My goal for 2012 was to read at least 24 books throughout the year – that’s two a month. Surprisingly, I surpassed that meager goal with ease and read a whopping 39 books! (My goal for 2013 is 52 books! I’m already two down – take that, books!) Since the list is quite long, I’ve decided to break up their reviews into two posts for your reading convenience. (For those whose review I’ve already written and posted, I’ve conveniently linked them for you below.) Here is part one:
The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins – As the title suggests, The God Delusion argues that the idea of God (and religion) is fictitious. Written by one of the world’s leaders in evolutionary biology, it is a scientific examination of religious ideas (most of them founded in either Judaism or Christianity) and the very notion of God. Dawkins, as well as being expertly knowledgeable of evolution and natural selection, writes with an unbiased, clinical kind of honesty, simply presenting the evidence without his (or others’) personal feelings to obscure it.
Hitch-22 by Christopher Hitchens – This memoir by the late writer/journalist Christopher Hitchens sometimes reads like an autobiography and at others, like a personal essay. It’s pretty typical Hitchens: poetic, honest, intelligent and written with extreme grace. My only complaint is that he glosses over some of the more personal aspects of his life (like fatherhood) and didn’t talk much at all of either of his marriages.
Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
Outliers, The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell – An excellent, easy to read but very thorough look at the many contributing factors that lead “outliers” the likes of Bill Gates, The Beatles or even Albert Einstein to their atypical, extreme success. Many people like to think it’s nothing more than hard work and determination but the truth is, while those are essential, they are far from the only things needed. A faithful support system, the right opportunities (sometimes nothing more than being in the right place at the right time), a culture that encourages and allows for such success and plain old luck all play significant roles.
The Necessity Of Certain Behaviors by Shannon Cain – A collection of short stories, all different but each having themes revolving around sexuality, these are a light and easy read.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett – In all honesty, I’m a bit worn out on stories set in the Old South. I decided to read this mostly just because it was wildly popular and seemingly inescapable. I particularly liked that it was told from several different narratives rather than being limited to one point of view. For anyone who enjoys historical fiction or simply a good Southern story, you can’t go wrong here.
I Am Number Four and The Power of Six by Pittacus Lore – These are the first two in a four-part series (the third of which just came out and no, I haven’t read it yet) about the last nine members of an alien race hiding on Earth from a different alien race out to wipe them from existence. It’s light, exciting fantasy, loaded with action and quickly paced. Fantasy and sci-fi fans will almost certainly enjoy.
Untouchable by Scott O’Connor – I bought this book at Powell’s in Portland (Oregon) after reading the jacket. It tells the tale of a man and his son as they try with difficulty to deal with the sudden death of their wife/mom. The kid is bullied at school and I admire O’Connor’s relentless dedication to honesty in these passages. They’re so real, they’re often painful to read. His characters are very real and the prose is well-written, but the story is slowly paced and lacking in depth of plot. In fact, there really isn’t much plot to speak of. Overall, an elegant, albeit slow read.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte – Amazingly, I had never read this classic until last spring. Its gothic imagery and dark themes sucked me in right from the start. For those of you who may not know, this is a haunting tale of a fierce and unnatural love between an orphaned young man and the daughter of his adopted father. The writing is engaging and poignant; the main characters, Catherine and Heathcliff, both wicked, selfish creatures devoured by their intense love of one another and the madness it inspires. My only complaint is the narrative. The story is told second-hand through the memories of a housemaid as she tells it to a man who has rented Heathcliff’s property. I would have felt more connected to the characters and more invested in the story were it told by Heathcliff, or perhaps in third person narrative.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Crimes In Southern Indiana by Frank Bill – Though I usually enjoy dark and gritty tales, the writing here is too heavy-handed for my taste. Rife with abstract metaphors and overly wordy descriptions, the writing actually masks the action in the stories and takes the pleasure out of reading.
One For The Money through Lean Mean Thirteen of the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich – Anyone looking for an introspective or socially relevant book will be disappointed here. Evanovich’s prose is light-hearted and easy to read, fast-paced and fun, but there’s nothing deeply intricate or nuanced about it. These are escapism, nothing more. Twelve Sharp is my favorite of the series so far.
To Kill The Irishman: The War That Crippled The Mafia by Rick Porrello – I am from Youngstown and grew up on stories about the Youngstown/Cleveland/Pittsburgh mafia, so the subject matter was of particular interest to me. Author Rick Porrello is a police officer by trade, not a writer, and it shows. It reads more like text, listing events and facts rather than a narrative. He clearly did his homework, though, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading about true crime, history and/or mob stories.