This Marie. And this is Felipe. And that is all you need to know. Oh, well, there’s also the matter that Marie sells books. Felipe does not.
Every so often, a customer will ask me if I’ve read everything in the store (this has actually happened more than once). Given that we have ________________(insert approx. number of titles on our shelves), I have to say that no, not yet I haven’t. However, that being said, it is a good reminder of just how many books there are already, not to mention how many new ones are published every year. On top of that, what about all the great titles that I’ve already read, but want to go back for a second, third or sometimes fourth helping? After asking after some recommendations from fellow trusted bibliophiles and doing a bit of investigating on my own, I make a decision, and more often than not am pleased with my selection. So, if you are prone to indecision, or just want a good rec from a reliable source, here are Marie’s Top 5 Reads of 2012 (in no particular order)!
1. Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway
I LOVED The Gone Away World, Harkaway’s debut novel that came out in 2009, and was so excited to get another taste of his distinctive, dry yet clever humor and quick wit and see what sort of clever story telling he would give me this time. This just came out early this year, and after waiting for three years I was not disappointed. The setting is a gritty, noir, and almost steampunk version of a not quite contemporary London, and Joe Spork is just an average Joe, keeping his head down. But as it often goes with Average Joes, they are called to greatness, and the greatness is just that in this incredibly readable story. And the names in this book! Rodney Titwhistle, Edie Bannister, Frankie the blind snaggle-toothed bulldog, and Arvin Cumberbund just to name a few. A hefty tome, but truly a staisfying read.
2. Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence by Carl Sagan
First of all, SAGAN!!!! He’s awesome. Amazingly smart dude, and reading this book made me feel like he could be one of my good friends. I read this aloud to my husband at night by our fire while we were on the camping portion of our epic honeymoon adventure. Essentially, Sagan has been presented with a lot of evidence in the course of his thorough education about the development of not only our planet, but the Universe as well, and in this book we get a glimpse into the ideas and psyche of a great scientist. A book that doesn’t hesitate to throw out some new, but well explained terminology and ideas that tell interesting stories about where we come from, where we are now, and where we might be going in the future. Also, this book won the Pullitzer prize when it came out in 1976! Wait until you read what Sagan thinks about technology and the future of computers, as of a mere 36 years ago (you will appreciate how short an amount of time that is on the first page of the book). And if you haven’t watched The Cosmos, as great as it is, I would hold off until PBS does a remake with Morgan Freeman as the tour guide.
3. Hyperion* by Dan Simmons
One sure-fire way of enjoying older versions of Universal and intergalactic travel is by reading Hyperion. Be forewarned: this is serious sci-fi, and seriously good sci-fi. I love seriously good sci-fi; this genre allows an author complete free reign of the imagination to create entire universes of cultures, religions, morals, customs, philosophies, foods, flora, fauna, weapons, characters, names and myriad other astonishing things that are simply not seen in other genres. Simmons is a master imaginer, as is exemplified in this 1989 Hugo Award-winner. He creates not just one new world in brilliant detail, but many diverse and unique settings that he describes effortlessly and completely, every strange new plant, creature and person deftly assembled in the reader’s mind. The book is told in the fashion of Canterbury Tales, seven pilgrims on a pilgrimage. All the pilgrims on this journey are recounting their tales as they make their way towards their ominous destination, each section a new story and a new perspective, all revealing and developing a complex and epic end-of-not-just-the-world-but-the-whole-universe meta plot. AWESOME.
*Let’s take a moment to talk about a somewhat under-appreciated aspect of the book world. Audio books. These things are so great! I listened to Hyperion on my iPod while doing lots of different activities, and was semi-addicted to it. Do you ever drive, walk around, clean the house, make dinner, fold laundry, knit/crochet/embroider/tat, watch TV, eat, mow the lawn, play video games, look at facebook, and/or take baths? Why not try enhancing (or replacing, use discretion) your experience and stimulate your focused listening skills while honing your ability to multi-task with audio books? I know you have an mp3 player.
4. Black Hole by Charles Burns
Let us also pay homage to the amazing world of literary and art fusion that is Graphic Novels. I had heard a lot of hype about this dude Charles Burns, and then I found out he was headed BookPeople way and decided to check him out for myself. I’m so glad I did. Burns’ style is one of stark contrast. He uses purely black and white, no 50 shades of grey here. But it is dark and eerie, this somewhat macabre and surreal story of a group of teens in 1970’s Seattle. Although it was initially released as a 12 issue comic from 1995-2005, it now exists in a compendium of veritable heft of page upon page of vibrant, expressive and sometimes disturbing, but always beautifully crafted drawings. He also has a new series out, one volume that was released this year, The Hive, a follow up to X-ed Out that came out in 2010 that is as equally bizarre and potent as Black Hole but in color!
5. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
One I have read many, many times, it was perhaps my very first sci-fi book. I thought every child for many years had experienced it at some point, and was surprised to hear my husband hadn’t ever read it. This one we read while driving from Seattle, Washington down to San Francisco, California. A long…long…long drive, but a perfect opportunity to have a captive audience who was guaranteed to stay awake, and was kept entertained and engaged with a complete reading of this Young Adult, 1962 Newberry Award-winning book. Another great example of the wonders of an uninhibited imagination. It is the first in many stories about an extraordinary family, who all go on incredible adventures and accomplish impossible things. If that wasn’t enough, now there’s a graphic novel of Wrinkle in Time drawn by Hope Larsen that was just published this year (50 year anniversary!) that is beautiful and complete, each frame and image carefully considered and created. It is fascinating to see how someone else has imagined something I have imagined for myself so many times in my mind’s eye.