One of my initial goals this year was to read 52 books in 52 weeks. To hold myself accountable, I planned to write weekly book review posts as I progressed. I haven’t been particularly good at doing this weekly, though I have written reviews on some of the best books I have read. The pile of books next to my bed, in my purse, and on my desk is continues to grow so much faster than I can keep up with and there’s no way book reviews are going to happen for all of the 28 books I’ve read this year. So instead, here’s a top 10 list of books I’ve read in 2012 (roughly one book per month, instead). They’re a pretty diverse bunch and I suspect you’ll be able to find one on the list you’ll want to pick up.
Top 10 Reads of 2012
The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde:
Absolutely one of the very best books I’ve ever read. I listened to the audio book version and it was beautiful to hear the poetry of the language come alive. The beauty of this story is in the words and the imagery, more than in the images themselves. In fact, I’m not sure I’d ever want to see a screen or stage version of this book– the descriptions would be lost in the scenes and the horror of it all. An incredible juxtaposition of the inner self and the outer self and a look at the virtues of our lives. The vanity and conceit of the characters and the time are not so different from our own, despite the difference in time and location. Several moments in the book are laugh out loud funny, while others make you shudder and shiver only seconds later. If you’re looking for a classic to read, choose this one
I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t), Dr. Brene Brown
I picked this book up at the Women’s Leadership Institute in December. As I’ve mentioned several times before, this was the most powerful and impactful conference experience I’ve had. Buying a few books as souvenirs was a way to keep the conference ‘high’ going and to continue to challenge myself beyond the event. The book is subtitled “Telling the truth about perfectionism, inadequacy, and power” and why I chose it specifically. I took this book to the gym with me and read feverishly while I rode the stationary bike. This book not only motivated me to go to the gym and score thirty minutes of reading time, it made me consider my mental and professional wellness as well.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It’s filled with research and studies that support the ways I’ve always felt and the decision I’ve made unknowingly. It also offers devotional like questions and passages to challenge the reader to really digest the material and connect personally with it.
I came away from the conference with a reading list too, some of which I’m through, many of which are still waiting to be read.
DRiVE, Daniel Pink
Reading Daniel Pink’s DRiVE took me a lot longer than a 200 page book normally would. I couldn’t stop taking notes while I read it! After the fact, I’m really glad I took notes. I learn a lot through writing and reflection and it forced me to dig a little deeper and process the points I would have otherwise only highlighted.I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I’ve had more questions from strangers about this book at the gym and Starbucks than anything I’ve read recently– and it has real application to the work we’re doing. Whether you’re a supervisor or being supervised, there is a lot to be learned from DRiVE.
The Art of Racing in the Rain, Garth Stein
And now, for a fun fictional read. I listened to the audiobook version of this and fell in love with the narrator– Enzo the dog. I had picked this book up several times in airport bookstores, only to put it back again scoffing at the idea of a dog narrator. How could a dog possibly narrate a book without being corny? Like this.
The writing is both dramatic and intense, painful and playful. I’ll let you read the jacket of the book or the Amazon reviews on your own, but know that I’ve never looked forward to my commute more than when I had this audiobook as company.
Take the Cannoli, Sarah Vowell
This is a collection of personal stories from NPR’s This American Life author Sarah Vowell. I borrowed this book from my good readerfriend Mallory Bower-- correction– I read this after she insightfully passed it on to me, knowing I’d enjoy it. I love it because it’s non-fiction, short stories, a memoir, and brilliantly written. I wrote this mini-review when I was only about a third of the way through it and stand by it still:
“I cannot get over how good this writing is. It’s not, ” that was a good story” in retrospect. It’s “pick any line in the book and it’s brilliant, sharp, and vivid.” I’m not even halfway finished and I want to read it again.” –goodreads review
The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
I enjoyed the audio version of this book as I drove to and from work. The book is a roller coaster of gut-wrenching scenes, beautiful friendships, war, love, and a world I could never imagine as a suburban American woman. I’m particularly glad I listened to the audio version of the book; the amount of non-English words, names, and places was easier to understand when read by someone who can pronounce them properly (as opposed to how I would have guessed at some in my own interpretation of the text).
The writing is poetic and descriptive, but not to the point of being flowery or overstated. This is the kind of book that transports you –almost literally– to a different place, the district of Kabul in Afghanistan If you’re listening to this while you’re driving though, be careful and have a few tissues on hand.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson
I don’t read a lot of thrillers or crime novels, but I loved this book. Truthfully, I’m not sure I had any idea what this book was about when I picked it up. It had been all over the best-sellers lists and airport kiosks, so I thought I’d give it a shot.This book is also quite long at 480 pages of fine print. To be honest, it took about 200 pages before I was fully consumed by the book. I’ve known plenty of people who’ve given upon the book after 100 pages or less, and understandably so. Once the book gets going though, it’s a fast-paced story you don’t want to put down. This is another book with particularly graphic scenes that I just don’t think I could bear watching in the movie version. The characters in this book are so deeply developed and described that I’ve picked up the second and third in the trilogy to eventually read as well.
The book is split into two practical sections: the problem and solutions. This is my greatest praise for the book– she doesn’t merely highlight an issue, she educates the reader very deeply about the issues, inspires us to create change, and provides resources and solutions to make it happen. My reading list has probably tripled in size with the books she suggests throughout and at the reading list at the back of the book.
I learned more about current affairs and the state of the world from reading this book than I have by half-listening to the news in the year since it’s been published. The first half of the book is a primer on all of the things we should have been reading and paying attention to, starkly compared to where we’re actually committing our media consumption and energy.
Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins (2)
While I’ve read and enjoyed the entire Hunger Games series this year, the second book is my absolute favorite. The characters are developed enough from the first book that the plot and action can take center stage in this edition. While still a good book, the end of the trilogy was a disappointment after reading Catching Fire. I tend to hate the last few pages of a book when it feel like the author is rushing to wrap things up (and epilogues fall into this category too) and the final book definitely felt rushed.
Summer Sisters, Judy BlumeI have been meaning to read this book since at least high school, maybe sooner. My fourth grade best friend Phoebe loved this book and raved about it as we grew up. I loved Judy Blume as a children’s author, but fell in love with her all over again in this book. Maybe it’s because I work with young adults or because I’ve always enjoyed YA literature, but I (cliche though it may be) laughed and cried with the characters in this book. Sometimes I related all to well to their antics, dilemmas, and heartbreaks– other times I laughed at the thought of being in such a silly predicament. And after reading this book, I can’t help but giggle any time I see these hand dryers referencing ”the power.”
At the end of last year I’d only read 27 of my 52 books. With three months to go, I’m already one book ahead of this and still counting! It’s going to be a stretch to get to 52, but knowing that I’ve already beat last year’s total is satisfying– and knowing that I’ve read 53 books in 2 years is still pretty cool.
Connect with me on GoodReads to see what I’ve read, what I’m reading, and the long list of books I’d like to read.
What have you read this year that would make your top 10?