Friday, January 4, 2013

The Best Books of 2012 (According to Me Only, Of Course!)


I love it when books take centre stage and there is a great scene in David O. Russell's wildly exhilarating and heart-felt new movie, Silver Linings Playbook, where a book makes a fantastic cameo appearance. In the film, Bradley Cooper plays, Pat, a man with bipolar disorder who is struggling to  see past the shards of his broken marriage. In one of many unhinged attempts to woo back his wife, a high school English teacher, Pat decides to connect with her by reading her entire syllabus. He starts with Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises. The better part of a day and most of a night are spent sinking into the tomb and by day's end - 4 in the morning to be exact - Pat is done. How do we know he's done? He takes the book and flings it so violently across the room that it promptly smashes through window, shattering it and waking up the entire neighbourhood. I know I should have been slightly horrified but I could barely sustain my glee. Who hasn't wanted to do this, I thought to myself? And how many times did I almost do that very thing this year? Hello, 50 Shades of Grey. I'm looking at you.

This year's Black By Popular Demand annual book report - my list of the books that I read and thought were the best distractions of the year -  contains no "Flingers". There isn't a single book on this list that you would even contemplate throwing out a window. It should be noted that this year, I was down on  my book count and if I am to believe the list I update to your right, I only read 45 or so books in 2012. I was off my game for several reasons: writing my own stuff, watching Homeland and eating come to mind. Mostly, though, I seemed to have been drawn to some big-ass books this year. Four were over 700 pages. Odd. Why was I drawn to bricks, I wonder? Unknown. But I will tell you this? None of them hit anyone the head but me. And I mean that in a good way.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

This was my favourite read by far this year. I blogged about it, I pushed it on others, I forced my mother-in-law's book club to read it. Phenomenal. The plot is anything but simple: Nick Dunne's wife disappears on their fifth anniversary and though at first he seems like the ideal husband, things start to .....turn. Turns out she's no peach, either. The twists, the turns, the twisted! It doesn't get much better than this. Read it.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Some of the best reads nowadays can be found on the YA shelf. Why is that, you ask? Because kids aren't afraid to confront sadness the way adults do. In this one, a 16-year-old girl falls in love while coping with terminal cancer. Sounds like fun, huh? As gut wrenchingly sad as Stars can be, it finds it's joy in the unlikeliest places. Smart, clever, wise, it's a must read.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

I am a bit of a freak when it comes to books that deal with nature but if you aren't drawn to the outdoors it won't matter. This book isn't just a memoir about one woman solo hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. It's about survival off the trail. Finding your strength after coming through a divorce, the death of your mother and heroine abuse. Oh, and there are also rattlesnakes, dehydration, bears and sex in tents. It is called Wild, after all. The book offers the best life lesson of all: putting one foot ahead of the other will always get you to where you want to be. Even when your toe nails are falling off.

Are You my Mother by Alison Bechdel

In this amazing follow-up to her first brilliant graphic novel, Fun Home, artist and writer Alison Bechdel thrillingly takes on her mother - voracious reader, music lover, passionate amateur actor - but also a woman, unhappily married to a closeted gay man, whose artistic aspirations simmered under the surface of Bechdel's childhood. Poignantly and hilariously, Bechdel embarks on a quest for answers concerning the mother-daughter gulf and it's a richly layered search that leads readers from psycho-therapy to Dr. Seuss to Bechdel’s own (serially monogamous) adult love life. And, finally, back to Mother and real-time truce that will move and astonish all adult children.

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