What makes a great book? At first glance, that’s an incredibly loaded question. There is a huge subjective element, and the factor of reading the right book at the right time is certainly not one to be discounted. Further, there is the element of comparing apples to oranges – how does a non-fiction rate against a graphic novel?
Still despite these challenges, there tend to be certain books that stand out each year. These are books that even if the genre is not quite your cup of tea, you may still be able to appreciate them for what they are. At the end of the year many people and organizations feel the need to publish the “best of the year” book lists, and I find this is the perfect opportunity to see what books are making multiple appearances.
With that in mind, I close the 2012 monthly book lists with an assembly of this information, for your reading pleasure.
- Goodreads Choice Awards: http://www.goodreads.com/choiceawards/best-books-2012
- NYTimes (10 Best): http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/09/books/review/10-best-books-of-2012.html
- NYTimes (100 Notable): http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/02/books/review/100-notable-books-of-2012.html?ref=review
- Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/best-books-of-2012/2012/11/16/e2d9c2f8-2f3d-11e2-ac4a-33b8b41fb531_gallery.html
- HoPo: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/16/best-books-2012_n_1952748.html#slide=more255755
- Slate: http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/books/2012/11/best_books_2012_slate_staff_picks_their_favorites.html
- Oprah: http://www.oprah.com/book-list/The-Best-Books-of-2012
- BookRiot: http://bookriot.com/2012/12/05/book-riots-best-books-of-2012/
Ones I haven’t Gotten to Yet
- The Fault in Our Stars
- Beautiful Ruins
- The Casual Vacancy
Elementary my dear Watson! While Mr. Sherlock Holmes has always been a popular character, there is a lot of attention on the slender sleuth these days so it seemed appropriate for October’s list to be Sherlock Holmes inspired. The rogue detective has been making appearances in a new series of movies (played by Robert Downey Jr in Sherlock Holmes, and Sherlock Holmes 2: A Game of Shadows), as well as TV shows (played by Bennedict Cumberbatch in Sherlock, in the new CBS Series Elementary with ??? and Lucy Liu, and of course he was the inspiration for medical detection series, House).
And of course there are the books. Despite a host of terrible spin-offs (I will admit, I attempted reading Sherlock Holmes and the Pirates. I did not finish it), there are some great reads. And lets not overlook the original series! Check out:
* The Originals: Four books and a collection of short stories by Arthur Conan Doyle
- A Study in Scarlet
- The Sign of the Four
- Hound of the Baskervilles
- Valley of Fear
* The House of Silk
* The Sherlockian
Note – see NY Time article: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/12/science/seeing-and-thinking-like-sherlock-holmes.html
* Mastermind: How to Think like Sherlock Holmes
* The Scientific Sherlock Holmes
Note: The other inspirations are far too numerous to include here, but I will mention it was a Sherlock quote that inspired the title for “The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night” as well as one of my childhood favorites, the Great Mouse Detective!
Note: If you find yourself in London, check out the Sherlock Holmes Pub at 221b Baker Street (obviously).
With the start of September, I can’t help but think of back to school, and so this month I am suggesting the books from Cornell’s new student reading project.
- 2001: Guns Germs and Steel, by Jared Diamond
- 2002: Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
- 2003: Antigone, by Sophocles
- 2004: The Trial, by Franz Kafka
- 2005: Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe
- 2006: The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- 2007: The Pickup, by Nadine Gordimer
- 2008: Lincoln at Gettysburg, by Garry Wills
- 2009: The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
- 2010: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, by Philip Dick
- 2011: Homer & Langley, by E.L. Doctorow
- 2012: The Life Before Us, by Romain Gary
- Link: http://reading.cornell.edu/
August is a month for vacations. For some people that means the beach, and for others that means travel. To balance these two, I am presenting a list of international fiction – these could either inspire a new destination, or just provide some reading for those people taking a more relaxing vacation. Or this could be something to read on your stay-cation!
- The Elegance of the Hedgehog (by French novelist Muriel Barbery)
- Cutting for Stone (by Ethiopian-born author Abraham Verghese)
- Pigeon English (by English novelist Stephen Kelman)
- Tales From the Town of Widows (by Colombian-born James Cañón)
- The Keeper of Lost Causes (by Danish author Jussi Henry Alder-Olsen)
- Inspector O Series (Set in North Korea, by James Church – a pseudonym for the mysterious author)
- 100 Years of Solitude (by Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez)
- The Shadow of the Wind trilogy (by Spanish author Carlos Ruiz Zafon)
- The Yacoubian Building (by Egyptian author Alaa Al Aswany)
July: Cemetery of Forgotten Books Trilogy
For July’s list, I have decided to suggest the Cemetery of Forgotten Books Trilogy, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I first came across the Shadow of the Wind when I found it laying around the house I was staying in. I idly picked up the book and was soon absorbed in the story – I spent the better part of my three-day-weekend happily curled up reading while it rained outside. From there I was delighted to find a sequel – the Angels Game. This spring I was excited to hear a third book was out – the Prisoner of Heaven, but that the English translation was not expected until summer. I filed the fact away in the back of my mind, and was pleasantly surprised to see the book on the “New” shelf at my local library!
I still think the first (The Shadow of the Wind) is the best, but after reading it you will be desperate for more, and unable to resist reading the other two.
* The Shadow of the Wind
* The Angel’s Game
* The Prisoner of Heaven
The Cemetery of Forgotten Books Series
As of 2012, there are three books in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. The first, the Shadow of the Wind, features Daniel Semper, whose father loves books – he owns a modest bookstore, and knows of the secret Cemetery of Forgotten Books, where Daniel discovers the writings of a mysterious author – Julian Carax. This book is a rare find, as someone has been purchasing every copy of Carax’s writings, and burning them.
The second book, the Angel’s Game is set before the Shadow of the Wind, and focus on David Martin, a young author who has gotten involved in some mysterious affairs. David has always been looked kindly on by the proprietor of Semper and Sons bookstore, and even sends his assistant, Isabelle, over to help out at the store. At that time, the father of the protagonist of Shadow of the Wind, is a young man, working with his father at Semper and Sons bookstore.
The third book, the Prisoner of Heaven, fills the time gap between the Angel’s Game and the Shadow of Heaven. New connections are made in this story set against a background of a dark time in Barcelona’s history.