Monday, September 10, 2012

The Ten Best Books I've Read (So Far) This Year

I typically read well over a hundred books each year, of varying lengths and genres, in paperback, hardcover, e-books, and audiobooks. Some books are instantly forgettable, while others are enjoyable but aren't "great." Here are the ten best books I've read so far this year, in no particular order...

1)  GREEN RIVER, RUNNING RED by Ann Rule.  A fascinating account that delves deep (maybe a little too deep) into the mind of a vicious serial killer who got away with his gruesome crimes for nearly twenty years before finally being apprehended. Rule writes true stories better than some novelists write fiction. It's a gripping, horrifying, and unforgettable account.

2)  WHERE YOU LIVED: STORIES by Tod Goldberg.  An unusual collection of short stories by an author I'd never read previously. Simple in theme yet profoundly written, Goldberg's stories are worth reading time and time again. And I will probably do so.

3)  THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins.  With the ever-increasing popularity of teen fiction books in recent years, it's hard to come up with a story that's truly original and then to be able to tell it very well. Suzanne Collins does just that in the first book in her series. I know I'm a little behind on these, but it was well worth the wait for me to read it, and I will definitely be reading the rest of the series.

4)  THINGS TO DO WHILE AVOIDING THINGS TO DO by Mark J. Asher.  This hilarious book of to-don't lists is far from high literature, and the "suggestions" made by the author are not really advisable to put into practice. But the book is definitely well worth the read. For example, from a list called "Time Management For The Time-Insensitive": "1. Understand that time is always slipping away – anything you forget to do will soon be forgotten.  2. A series of 15-minute breaks can clear your head and improve your work performance.  3. Allow yourself plenty of time to meander, ponder, and play..."  And it just gets worse and worse from there.

5)  SIDE EFFECTS by Woody Allen.  I've always been a fan of Woody Allen's movies. You either love his unique brand of humor or you hate it. There are few people familiar with his work that sit on the fence in this regard. I'm in the "love" category, though my wife is in the "hate" category. I'd never read any of Allen's books prior to this one, but I will most certainly be checking out his other ones. My style of short-story writing is eerily similar to Woody's, though I didn't know that going into it.

6)  THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO by Stieg Larsson.  It's rare that a thriller – or a mystery, for that matter – makes me think as much as this one did. It's not an easy read – some truly horrifying things happen to some of the characters (no spoilers!) – but the payoff is exceptional. I am already reading the second book, and the third one is next up after that.

7)  NUTJOB: A SQUIRREL'S DOZEN SECRET TIPS TO PRODUCTIVITY by Micah Moss.  This was not only humorous, but actually useful. I jotted down a ton of notes while reading it. Basically, the author observed the habits of squirrels in his free time and made appropriate analogies as to how he – and we – might increase productivity at work and at life in similar ways.

8)  THE LIVING END: A MEMOIR OF FORGETTING AND FORGIVING by Robert Leleux.  A powerful memoir chronicling the latter years of the author's grandmother's life. She and her daughter (the author's mother) had had a broken relationship for many, many years, but upon the grandmother's diagnosis of and gradual decline from Alzheimer's disease, the two restored their familial bonds and made amends. This insightful, highly emotional book is also extremely well-written by Leleux, who was BFF's with his grandmother growing up. (I can relate.)

9)  EXTREMELY LOUD & INCREDIBLY CLOSE by Jonathan Safran Foer.  I've already gushed enough about this book in a previous post, so I won't rehash my review here. Needless to say, this one goes right to the top of my list for best books I've read this year. I'm told that the film version of this was subpar, to say the least – I haven't seen it, so I don't know. But I definitely recommend reading the book.

10)  THE SOLOIST by Steve Lopez.  The true story of a journalist who befriends a schizophrenic cellist living on Skid Row and attempts to help the man better his life. I know they made a movie out of this one, too, but I haven't seen it either. The book was phenomenal, though.

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