Books I Read (Or Burned) in 2012

You thought since I did a music recap that I wouldn’t do a book one, right? HA! Fooled ya.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

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Fun stuff. If you were alive in the 80s, I’d highly recommend reading this book since it is chock full of lore and references. If you weren’t more than a toddler during the 80s, well, I’m not sure you would really get this book. Maybe you would. I don’t know since I am definitely a child of the 80s and this hit home with a bout of nostalgia. I was vaguely unimpressed by the ending, which seemed a bit too formulaic for my liking, but overall, this is a highly enjoyable read.

All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren

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This is Male’s favorite book. I tried. Really, I did, but I think it took me most of January and all of February to get through it. It is dense. It is well written with interesting characters, but for whatever reason, reading this felt like a chore. I felt like I was in high school, when I had to read all of those awful books in English Lit class. I haven’t been reminded of English Lit in a long time and I’d like to keep it that way.

Reamde by Neal Stephenson

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I love Neal Stephenson. I love him like I love my dog: most of the time she’s great, but there are times I’d like to drown her in the river in a burlap sack. This book is infuriating because it could have been awesome, but it’s not. Neal needs a proper editor in the worst way. I think he’s at the point in his career where his publisher just lets him do whatever the hell he wants, which is a very big mistake. Nearly the entire second half of this book is deus ex machina and the book is over 1,000 pages long. He reused one of his far-flung, unrealistic contrivances three times. As usual, he’s got great characters immersed in an interesting world with a bit of subtle humor and some great writing. It’s maddening because, with an editor who was willing to sit him down and tell him the cold hard facts, this could have been really good. Alas, it wouldn’t be high on my list of Stephenson recommendations.

Neuromancer (Sprawl #1) by William Gibson

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I was a preteen girl when this book was published–not exactly the target audience–so I never read it. Reading it now, I tried to put myself in the mindset and the technological advancements of the 1980s. It was difficult because so much of what he wrote has become reality. Oh, Gibson, if only you had invented words for everything technological like you invented the word “cyberspace,” this book would be just as awesome today as it was then, maybe even more so. However, there’s something jarring about being immersed in a story only to encounter three megabytes of stolen RAM, cassettes and dial-up modems. Even the fashions he describes are terribly 80s. They had the unfortunate effect of taking me right out of the story. That said, the book is otherwise engrossing and really damn good. It’s still a noteworthy science fiction classic and a must-read for sci-fi fans.

Ender’s Game (Ender’s Saga #1) by Orson Scott Card

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And while I was on seminal science fiction classics that I never got around to reading because I wasn’t a teenage geek boy, I read Ender’s Game. I was entirely surprised by how much I genuinely liked this book. I was told that it’s a book written for teenage geek boys. Not being a teenage geek boy, I figured I wouldn’t like it all that much. I was wrong. It’s not the best written book in the world, but the characters and story are good enough to overcome that. It’s short, sweet, to the point. Yay for decent sci-fi!

Gun, With Occasional Music by Jonathan Lethem

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I’m going to let the synopsis describe this one:

Gumshoe Conrad Metcalf has problems-there’s a rabbit in his waiting room and a trigger-happy kangaroo on his tail. Near-future Oakland is a brave new world where evolved animals are members of society, the police monitor citizens by their karma levels, and mind-numbing drugs such as Forgettol and Acceptol are all the rage.

This book is wacky. Talking kangaroos with guns… OK then. But by the end of the book, I was over it. It didn’t even seem weird to me. If you like Chandler or Hammett, this is the classic mystery formula with a twist.

Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway

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If you’ve read any of my previous book posts, you’d know that I think Harkaway’s freshman book, The Gone-Away World, is just bloody brilliant, so when I saw that he wrote a new one, I rushed right out and got it. Angelmaker is good. It’s not Gone-Away World good, but it is a solid second effort and every bit as engaging. It’s just not quite as fast-paced or funny as the first book. I will say this, I liked it better than Stephenson’s REAMDE.

Tokyo Suckerpunch (Billy Chaka #1) by Isaac Adamson

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A long time ago, I happened to pick up a book called Kinki Lullaby: A Billy Chaka Mystery, which I thought was a fun read. Well, I somehow came into contact with the author and I felt guilty that not only had I only read one of his books, but I hadn’t even read the first one in the series. So, I ordered this on up from the library (surprisingly, they had it). I didn’t like the supernatural aspect of this book just thrown in there with no warning, but other than that, I enjoyed it. Eventually, I will read the rest of the series.

Old Man’s War (Old Man’s War #1) by John Scalzi

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Old Man’s War has a creative and interesting premise with capable execution including a little wry humor and great characters. This is really good science fiction. It actually reminds me a little of Ender’s Game with its lucid storytelling, but told from a more adult perspective. Nothing is wasted here. I would like to read the rest of the books, but haven’t gotten around to them yet.

The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy #1-5) by Douglas Adams

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Again. For the nth time. I made it to Squornshellous Zeta in, what, the 3rd or 4th book? I can never seem to get past the mattress part. Still awesome.

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

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It took me over a hundred pages to get into this book. It’s a very depressing take on a very possible future. But once I got into it, I couldn’t put it down. I read the last 100 pages straight through. Good writing, good characters, creative storyline, an all-encompassing, self-created universe in which to play… good stuff.

