2012: A Year in Books

Yay! I completed the 2012 Goodreads challenge. Although, I think some of these books, like White House Diary, should have counted for 2 books at least.

I was getting a little worried that I wouldn’t be able to finish. I completely dropped the ball on my written reviews of each book. But you know what they say….the best laid plans…..

Instead, I decided to just make a list with mini reviews of each book. Here are the books I read in 2012:

HTML5 For Web Designers – 4 stars – It was a good overview of HTML5 and what sets it apart from other mark-up languages. It was short, concise, and actually fun to read. Although, I’m not too sure that anyone other than fellow web designers would enjoy it as much.

Digging Into WordPress – 4 stars – Good introduction to WP development. I have a hard time learning from books, as I’m more of a visual learner, but this book was helpful and easy to understand.

Anna Karenina – 3 stars – I didn’t enjoy this book that much. It was long and tedious in parts. I am looking forward to the movie version that is coming out soon though. I wrote a full review here.

A Life in Stitches – 2 stars – It was ok, but a bit lacking in depth. This book will probably only interest other knitters, but even then I’m not so sure. Full review here.

The White’s of Their Eyes: The Tea Party’s Revolution and the Battle Over American History – 4 stars – I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the current state of American politics, specifically the rise and dwindling of the Tea Party movement. It offers a well-researched perspective on events past and present without a preachy or condescending tone. Full review here.

Three Men in a Boat – 4 stars – Short, funny, and light Victorian travelogue interspersed with funny anecdotes about packing, camping, ladies fashions, among other things. Full review here.

The Handmaid’s Tale – 4 stars – An unsettling tale that became oddly prescient in the 2012 GOP Presidential primaries. Full review here.

House of Theives – 3 stars – A collection of short stories about dysfunctional, upper-class, Hawaiian families. Not all the stories were great, but enough were that I kept reading. Full review here.

The Wordy Shipmates – 3 stars – Sarah Vowell’s account of the Puritan’s of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and their effect on church/state separation. It was entertaining and informative in parts, but tended to ramble and wander down long, somewhat distracting tangents in the middle of the book. Full review here.

Bite Me – 3 stars – The third book in Moore’s Love Story trilogy, where a large gang of vampire cats are threatening San Fransisco. Funny and entertaining read if you like this sort of thing.

The Godless Constitution – 4 stars – A well-researched book about the U.S. Constitution and why our founding fathers left God out of it. It solidly puts to rest any notion that America is a Christian nation. I know it gets criticized for not having footnotes, but it is written for a layperson, so footnotes aren’t necessary. However, there is a thorough bibliography at the end of the book for further reading.

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand – 4 stars – It was a charming and though-provoking love story about a 68 year-old retired military officer and a younger Pakistani shop-keeper who share a love of good literature and tea. Their friends, families, and some of the townspeople disapprove of their relationship. It is full of quirky characters that I got quite attached to by the end of the novel.

Fly Away Home – 1 star – I did not like this book. I’ve read one of Jennifer Weiner’s other books and it was entertaining. This one was not. I bought it to read purely as guilty-pleasure, light, beach reading. It was not light or entertaining, and I’m almost embarrassed to admit I read it.

Liars For Jesus – 4 stars – I really hate the title of this book because I think it is too off-putting and confrontational. It ends up preaching to the choir. The book is thoroughly researched and spells out some of the more pervasive lies of the Religious Right pseudo-historians, and then effectively destroys them. It is a little slow in parts, I think because it is so thorough, but it is an excellent resource to have on your shelf to arm yourself against the liars.

The Phantom Tollbooth – 5 stars – So this is a kids book. I still love reading it. My son read it, and I kept hearing him giggle, so I wanted to read it again. I love the puns, the adventure, and all the quirky characters. It makes me smile. I think I appreciated it more as an adult than I did as a kid.

Year of Wonders – 3 stars – I love historical fiction, and this novel was pretty good until the end. It is set in 1666 England during the Bubonic plague. I know that sounds morbid and depressing, but the story was told beautifully, even if it was a slightly idealistic view of how our modern selves would view that time period . The end however, was strange and odd. It didn’t totally kill it for me, but I might have given it one extra star if the ending had been better.

Small Wonder – 4 stars – Barbara Kingsolver is one of my favorites. This collection of essays was beautifully written and very thoughtful on a wide variety of topics. I will probably read this one again.

The New Organic Grower – I wasn’t sure quite how to rate this. I read it because we have grand dreams of starting a hobby farm someday. This book was very thorough. It had a lot of information and gave me a lot to think about before we start our farm. I’ll definitely be referring to it many more times I’m sure.

