January 4, 2015

(Very Overdue Post) 2013: The Year in Books

After posting the 2014 year in books post I realized that somehow, I never posted my summary for 2013.  The end of last year was a bit of a whirlwind, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised. But, for the sake of sharing with my fellow book lovers, here's the final summary (just a year late).

22 books.  Book club started late in the year.

Mary Karr
The memoires of a recovering alcoholic about her young adulthood and later child-rearing years told in a brutally honest and wonderfully lighthearted way.  Mary finds her way to the Catholic Church as part of her journey, which is difficult for her, as she self-identifies as a rational academic.  This is a story of redemption and love and forgiveness.  And yet, the voice is so compellingly human that you feel the drama and the pain enough to almost miss the continual positive slope of the storyline.
The Liar's Club
Mary Karr
The first memoire by Mary Karr, whose writing knocked my socks off in Lit.  This one is engaging, but it's jumpier, and the voice is not as mature as the voice in Lit.  Many of the stories in this memoire weren't even alluded to in Lit -- she left some of the biggest topics in the Liar's Club unexplored in Lit, which made for some good surprises.  A very engaging tale of a crazy childhood full of love  
Mary Karr
Mary Karr's second memoire.  Adolescence and sexual awakening and drugs.  Darker and more sullen than the other two memoires, just like a teenager would be.
China Road
Rob Gifford
A narrative of driving west on the Old Silk Road from Shanghai to Korgaz in Kazakhstan.  This book did more than anything I've encountered so far to help me understand the enormity and complexity of China.  There is no 1 Chinese perspective, except, perhaps, a shared commitment or resignation to "economic progress" and globalization.  Definitely the most informative book on China I've encountered in my studies thus far.
Running the Hanson's Way
Luke Humphrey
Simple, straightforward.  Very similar to the information in Running for the Hansons, but with more regular mid-pack runner info. 
Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
John Perkins
Facts you probably knew existed all strung together in a persuasively written indictment of American culture, consumerism, and the corporatocracy that rules the world.  Educational.  A bit unbalanced and biased.  But a good read, nonetheless.
The Lazrus Project
Aleksandar Hemon
Descriptive and vague interwoven tale of a Basnian-American immigrant and his struggle with the conflict of his past and present told through his research into a 1908 murder of a Jewish Immigrant.  Etheral and dark but fascinating and beautiful, nonetheless.
The Weight of All Things
Sandra Benitez
Yet another in the pile of "depressingly beautiful stories of human struggle" from Arvay.  Glorious language tells the sad and desperate story of a young boy whose mother is killed at the funeral of an El Salvadorean Archibishop.  He returns to his grandfather to find their homestead co-opted by the rebels.  Briefly free, he is conscripted by the army and put to work for them.  Eventually, after witnessing much carnage and base humanity, he returns home to his grandfather.
White Rose (Una Rosa Bianca)
Amy Ephron
Short, well-written chapters telling a fictional account of the true story of William Randoff Hearst's journalist's rescue of Evangelina Cisneros from a cuban prison.
The Redfoot Manual
Mike Pingleton
The most detailed resource I've encountered so far re: care, husbandry, and general info about Redfoot and Yellowfoot tortoies.  Funny Note:  Flying home from my sister's baby shower, a nearby flight seat occupant asked, "are you a doctor?"  "No."  I said, "I'm a lawyer."  Huh.... "Why would a lawyer be looking at anatomy diagrams and diseases...?"  The *obvious* answer is because she has a new tortoise and needs to learn basic veterninary and husbandry skills for her new baby... Duh...
You (Only Faster)
Greg McMillan
One of the more advanced running books I've read.  Discusses types of training, feedback and how to structure a personalized training plan for yourself that actually works.  I suspect I'll be returning regularly to this one in the years to come.
Silver Linings Playbook
Matthew Quick
I'd seen the movie before this book was selected for our newly formed book club.  I don't usually like reading a book after I've seen the movie, but in this case, it was actually quite interesting.  The movie was such a different story, that comparing and contrasting the two was a fun exercise.  Different timelines, character development, plot and more made for the book actually containing many surprises.  Overall, my book club agreed that this book was simplistic and had some flaws that were eliminated by the changes to the movie script.  Some things were lost, of course, but overall, this seems like a rare case where the movie did a better job on most fronts than the book.
My Name is Asher Lev
Chaim Potok
Powerful vivid tale of a gifted artist who is born a Hasidic Jew in Brooklyn.  Conflicts between the art world and the world of conservative Judaism make for a complicated life for the young genius.
The Fault In Our Stars
John Green
I cried.  I've lived cancer, but it was my dad.  This is a book of love and life and the horrid realities of cancer, but from a teenager's perspective.  We are all aware of our own mortality, but not as much as those who live on the edge, and this book made the stark contrast of teenagery and the edge of cancer-death very clear with its descriptions.  Gorgeous.  But so sad. 
The Gift of Asher Lev
Chaim Potok
So complex and beautiful -- human realities on the conflict of life, art, religion, principle, and commitment to self.  I wish I could send this book back to the friend who sent it to me as a gift as if she'd never read it.
Self Made Man
Norah Vincent
Fascinating tale of a lesbian woman's experience passing as a man for one year.  Full of all sorts of stereotypes as observed from a true outsider, I found much of what she said to be insightful, and the bits I disagreed with forced me to think hard about why.  Overall, this book made me to think more critically about gender, culture, and sex more than any book I've read in years.  In particular, after reading this book, I found myself much more sympathetic to and understanding of some stereotypically common male behavior traits that I used to find frustrating.
Kafka on the Shore
Haruki Murakami
Symbolism, magic, and lonely japanese protagonists living in dreamlike worlds told only the way the Murakami can tell it.  Supremely enjoyable.
The Bette Davis Club
Jane Lotter
Breezy easy brain candy rom com fun.
Dandelion Growing Wild
Kim Jones
Honest and real tales from one of America's best female marathoners.  Inspirational and poignant.
14 Minutes
Alberto Salazar
Fine.  Not great.  Not terrible.
The Gods of Guilt
Michael Connelly
Fast, suspenseful, and just overall enjoyable.  Michael Connely has become my favorite law thriller writer, easily.
The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Great American Novel.  An excellent book to do with book club.  Even better after listening to the audiobook.


MILF Runner said...

Here I was thinking I was a slacker for doing my "year in review" post a week late! LOL

bt said...

@MILF Runner -- Happy to help!