I feel like I almost never read books when they come out. There are several reasons for this, the most important of which is that hardcover books are too expensive. But also, I haven't been one to eagerly await a new release since Harry Potter Book 7 came out. The closest I seem to get is that early in the year I will read a few books that were on the "Best of" lists at the end of the previous year.
This year things were a little different. For one, I'm reading more on the Kindle which takes away the extra expense of a hardcover. But also, I eagerly awaited some new releases. Allow me to talk about books I finished that were published in 2012.
The Round House, Louise Erdrich
I am a fan of Louise Erdrich- The Master Butcher's Singers Club is one of my favorite books of all time. If you haven't read it, read it. I was interested in this book, just because it was by her, but I wasn't necessarily in a hurry to read it. But I saw it available on Audible, and listened to a clip, and it was read by a Native American and just sounded great to me. Plus I have a membership to Audible, and did not have to pay for the hardback.
The Round House starts with a horrible crime, but it is not a crime novel. It's about modern(ish) life on a reservation, and about what justice means, but mostly it's about a 13-year-old boy and the ways he grows up over the course of a summer. I don't want to call it a coming of age novel, but I guess you could. Several of these characters were featured in A Plague of Doves, but I didn't need that background to be fully invested in their lives. I keep erasing what I might say about this book- I went into it blind, just trusting Erdrich, and was completely overtaken by what she wrote. You should read it that way too. Now go read it.
The Last Policeman, Ben H. Winters
I saw this book reviewed somewhere, and thought it would be right up my alley. It is a crime novel, to be sure, but it is set in a pre-apocalyptic world. An asteroid is headed towards Earth and can't be stopped. While this novel focuses on Detective Henry Palace and his seemingly pointless quest to solve a murder in the face of the end of time, there is an underlying current of conspiracy and mystery surrounding the coming apocalypse. As a stand-alone crime novel, this book was just okay. But as the first of a trilogy? I can't wait to follow the larger mystery through two more novels. We have just scratched the surface here.
I avoided the new book costs here by listening to this book as well. However, I didn't love the narrator and will definitely read the rest of the series the old-fashioned way. Although I'll likely go the Kindle route so I don't have to wait on the paperbacks!
The Casual Vacancy, JK Rowling
As a huge Harry Potter fan, I was very curious about this book. I was not, however, expecting it to be anything like a Harry Potter book. (Apparently a lot of people were? Weird.) As I love to listen to British books being read with a British accent, I got this one from Audible as well.
This book was disappointing. The characters were very broadly written. The story was all about small-town life and gossip and drama, OH THE DRAMA. And it moved so slowly, describing the lives of these cartoon characters in detail that only bored me rather than making me feel any connection to them. Finally, toward the final third of the book, I started to care about some of them. And I admit that I cried at the end. But as soon as I was done I thought, Good lord that was awful! It was kind of like watching an episode of Grey's Anatomy or Glee- I was totally manipulated, sure, but it wasn't quality entertainment. I'm glad I read it, but I can't really recommend it.
Telegraph Avenue, Michael Chabon
Don't worry, I didn't listen to this one. I would never to that to the master of sentences, Michael Chabon! I really enjoyed reading this one on the Kindle, as I could highlight passages that were totally awesome and then re-read them every time I've picked up the Kindle since.
I was really looking forward to this one. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is one of my favorite books ever, and The Yiddish Policemen's Union isn't far behind. I think my expectatins were too high, because despite the superior writing and beautiful craftmanship of his sentences, overall this one fell a little flat for me. The whole was not greater than the sum of its parts, or however it is you manipulate that phrase to mean what I'm trying to mean. And I think you know what I mean, even though I know many of you don't agree with me on this one.
The Roots of the Olive Tree, Courtney Miller Santo
Although I do not personally know Santo, many of you do, and I was excited to see this offered on Amazon for a very reasonable price. This was a fun, light read with great characters. I believe Courtney has great potential as a writer and look forward to following her progress.
