At the NY Times’ motherlode blog, KJ Dell’Antonia has a post in which she admits that she has read none of the NY Times 100 Notable Books of 2012. I had to laugh, because for a while I had a regular annual post on this blog, where I wrote about which of the Notable Books of the year I had read.
Somewhat to my shock, I have read 10 of the books from the list this year, the most in any year where I’ve been tracking it:
- Bring Up the Bodies, by Hillary Mantel — this is the second in her series about Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII. It’s a quicker read than Wolf Hall, and I liked it a lot.
- NW, by Zadie Smith — had to push to get through this one, given the combination of the stylistic experimentation and the British slang that I didn’t know. Can’t say I felt it was worth the effort.
- This is How You Lose Her, by Junot Diaz. I loved Oscar Wao, but these short stories didn’t work for me.
- What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, by Nathan Englander. A very mixed bag of short stories. A few of them are totally haunting and others were just eh.
- The Yellow Birds, by Kevin Powers. Overwritten, but still compelling. I’m glad I read it, but mostly because I enjoyed talking about it with my dad. His take is that it could have done with one less round of revision.
- Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel. Not nearly as good as Fun Home. I’m just not that interested in therapy.
- Behind the Beautiful Forevers, by Katherine Boo. Stunning and heartbreaking. Shattering.
- Coming Apart, by Charles Murray. I made a point to take this out of the library because I didn’t want Murray to get my money, but was surprised to find how much of this I agreed with. In particular, I think his geographical analysis explains why people who make $250,000 a year don’t think they’re rich — everyone around them makes just as much or more.
- How Children Succeed, by Paul Tough. A quick read. I’ve heard a lot of the pieces before, but it was interesting how he put them together. The contrast between how different schools think about “character” was striking, and made me think about my own parenting values. I’d love to read Murray’s response to the story of the middle school kid who is ranked as a chess master, but got terrible scores on standardized tests– how do you fit that into an pure IQ framework?
- The Passage of Power, by Robert Caro. This took me most of the spring and summer to get through, but was worth it. A very different take on RFK than I’m used to hearing. I still need someone to explain to me why at this time, the Dems wanted to cut taxes and the Republicans didn’t, and when this changed.
I also started Telegraph Avenue, by Michael Chabon, but couldn’t get into it. I seem to either love his books or find them unreadable.
All of these, except for the Caro, I got from the library. I got the Caro on my kindle, because there was no way I was ever going to read it if it involved carrying a 700 page book around. I did manage to destroy my kindle while on vacation (it fell out of its case and something broke), but Amazon gave me a nice discount on a replacement.