Thursday, January 3, 2013

The New Dork Review of 2012

Just when you thought you were finished with 2012 lists, and looking bright-eyedly towards 2013, here's one more. You can handle one more, right? I'll be brief.

My Five Favorite Books of the Year
5. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett / 11/22/63 by Stephen King -- I couldn't decide between these two 2011 novels I read early in 2012, so they both get a shout out. Both are excellent!
4. Office Girl, by Joe Meno -- A short, simple novel about hipsters in Chicago, this story took me by surprise in terms of how much I liked it and how it's stayed with me.
3. The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, by Jonathan Evison -- A warmhearted, but hilarious, novel about getting your life back together when you've hit bottom, this was a hugely underrated 2012 novel.
2. Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn -- Not exactly an upset here, but this story of marital betrayal made Gillian Flynn a household name - and well-deservedly.
1. Arcadia, by Lauren Groff -- Just a beautiful, brilliant book.

The 2012 Stat Sheet
Goodreads tells me I read 52 books, and a total of 21,303 pages.

Three Least Favorite Books of the Year
3. The Sugar Frosted Nutsack, by Mark Leyner -- The title of my review for this head-scratcher of a piece of fiction is "WTF?!" ...and I stand by that.
2. A Hologram For The King, by Dave Eggers -- Even though this found its way onto the National Book Award finalist list, I thought this parable of mid-life crisis and America's place in the world didn't quite "meet its fourth quarter projections."
1. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James -- Yeah, I read it, only to have the right to make fun of it. It is preposterously awful. But Book Rioter Rebecca and I sure had a lot of fun skewering it.

Favorite Bookish "Call Me Maybe" Parody
The nice folks at Chicago's Open Books made this thing. It is awesome.

Classics Read in 2012
4. Winter's Tale, by Mark Helprin -- I'm still smack-dab in the middle of this one. More later...
3. Underworld, by Don DeLillo -- Everyone's right - the first 60 pages of this novel are the height of American writing about baseball. And there are other passages in this novel that are just breath-takingly profound.
2. East of Eden, by John Steinbeck -- This, somehow, was the first time I'd read Steinbeck, and this fantastic story gives me two of my new favorite characters in literature (Lee and Samuel).
1. Sophie's Choice, by William Styron -- This novel will haunt me forever. I had no idea what I was getting in to when I picked this up. It is the saddest thing I've ever read. And I loved it.

Favorite Under-the-Radar Books
2. A Partial History of Lost Causes, by Jennifer DuBois -- About chess, and Russian, and family, and (no joking) finding the meaning of life.
1. A Naked Singularity, by Sergio De La Pava -- Never mind that Fifty Shades dreck, this novel is actually the 2012 self-publishing success story. It's long, with tons of digressions, and it's not always the simplest read, but it's just a fascinating novel that's hard to put down, once you can talk yourself in to picking it up.

Favorite Non-Fiction
2. The Tender Bar, by J.R. Moehringer -- I'd put this great memoir off for so long, simply because the title was so off-putting. But I'm glad I finally conquered my nit-pick and read it. It's great!
1. Every Love Story Is A Ghost Story, by D.T. Max -- Of course, I read (and totally dug) the first full-length biography of my favorite writer. Of course I did.

And now, for no particular reason, here's Gangnam Style.

Happy Reading in 2013!


  1. Thanks for the word on Arcadia. I didn't realize it was that good .... but I will pick it up

  2. Loved Arcadia and The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving. And Underworld... I both love and hate that book. I know I need to read it again, but the prospect makes me want to shove my head in the oven.

    1. Yeah, that's a great way to describe Underworld - parts I loved, parts I was bored by, parts I actively despised. But overall, I'm glad I read it - and, like you, the prospect of trying again is not a good thought.

  3. Looking forward to your thoughts on Winter's Tale-I read that one a long time ago but still remember it fondly. That Read Me Maybe video was great and it gives me a new set of bookish YouTube clips to look for,thanks!

    And yes,sometimes you have to put videos for no particular reason...internet law:)!

    1. Pretty sure I learned the "random videos" from you. :)

  4. Oh, A Partial History of Lost Causes. I loved that one. I'm intrigued by Sophie's Choice - to be honest, I know very little about it, and might try to keep it that way before picking it up. And Arcadia is definitely on my list, too.

    Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on Winter's Tale!

    1. I knew nothing about Sophie's Choice either when I started - and I'm glad I went in blind.

      Winter's Tale is going really slowly so far. Not sure I get it....

  5. great titles!
    I love East of Eden!
    here is my wrap-up, with pies and charts:

  6. State of Wonder was one of my favorite books of the year, Sophie's Choice is one of my favorite books of all time, and I too read Fifty Shades- though I refused to include it in my "books read" list. Because I was embarrassed about.

    I enjoy your blog...

    1. Hey, thanks! Re, 50 Shades - yeah, I'm not exactly proud of either, but to be a complete bibliophile, you have to read the bad to appreciate the good, right? ;)

  7. I dread the day I sit down to read Sophie's Choice (and I know I will). I'm glad you have a Worst of list. Nice to know I'm not the only one.