal ruin after being an on-the-rise author. A generous and intimate tale of loss.
Little Red Guard, Wenguang Huang
I would have sucked at being Communist, and this book proves it. It’s also criminal how little I knew about China’s recent history and the hardships faced by the Chinese people. This book made me downright patriotic and proud of being American (until that asshat NRA guy gave his speech about “good guys with guns” and I got a little down-on-America again).
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, by Jenny Lawson
Who is this zany Lawson? Who cares! She’s written a hilarious tale about taxidermy and rural life in Wall, Texas. All bloggers should read this, because it’s funny and she’s a blogger.
The Middlesteins, by Jami Attenberg
She nailed it here: The tensions between the characters. The relationships that family members have to addiction (mainly food addiction here) and the stuckness of it all. I am still stunned by Attenberg’s ability to “show not tell.”
Signs of Life, by Natalie Taylor
I cried reading the first paragraph. I cried all through this book, but in the end, I appreciated my life and my husband more than I did before I started. Natural result of reading about a woman who loses her husband in a freak accident when she’s 5 months pregnant.
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Here’s to more books in 2013– I am already halfway through Gone Girl– It’s going to be a great year for reading.