Textual Retrospective, 2012

In 2011, I set a goal for myself that I would finish 120 books. I made it through 119.

That’s 20 more books than I finished this year, which (oddly enough) probably means that I’m working harder at UCSB than I had been at NYU. Since this is a mark of how many books  I completed, all those JSTOR articles and photocopied chapters and half-of-books that I read through for class and papers don’t exist. Which, admittedly, leads to an overview of my reading habits that is decidedly skewed. On the other hand, the odds that I will remember which critical articles I’ve read are slightly higher than the odds that I’ll remember the books I’ve read. (Articles exist on my harddrive and are sorted according to which class I read them for. That way I can prove that I read them. Or most of them.)

The full list, as always, can be found on my Shelfari page. The breakdown, for now, is as follows:

Books of 2012

Or, for those of you who hate pie charts:

Books of 2012 Bar Graph

The problem with both these graphs is that, while they tell you a fair amount about my broader reading habits, they provide no meaningful information about which exact books I read and, more to the point, which I enjoyed. What do you know about my reading habits from this graph? Nothing. Mind you, you could learn a fair amount about my current Excel habits…

The most meaningful information I could probably give you is, in the end, my favorite books from each of the aforementioned genres.

Classics: Emma by Jane Austen. (Yes, I’ve read it before. It’s still wonderful.)

Contemporary Fiction: A tie between Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides and Skippy Dies by Paul Murray. (Oh, come on. You all knew I was going to cheat and double up at some point.)

Speculative Fiction: The duology The Killing Moon and The Shadowed Sun  by N. K. Jemisin. (A duology that was published in the same calendar year counts as one book for the purposes of picking favorites. Right? Right.)

Mystery: The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler.

Fiction NOS (not otherwise specified): Only Revolutions by Mark Danielewski. (The problem with a category that only has one entrant is that one’s “favorite” is not necessarily a book on enjoyed at all. Do not read this book. Poke at it, analyze it, try and make sense of it, get angry at it but do not attempt to actually read it in the traditional sense. If you want to try Danielewski, start with House of Leaves, which was a contender for my favorite work of Speculative Fiction I read this year.)

Non-Fiction: Now You See It by Kathy Davidson, which wins slightly over When God Talks Back by T. M. Luhrmann.

Children’s Literature: So You Want to be a Wizard by Diane Duane.

Young Adult: Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley. (Yes, I reread some of her books this year and pretty much any of the ones I revisited* could have taken this spot. I tend to destress during finals by rereading my favorite authors from when I was younger. This time around, Spindle’s End was my favorite).

Graphic Novel: Meanwhile by Jason Shiga. (This might be the world’s most complicated choose your own adventure story. Also, you can destroy the world by eating chocolate ice cream. A kid’s book, in its way, but also a brilliant look at non-traditional storytelling.)

I’m not entirely sure if these qualify as recommendations. Most of them fall into the category of “if you like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing you will like”. Which might seem like faint praise, but I am willing to concede that not everyone finds the psychological science behind how we pay attention to be interesting or thinks that the best fantasy novel is the one that manages to escape from traditional settings and biases while still telling an exciting and deeply compelling epic story with fully realized characters.

There is a midrash that, now that God has finished creating the world, he spends his time making matches between people. I prefer to think that he spends his time making matches between people and the books they should be reading.


This post has been brought to you by William Blake’s “America, A Prophecy”. That poem is the strangest thing I have read so far this year, and I say that as someone who spent a good week over break reading through the Lord of the Rings wiki and brushing up on my history of Middle Earth.

* As I ascertained this year with the help of a friend (who I am fairly sure will eventually forgive me for involving her in the experiment) not everything McKinley has written is worth rereading. Or even worth reading.



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2 responses to “Textual Retrospective, 2012

  1. Pingback: Best of Books, the 2013 Edition | Not Just Coasting

  2. Pingback: Best of Books, the 2013 Edition | Liz Shayne

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