Books I Read This Year (2012)

Twenty-nine altogether, which is not bad for me. Instead of making a complete list as in years past, I'd like to highlight those that stood out for one reason or another. Let me state up front that my memory is faulty, and I don't have the luxury of extra time to research details of the book. The following, my friends, is what stayed with me from the books, and that's got to count for something.

Books I Liked But Can't Figure Out Why
A Hologram For The King, Dave Eggers. Travelling back to the world of the book, I see a tent somewhere in the Middle East. Much of the action--and inaction--happens there, or in a mystery building, or that one scene in the sea. And yet I couldn't put it down. Let me mention that this year, I received a postcard from Eggers written to little ol' me (because of this), so I'll be a fan no matter what, but it helps he's such a good writer.

Several by Maira Kalman. You'll find her illustrations in The New Yorker and a retired NY Times column. Her books are crazy renderings of world history mixed with her own, and I love that she refers to her paintings and drawings as the real thing ("Here is Lincoln's hat"). While taking in And the Pursuit of Happiness and The Principles of Uncertainty, I felt...happy. Thank you, Maira.

Books I Read A Long Time Ago and Decided To Read Again To Determine How I Changed In The Intervening Years
This was a project that didn't last too long, but I will say I once again enjoyed Prodigal Summer and The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver, and that finally, finally, I get Life of Pi.

Interesting In Their Own Right Books
The Happiest Man In The World, Alec Wilkinson. Unconventional people will always have a place in my heart, and Poppa Neutrino won me over not only for all his interests, but because his football play has won games--supporting my belief that nonspecialists have a lot to add to fields that are not their own.

Post-It Note Diaries, Arthur Jones. True stories spelled out like a comic strip but with panels confined to the space of a yellow sticky note, a structure that is at turns stark and profound, and never confining.

Books I Read But Don't Remember At All
Coral Glynn, Peter Cameron, finished on 4/15
The Sense of An Ending, Julian Barnes, finished on 8/25

Really Foul, Hilarious, Well-Done Books
Fight, Eugene Robinson
Bossypants, Tina Fey

Notable Nonfiction
Listening Is An Act of Love, StoryCorps. My husband claims I'm hard to buy for, and that he was taking a chance with this one. Lottery won, mister! I love true stories told in their original voices, and whereas sometimes they can get tedious (sorry, Studs Terkel, RIP), these StoryCorps originals, told in pairs with one person interviewing the other in a booth, are compulsively good. Us "real" writers need not hoard storytelling to ourselves; there is power in narrative, no matter who tells it.

The Glass Castle,  Jeannette Walls. Let's just say my parenting looked just peachy in comparison.

And finally, the annual Alexander McCall Smith category (he needs to become even more prolific, if I've only got three):
The Forgotten Affairs Of Youth
Limpopo Academy Of Private Detection
The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds


  1. a postcard from dave eggers wow!

    and i love all the storycorps stuff i've come across.

  2. I love storycorps, too. Such a wonderful idea!

    And I like the category: Books I read but can't remember. Unfortunately that would be most books I read. Eek. I once picked up that tome, Vanity Fair--I was 1/3 of the way through when I realized, hey, I kind of know what's coming next. . .and then I finally realized, I've read this before, and not long ago. I finished it again, though. . .I get this sense of duty to books.

  3. I find your comments encouraging in a selfish way, Kim; my memory is really failing me lately. You have good excuses though, or have you always been this way? I approached a woman at the Y because she was reading Flight Behavior by B. Kingsolver, which I recognized from on my nightstand. But as I tried to discuss the book with her, I realized I didn't actually know if I had finished it or not. And she was only in the first few pages, so the conversation was not as engaging as either of us would have liked!


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