Going Postal (Discworld #33) by Terry Pratchett

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Fun, clever and generally entertaining, but for some reason, I didn’t love it. Perhaps it was because I picked up #33 in a series to read first. I didn’t know it was a series and this was the only one my library branch had on hand. Pratchett has a dry sense of humor, and while I do find a lot of his sentences quite clever, I can’t exactly say that I found this book funny. There was one line that made me laugh and I can’t even remember what it was now.

Blindness by José Saramago

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I wrote a post about how I absolutely hated the grammatical style of this book, which definitely detracted from my enjoyment of it. Still, there is quite a bit to like here, if you can manage to slog through the run on paragraphs that make up the entire book. The story is good with an interesting point of view, but really, I hate the way it was written. Deserving winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature it is not, but then again, I feel the same about every Nobel Prize winning book I’ve read.

The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death by Charlie Huston

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This was also mentioned in the post I linked in the previous review. GRRR. No quotation marks to be found anywhere! The writing wasn’t even remotely brilliant enough to make up for the ridiculous grammatical choices made by the author. I didn’t care what happened to anyone in the book really besides a few supporting characters. The main character is an irresponsible shithead who takes advantage of everyone around him. You wonder why anyone in his life would tolerate him at all. Meh.

Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem

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Argh, this is one of those infuriating books that could be really good, but somehow, falls short and you’re not exactly sure why. I think it might be the lack of any sort of plot. Halfway through the book, still nothing has really happened. It is well written–Lethem can certainly put great sentences together–but it just doesn’t really go anywhere and I had a hard time caring at all what happened to any of these people. It has moments of brilliance and the rest of the writing is above par, but overall, I didn’t like it as much as Gun, With Occasional Music.

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman

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This book has a cult following. Somehow I completely missed out on reading it until now. I was expecting hilarious satire and I found hardly even chuckleworthy satire instead. Like Going Postal above, it is clever and dryly wry, but I don’t find it particularly funny. A lot of people would be very angry at me for saying that, but you have to remember, I read Hitchhiker’s Guide again this year. Nothing can possibly top that in the funny category.

I keep searching for funny books and coming up short. I also keep searching for awesome modern authors and mostly fail on that, too. I think maybe I’m going to stop searching for funny books and go back to reading non-fiction about Stalin-era Soviet labor camps. I don’t have expectations of humor dashed in books like that.

Recommendations always welcome.

Related FOG posts:
2011 Reading List: First Half
2011 Reading List: Second Half
Books I Read (Or Burned) in 2010

There are 8 comments

  1. Kozo

    I guess I’m a teenage geek boy because I love Orson Scott Card’s Ender series.
    I found Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” funny with a bit of Soviet labor camp tone, so you might enjoy that book. Thanks for the list; now I have somethings to read in 2013. :)

    Like

  2. electronicbaglady

    So many books I love or on my reading list! Gutted about Reamde – it’s on the pile waiting and now I feel a little faint.

    My favourite Terry Pratchett is actually Night Watch – it’s less funny than most but a great story. However it does follow on directly from the previous one, but not in a way that means you need to have read it. For funny I love the witches, and Wyrd Sisters is fantastic.

    I think you have said you are a Neil Gaiman reader so I won’t insult you by listing all those.

    Amusing books – I quite enjoy Jasper Fforde. Gail Carrington has her moments. I suspect either are an acquired taste.

    I really liked CJ Cherryh’s Downbelow Station for hard sci-fi, if you want to geek out, but I know views on it are mixed. If John scalzi is your thing, then have you read Frederick Phl gateway or Kornbluth Space Merchangts?

    Must stop! Hope some of that is of interest :-)

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    1. goldfish

      I will say this about REAMDE, it is an engaging and fast read. There is enough of what I like about Stephenson in here that I didn’t want to stop reading it. If you like Stephenson, I wouldn’t necessarily say don’t read it. Just don’t expect it to be AWESOME.

      Plus, if you hadn’t noticed, I’m a very picky reader.

      I’ll check those out. thanks!

      Like

  3. ruleofstupid

    Yay! I too love Orson Scott Card. I’m a geek boy, but also kind of metro-sexually feminine (hey, I wear fur a lot, it changes you!).
    Stuff I loved: OSC Alvin Maker series; Sadie Jones The Outcast, which was sad and made my face wet; Audrey Niffenengerngenrer (fuck it, why doesn’t she marry Arnold Swartzengergegrgeger and go double barrelled – how amazing would that name be!!) Her Fearful Symmetry; pretty much anything Ian M Banks ever wrote – sci-fi or non – Favourite, Transition. I’ve never got into Terry Pratshit, but I went through both a Robert Rankin and a Tom Holt phase, and they can be kinda funny. Then there’s Michael Morcock Dancers at the end of Time – just great… oh so many, so many… :)

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  4. themisanthropologist

    I really liked Hitchhiker’s, Ender’s Game, RP1 and Good Omens wasn’t bad. Blindness I wasn’t a big fan of. I’m not a fan of stream of consciousness.

    Funny reads….? Hmmm try A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

    Yeah, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz was pretty funny. It’s a bit similar to RP1 except that it’s mostly 90’s sci-fi / fantasy pop culture references.

    Funny Stalin-Era Soviet themed books….try The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (lol)

    Like

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