Year in Books: 2012

Not my best year for reading. What with the craziness of gestating, birthing, and then caring for an infant, I did lots of re-reading for comfort instead of seeking out the new and exciting. Still, any year in which I made it through both Moby Dick and David Copperfield is not worth erasing from the historical record entirely.

Thanks, Em, for reminding & inspiring me to do this compilation!


Currently finishing:

Bringing Up Bebe (Druckerman) – B-
French moms don’t get frazzled. They manage stay sane and calm, thanks in large part to fantastic Nanny State programs and benefits that makes childbearing and child-rearing as easy as possible, and also to cultural differences that don’t turn women into “mommies” — child-obsessed, compulsive, as well as chubby, shlubby, and self-denying — the way American society does. Unfortunately the narrator is the kind of woman who compares herself to Carrie Bradshaw, which makes her hard to take seriously, and she paints a kind of ridiculous Goofus and Gallant contrast between the countries.

Telegraph Avenue (Chabon) – B-
Come on, dude! Stop overwriting, over-plotting, and over-filling your narratives with characters. You’re not penning a 19th-century Russian epic. If TA weren’t by Mr. Kavalier & Clay, I’d have put the book down before now, but I’m holding out hope it gets better as MC hits his stride and stops trying so hard.


Also finished (or abandoned) before the year’s end:

  • Crazy Salad and Scribble Scribble (Ephron) – B+ Oh, Nora. So witty, so wise.
  • Divergent (Roth) – B- Pretty good trash, as trash goes. Entertaining. Definitely not a contender for next Hunger Games.
  • Insurgent (Roth) – C+ Sloppy and haphazard. Still reasonably entertaining. Strong female protagonists always earn some leeway from me.
  • The Bad Girl (Llosa) – B. Unfinished. Well-written and interesting, but the narrative loses steam and starts meandering halfway through.
  • The End of Men (Rosin) – C+ Some good thinking; lots of bad editing; and a terrible title that eclipses her more measured arguments. The thesis that seems to hold for some chapters has no relevance to other chapters, some of which are downright contradictory. Altogether a frustrating read. (Though funny to hold on the subway when 9 months pregnant.)
  • The Middlesteins (Attenberg) – B Starts strong, becomes conventional, ends up in a way I doubt I’ll recall in a month. Would have made one killer short story.


Here’s the rest of the round-up in alphabetical order, featuring a couple of classics, lots of memoir, Cramming for Motherhood manuals, history delivered in exciting & memorable ways (Bringing Up the Bodies, 11/22/63, Hark! A Vagrant), some solid genre fiction (Devil in a Blue Dress, Maltese Falcon, The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, The Comedians), some disappointing literary fiction (1Q84, The Marriage Plot, Sense of an Ending, Open City) and the unforgettably bizarre 50 Shades of Grey, without which I would never have been invited to appear on Geraldo.


Best surpriseSuite Francaise, which I didn’t expect to like, let alone be ravished by.

Best non-surpriseTiny Beautiful Things, which was exactly as moving and profound, witty and wry as I expected. A more rewarding experience than Wild, leading me to the odd conclusion that I may prefer Strayed-as-Sugar to Strayed-as-Strayed.

NOTE: I’m still fiddling with the grades, since when I’ve just finished a book, I’m usually too kind to it, being either relieved to be done or still basking in its glow. Only in retrospect can I more accurately judge whether the reading experience holds up.


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