2012 in Books: The good, the bad and the ugly

While it’s quite possible that I’m blanking on a title or two, my somewhat low tally for 2012 is nine complete, two incomplete and one in progress. Here’s some of the high (and low) lights:

Most Unexpected Delight: A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

I picked up this Pulitzer winner more for its accolades than the actual synopsis but am happy this novel found its way to me. Spanning nearly 50 years from the late ’70s to the 2020s, each chapter serves as a snapshot into a particular character’s life at a certain point with each tale being interconnected to a larger picture. It wasn’t until halfway through Goon Squad that I remembered reading an excellent review of the book in Newsweek, which likened the narrative structure to Facebook: We’re all stars of our own page (chapter) but play supporting and background roles on the profiles of our friends and acquaintances.

Read it for: A large cast of characters that run the gamut; peeks into the past, present and future; snappy prose without any frills

Finally Got Around to It: Life of Pi by Yann Martel

This book has been orbiting my sights for about a decade now, and I’m glad I finally got around to it before the movie trailers could color my reading of it. While some parts were more gory than I had anticipated, the novel delivered the smooth storytelling as promised. The epic backdrop of a boy stranded on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger raises it to an almost myth-like tale. The ending further drives this point home.

Read it for: An adult fairy tale with a lovable and noble protagonist unwavering practicality and faith see him through the darkest of hours

Most Overhyped: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

I originally awarded this the “No-don’t-read-this-to-your-child children’s book” title. Decorated with awards, a darling on all bookseller’s must-read lists and a special edition of Moleskine journals featuring the original artwork, The Little Prince sounded like it would be classic tale blending the melancholy tone of The Giver with a simple morality lesson similar to The Alchemist. I’m almost certain to offend the large number of readers who love this book, but I found the tales the little prince told to be overly didactic with little substance. SPOILER: Worse yet, the conclusion with the snake was self-destructive and unnecessary, in my humble opinion.

Read it so: You can explain to me why this book is so popular and famous

Biggest Disappointment: A Discovery of Witches by Deb Harkness

This is the second year in a row that my efforts to read a spooky book in October have left me with a lemon (see: The Lace Reader in 2011). I will give Harkness credit for having a better narrative flow than Stephanie Meyer and more scientific and historical tidbits to spice up the plot. What I cannot forgive is a fully grown woman who oscillates between super-powerful-yet-in-denial, beautiful, scholarly witch to a naive creature who all too quickly becomes childlike and dependent upon a brooding vampire. I have friends and relatives who loved this book and found it to be a quick and engaging read, but once I hit the halfway point, the idea of trudging through another 250 pages would have been far from pleasurable for me.

Read it if: You’d like to read Twilight with adults and a sprinkling of science

Got favorites to recommend or stinkers to avoid? Please share in the comments section!

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