Saturday, December 29, 2012

Books I Loved in 2012

I started keeping a "Books I've Read" journal a couple of years ago. Initially my motivation was to be better prepared for my Book Club (BC) because whenever I read a BC selection months ahead of the meeting, I would find myself scrambling to recall the characters and story line by the actual discussion. But now I keep my "Book Journal" as much for me and my friends as for BC. (Nevertheless, the motivation is essentially the same: to help my aging brain remember!) I love being able to quickly look up the essence of a story - and my personal reaction to it - when a friend asks for a recommendation or opinion on a particular book. Without my journal, I might be able to say, with some confidence, "I loved it" or "Nah, skip it" but often I would have forgotten why I felt that way. And for me, the 'why' matters.

The thing is, my opinion of a book can change dramatically from one reading to the next, especially if there are years in between. Clearly, it isn't the book that changes! It's somethig in the reader, in me. And maybe in you? How we respond to a book at a given moment depends on a variety of factors including our mood and our life experience, both of which change, of course.

This year my favourite fiction reads included:
  • Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
  • Empire Falls by Richard Russo
  • Wild Lives by Monique Proulx
  • The Highest Tide by Jim Lynch
  • and the post-acopalyptic tale, Into the Forest, by Jean Hegland.
In all these stories, complex and believable characters, unforgettable characters, drive the story. Although set in various parts of the world -- Ethiopia, Maine, Quebec, Washington State, California -- the human dramas that are played out are placeless, rooted in human nature at its best and its worst. They are filled with characters I won't easily forget.

In the non-fiction category, my favourite book this year was, without a doubt, The Spell of the Sensuous by David Abram. This remarkable book about the roots of the gradual disconnection between modern (literate) civilizations and the natural world, and the consequences of that disconnection, changed the way I see the world. It is not a light read (!) but I took my time, gleaning the wisdom I could in small bites. Abram's sometimes poetic use of language often snuck up and delighted me, kept me going, hungry for more. Here's one line I noted in my Book Journal:

" ... smells and tastes and chirping rhythms warmed by the sun and shivering with seeds."

What about you? Any favourite books of 2012 you're willing to share? (Just use the comment box below.)

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