2012 Read Shelf

I stopped using Goodreads for quite awhile then started up again over the summer, so I’m doing my best to remember all the books I read this year! Joining the From Left to Write book club and signing up for Netgalley,  filled up my Read shelf quite a bit, but my goal had been to read 24 books this year. I fell a little short but I did read some really good books, along with some duds. Here are the books, in no particular order.

  1. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho: Here’s a little disclaimer…I’m not entirely sure that I read this in 2012 but I think I did! This was my first experience with Paulo Coelho and I want to read more of his books in 2013. I loved the mystical and spiritual aspects of this story, as a person who grapples quite a bit with being comfortable with religious belief. 
  2.  I Am Forbidden by Anouk Markouvits: This was a From Left to Write book club selection but I was not yet part of the club when I read it. It is a gripping, compelling story that spans generations and time periods as the characters struggle with what it means to be a religious Jew. 
  3. The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich: I love period fiction, and I loved this story of a daring Jewish midwife in segregated 17th century Venice who risks her life to save a non-Jewish noblewoman and her baby. 
  4. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach: There was a lot of hype about this book, and I never thought I’d like a book about baseball but as with all things, it wasn’t about baseball. It is about relationships, the ways we depend on each other for validation and struggle with our own shortcomings. There are some excellent lines in this book, and overall, is well written though it does drag on in some parts. It’s not a short, quick read. 
  5. The Baker’s Daughter by Sarah McCoy: This was a From Left to Write book club selection, and another period novel. The book switches from Germany during WW II to El Paso, Texas in the present day and follows a reporter as she tries to uncover a story about a bakery owner from Germany. I enjoyed the book and read it straight through one night in bed. I wrote about it here
  6. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline: Though I am a child of the ’90s, and not the ’80s, I appreciated all the ’80s references in this book, especially since we had a Commodore 64 growing up and plenty of video games to go around. Reviews have been mixed on this book but I thought it was fascinating, though the ending was rushed. 
  7. The Bloodletter’s Daughter by Linda Lafferty. Another From Left to Write book club selection, and set in Old Bohemia during the 17th century, I took a special interest in this book because I lived in Prague for four months, on study abroad Junior year of college. At it’s heart, this is a book about the struggle between mystical belief, faith and science. Again, lots to think about in terms of my own relationship to these things. I wrote about it here
  8. The Rabbi in the Attic and Other Stories by Eileen Pollack. This was a selection I chose from Netgalley, a collection of short stories, some of which have a slight Jewish-y tone to it, and others that were straight up Jewish. Most of the stories are set in the Catskills, where I spend a decent part of my childhood summers visiting my grandparents, so I enjoyed recognizing the names of small towns mentioned in the stories. I no longer have a copy of the book, since the egalley expired off my Kindle, which is a shame because I would to re-read some of the stories. Overall, enjoyable. 
  9. Behind the Woodpile by Emily Rosenbaum. This is a book written by a member of From Left to Write, self-published on Kindle. It is a harrowing tale of child abuse and neglect. I was a little skeptical at some points that some events actually happened but I was sucked in. 
  10. A Thousand Pardons by Jonathan Dee. Another book from Netgalley, it reminded me of Revolutionary Road. I enjoyed it but didn’t find it to be exceptional.  I wrote about it here.
  11. Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks. I don’t remember how I came across this title but I discovered a new favorite author! Again, I’m a sucker for period novels and this one was set in the time of the Plague in England. I loved the main character and how she evolves into a strong woman. 
  12. The Headmaster’s Wager by Vincent Lam. This was a From Left to Write book club selection that I read before the holiday hiatus. I went through a period in high school where I read a lot of fiction and memoirs about China during the 5 Year Campaign, so I really enjoyed reading this book about a Chinese expat in Viet Nam. I wrote about here
  13. The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown. I pretty much chose this book because of it’s cover and because it was about sisters. I really did not appreciate that the narrator seemed to be some unknown 4th sister, and the Shakespeare references were overwrought. It would probably make a better movie than book. 
  14. The Expats by Chris Pavone. This is the most recent From Left to Write book club selection, and I haven’t written a post about it yet. It starts slowly but picks up speed about halfway through, to the point where I had to sit on the couch for a couple of hours, ignoring the kids so that I could get to the end. 
  15. The Black Count by Tom Reiss. I found the historical aspects of this biography about the real Count of Monte Cristo fascinating but the book was more than twice as long as it needed to be. I didn’t finish it; I tried to rally but ultimately, it was just taking up too much of my time. 
  16. Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks. After Year of Wonders, I was eager to read another book by Geraldine Brooks. This one was set in The New World, during the 1600s. Again, I loved the strong central female character. 
Feel free to leave a link to your own year-end reading round-up in the comments!
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4 thoughts on “2012 Read Shelf”

  1. I'm glad so many of From Left to Write books made your list. I read the Alchemist years ago and it touched me the same way. I never felt like Coehlo's other works had the same energy though.

  2. I know a lot of us didn't like the Expats but as a person who doesn't really read mysteries, I liked it. As for The Alchemist, I had no idea but apparently, it's one of the top ten most read books, worldwide!

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