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2013 in Books

2013-books

Last year I read thirty-two books, which was eight more over the year before. Given that my year was tumultuous, I’m not surprised that I escaped into books even more than usual. In fact, I clearly remember books being one of the only ways I was able to stay grounded.

Over the summertime I reread C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series, which I had not read since I was a child. It was delightful to go back to those old books. The stories were rich with allegory and imagery that took me far away from the grim realities of my life and I was happy to lose myself in them.

In 2013 I also picked up Elizabeth Gilbert for the first time. In March I finally watched the film adaptation of Eat, Pray, Love with Julia Roberts. It was awesome. As I was going through a spiritual shake-up at the time it was a welcome inspiration to me. I picked up her second memoir, Committed, first though. After I read through that (it gave me some much-needed perspective on the institution of marriage), I finally read Eat, Pray, Love and found it was even more insightful than the movie (naturally.) Gilbert was the last author I read in 2013, finishing the year off with her new novel The Signature of All Things. I highly recommend it for anyone who likes good historical fiction.

While I started reading Stephen King in 2012, I didn’t continue with any of his novels this past year. Each time I see his books in the library I want to take one out but the size of them deters me. I started reading a paperback copy of Insomnia during the spring while my father was ill but it began to plague me with fears of sleeplessness of my own so I put it down and I haven’t picked it up again since. I may finish it finally this year when I go back to my parents’ place to retrieve the book.

This year also was a first in terms of spiritual self-help for me. I picked up The Heart of the Buddha’s Path by the Dalai Lama, Unfinished Business by James Van Praagh, and Care of the Soul by Thomas Freedman. All three of these books have helped me in some way through my grief.

By far the most talked-about about book that I’ve read in 2013 was Neil Young’s Waging Heavy Peace. Neil penned his own autobiography and it’s weird, rambling and discombobulated. Kind of like Neil Young himself.

A Visit from the Goon Squad has already begun to fade from my memory but it was an interesting look into the lives of several weird navel-gazing characters in LA. Considering that I didn’t even finish Jennifer Egan’s last novel The Keep (because its weird navel-gazing characters were too much for me) I consider this a pretty big win.

I’ve had Don Delillo’s White Noise in my collection for some time but I only picked it up to read this summer, when I was going through some heavy depression stuff. It wasn’t the best read for that frame of mind, but it was definitely an intriguing read.

I found Judy Blume’s Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret for 25 cents at a used bookstore and had to relive the awkward prepubescent years. It made me think of my niece who turned fourteen in 2013. I was barely fourteen when she was born. Seeing her as a teenager brings back some interesting memories, but that’s a blog post for another day.

 

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2012 in Books

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I know it’s February, well past the proper amount of time to ruminate on one’s last year, but I came across someone else’s 2012 in books post and felt the urge to write my own. Besides, fellow bookworms never mind book talk.

In 2012 I picked up Stephen King for the real first time. I say the real first time because I read Carrie as a teenager and didn’t feel compelled to read him again until this year. I’d say that’s about a decade gap in between. Nonetheless, I became a voracious King reader, inasmuch as I could be a voracious reader, being kind of slow. In 2012 I read his memoir On Writing (which I think actually compelled me down this path of writing-as-work), followed by Misery, then Full Dark, No Stars, a short story collection that did no worse a job at scaring the bejesus out of me. After that I had to take a break.

I read twenty-four novels in 2012. That’s a decent number. I didn’t finish all of them.

I wanted to like Mil Millington’s Instructions for Living Someone Else’s Life, but I just couldn’t get past the rambling nonsense of his writing. It may work on the internet, but it didn’t translate well into a novel.

The one that surprised me the most was probably Gil Adamson’s The Outlander, a wonderful historical Western set in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Mary Boulton was probably my favourite character of the year, too. Tied with The Sisters Brothers, but then I really enjoyed my summer of cowboy fiction.

I also got into memoirs and non-fiction in 2012 more than I ever have before. After David Rakoff passed away in August, I wanted to explore his writing and found the humour of Half Empty inspring, even if they are a collection of pessimistic essays. The cancer that Rakoff wrote about in this last release is what ultimately killed him last year. Similarly, I read Nora Ephron’s I Remember Nothing after she passed away in June. It was eerie to read her musings on death. In a way it was like hearing the voices of ghosts inside my head.

Seeing as it’s now February, I feel like this state of my bookshelf can include what I’ve currently read.

My 2013 has begun in a decidedly Canadian vein with Tamara Faith Berger’s (weird) Maidenhead and Andrew Pyper’s The Killing Circle (a lesser Stephen King attempt set in Toronto, which was cool.)

I’m attempting a Virginia Woolf right now, my first one, and I’m finding it hard to concentrate. The writing is stream of conscious and the language is just antiquated enough that it’s boring. Sadly. I want to like Virgina Woolf, but maybe I just like her more as a character in someone else’s fiction.

And, on the other side of the coin, I’m reading a Georgette Heyer because why not?