Monday, December 31, 2012

My Favorite Books of 2012

**Also not pictured (I was too lazy to add them when I finished reading them after I made the collages):
-Cancer Ward by Aleksander Solzhenitsyn
-Was She Pretty? by Leanne Shapton
-My Ideal Bookshelf edited by Thessaly La Force

When I first starting compiling all of these images of the covers of the books I read, I could hardly believe I read this many books this year. That's fifty-two in a year! One book per week, just about. I had made an overly ambitious goal to read 100 books, but life gets in the way, and so does the simple pleasure of reading a book slowly to take it in :) But fifty-two isn't bad, and here they all are, the good, the bad, and the slightly inappropriate.

Of all of these books, I was somehow able to pick out my Top 5 Favorite Books Read This Year. In no particular order:

1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. This book moved me in so many ways. It was an assigned book for a YA class I took this past semester and it took me two weeks to read because I forced myself to slow down and enjoy every page. Told from the point of view of Death, it is the story of a small town in Nazi, Germany. Leisel Meminger has been sent to live with Hans Hubermann, a painter by trade and an accordionist by night, and Rosa Hubermann, an uptight woman who does the laundry for the wealthy. Leisel struggles to fit in with her new family and the neighborhood kids, all while trying to dodge kisses from Rudy Steiner. Her situation clenches even further when Hans agrees to hide a young Jewish boxer in the basement, and she falls in love with reading - a difficult love to have when money doesn't allow her to buy books... Death tells us her story in a way you wouldn't expect Death to - with compassion and sorrow. I could talk about this book for years. I saw the play adaptation at the Steppenwolf, and was lucky enough to meet Markus at a Q&A about the book in October and have him sign my copy. I even got it for my mother for Christmas. 

2. The Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann. People might be rolling out of this one. It's considered a guilty pleasure among many, and no, it is not up there in the ranks as a Great American Classic. BUT, Susann was so brilliant at creating memorable characters. I read it months ago, and Neely O'Hara still gets under my skin, I want to reach out and save the beautiful model Jennifer North, and the failure that was Anne Welles and Lyon Burke's relationship still makes my heart sad. Reading about the rise and fall of these three women in the valley of the 'dolls' kept me hooked on every page and I ate. it. up. Lately I've been half-joking that my next tattoo on my book-related-half-sleeve in progress will be a broken heart that says 'Lyon' in it. Since he really did crush me. I got this book for my sister for Christmas so she would understand my wounded heart.

3. Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. Damn, I loved this book. Olympia is living in an apartment building just a floor away from her unknowing daughter, Miranda. Her daughter is about to fix one of her cosmetic flaws with a plastic surgery, and Olympia wants to save her. Thinking about her daughter's bodily quirk leads her to writer her own family history so her daughter can see where she comes from - a family of circus freaks. Olympia was created by her parents through much drug use and experimentation while she was in the womb, and so were her brothers and sisters. There are her prodigal piano playing twin sisters, and her brother, Arturo, also known as Aqua Boy, whose fame rises to a level high enough to gain cult status. Olympia is the least freaky of them all, yet freaky enough to stand out in society. Dunn did a great job at combining the present-day story with Olympia and Miranda, and the tragic back story of her circus freak family. 

4. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I've mentioned before how much this book got to me. Hazel is a 16 year old thyroid-cancer patient who meets Augustus at a cancer patient support group that she was forced to go to. Both are drawn together through disease, but bond over their love of books - particularly Hazel's favorite, An Imperial Affliction by Peter Van Houten. The ending haunts both Hazel and Augustus since it ends in mid-sentence, and they make it their goal to meet Van Houten and get the answer of what happens before it's too late for both of them. It was interesting to see John Green write in a female's point of view, and it was believable and heartbreaking (in a good way.) 

5. Party Monster by James St. James. Here's where everyone stops trusting this blog. This one was chosen simply because it was entertaining. I saw the movie with Macaulay Caulkin and Seth Green years ago, and the book was FINALLY available in the library so I snatched it up. James St. James was one of the founding fathers of the Club Kid scene in the early 90's in New York City. He was also in a love-hate relationship with his sometimes-best friend, the leader of it all Michael Alig. It was a time of an insane amount of drugs, partying, costumes, and escapism that ended with a murder. James St. James keeps nothing secret, admitting openly to his drug use, the incredibly young party-goers, and all of his knowledge of the murder. St. James tells the story very much in the present. It doesn't read as a reflection, and the storytelling and descriptions are vivid and keeps you gasping with disbelief. I recommend watching the movie, the documentary also titled Party Monster, and YouTubing 'Club Kids on Phil Donahue.' 

These books weren't chosen because they've won tons of awards (though some of them have), or because they are America's favorites. I chose them because they entertained me and they're the kinds of books I would recommend to my friends. Each have beautiful and memorable characters, great storytelling, and a way of keeping the reader hooked - which I think is pretty important. 

Happy New Year, readers! Thank you to everyone who has followed and read my blog so far. I've made a couple of resolutions to dedicate more time to reading and keeping up with this website and I'm excited to see what the future holds.

What were the favorite books you've read this year? Also, if you have any questions or comments about the books I've pictured above, feel free to comment! I'd love to discuss them, as they were each good (sometimes not so good) in their own way!

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