Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed my liststravaganza (listsplosion?) this week. As is tradition, I’m finishing with this survey, then I promise to get back to reviewing books. Keep your eyes peeled later this week for my upcoming blogiversary announcement…it is a good one!
Oldest book read: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (1844)
Longest book read: Also The Count of Monte Cristo (1276 pages)
Most-read review: This one completely blew my mind and kind of still does: How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran. I posted that thing at midnight, and by the time I woke up it was already the most-viewed post in the history of this blog. It went on to get who knows how many thousands of views at PostBourgie and ONTD, and then Feministing linked to the review, so it’s gotten a few thousand hits on this blog too. I’m just like…whoa.
Favorite bookish moment: I had a few: being a finalist for a Goodreads award was really cool. Participating in World Book Night was a lot of fun (and before Caitlin Moran happened, that was my most-read post). And, of course, meeting Junot again!
Guiltiest pleasure: 50 Shades of Grey. It is atrociously stupid, I mocked it mercilessly, and I don’t know how anyone can get off on that because personally I was too busy laughing, but um…I plan to read the other two.
Most pleasant surprise: Second Person Singular by Sayed Kashua. Little did I know it would become my favorite book of 2012.
Favorite blogger recommendation: American Dervish by Ayad Akhtar, which I saw at S. Krishna’s Books. This is one of my honorable mentions for my favorite novels of 2012.
I’ll have a wrap up post tomorrow, but this is my last formal list for 2012 favorites. The thing that most stood out while making this list is how much authors of color kicked ass in short stories this year. I decided to keep the list down to three, but even if I’d expanded it to five, all of the authors would be POC!
Monstress by Lysley Tenorio (2012): This book went criminally under noticed last year, but I adored it. The collection heavily features Filipinos and Filipino Americans, and the stories have such a perfect mix of humor and heartache. The writing is exquisite. Read my review here.
Sorry Please Thank You by Charles Yu (2012): This collection is at times futuristic and science fiction-ish, yet also manages to feel very contemporary. It is a fun, strange book that will keep you on your toes. Read my review here.
This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz (2012): Well. You knew this would be here, right? Read my review here.
This one goes out to Gerda Lerner.
I devote a lot of my nonfiction reading to women’s history and women’s studies — in fact, that’s all I feature on this blog during Women’s History Month — so rather than lump these books in with the rest of my nonfiction favorites, I always like to feature them on their own list. Everything here is in alphabetical order.
Feminism FOR REAL ed. by Jessica Yee (2011)
This anthology aims to take feminism out of the “academic industrial complex.” The writers, many of whom are Native American, struggle with what feminism means within the context of colonization, and raises important questions about the relevance of “academic feminism” to real life.
Girls Like Us by Rachel Lloyd (2011)
GEMS founder Rachel Lloyd uses her own experiences as a teenager as an entry point into a sobering look at modern-day sex trafficking in the United States. Each chapter is devoted to each stage of the cycle in which teens are trapped an exploited. It’s an important book. Read my review here.
Helen Keller by Dorothy Herrmann (1999)
This is a fascinating biography that takes readers far beyond The Miracle Worker and creates a fuller portrait of Helen Keller, who had a whirlwind life. It also looks at her codependent relationship with Annie Sullivan, who carefully cultivated Keller’s myth but also knew how to manipulate her pupil even as an adult. Read my review here.
2012 was a very strong year for novels, so this was a hard list to narrow down! I read 62 novels last year; here are my top 10. The first three are ranked; everything else is listed in alphabetical order by title.
Second Person Singular by Sayed Kashua (2012)
Two men must suppress certain aspects of their Arab identities in order to find success in Jerusalem. One man is an intensely jealous lawyer who is convinced his wife is having an affair; the other is a social worker in a period of transition. It’s complex, satirical, and thought-provoking…hands down my favorite! Read my review here.
