Reading, 2012

This was my second year participating in the Goodreads Reading Challenge, and I stretched a bit, setting a goal of reading 110 books, ten more than my 2011 goal. I’m thrilled to report I made it to 111. Sure, I fit a few graphic novels in, but not so many that it felt like padding my totals, and I didn’t completely forego reading long books either. (Although I think The Name of the Wind could have been edited down some. Or a lot.) Naturally, not all 111 books were equally memorable, but years from now, I’m likely to remember reading the following:

  • Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain (10/10; finished 2/26/2012): I’ve already blogged about Quiet at some length, so I’ll just say here that it was about introversion, it was interesting, and it’s on my hypothetical list of Books to Recommend to Those Who Don’t Get Why Some People Like Staying Home on Friday Night.
  • The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (5/10; finished 3/1/2012): When this book came out, practically everyone raved about it, so I was really looking forward to it. I grant it has a compelling plot and is a real page-turner (or button-clicker in this case, as I was reading it on the Kindle). But…but…it’s a self-insertion fic. A Gary Stu. Readable, yes, which many self-insertion fics aren’t, but why the endless praise? (And I am so glad I didn’t buy a copy.)
  • How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier (8/10; finished 3/13/2012): A fun YA fantasy set in a world pretty much like ours except that almost everyone has a personal fairy, a magical gift that’s usually helpful. Unfortunately the narrator is stuck with a parking fairy (she’s too young to drive) and her classmate has an all-boys-like-you fairy (not so great when it means all-girls-hate-you). Chaos ensues.
  • At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson (9/10; finished 4/7/2012): Certainly this book was shorter than it would be if Bryson had set out to write a complete history of all the disparate elements that form private life, but I hesitate to call a 513-page book “short.” So yes, it was kind of longish and wandering, organized loosely around the structure of a house (the hall, the bedroom, the kitchen), and stuffed full of interesting trivia—definitely worth the wandering.
  • The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elizabeth Tova Bailey (10/10; finished 6/6/2012): I rarely read memoirs. If I were to get into reading memoirs, I doubt reading memoirs about illness would be the first ones to appeal to me. This is a memoir about being ill that is wrapped in a nature study of snails, and with the snail definitely the focus of the work, I found it captivating. Unfortunately I can never seem to describe it in an enticing way.
  • Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey (10/10; finished 7/28/2012): A fantasy novel set in New Zealand which makes use of both Maori and European mythology. Yes, it’s got a teenage girl protagonist who tells the story in first person, as so many fantasies do nowadays. But I thought Ellie was believably flawed even with her magic, this isn’t a dystopian novel, and Healey makes the secondary characters distinctive and important to the story, so I figure it’s pretty darned original overall.

And since these three sort of go together, I am splitting them off from the rest.

  • The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science—and Reality by Chris Mooney (10/10; finished 5/25/2012)
  • The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt (10/10; finished 9/15/2012)
  • Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think by George Lakoff (8/10; finished 11/19/2012)

The presidential election notwithstanding, I had no intentions of reading political books this year. I only started The Republican Brain because I hoped it would tell me something about liberal psychology—Mooney had to compare Republican brains to something, right? As it turned out, the book really was more about conservative psychology than anything else, but I found it fascinating, so when Amazon recommended The Righteous Mind, I dove in. I found it meatier and probably more useful long-term than The Republican Brain, and months later I’m still pondering Haidt’s Moral Foundations theory. So finally, after sixteen years or so, I read Moral Politics. It wasn’t as organized as The Righteous Mind (nothing is that organized!), and sometimes it was heavy going, but Lakoff’s explanations of Strong Father and Nurturant Parent morality are a lot more nuanced in the book than when summarized in others’ writings, and they’re still applicable today.

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