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Old 12-04-2012, 12:50 PM   #1
sun surfer
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The Best of Times, The Worst of Times 2012 - Your Fave & Least Fave Reads of the Year

Now that the year is drawing to a close, what were your favourite and least favourite reads of the year? The book could've come out in any year, but it should be one you read in 2012.


There's still a month left so mine might be added to slightly depending, but so far, my favourite reads of the year have been:

Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman - Who would've thought poetry from the 19th century could feel so immediate, refreshing, inspiring and modern? There is some filler that's not as good, but when this book is good, it's incredible. Though it's missing a few of the better poems, I'd recommend the shorter and more concise First Edition over the more bloated Deathbed Edition.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy - Tolstoy's broad and encompassing style manages to stay realistic and insightful and poetic at times despite such a large undertaking. I was supposed to read this in 2011 for the book club but didn't manage to finish it until 2012.

Middlemarch by George Eliot - Another wonderfully broad classic that focuses on one little English town but manages to delve into the lives of so many different and even disparate characters and situations around the town. I'd started reading this one years ago but finally finished it this year.

Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald - A wonderful novel about a young and glamourous well-off American couple on a very extended stay in Europe in the early 20th century, the group of characters surrounding them and their psychological problems and romantic entanglements.

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro - A beautiful, restrained story about an aging dedicated butler in a dying way of life and a possible chance at romance. The film was good, but the book is so much better.

A Room with a View by E. M. Forster - A great romance with comedic touches about a young blossoming girl manoeuvring her way through a repressed society but fading/slowly changing way of life, the book beginning at a small hotel during a vacation tour of Italy, where the girl and her cousin/chaperone are lamenting not having a room with a view. The film version was also magnificent, a really superb adaptation that's almost better than the book...actually I think it was even better than the book. Like Anna Karenina, I was supposed to read this in 2011 for the book club (it was the pick the very first month I participated) but didn't manage to finish it until 2012.


As for my least favourite reads of the year:

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman - My only 1-star rated book of the year, about a man drawn into the "underground" world of London, where in the unwanted, unused areas of London, such as the tunnels underground, a thriving but magical and invisible dank, dingy, dark and dangerous world is alive. I really just didn't enjoy it and found it badly written and the fantasy universe of the story ill-defined and nonsensical, and the comedy in it mostly bad. I was disappointed with it being the first Gaiman I'd read and having heard good things about him. Perhaps it's because (as I found out afterwards) that contrary to the normal book-to-screen process, it was written based on a television series.

A View without a Room by E. M. Forster - a two-page "sequel" or even "epilogue" to A Room with a View, written many years later as, I think, an article for a magazine. Completely unnecessary, it drearily follows the main characters lives through the two world wars and beyond, aiming for a drab, ho-hum and almost bleak realism. If you like or read A Room with a View, I recommend avoiding this altogether.

Black Rain by Masuji Ibuse - A depressing book about a family present during the Hiroshima bombing and the terrible effects of the bomb and the long-term aftereffects of the poisonous "black rain" - the rain that fell soon after the bomb that was full of extremely toxic substances but that not everyone realised in time was dangerous. I realise the importance of the book, but I think it just tried to hit me over the head one too many times with the horror. If you are already anti-bomb and have already heard plenty of times about the devastation bombs can cause, then this book is not only preaching to the choir but trying to deeply depress the choir as well. I'm not really a fan of realistic and bleak war stories anyway, especially such depressing and realistic ones as this. There were a few beautiful passages mostly related to the family's small-town life before the bomb, but they were eclipsed by the relentless and graphic descriptions of during and after the bomb. I watched the Japanese film version of this novel after reading it and it was actually better than the book - with only two hours you don't have to stay in that world so long.


So what are yours?

Last edited by sun surfer; 12-04-2012 at 02:08 PM.
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