The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin (2012)
Two pregnant girls show up on William Talmage’s farm, clearly runaways. He tries to help them as best he can, leaving them food and trying to earn their trust, but his solitary way of life is turned upside down when it becomes clear exactly what the girls are running away from. It’s a breathtaking debut. Read my review here.
The Round House by Louise Erdrich (2012)
A woman is brutally raped on the Ojibwe reservation, but the authorities have their hands tied as to how to proceed. Told through the eyes of the woman’s son, the book shows the devastating effects on the family. It’s nuanced and timely, considering how closely it reflects current events. Read my review here.
58.5 of the books I read in 2012 were nonfiction: 34 general nonfiction, 15 memoirs, and 7 essay collections (the 0.5 comes from an anthology that was a mix of fiction and nonfiction). That’s 1.5 more nonfiction books than I read last year. 2012 was also pretty awesome because this blog was a finalist in the Goodreads Independent Book Blogger Awards in the nonfiction category! I’ve had a pretty terrific year in nonfiction reading.
Most of the books on this list are from 2012, though a few are from the past couple of years. My three favorites are featured first; the rest of the books on the list are in alphabetical order. Since a significant portion of my nonfiction reading is devoted to women’s history and women’s studies, I split the list; that one will appear later this week:
The Influencing Machine by Brooke Gladstone (2011)
Does the media control what we think? No! insists NPR’s Brooke Gladstone. She provides a brilliant, complex analysis of the ways that the media and the public play off each other to create a distorted hall of mirrors. It’s witty, it’s entertaining, and it’s all presented in comic book form! Read my review here.
The Little Red Guard by Wenguang Huang (2012)
Living in Xi’an under Mao’s rule, traditional Chinese rituals were forbidden. Yet at the age of 71, Huang’s grandmother becomes insistent that she wants to be buried rather than cremated, and her family spends the next fifteen years secretly planning a funeral that is forbidden by the government. It’s positively fascinating. Read my review here.
Drift by Rachel Maddow (2012)
The average person’s concept of what it means to be at war is far from what the founding fathers had in mind when they sat down to write the Constitution. Focusing on key decisions by US presidents from the past few decades, Maddow shows how the country’s involvement in war(s) and the military industrial complex became what it is today. Read my review here.
Happy New Year!
From being a finalist in the Goodreads awards to participating in World Book Night to meeting Junot again, I definitely had my share of bookish highlights in 2012. One of my biggest accomplishments was the number of books I read: 134! It’s weird and completely unheard of (for me, anyway), but yeah…somehow I managed to get through 134 books this year. That’s 37,236 pages and somewhere in the neighborhood of 202 hours of audiobook listening! This is what my year in reading boiled down to:
I think I’m getting better at finding books I like and putting down books I don’t like (I used to be one of those people who always finished a book no matter what, and I’m trying to let that go). I ended up reading 13 short story collections, 35 general nonfiction books (this is kind of a misnomer, but anything that isn’t a memoir or essay collection is lumped in here), 16 memoirs, 62 novels, 7 essay collections, and 1 anthology of both fiction and nonfiction. The most surprising thing of this year was how many novels I read. There was a big jump up from last year and I couldn’t figure out what it was.
Well, this week has been a fun trip down literary memory lane. Unlike last year, I (thankfully) didn’t read enough egregiously horrendous books to warrant a Worst of 2011 list, so I modified last year’s end-of-year survey and decided to end with a bunch of randomness that didn’t fit in anywhere else:
Oldest book read: A Vindication on the Rights of Women by Mary Wollstonecraft, first published in 1792.
Longest book read: The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir; my edition clocked in at 976 pages.
Most-read review: Surprisingly, it was She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth by Helen Castor. Who would’ve thought? But I have a feeling if I’d published my review of Vegan Cookies Take Over Your Cookie Jar earlier in the year, it would easily win in a landslide.
Favorite bookish moment: Meeting Sandra Cisneros, then finding out she linked to my blog from her Facebook page! That remains the most-viewed post of all time on this blog. But seriously, I could care less about the stats…I met Sandra Cisneros!
