2012 was a great year literature-wise for me. Although I joined the book-reading community Goodreads three or so years ago, I only became truly active on it earlier this year. I would accredit this site, and the people I met on that site, to my having been able to read an unprecedented 165 books this year! It’s quite hard to not want to read more when you read great book reviews from others and are given good recommendations.
This year, I went from predominantly reading Victorian and Russian classics, dystopia and Agatha Christie novels, to reading more poetry, science fiction, short stories, Canadian literature and contemporary literature. I also read more of the classic American literature that I missed out on, for example Fahrenheit 451, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, The Bluest Eye and Ulysses.
My 5 favourite books of the year, in no particular order are:
1. Einstein’s Dreams – Alan Lightman
This book was brilliant. Imagine a world where time is a circle.Or a world where cause and effect are erratic. Or a world where time is not continuous. These are a few of the worlds Einstein dreams up while he’s working on his Theory. Time is definitely a central theme in this book and few will be able to look at time (or life) in the same way after reading this book.
I was impressed by how creatively Lightman used the different concepts of time in his little vignettes. This book has compelled me to look for fiction written by scientists. A very unique,intelligent and philosophical read.
2. Giovanni’s Room – James Baldwin
I wasn’t sure any Baldwin book would surpass his Go Tell is to the Mountain, which I loved, but this one was even better and an immediate favourite. This story was wonderfully-written and explored a gay storyline which I have never encountered in African-American writing from Baldwin’s era.
This story is set in Paris and is about an American man, David, who is in love with both a man, Giovanni, and a woman, Hella. He really struggles to come to terms with his sexuality,and to reconcile his inner conflict.
Baldwin really captures the Parisian atmosphere, and it’s obvious he was well-acquainted with the city. Reading his depiction of Paris has really activated my wanderlust.
There’s more to the story than the gay storyline, though. Questions are raised about authenticity, the meaning of home, whether we act out of fear or love, etc.
3. Collages – Anais Nin
This is a writer I always steered away from reading. However, someone recommended one of her books to me and I was immediately hooked. The more I read Anais Nin’s works, the more I appreciate her as a writer. This book introduces us to many very interesting characters a young girl meets on her travels. I love how Nin can turn a simple event into beautiful poetry, and also how differently she looks at different aspects of life.This is one of the kinds of books you will just want to read again and again to appreciate the beautiful prose.
4. Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison
This book was so profound that I am planning on reading it again during Black History month.
5. Little Black Book of Stories – A.S. Byatt
One of the reasons I adored this short story collection was Byatt’s ability to describe things so well. Her descriptions of nature and colour were especially wonderful. I think it’s safe to say I have never read any short stories quite like these, they were all unusual and came with twists. My favourite story was “Stone Woman” in which a woman finds herself turning to stone. As a geology-lover, her descriptions of the different rock formations and minerals resonated with me and I had to read that story twice.
Reading these stories also made me realize how much great vocabulary and general knowledge can enrich a story. It’s obvious Byatt does possess a great repository of general knowledge and her vocabulary usage is phenomenal.
Honorary mention goes out to Saul Williams who completely blew me away with his poetry. It was so beautiful, evocative and passionate. Great use of words and important subject matter covered.
My goal for 2013 is to somehow read more than the 165 books I’ve read this year. I also plan on reading more philosophy, biographies, banned books and books from different countries and cultures.
And finally, a thank you to everyone who reads this blog. Three months ago I never even thought I’d have one follower but now I have 17. Just thinking that someone would actually want to read what I write is a fairly new concept to me! Thank you so much to you all. Have a wonderful 2013