Goodreads informs me that I’ve only finished 12 books this year (a irritatingly low number, which I think stems from wanting to finish one book before picking up another. I’m an adult! I can handle two story lines at once!), and here are a few thoughts on them!
Favourite Read of the Year: A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
This book was everything I want from a reading experience; I had a visceral reaction to the words on the page, and my mind was constantly engaged the entire time (to borrow a phrase from Julie, there were times when I sat up like a meerkat, looking for someone to talk to about what just happened). There are so many moving pieces in Martin’s Westeros, and the crushing thing about them is that they all seem to move in exactly the way they’re supposed to. Perhaps that doesn’t make sense, but what I mean is that there are no “hero” moments. Characters are true to themselves and their motives, and that either leads to their triumph or their ruin (usually ruin). It’s fascinating to see what happens in an entire world without the flimsiest of social contracts. That, and when I read a certain section (if you’ve read the book, you probably know the one I mean), there was an actual thunderstorm accompanying the turning of pages. It doesn’t get more immersive than that.
Most Unexpectedly Enjoyable: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
This was on my list of books that I felt I “should” read for a long time, and I decided to tackle it in 2012. I didn’t expect it to be to vibrant and full of life. Anne Frank describes her day-to-day in a wide variety of colours and shades, alternating from comic portraits of her family and the other members of the annex, to the yearning heartbreak of an adolescent who’s scarcely been given an adolescence. And I never once expected to learn as much about Anne Frank’s vagina as I now know (ie/ I never expected to know ANYTHING about it). Required reading. It’s a delight, perhaps all the more so for the darkness it was written in.
Page Turner of the Year: We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
I can’t fathom picking up this book again in light of what’s recently happened in Newtown, CT (donations can still be made here, FYI), but back in February, I was spellbound by the story of the world’s shittiest kid and the world’s most ambivalent mother. It’s dark and twisted, and can best be categorized as a horror novel, and it’s the book I finished most quickly this year because I simply HAD to know what would happen next.
Least Favourite Ending of the Year: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
HOLY SHIT. For a young adult novel, this gets unbelievably dark. Collins gives her characters deep psychological scars very casually, displaying that Katniss, Peeta, and the rest of the survivors (hint: not many of the original set) are forever changed by their war with the capitol, and them implies that they will continue to struggle until they die in the bleak landscape that they’ve chosen for themselves. There is no hint that the bleakness of the landscape will improve with time and be better for their children, or that overthrowing The Capitol was in any way a good idea that lightened their burdens. This book needed to be twice as long just to avoid ending the way it did.
Book I’m Most Glad to Have Finished: Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
Not only because it’s a bitch to get through, but also because I feel like my literary world has been enriched by having read this monolith. I feel like I can stand on the edge of a deep pool and look down into it at any time I wish, see all the familiar sights and remember when I was swimming through the reeds, but know that I don’t have to swim it again if I don’t want to. When do I get my merit badge, by the way?