Guiltiest pleasure: Sweet Valley Confidential. The writing is atrocious, but the book rocks my world. And you know what? I don’t even feel guilty about saying that!
Most pleasant surprise: The Wandering Falcon by Jamil Ahmad felt almost surreal. I loved it.
Today I’m wrapping up my favorite nonfiction reads of 2011 by focusing on a subject near and dear to my heart: feminism! A lot of these were some of the best books I read all year in any genre. Without further ado, here were my five favorite feminist reads listed in alphabetical order by title:
A Xicana Codex of Changing Consciousness: Writings, 2000-2010 by Cherríe Moraga (2011)
With its focus on learning from the past and the concept of “(w)riting to remember,” Moraga’s latest work positively blew me away. It’s a mix of poetry and personal essays that explore the painful realities of being a mother and queer woman of color in the 21st century. It will always have a permanent place on my shelf. Read my review here.
Arab & Arab American Feminisms: Gender, Violence, & Belonging ed. by Rabab Abdulhadi, Evelyn Alsultany, and Nadine Naber (2011)
Hands down, one of the top three books I read in 2011. It’s an anthology of essays that focus on Arab and Arab American feminists’ experiences. I cannot stress enough how much I learned from these essays. I’m not exaggerating: every self-identified feminist needs to read it. Read my review here.
F ‘em!: Goo Goo, Gaga, and Some Thoughts on Balls by Jennifer Baumgardner (2011)
In you’re looking for a nuanced book on feminism that’s accessible to a wide audience (i.e., something not mired in academic jargon), F’ em! is a great option. Baumgardner collects some of her previously published essays and interviews various prominent second, third, and fourth wave feminists. Read my review here.
As I said in yesterday’s post, I’m splitting my nonfiction lists into three parts. Today’s list: memoirs. I almost never used to read memoirs, but it seems I couldn’t stop picking them up in 2011! I listed my favorites in alphabetical order by title.
Let’s Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship by Gail Caldwell (2010)
“I had a friend and we shared everything, and then she died and so we shared that, too.” And so begins Caldwell’s beautiful tribute to her friend Caroline Knapp, who died in 2002 at the age of 42. I’m not gonna lie: I actually burst into tears at one point.
Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal by Conor Grennan (2011)
Conor Grennan signed up for a 3-month stint as a volunteer at the Little Princes Children’s Home in Nepal, but ended up returning to become more involved in the fight against child trafficking. Aside from a few issues I mentioned in my review, I did love the story.
Never the Hope Itself: Love and Ghosts in Latin America and Haiti by Gerry Hadden (2011)
A fast-paced, very enjoyable look at the life of an NPR correspondent who covered Haiti, Central America, and Mexico. Hadden also provides interesting insight on how those areas of the world changed after the events of September 11. Read my review here.
I’m doing something a little different with my nonfiction lists this year. 50 of the books I read in 2011 were nonfiction; about a third of them were memoirs and a third were specifically related to feminism. I decided to split my “best of” lists accordingly. These are my five favorite general nonfiction books listed in alphabetical order by title:
Columbine by Dave Cullen (2009)
You think you know why Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold went on their killing spree at Columbine High School like they did, and you think you know what happened during the subsequent investigation…but you don’t! The media quickly jumped to conclusions, and that’s been the official story ever since. Cullen’s meticulous research shows that nearly everything that was fed to the public was a lie.
The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon (2011)
After the Taliban took over Kabul, women were forced to stay home and couldn’t work. In order to support her siblings, a determined young woman named Kamila Sidiqi started her own dressmaking business from home and was eventually able to help local women support themselves as well. Amazing story. Read my review here.
Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario (2006)
Sonia Nazario recreates the journey of an undocumented immigrant who made the dangerous journey from Honduras to the United States in search of his mother. It’s an incredible look at what many undocumented immigrants suffer through for a chance at a better life. Based on Nazario’s Pulitzer-winning newspaper series. Read my review here.