Purple Hibiscus – 4 stars – Not a book I would have normally chosen, but a friend recommended it and I’m glad she did. It takes place in Nigeria, which I have almost no knowledge of. It had well-developed characters I could identify with, but some of the writing felt a little flat and stilted. I would still recommend it. It’s a book that has stuck with me, and I think it will for awhile.

The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mocking Jay – 3 stars for all three – I read these with my 11 year-old son. He loved them. I thought they were o.k. They got better, instead of worse as most series go. Although, as dystopian fiction, they had some serious flaws. I still had fun reading them.

The Sirens of Titan – 3 stars – Not my favorite Vonnegut novel, but still an entertaining read.

White House Diary – 4 stars – A personal account of Jimmy Carter’s presidency. I was pretty young when he was president, so I don’t remember much. I do remember him not being very popular. I was still interested in reading his diary because I was curious to learn about the day-to-day life in the White House. Not a page-turner, but it was very insightful and I appreciate his decisions as president (and any other presidents’ decisions for that matter) much more now having read this.

Yarnbombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Grafitti – 5 stars – Full of inspiration. Technically not much to read in this book, but I need something lighter. (Especially after Jimmy Carter’s diary.) It was full of pictures, interviews, and some patterns at the end I might try.

Reading Lolita in Tehran – 2 stars – I really wanted to like this book. The premise should have made for an interesting read, but this book was very disappointing. It lacked heart in my opinion. And the lack of quotation marks made for confusing reading. I like books that make me think, but not about who is talking when.

What We Keep – 4 stars – A quick, thoughtful novel about families, misconceptions, forgiveness, and the stories we carry with us throughout our life.

American Gods – 3 stars – I liked this book, but after the first half of the book it started to annoy me in a non-distinct sort of way. The premise is interesting, and the writing is done well enough, but I felt it meandered a bit in the middle, the point of the book got a bit muddled, and the end was anti-climatic. I like Neil Gaiman, but this book is not one of my favorites by him.

I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey on the Road to Peace and Human Dignity – 4 stars – I actually would give the message of this book 5 stars, but the writing quality 4 stars. It’s a book that has stuck with me long after I read it. I think it will always stick with me. It’s a truly inspirational memoir of a man who refuses to be led by hate.

You Can’t Stay Neutral on a Moving Train – 5 stars – I usually find Howard Zinn’s books inspiring, motivational, and educational. Yes, he writes from a progressive viewpoint, but he always tells the stories of those often overlooked by traditional history books. This short autobiography tells stories from his own life as an activist and teacher. It also stresses the importance of ordinary people, performing sometimes seemingly small acts, that result in positive change. Even small change can be important in the grand scheme of things.

Transparent Things – 4 stars – A short novel that I read in an afternoon, but it is full of layers. There was so much in it, I have a feeling further readings will show new layers and dimensions I hadn’t considered before. I’m not entirely sure I will re-read it again soon, but maybe sometime in my future.

A Wild Sheep Chase – 4 stars – I debated between 4 and 5 stars on this one. I settled on 4 because I slow to warm up to the main character. They say never judge a book by it’s cover, but that is exactly why I chose this book. This is the first novel I’ve read by Haruki Murakami. I chose if for an odd reason, but I’m glad I did. It was an odd mixture of mystery, fantasy, philosopy, and religion. It’s a hard book to discuss and I don’t know what else to say about it other than I really liked it, so much so that I ordered more of his books to read for the 2013 challenge.

Frankenstein – 3 stars – This is a classic that I have always wanted to read, but never got around to until now. I can’t say that I loved it. I like the idea of the story, but the telling of it quite literally put me to sleep at times. Not quite what I would expect from a horror novel.

Mother Night – 5 stars – I think this may be my favorite Vonnegut novel so far. It was short but engaging and thought provoking. It is a novel about a Nazi war criminal that was really and American spy or maybe a double agent. He says in the beginning that the moral of the story is, “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” I think that sums up things nicely.

Voodoo Histories: The Role of Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History – 3 stars – I’ve always been fascinated by conspiracy theories – how they get started, shape history, and why people believe them to be true. This one explores many different types of conspiracy theories that have been prevalent throughout modern history, and he made a convincing argument about why some believe, how they effect history, and how and why these theories get treated as fact. However, the author gets a little bogged down in the details. I found myself skimming a lot. It was still an interesting and timely read.

I’ve learned with this challenge that I don’t have nearly as much time to read as I would like! And to make sure that I keep making time to read, I’ve signed up for the 2013 challenge. This time I’ve upped the number of books to 40.