Books and Resolutions

The New Year is approaching. It gives such a feeling of a fresh start. A new year with new chances and new opportunities. It’s a time to shrug off the failures and the downs of the previous year and try for better things.

I’m not against making New Year’s Resolutions. I’m pretty pro-goal setting in whatever form it takes. - Let's resolve to repeat last year's mistakes

For 2012, I made a single New Year’s Resolution. I would read every single book for my book club in the month it was assigned even if I had already read it and even if I would happily return it to the library unread.

If I were in school, I would surely get some sort of certificate for this perfect reading record. Instead, I get internet bragging rights and the ability to review 12 very different books.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Of all the books I read, not only for book club but on my own, I think this is the one I’m most glad I’ve read. If you decide to read it, I want you to pay attention to Henrietta Lacks’s daughter and ponder her intelligence and resolve and realize that, if not for the book, her voice would have been silenced by generation poverty.

A non-fiction book, the author does a fantastic job explaining the science in an accessible way and removing herself from the story as much as possible. The story really is about Henrietta Lacks, her children, and ethics in medicine.

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

I had already read this book so it was a re-read. I love Jasper Fforde. In fact, here is a picture of me and him (Lara’s husband took the picture and I cropped my husband out of it).

This book is funny as you would expect if you’ve read any of Fforde’s other books but it also has a dark side. It is a dystopian fiction placed in a time when people can only see one a single color. The hierarchy of the world is decided by the color people see.

The plot and the world are less complicated than the Thursday Next series. It might be my favorite of his books though I really loved The Woman Who Died A Lot as well.

The Shipping News by Annie Proulx

It was extremely well written. The imagery makes me feel like I’ve been to Newfoundland. I feel cold just thinking about it. The story was poignant though moved slowly. I’ve since bought two more of Annie Proulx’s books at the used book store though I’ve yet to read them.

Snowflower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

I do not–correction: did not–read many books that took place outside of the western world. The reason I joined a book club was to push my reading boundaries and this is an example of how it has.

This book is such a beautiful book about friendship, appearances, customs, generations, families.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

By far my favorite book this year. Yes, The Immortal Life is the one I’m most happy I read this year but this is my favorite book. It took my heart, ripped it out, stepped all over it, and attempted to put it back into my chest. I could identify with the dilemmas even though they were foreign from anything I’ve ever experienced.

I have A Thousand Splendid Suns by the same author on my shelf but I’m waiting until I have the emotional fortitude to make it through another book.

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

This book is an entertaining read though I have rarely thought of it after having read it. It follows an interconnected group of people through their lives as they cross paths. To get an idea of how the book works, here’s a flow chart someone in book club printed for all of us.

Click to visit the blog of origin

I really enjoyed reading it but took very little long term thoughts from it.

The Year of Living Biblically by A. J. Jacobs

The author, a writer and editor for Esquire magazine, decided to try to live the principles of the Bible for a year. Funny, amusing, and slightly irreverent, I enjoyed this book immensely. It’s one that I re-read for book club having read it before.

If I had to pick something I didn’t like, it isn’t terribly well written. Grammatically correct and easy to read, sure. But it has the feel of an Esquire magazine article and sustaining that voice through an entire book stretched my patience a bit.

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

Will I be banned from all romantic circles if I said I didn’t like this book? It’s a story of unrequited love and that’s just a waste of a good life. It is heavy handed with the magical realism, similar to a tall tale. I found the pacing awkward as well.

That said, I never once thought I wouldn’t finish the book. I liked the writing enough and the story line enough to keep going.

We watched the movie at book club and we were literally laughing out loud at parts… parts that weren’t meant to be funny.

Bossypants by Tina Fey

I listened to this as an audiobook–which I highly recommend as Tina Fey reads it–and then read the book for book club. I preferred the audiobook. I love her stories. I love her rules. I love her view of women in a male dominated field.

If you read nothing else of her book, read her prayer  for her daughter(s).

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

I made it January through September without once thinking I wouldn’t keep my resolution. This book nearly did me in though. I really thought this would be the deal breaker.

First, I don’t like supernatural tales. Second, no, that’s it. It’s a “ghost” story about an evil carnival and I don’t dig it. I have to say, however, you will never in your life read a more lyrical ghost story. The writing is the only thing I liked about this book.

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

Yes, two Bradbury books in consecutive months! I love this one though. I read it years and years ago so I reread it for book club. As one of our book club members said, it takes some balls to write a book without an overarching plot. This book is simply a story of things that happened over summer. It’s in the realm of a coming-of-age book but without the huge story arc and dramatic shift of the character.

But what I loved most about this book was the connection I felt to the words. I identified with the experiences to the point that I had an emotive reaction to simple sentences. While not as lyrical as Something Wicked This Way Comes, the writing was just as amazing.

The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka

Not only did I read this in 2012 the first time, I re-read it for book club. This is a short piece (a solid Sunday afternoon worth of reading) the uses the “we” voice to tell the story of mail-order Japanese brides pre-WWII leading up to the internment of the Japanese.

I couldn’t put it down. The distance the narrator keeps the reader at is fascinating. The “we” voice tells the group’s story yet you still feel drawn to the individual women.

So what will my resolution be for 2013? To keep my perfect book club reading record going for another 12 months.

Hey, I read 3 on your list this year! I’m not in book club, though, so I don’t have to be ashamed. I will join a book club one of these days.

I wasn’t as disciplined of a reader as you this year so it would be a good resolution for me to adopt this year as well.


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