Tuesday, December 11, 2012

My Best Books for 2012

Every year I make Christmas an exhausting chore and every year I tell myself, "This is the last year I'll do that."  About a decade ago, already mid-December, the stockings were on the mantle, the twinkle lights were outside, Christmas cards were taped to the fridge, but still no tree…and no one in the family seemed to notice or care enough to find a perfect one - or even a not so perfect one.  I found myself at Walmart one day standing beneath a gigantic artificial tree which was on display as a holiday decoration.  It towered above the other trees that were being offered for sale.  I had been disgruntled, but looking at that tree made me feel happy.  I wanted that tree.  I was determined I would have that tree.  Tree lust took over.  I asked, haggled, and begged for that tree.  I tried reason, "Please, sir, Walmart is in the business of selling trees and I want to buy that one!"  The manager seemed unmoved.  "Ma'am, that tree is a floor display.  How about that one?  Or this one?"  Perhaps it was something in my sad eyes, or perhaps it was because I suggested I would chain myself to the tree until he relented, but after staring at me for a few seconds, he called a stock person over and told him to dismantle it and find a box "somewhere" that would be large enough for it.  Oh, joy!  It's mine.  It is truly mine!  Triumphant I pulled an oversize floor trolley cradling my tree out to the parking lot.  It was only then that I remembered I drove a very small car.  While love can, and often does, last forever, lust is a fleeting thing.  The romance had already begun to wear thin. 

I still have that blasted tree and anticipate dragging it down the stairs in its two coffin-sized Tupperware bins tonight.  After fighting with the stand and the branches and then the lights, it will look beautiful, I am quite sure.  It always does.  I still wonder why I do it after promising myself I would not.  I guess it wouldn't seem like Christmas without some craziness.

There will be very little time for reading in the next two weeks, but after the holiday frenzy settles down, I'll open that can of Hubs Virginia Peanuts that I know I will get for Christmas and make a new reading list.  Winding down another year, I am happy that work went well, my children are happy, and Shorty has not burned the house down yet, but I have not remotely reached my reading goals.  I often wonder if setting some arbitrary goal is a good thing for reading…or for weight loss - keeping in mind the can of Hubs.  Aren't there enough pressures placed upon our persons?  Why would we want to import more?  So I say "Goal, Schmoal."  Anyway, there were a few gems in the year and these were my favorites in no particular order:

The Garden of Evening Mists, Tan Twan Eng
The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro
Defending Jacob, William Landay
The Fallen Angel, Daniel Silva
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce
The Sea Hawk, Rafael Sabatini

And the worst thing I read this year was, it pains me to say, The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James. 

Now, it's off to the attic to cart down Christmas.  The chaos will come whether I'm ready or not, so I might as well strap it on.


  1. Poor Henry James. Good luck with the tree. Have a lovely Christmas, dear Grad.

  2. Tinky, it took until 12:45 a.m., but it's up, it's lighted, it's beautiful, and it's Christmas at last. Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas to you as well, my friend.

  3. I'm going to echo Tinky with another poor Henry James. I am halfway through Garden of Evening Mists and am liking it very much. Thank you for the recommendation! I hope you have a wonderful Christmas. will you post a photo of your beautiful tree?

  4. Stefanie, I can't tell you how disappointed I was with Henry James. I was so expecting to love it. I don't know what it was about it...maybe it was just too "prose-y". I have a nice hardbound copy of Portrait of a Lady I've been wanting to read, so I'll be giving him another try. I will take a photo of the tree. A very Merry Christmas to you and Bookman.

  5. The Remains of the Day is one of my all time favorites. I regret to say I started The Garden of Evening Mists but had to lay it aside for other distractions. I must pick it up again some day. Now, I admit I'm quite surprised and glad to see Daniel Silva on your Best Books list. This is the first time I see his name comes up in a book blog. Anyway, I can only say Gabriel Allon is one cool art restorer. ;)

  6. Arti, Silva is one of my new favorite writers. A friend handed me Fallen Angel and insisted I read it. I'm not generally a spy novel fan, but it was so good! Then I saw The Rembrandt Affair on sale at B&N. After that book I was hooked on the series. I found two at library Big Book Sale and am looking forward to reading them. Gotta love a spy who restores art and loves his wife. The green eyes don't hurt either!

  7. Ah Christmas craziness - there always is some! I do love best-of lists and it's a pleasure to read yours, Grad. I'll be getting my mitts on The Garden of Evening Mists as soon as it's in paperback and William Landay is on my must-read list for 2013. As for Henry James, try Washington Square. He writes it like a normal person, and it's fab. Hope you have a wonderful family Christmas, dear Grad and warmest wishes for a peaceful, contented and productive New Year. xoxox

  8. Litlove, I do remember reading and liking Washington Square, but I just hated his writing style in Turn of the Screw. What was he thinking??? I hope your Christmas is happy and full of magic, dear friend.

  9. Heh. Love your wit. Have a great Christmas.

  10. Vintage, sometimes wit is the only keeper of sanity. Christmas was truly wonderful this year - tree drama notwithstanding...and there was some of that as well. Hope your Christmas was happy as well.

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