- Aunt March referring to Jo in Little Women (the 1994 film version).
|Suck it, Tolstoy|
But sometime in September I gave up. I was tired of feeling like I had homework to complete. I also was afraid that each month's classic would be as boring as Anna Karenina so I would procrastinate on picking up that month's selection. (I just realized that I gave up some other things in September, too. I stopped working out. I stopped feeling hopeful about certain things. I stopped drying my hair on a regular basis.)
The truth is that whatever I'm in the mood for at that moment, that's what I want to be reading. I don't want to feel required to sit down and slog my way through another damn Tolstoy.
These are the best books I read in 2012:
1. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
here. and this is what I said: Around page 37, I got the feeling I was going to love this book. By page 41, I knew it. I could tell this was going to be my kind of book and my eyes teared up a little. When it comes to books, I am my most sensitive self. I can't help it. I get overly excited about the ones I love and overly moved by the idea of writing a story that makes someone feel something. I love the books that remind me why I want to write.
Beautiful Ruins begins in 1962 on the coast of Italy as Pasquale, a young Italian man with blue eyes, watches a beautiful American actress arrive at his small, isolated hotel. Then it picks up today on the back lot of a movie studio. The book goes back and forth between the events of then and now. There are numerous characters and they are all "beautiful ruins," flawed and hopeful and hopeless. Richard Burton, the actor and sometimes-husband of Elizabeth Taylor, even makes an appearance.
Immediately after I finished, I picked up another book by Jess Walter.
2. The Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walter
This story follows the downfall of a man laid off from a newspaper. His house is on the brink of foreclosure, his wife is flirting with her high school boyfriend on Facebook, and he's taken up with a bunch of drug dealers. It's a great read. I could relate to this man whose industry is disappearing, whose options seem limited, and whose life is unraveling.
3. Broken Harbor by Tana French
4. Little Bee by Chris Cleave
"I ask you right here please to agree with me that a scar is never ugly. That is what the scar makers want us to think. But you and I, we must make an agreement to defy them. We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived."
5. Wild by Cheryl Strayed
6. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
7. The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta
8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
10. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
11. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
I put these three together because that's how I read Gillian Flynn's novels, all in one big gulp. She's that good. I hope she's hard at work on her fourth novel, because I'm impatient to see what she does next.
If you do read her three novels one after the other, plan to read something lovely and life-affirming afterward. Flynn's novels are dark and twisted. You're going to need something light and refreshing to cleanse your palate. Perhaps, you should plan to read the next book on this list:
12. Bossypants by Tina Fey
“If you retain nothing else, always remember the most important rule of beauty, which is: who cares?”
13. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
“How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts? And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to challenge our account, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life. Told to others, but—mainly—to ourselves.”
14. God Is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens
“I leave it to the faithful to burn each other's churches and mosques and synagogues, which they can be always relied upon to do.”
15. A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
16. The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe
17. Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson
18. Zone One by Colson Whitehead
A zombie novel of the literary kind, Zone One follows "Mark Spitz" as he helps kill "skels" and clean up bodies in the aftermath of "Last Night," the night when infection spread across the globe. Everyone has a story about "Last Night." Those who have survived are diagnosed with P.A.S.D. (sounds like past), "post-apocalyptic stress disorder." Zombie apocalypse or not, who among us isn't haunted by our own "pasd."
19. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
This charming novel creates a world all its own, full of magic and romance. By the end, I wanted to join a magical circus that appears out of nowhere, with black and white tents and a magical clock and an act featuring kittens.
Part of my classics reading challenge, Animal Farm was probably my favorite of the seven classics I read. Although, I must say, I find it extremely depressing that, as a society, we really are dumb animals so apt to forget the writing on the wall.
Books I Finally Read and Found Completely Overrated
50 Shades of Suck