Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Recommended Reading: Some Favorites from 2012*

Should a genie offer me a bonus hour for every day, I would make lots of plans and promises for that time. And then I will spend it reading. Actually, I wouldn't because literature clearly teaches never to trust genies.

I love books and stories. My Twitter feed is usually peppered with current reads, new recommendations from friends, and other book talk. I neglect Pinterest and totally abandoned Facebook, but I usually read my daily notifications from Goodreads.

While I have tried to limit my bookish chatter to kids' books and relevant parenting titles, sometimes I can't restrain myself.

So, please forgive me as I shoehorn in a few favorite reads from this year under the guise of holiday shopping.

The Book My Dad and I Agree On:
Don't Ever Get Old by Daniel Friedman
Buck Schatz, a former police detective, goes on the hunt for a Nazi war criminal. Buck has personal reasons to bring the man to justice, but others are searching for the fugitive's rumored fortune in gold. Did I mention that both men are now octogenarians?

Buck's cutting and unvarnished opinions (which he considers the privilege of old age) made my septuagenarian dad laugh so hard that my brother immediately read the book. Then he called me and insisted that I read it too.

We are all waiting for Friedman's next release.

The Book I Immediately Bought My Brother (After Reading a Library Copy):
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
A Western noir. Modern sensibilities, sibling conflict and affinity, and dialogue so bewitching that I wanted to every word of it aloud to bystanders.

Talented assassins Eli and Charlie Sisters pursue an intended victim to remote Western outposts. After a strange night in a mostly abandoned cabin, Eli starts considering their future.

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

The Book I Stole from Jim's To-Read Pile -or-
The Best Dystopian Novel Explaining the Eighties Geek Zeitgeist:
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
If you can remember being really excited about getting an Apple II to display your name or you ever programmed onto an audio cassette, this book will speak to you. I have long thought that the young geeks and gamers of the eighties were conferred a special blessing by history.

This novel about our nation gone wrong (via global warming, hyper-commercialization, and other present-day headlines) offers insight into that strange decade and those who came of age during it. While it's a great dystopian novel for any geek, Eighties geeks may find it as generation-affirming as the Goonies was back in 1985.

The Quirky Book I Made Everyone Read
The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
The Fangs specialize in family drama. Years of creating awkward scenes as spontaneous performance art have left the siblings known to the world as Child A and Child B with some serious emotional baggage.

Annie, now famous for her acting (and some unfortunate internet memes) and Buster, an entertainment journalist specializing in thrill-seeking exploits, avoid their parents at all costs. Until Buster finds himself injured and unemployed and Annie's career publicly implodes. Then their parents vanish leaving behind only a bloody van at an out-of-state rest park.

The Book That Carried Me Away
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Make sure everyone is well fed before you crack the covers of this one.

A grudge-match competition between two aging magicians results in a circus unlike any other.

My Geeky Beach Read Recommendation
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
One of my dearest friends asked me for a book to read while on the beach in Jamaica. She didn't really get into reading until Harry Potter, so I sent her back to this wonderful book behind the wonderful film of the same title.

Even if you have seen the movie a million times, the book is not to be missed.

My Favorite Geek Love Story
Bellwether by Connie Willis
Sheep and the slings and arrows of corporate culture. The wry humor in this slim little novel just captured my heart entirely.

A trend-hunter working in an ever-expanding bureaucracy tries to find out why women bobbed their hair.

Short Stories with Strange Sensibilities
Sorry Please Thank You by Charles Yu
Delightfully unexpected stories that I just wanted to savor. Even though I read the book month ago, just this weekend Jim practically shouted "I'm reading that now," when I flipped open a library copy he checked out (and left on the kitchen table- I argue that makes it fair game).

The collection opens with a call center in the developing world that outsources pain and grief. It wanders through the Star Trek universe with a recently promoted redshirt in "Yeoman" (everyone who has seen Trek must read this). The 2-person skeleton shift in a big box store find a finger in the aisle, and then the zombie who dropped it. And (I promise I won't mention all of the stories individually) in "Troubleshooting"is so wonderfully mind-bending that it reminds me of the movie Primer.

And Not to Get Lost in a World of Fiction
Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick
Want to know what life is like after electricity? This startling book looks at what happens when the lights truly go out.

Through interviews with North Korean refugees and expatriots, Barbara Demick draws a gripping presentation of a hidden nation and the people struggling to live in it.

This non-fiction work by LA Times' Beijing bureau chief made me recognize so many of my own cherished assumptions I have about modern life. This book tugs at the same psychological knots as zombies and futuristic dystopias.

There are so many more titles I could mention (don't even get me started about zombies), but I'm stopping now.

What great books are you reading?
Should I post more often about books like these- or just keep it on Goodreads?

*It took a lot of restraint not to title this post, "I like big books and I cannot lie."

***Baby Toolkit is a bootstrap blog written by Midwestern geek parents (between books, boo-boos and bedtimes). We're Amazon affiliates so a portion of purchases made through our links help pay our domain name fees and library fines (THANKS!). All of the books discussed in this post were provided by our public library and/or purchased by us (though we do selectively accept review copies). If you like board games, check out our Great Big Table podcast.


Anna said...

You absolutely should have titled it that, or at least put it as a subtitle up top. :)

Karen said...

Loved this post! Keep them up!

Francie said...

Picked up my copy of Nothing to Envy yesterday. Now I've just got to break it open...?!!

Maybe while sitting in audience to await son's school choir program tonight? I am encouraged to get there 1 hr before performance to get seats, and the show will last 30 min max -- ha!

Hugs to you, one of my FAVORITE readers!