[mantra-pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”33%”]Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. ~Charles W. Eliot[/mantra-pullquote]
This year I threw myself into books in a way I have not in many years. There were more than a couple of times I shot annoyed looks at Matt when he tried to carry on a civilized conversation that intruded on my time with the far away story I was absorbed in.
I got lost in these stories and entwined in the characters lives. More than once I closed a book feeling like I had just lost a friend and wishing that there was another chapter. It was a good year for reading.
I also had the chance to join a diverse group of women and stand up a book club. What fun it has been to hear how our interpretations and feelings about each book have differed and converged.
My goal at the start of the year was to read 12 books. I finished the year having read 18! Not so bad. I thought I would look back on the year through the books that I’ve read. So here goes.
Janurary: The Hunger Games Trilogy – I put off starting this series because of the premise behind it. An apocalyptic country where each year youth from 13 different districts of “have-nots” are selected to go into an environment, controlled by “producers,” survive on their own and fight to the death all for the entertainment of the “haves.” It made my stomach turn a little. But I gave into the hype and think I read the full series in the span of two weeks. It is definitely young adult fiction but the story is captivating and I found myself fully invested in the characters. It was a great way to get me energized about books again!
February: Trapeze – This was a quick-read, historical fiction. The book centers on Marian Sutro, a female spy during World War II. Recruited by Britain’s Special Operations Executive, Marian finds herself pulled into a World of secrets and covert activities – a place where few women had gone before. It has everything a good spy novel needs: suspense, violence, love and angst but transcends that genre by keeping the character, Marian as the focus throughout the novel.
March: The Paris Wife – This was my book club’s first read and another historical fiction. This book was based on Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley Richardson. The book imagines the relationship between Hadley and Ernest and paints a picture of Hemingway’s assent as an artist and descent as a husband. I found myself frustrated with Hemingway and annoyed at Hadley and in the end sad at what became of them. A great read that brought to life one of the greatest writers.
May: The Family Fang – This was another book club read and I’m not going to lie – I hated it. It’s about a family whose parents are performance artists who view their kids more like cast members then their children. The parent’s are damaged, the kids are broken and I was unable to relate to any of the characters. It was dark and I could not see the wit and humor that so many reviews site. Not my cup of tea.
June: The Age of Miracles – What would happen if we suddenly realized the World was not turning at the same rate and our days and nights were growing longer throwing everything we know out of balance? That is what Julia, a young girl finds herself and everyone she knows facing. The book questions societal norms, divisions and what leaders will do to contain chaos. More than anything else, this is a story about finding your way in an unknowable World and the resilience of the human heart.
Tell the Wolves I’m Home – This book is about grief, which is why I believe it has haunted me ever since I read it. It is about a little girl who lost her uncle to aids and who forms a forbidden friendship with her late uncle’s boyfriend. Together they work through the loss of the most beloved person in their lives. Brunt captures both the ugliness and the glimmers of hope and beauty that come with grief.
July: The Heart Mender – This was recommended to me by a good friend and it lived up to her promise of a beautiful story. When Helen Mason, a WWII widow, discovers a German Soldier, washed up on the beach her first reaction is to let him die, but she opts to save him. Thus beginning a stream of events that uncover an incredible story of humanity, heroism and love. A great read!
Wild – The third of my book club reads and the first non-fiction of the year. This was a tough one for me as the author, Cheryl Strayed, lost her mom to cancer at a young age. The first couple of chapters almost did me in as she describes the profound impact the loss of her mother had on her life and how it changed everything she knew and believed about family. It hit way too close to home. But I was glad I powered through because she writes about her journey to hike the Pacific Coast Trail. I won’t say I liked her through the whole book, at times I think she was down right stupid. But something about her drive struck a chord with me. This book actually got me over the hump with my 3-day training and gave me the push I needed to keep my motivation up.
August: The Fault in Our Stars – continuing my uplifting theme of cancer and dying this book is a fictional depiction of a young girl living with terminal cancer. What sounds like a total buzz kill turned out to be an uplifting story about youth and love and hope. I will not lie – it’s a tear jerker but well worth the tissues.
Tiny Beautiful Things – Cheryl Strayed, the author of Wild, was a once-anynomous advice columnist and this book is a compilation of many of her columns. I enjoyed reading this and like her optimistic take on life and “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality. It resonated with me. Reading this during a year where I was trying to do both (be optimistic and pull myself up by my bootstraps) her words were always enjoyable and often inspirational. My copy of this book is a marked up mess!
September: The Language of Flowers – This was just a nice read. I wouldn’t say it was transcendental but it was enjoyable. It is about a girl who has grown up in the foster system and aged out, coming to terms with her past and building a future. The theme of motherhood, forgiveness and grace run strongly through this book.
The Light Between Oceans – This book was probably my favorite of the year and was the last book club book of the year. A light house keeper and his wife are struggling with the inability to carry a baby to term when a new-born child washes to shore in a boat. The story that follows is HEART BREAKING. I found this such a compelling and well written book. I sided with characters I did not morally agree with and was furious with characters that I clearly should have felt for. I grappled with right and wrong and questioned if what is moral is always just.
October: Defending Jacob – This book came to mind in the aftermath of Newtown. What would you do if you thought your child was evil. Really, what would you do? And as a parent, could you even admit to yourself that you thought your own child was evil? Could you admit it to anyone else? I can’t say I really enjoyed this book but the questions are pertinent and it was written well.
Unbroken – I don’t usually pick non-fiction but this one got so much press and praise that I hunkered down and I’m so glad I did. It is true story about WWII and focuses on the Pacific Theatre specifically the POWs. My grandfather is a WWII Vet and fought in the Pacific and after reading this book I wanted to just run to FL to hug him. I learned so much from this book. In school we focused mainly on the European front so this was like a brand new history lesson. It is written like a novel and I think everybody should read it. It reminds you just how depraved we can become when we dehumanize another human being. The lesson is profound!
November: Divergent Series – I ended the year like I began it – reading young adult dystopian fiction. Another really quick read this series focuses on a community broken into factions dedicated to living by a specific virtue. Each year every 16 year old chooses between remaining with their family and living the life of their faction or separating from their family to join a faction they believe they belong to. This series follows Beatrice Prior, her decision and the consequences that follow. I hear there will be a third book. YIPPEE! Totally enjoyable and indulgent!
So there you have it. My 2012 hit (or miss) book list. I’m looking for recommendations for 2013. Did you read any “must reads” this year?