Monday, December 31, 2012

The Fanciest of them All! 2012 Edition

Every year (presuming I maintain this blog long enough for more than one year) I will be naming my personal favorite read of the year the Fanciest Book of the Year, and the two runners up--(AKA, my Top 3 books of the year).



Can we all just bask in its radiance for a while?

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

I went into this book with really high expectations because I was completely enamored with the movie trailer, which is hazardous because if it didn't live up to the hype, then all the work for it, but as it turned out it was everything I expected and MORE. What really set this book apart for me, from any other book that's well written with a good story is that a) It's not one good story, but 6 good stories that all ties together in such a way that it doesn't just feel like six short stories, due in part to it's rather unique structure, and b) the best books inspire you to write, not in the THIS BOOK IS CRAP I CAN WRITE 100X BETTER way, but the THIS IS SO GOOD I MUST WORK TOWARDS WRITING SOMETHING AS AMAZING AS THIS way. Which, to be honest, I haven't felt since I read Lord of the Rings ten years ago. Whether or not you've seen the movie, and whether or not you liked it, you really should pick up this book. I haven't seen the movie yet so I can't attest to how well (or not well) it reflects the book, but it really is worth a read. 



 Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

 I've always been a fan of Ray Bradbury, but its been a rather long time since the last time I read one of his books and then he died this year and I was very sad. Anyway, I was reading a little blurb in memory of Bradbury in...the Kirkus Review(? I was definitely one of those book journals), and the author was talking about Dandelion Wine and all this great stuff about it, so I immediately raced off to the check out a copy and oh my goodness RAY HOW DO I KEEP FORGETTING ABOUT YOU? The story is fairly simple--a summer in a small Illinois town and what it's like to be young there and old there and any age in between. What I always find really remarkable about Bradbury's writing is that even when he's describing something as simple as a summer breeze, he finds words and ways to describe it that you haven't already heard a thousand times. I started this book in June which was an excellent choice because it really sets the mood for summer.




The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

The first book by Junot Diaz I read was his first short story collection, Drown, which I found sort of meh--not that it was bad, but that it didn't particularly wow me. So I forgot about him for a while. And then his new book, This is How You Lose Her came out this year, so he was getting all hyped up and I was like OH YEAH, he won the Pulitzer. Now, as with any award, there will always be people who say "Just because it won X Award, doesn't mean it's good" because in all fairness, "good" is a subjective value (mostly). But generally I trust the Pulitzer and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is REALLY good.

HONORABLE FANCY: Black Swan Green by David Mitchell
This was a contender for the top three, especially because it reminded me a lot of Dandelion Wine. It is similar in that it's a chunk of life in a small town (this one is Worcestershire) in which each chapter could function as a short story. But while Dandelion Wine paints a certain idyllic view of the town, Black Swan Green is a lot harsher in that it goes into bullying, and politics, and other forms of societal discord. I am ever amazed by Mitchell's ability to write so many styles so well because nothing about Black Swan Green really sounds like any part of Cloud Atlas, unless you count the poetic nuggets of profundity that crop up throughout both. But as Cloud Atlas is my number one book, I didn't think it fair for him to claim two out of the three spots.

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