Last year my New Year’s resolution was to read more current publications. More precisely, I was aiming for at least one a month. Surely I could splurge on buying one hardcover a month – if I couldn’t find it at a library, that is. I smashed my goal, of course, and read 32 books published in 2012. I think maybe this year my goal will be to read more non-fic, because my selections are overwhelmingly fiction. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, by my standards, but if Imma read 170ish books, it wouldn’t hurt to be a little more well-read, as opposed to extremely focused.
1. Unbroken, by Laura Hillebrand. (Jan 2012) If you love history, especially World War II history like I do, you MUST read this book. An Olympic runner goes to war, becomes a pilot, gets shot down, and becomes a prisoner of war. Trust me, I am not spoiling you – they tell you this on the book flap. They even tell you that he and his group survive for weeks on a raft in Pacific ocean, battling sharks, before being picked up in the enemies. This isn’t spoiling you, because the beauty is in how our hero survives his camp and his life after the war. Nothing, nothing, will inspire you more. Bonus points if you’re a runner, like me. 4 of 5 stars.
2. The River of Forgetting, by Jane Rowen.(Feb 2012) This I talked about over in my Mental Health list.
3. The Bear’s Embrace, by Patricia von Tigham. (Apr 2012) Because I am an awful, awful human being, I admit that I first started reading this book because I wanted to read about the damn bear attack. Told you. Go ahead and judge. That’s why I started, but I continued because Patricia’s detailed account of her continued efforts at recovery and her battle to stay sane and feel safe for years afterwards held me transfixed. Just trust me: don’t google what happens after her narrative ends. 3 1/2 of 5 stars.
4. Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood, by Koren Zailkas. (May 2012) Another of my recaps over in my Mental List section. What can I say? I went on a lit spree this year.
5. The Psychopath Test, by Jon Ronson. (May 2012) I swear not all of my non-fic reside on the Mental Health list, but this one does.
6. 882 1/2 Answers to Your Questions about the Titanic, by Laurie Coulter. (Jun 2012) Santa spotted this children’s book at the gift shop when he was visiting the Mystic Aquarium. And then he maybe devoured the book in just a few sittings. Everything, everything, is covered and in a manner that my 8 year-old will be dazzled by. It doesn’t talk down to the kids, and yet covers a wide range of appropriate ages. There were lots of pictures and graphics to go along with the entries, too, so it would be good for read out-loud fun. 5 of 5 stars.
7. Memory Palace, by Mira Bartok. (Jun 2012) This haunting memory was recapped on my Mental Health list.
8. Wild, by Cheryl Strayed. (Jul 2012). I cannot tell you how madly I fell in love with this book. I am pulled to books that inspire strength, to books that speak aloud as the author thinks, to books that spill even the ugly thoughts. Cheryl’s book made me want to go out and walk a mountain range to fix in me what may or may not be broken and prove to myself that I could. And even if I did it a million times, I could never say it nearly as well as she. 5 of 5 stars.
9. 102 Minutes: The Unforgettable Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers, by Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn. (Sep 2012) Every year I read a 9/11-themed book to coincide with the anniversary. It’s my way of remembering what happened and to honor those we lost. This year, I read Dwyer and Flynn’s inexhaustible account of how hard the survivors fought for the 102 minutes the towers stood. Their account, too, of those who didn’t make it will leave you in tears. More than once I had to put the book down and gather myself. It’s not as easy, comfortable read…but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be undertaken. 4 of 5 stars.
10. Autobiography of a Schizophrenic Girl: The True Story of “Renee”, by Marguerite Sechehaye. (Sep 2012) Another memoir on my Mental Health list.
11. The Murder of a Century, by Paul Collins. (Oct 2012) An easy read, told in a very digestible voice, with a narrator who sounds as if he’s spinning a fictional yarn rather than a detailed factual account. There wasn’t so much anything wrong with it as much as it just didn’t stand out from the crowd for me. If crime-solving is your thing, you’ll enjoy it. If you demand a lot from your books, maybe not as much. 3 of 5 stars.
12. Confessions of a Counterfeit Farm Girl, by Mary McCorkindale. (Nov 2012) Yeah, her farm girl status isn’t the only thing that rang less than authentic: McCorkindale’s entire personality sounded shallow, shrill and a ploy for attention. Boo hoo – let me whine and cry because I lost my seven-figure salary and didn’t like my multi-million dollar home and I had too many assistants to help me. So not for this girl. 1 of 5 stars.
13. The End of Your Life Book Club, by Will Schwalbe. (Dec 2012) Yeah, I pretty much wanted to read this from the moment I first heard of it. How could you not with a title like that? Even though you know it’s going to be a tearjerker going into it, it was well worth every single word. Will’s mother – a phenomenal lady and humanitarian aid worker I really wish I had known – is diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer shortly after one of her trips to Afghanistan. During her various doctor’s trips and such, Will and his mom start, almost accidentally, a book club. It might have started out as a way for them to kill time and talk about reading – one of their greatest passions – but it was also a way for them to get to know each other all over again and in a way that you can only with a Something Terrible like cancer and (unspeakably) death hanging over one of them. I mean – can you even imagine? What else besides talking about all of these beautiful stories and characters would let loved ones back into so many difficult to broach conversations? If this book doesn’t make you want to start a book club immediately with a loved one, then you are just BROKEN, sir. 5 of 5 stars.
14. Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert. (Dec 2012) This was the book that helped me heal through the heartbreaking process of my divorce. I was hoping it would help me heal, too, as I continued walking away from another unhealthy relationship. It might not have been as revealing to me as that first time I devoured it, but it stood up well just the same. 4 of 5 stars.
15. Full Body Burden, by Kristen Iversen. (Dec 2012) A woman tells her story of growing up in the shadow of a factory that made nuclear warheads. As in, uranium all over the place. Literally, a hot mess. Iversen does it with an incredible amount of poise, research, and are-you-sure-this-isn’t-fiction readability – even more impressive because her family life ain’t exactly functional, either. If Mulder and Erin Brockovitch had a baby (sans aliens), this book would be it. 4 of 5 stars.