I read fewer books last year in than any year since at least 2007, which is the year I started counting. (It’s not looking too great for this year either; so far I’ve read only four and am in the middle of a fifth.) I read 231 books in 2012, or .63 books a day. The first was Lemony Snicket’s Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can’t Avoid, which is a book of quotes, many of them excruciatingly funny. The last was Sunrise West by Jacob G. Rosenberg, a Holocaust memoir which was okay, but mediocre compared to his pre-Holocaust memoir, East of Time, which was awesome and is now on my “books I want to own” list.
I had hoped to finish my “around the world” project in 2012. I’ve been working on the ATW project for three and a half years now. For the uninitiated, I’m trying to read one book for every country in the world, plus some places that aren’t countries but should be, such as Tibet. (For Tibet I read a book by the Dalai Lama’s mom.) Unfortunately, I haven’t quite finished the project; I have yet to read books for Bahrain and Suriname. Oh, well. But I’ll surely finish it by the end of 2013. In 2012 I did read the following ATW books:
A Teenager in the Chad Civil War: A Memoir of Survival, 1982-1986 for Chad, by Esaie Toingar (reviewed)
Jazz, Perfume & the Incident for East Timor, by Seno Gumira Ajidarma (reviewed)
Purge for Estonia, by Sofi Oksanen
Notes from the Hyena’s Belly: An Ethiopian Boyhood for Ethiopia, by Nega Mezlekia
The Fish Child for Paraguay, by Lucia Puenzo (reviewed)
My Faraway Home: An American Family’s WWII Tale of Adventure and Survival in the Jungles of the Philippines for the Philippines, by Mary McKay Maynard (reviewed)
Caribbean Chemistry: Tales from St. Kitts for St. Kitts and Nevis, by Christopher Vanier (reviewed)
Against the Odds: The Political Path of Ivy Joshua for St. Vincent and Grenadines, by Theresa Daniel
Tamaitai Samoa: Their Stories for Samoa, edited by Peggy Fairbairn-Dunlop (reviewed)
Seychelles Global Citizen: The Autobiography of the Founding President for the Seychelles, by James R. Mancham (reviewed)
Bamboo Shoots After the Rain: Contemporary Stories by Women Writers of Taiwan for Taiwan, edited by Ann C. Carver and Sung-sheng Yvonne Chang
Hurramabad for Tajikistan, by Andrei Volos
When in Rome: A Journal of Life in the Vatican City for the Vatican City, by Robert J. Hutchinson
Other notable books for 2012, ones which I found especially good (curiously, only one of these is a novel). Alphabetically by author:
The Final Leap: Suicide on the Golden Gate Bridge by John Bateson. See my review, as well as an argument with someone opposed to an anti-suicide barrier, here. I finally got tired of fighting with her and quit.
Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan. The author’s account of how, as a journalist in her early twenties, she was struck stark raving mad with what looked like schizophrenia at first but turned out to be a very rare and horrible auto-immune disease of the brain that almost killed her. She was only like the 50th person to be diagnosed with it. This was a Christmas gift, and after I read it I lent it to each of my parents, who were both mesmerized by it.
Only Beautiful, Please: A British Diplomat in North Korea by John Everard. I reviewed it here; suffice it to say I learned more about average life in the DPRK from this book than I have from any of the other books I’ve read on North Korea.
The Devil’s Staircase by Helen Fitzgerald. An interesting Australian young adult novel incorporating first love, Huntington’s Disease and a serial killer.
Married to Bhutan by Linda Leaming. The American author fell in love with Bhutan (a nation I myself have been in love with for about fifteen years) and wound up marrying a guy from there. My review is here.
Brooklyn Zoo: The Education of a Psychotherapist by Darcy Lockman. I got a free copy of this from LibraryThing, in exchange for reviewing it. A lot of Amazon reviewers didn’t like the book — or it seems like more that they didn’t like the author — but I really enjoyed it and learned a lot from it.
The Western Lit Survival Kit: An Irreverent Guide to the Classics, from Homer to Faulkner by Sandra Newman. I reviewed this here.
A World of Curiosities: Surprising, Interesting, and Downright Unbelievable Facts from Every Nation on the Planet by John Oldale. Lovely trivia; my review is here.
Last Letters From Stalingrad, edited by Franz Schneider. It was fascinating and I reviewed it here. It should be noted that some historians believe the letters were a hoax. I’m not in a position to judge and will just assume they’re the real deal; in any case they gave me a lot to think about.
The Great Big Book of Horrible Things: The Definitive Chronicle of History’s 100 Worst Atrocities by Matthew White. Anyone who buys me this will become my best friend for the week.
The Arsenic Century: How Victorian Britain Was Poisoned at Home, Work, and Play by James C. Whorton. I’m also dying to get my hands on a copy of this.
Botchki: When Doomsday Was Still Tomorrow by David Zagier. I got this as a Christmas gift after I read it and put it on my “books I want to own” list. It’s a beautiful but unsentimental memoir of growing up in a Polish-Jewish shtetl in the 1920s and 1930s, just before (as the title points out) that way of life was destroyed forever. I reviewed it.