Broken Harbour, Tana French
Of all the books on this list, this is the one I most eagerly anticipated. I have read the other three books in French's Dublin Murder Squad series, enjoying each one more than the previous. (OK, let me be clear- I've listened to all of these books. They are set in Ireland! Read by Irish people! Is there a more fun accent? Try to listen to one of these novels and not immediately repeat everything in your own lame version of the accent. It can't be done.)
The books are only loosely a series- each book has a different protagonist, although they all exist in the same world. And although the series is set around detectives who are solving crimes, it would do the novels a disservice to dismiss them as merely crime novels. The characters are as much the focus as the plot, and the interaction between the two is what drives each book. Broken Harbour was no exception- a truly outstanding book with characters who stayed with me long after I was done. I am already looking forward to her next book, which sadly is not expected to be published until 2014. At least that means you have plenty of time to read her other books between now and then.
Let's Pretend This Never Happened, Jenny Lawson
If you enjoy laughing, buy this book. Jenny Lawson, better known as The Bloggess, put together a truly hilarious memoir that was enhanced for me by listening to her read it. Bloggers write in such a conversational way- listening to her tell these stories of her crazy life made me feel like I was sitting in a bar having a drink and listening to my funniest friend tell me about her crazy-ass family. And when you're done with the book, you can go read her blog and continue to laugh. Love her.
Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
This was THE book of the summer. I read about it everywhere and had it recommended to me by everyone. And it was loads of fun. Yes, I listened to this one too. (Really- I'm just never going to buy a book right after it comes out. And I didn't get my Kindle until August. Deal with it.) This is a wonderful book, full of twists and turns and unreliable narrators who keep you on your toes throughout. A he said/she said affair, the story is told by spouses Amy and Nick Dunne. I love and hate both of them, and you will too. Another strong recommendation. I'll definitely check out her older books while wondering what she will do to follow Gone Girl.
Redshirts, John Scalzi
I am a big fan of the John Scalzi, and always listen to his Wil Wheaton-narrated audiobooks. I didn't even realize this was a new release when I selected it- I just knew I wanted to hear all of his books, and this was one I hadn't gotten to yet.
There is no way I can do justice to the plot of this wildly creative book, so I'll give you the official blurb here:
"Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It’s a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship’s Xenobiology laboratory.
Life couldn’t be better…until Andrew begins to pick up on the fact that (1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces, (2) the ship’s captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations, and (3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.
Not surprisingly, a great deal of energy below decks is expendedon avoiding, at all costs, being assigned to an Away Mission. Then Andrew stumbles on information that completely transforms his and his colleagues’ understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is…and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives."
If that sounds like the kind of thing that interests you, check it out. I thoroughly enjoyed this one.
Top of the Rock, Warren Littlefield
If you were as obsessed with NBC's "Must See TV" as I was, you should read this. I actually read the hardcover copy of this, y'all! It was given to me as a gift, of course, but still. I did it!
What It Was, George Pelecanos
I obsessively read novels by all the people who wrote for the television show The Wire. Pelecanos wrote some of the very best episodes of that series, and I respect him greatly for that. I've had mixed feelings about his novels, though. My initial notes on this one were "tight, well-told story." That's how I remember it, too- great descriptions of time and place, and the plot was given to us straight without any extraneous meandering. I have to be in the mood for his noir style, but I enjoy it when am. (I read this one on the Kindle app, just in case you were wondering.)
Sorry y'all- I thought this would be a short post, then as it progressed I realized I'd read a lot of new books this year! Who knew? There were some new releases I had hoped to read but didn't get to, including those by Dennis Lehane and Barbara Kingsolver, and then I'm also being worn down by the glowing reviews for This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz. And maybe Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwen. I'll get around to them sooner or later!
What new books did you read this year? What should I add to my list?
A list of all the books I've read this year can be found here. Fair warning- I give almost everything three stars!