Last year the books I read were – as usual – from an assortment of genres.
My intention was to finish reading War and Peace in 2012 as I mentioned in this post, I still intend to read it, but it’s going to have to be a project for 2013. The classics I read this year were unexpected because I read them for a free online course (Greek and Roman Mythology given on Coursera). I read The Odyssey (see my review here), The Aeneid and Hesiod among others. And by read I mean that I learnt to read them, thanks mainly to the professor of the course, Peter Struck. His analyses and explanations were so good, they did what any good teacher does – inspire students to learn. Don’t believe me? Then take the course. As I already gave my perspective on The Odyssey, I won’t repeat myself.
I like to call it Science but the genre is really ‘science for the layman’, which is just that – science put in such a way that anyone can read it. But it still counts as science… so science it is :-). The two books I read this year that stood out for me were:
Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain by Maryanne Wolfe and The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker. I liked Proust and the Squid because it has all kinds of interesting tid-bits on the brain and reading, language, and dyslexia. The Better Angels of out Nature I also liked because it was different. Steven Pinker goes out of his way to explain how humanity has been getting less violent, as opposed to more violence which the media would have us believe. As you can guess this book has been criticized by the nay sayers as being so optimistic it’s fiction. Me? I say: who cares, his book is well researched and does actually present the numbers to show as evidence for his theory. It’s nice to know that not all scientists are ready to give up on humanity.
This year sci-fi ruled my reading. I think I read about 30 sic-fi books this year. My faves were Contact by Carl Sagan because while I liked the film, I loved the book. This book is like Dune. If you love sci-fi, chances are you’ve read this book but if you haven’t then shame on you sci-fi fan, why are you still reading this? At least go and watch the movie.
Another book I enjoyed was Lilith’s Brood by Octavia E. Butler. It’s about a race of aliens that reach Earth, just at humanity is about to destroy itself, and save all the humans they can. The story follows Lilith and her children as both species change and adapt to each other. Lilith takes part in what the aliens call genetic ‘trade’ (mingling genetic traits to creating better beings). The aliens love and fear the human ‘contradiction’ and find that humans are more surprising than they thought. This trilogy’s all about the three gendered aliens and the two gendered (and subsequently three gendered) humans who love, and at times, resent them.
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield was my top fantasy read. I could not put this book down. It’s a modern ghost story about twins and haunted houses and writers and biographers. This book makes allusions to many gothic and romantic classics like Wuthering Hights, Jane Eyre, Rebecca, Jane Austin’s works and Middlemarch. Beautifully written with fully rounded characters that jump out of the page [and spoiler alert: a neat and tidy ending yet surprisingly bittersweet]. Everything a modern novel should be and in the same genre as Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s The Shadow of the Wind.
That’s my fave’s list for 2012. What’s yours?