What I Read in 2012

I read just over 30 books in 2012. So sue me. I’m a slow reader. There was only one year when I managed to read a book a week. I’m not sure how I accomplished that since it happened when my kids were still fairly young. With work, writing and family, I must’ve stolen a hefty number of minutes to read. Maybe I was just more efficient with my time. Or maybe I read very short books. Maybe it was sheer resolution. But until I retire from my job, I don’t expect to read anywhere near 52 books a year.

The sad thing is even when I do retire, I still won’t get to get to read all the books I’d like to read. So many books, blah blah. But it’s all too true. And I almost never read a book the year it’s published due to the backlog teetering on my night stand and crowding my desk. At any rate, here’s my tally for 2012:

Two books of poetry. I know—it’s pathetic how little poetry I read, particularly when there are so many wonderful poets in my city. I loved both of these books. Here’s a line from my review of Elizabeth’s Austin’s Every Dress a Decision on Amazon: “Reading these poems in order from the opening poem “House Fire” to the last, “Shi Shi Beach,” is a heartbreaking, hopeful journey in which the natural world is both indifferent and healing to the wounds we suffer.”

The poems in Plume by Washington State Poet Laureate (and one of the loveliest people you’ll ever meet) Kathleen Flenniken, are nostalgic and haunting. Their subject is the advent and early years of the atomic age, which Flenniken, who grew up near the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, addresses through a personal as well as historical lens.

Up next on my to-read stack: In Broken Latin by Annette Spaulding-Convy

Fourteen story collections. I’m not surprised that story collections constituted the bulk of my reading for the year. I read them for the quick satisfaction of a story and also to experience several stories in a sitting. If I have to choose a favorite it would be This is Not Your City by Caitlin Horrocks. After each story, I whispered wow to myself. But I also loved Monstress by Lysley Tenorio, For Sale by Owner by Kelcey Parker, Delicate Edible Birds by Lauren Groff, So There! by Nicole Louise Reid and Mrs. Somebody Somebody by Tracy Winn.

Up next on my to-read stack: Drifting House by Krys Lee, People are Strange by Eric Gamalinda, Watering Heaven by Peter Tieryas Liu, and All the Roads that Lead From Home by Anne Leigh Parrish.

Nine novels. My favorite was Billy Lynn’s Long Half-Time Walk by Ben Fountain with We Had it So Good by Linda Grant a very close second. I’m a fan of both of these writers. I loved Fountain’s story collection Brief Encounters with Che Guevara and have read two of Grant’s previous novels. Choosing favorites is hard so I’m throwing in another book I loved: R. Zamora Linmark’s Leche, a lively, colorful and captivating novel about a young man’s return to his birthplace, the Philippines.

Up next on my to-read stack: Arcadia by Lauren Groff, The Year We Left Home by Jean Thompson, and The Names of Things by John Colman Wood

Six memoirs. I’m surprised by the number of memoirs on the list since it’s not a genre I’m particularly drawn to. My top two: Cheryl Strayed’s Wild about her determined 1,100 mile trek to find herself (see my review), and Lidia Yuknavitch’s frank and painful and beautiful The Chronology of Water. And I want to mention Bigger Than Life: A Murder, A Memoir by Dinah Lenney, which I described on Goodreads as “an excellent read about grief and tragedy and being human.”

On my list to add to my to-read stack: The Boy Kings of Texas by Domingo Martinez

One non-fiction. I love the movie West Side Story and I loved reading the story behind it and those geniuses Jerome Robbins, Leonard Bernstein, and Steven Sondheim in Something’s Coming, Something Good: West Side Story and the American Imagination by arts critic Misha Berson. Bit of trivia: the actor Jose de Vega who played Chino in the movie went to high school with my mother.

Currently reading: Henry Darrow: Lightning in the Bottle by Jan Pippins. (Henry Darrow, who played Manolito Montoya on The High Chaparral in the late ‘60s, was my teenage crush.)

One book on writing. I don’t often read books on writing straight through, but the essays in Robert Boswell’s The Half-Known World: On Writing Fiction were interesting, fun to read, and thought-provoking. Also, one of his essays has inspired me to read work by Alice Dark.

On my list to add to my short story to-read stack: In the Gloaming by Alice Elliott Dark

Looking forward to another year of good reading.