As I did last year, here’s a giant conglomerate post of all 65 books I’ve read so far in 2013. These aren’t books that were released this year (though some were) but just books I decided to read this past year. Some were good. Some weren’t. Take notes!
To make this easier to read, I’m only including writing about highlights of each genre. Books I really loved, hated, or had some emotional reaction to. Any books simply listed are ones that were okay. Not bad. Not my favorite. Just books that I read and liked but didn’t have any impact on me. If you’re curious about more details of one of these, let me know!
Comics/Graphic Novels: 11
Total Pages: 21,241
Total Spent: $225
Total Books Taken out from Library: 34
Total Saved by using the Library: $500 (at retail price)
- Watership Down by Richard Adams
- Perdido Street Station by China Mieville
- Preacher by writer Garth Ennis & artist Steve Dillon
- Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg by
- Stoner by John Williams
Preacher Vols 1-3 by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon
I marathon-ed Preacher volumes 1-3 and loved every single second of it. The characters are fun (my favorite vampire of all time!), the story is interesting, and the artwork is fantastic. Since the story predominantly covers religious themes, some scenes can take an emotional toll on you.
The exploration into religion should be for everyone. God is made an anti-hero, for reasons I haven’t yet discovered. Blasphemy, gore, sex, gunslingers, vampires, and other interesting characters are used well. And provides artist Steve Dillon plenty of material for his fantastic illustrations. The story would certainly feel stale without his artistic talents.
NonNonBa by Shigeru Mizuki
Nonnonba is a combination memoir + whimsy. It is a memoir of Shigeru Mizuki’s childhood. But explores the whimsical nature of yokai, spirit monsters part of japanese folklore. The narrative is interesting and fun. But it’s the illustrations that make it. The drawings really bring the invisible spirits to life.
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
I did not like Fun Home. I know everyone else did. I know it’s a play now. But it’s just not for me. The book isn’t remotely interesting and the storytelling is full of pretentious jabber. The book eventually turns into a college literary criticism paper. Because Bechdel over-analyzes every single aspect of her life, this felt very empty as a memoir. There are many better graphic novel memoirs out there – shock value alone can’t save a bad story.
- Dirt Candy by Amanda Cohen, Ryan Dunlavey and Grady Hendrix – Leslie Rating: 4/5
- Black Hole by Charles Burns – Leslie Rating: 3/5
- Far Arden by Kevin Cannon – Leslie Rating: 3/5
- Me Likes You Very Much by Lauren Barnett – Leslie Rating: 3/5
- Ghost World by Daniel Clowes – Leslie Rating: 3/5
- The Sandman Vol 01 by Neil Gaiman, Sam Keith and Mike Dringenberg – Leslie Rating: 2/5
Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury
This writing reference book by Ray Bradbury is a collection of essays written in various stages of his life. As far as “writing on writing” goes, this is my favorite. He asks writers to keep an open mind. And think more creatively. He explains how to turn simple life events into whole stories. Each essay hits upon a different topic with references to his own publications making the advice feel particularly sound.
The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards
I had been dabbling in drawing the past two years. I have zero formal education. I’ve never had that “artist’s eye”. I still drew houses as a square and a triangle. Then I began scribbling. Thinking of drawings more as cartoons instead of still-life’s. I tried reading some drawing how-to’s online and via youtube, but it was a struggle.
A co-worker, with a formal art education, strongly recommended Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain to me. I will never be thankful enough. This is an essential drawing book if you’re a beginner! And I mean beginner. I love how she really explains what you’re doing by drawing. She teaches you to see. You can’t draw what you can’t see! She urges you to outline exactly what you see. There are some very useful tools recommended to go along with the exercises. Everything is cheap and easy to obtain. I wouldn’t do the exercises without them.
Having a viewing pane was one of the most helpful tools for me. Being able to actually hold up clear plastic and outline something right there, really helped me to see it. She makes no assumptions of your level. This isn’t about anatomy or the rule of thirds or any technical art things. It really is teaching you to see the “correct” way. A must read for anyone interested in art!
Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg
This book is one of the best books on writing that I’ve read (and I’ve read a lot). It uses a new & different perspective to talk about how you should be writing. Instead of preaching the “write everything down” method, he asks writers to focus on quality. Focus on correct grammar. Not just the correct use of “your” but actual sentence structure. Can you label the transitive and intransitives verbs in a sentence? I can’t.
Instead of merely talking about writing as an experience, Klinkenborg talks about writing in practice. Writers should think about each single word they write. Then each single sentence. Then each single paragraph. Etc. He argues that sentences need to be simplified. For some reason we are taught academically to fill up each sentence with noisy words. And to fill up each sentence with multiple thoughts. His main argument is for, essentially, choppy writing. This could make some writers cringe.
One of his recommendations, similar to most other author’s, is to read everything! Read fiction, non-fiction, poetry, literature, comics. All media and all formats. Learn how others manipulate language. Expand your vocabulary. Learn from other’s mistakes. He helps you put this into practice by including a workbook section at the back. Sentence examples and critiques to give you examples. There are sentences from early works of author’s are shown as examples of poor language, awkward rhythm, and other language errors.
The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward Tufte
I have been interested in interface design for a long time. Mostly based around web-design and online software. Now that I work with reports and charts on a daily basis, my interest has shifted slightly. It’s amazing how such small changes can really affect the interpretation of a chart.
When should you use a table? When should you use a bar chart? When should you use a pie chart? (NEVER)
Even if you’re not personally creating charts, this is still an interesting read. Tufte explores the history of information visual displays. He compares & contrasts two types of charts presenting the same information. He warns how easy it is to manipulate information with a bias. Since we all see charts & data tables every single day, learning how to correctly read them and what they mean, is really important.
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
This is my first Bill Bryson book. Even though I have been recommended many others. I loved his perspective on the Appalachian trail. I love that he brought an alcoholic friend with him. I even loved his history rants about the park service. It’s a great story about interesting characters that are real enough to empathize with.
This not a book necessarily about the trail or should be used as a reference guide. But it’s light writing with plenty of history.
The Believing Brain by Michael Shermer
After suffering a severe depression last year, I began reading non-fiction books on brains & neurology. I wanted to understand how our brains could cause us so much pain. How our own brains could sabotage us. Why our brains made us think the way we think. There were many thoughts going through my depressed brain that I knew were wrong but so strongly believed. Whyyyy?????
The Believing Brain goes in-depth to explain exactly this conflict between us knowing and believing. Shermer discusses the inner brain workings of religious evangelists, conspiracy nuts, and paranormal believers. I can’t begin to sum all this up so I really recommend the book if you’re interested.
One factor to help explain this is that our brains are very sensitive to the power of suggestion. If someone takes you to a room and tells you it’s haunted, you might start feeling a cold chill. Or feel an invisible object brush against you. But if you were taken into that same room and without the mention of haunts, you wouldn’t feel a thing. Our brain is very good at tricking us.
Another interesting explanation I found specifically for the religious/conspiracy believers is the feeling of adrenaline. Think of a drug user who keeps using drugs to feel that initial high, even though they don’t feel it every time. Praying is similar. If you pray for something to happen, and it happens, you feel really good! You are happy. You tell yourself God loves you. You feel blessed. This is a very good feeling!
Yet, if you pray for something, and it doesn’t happen, you don’t necessarily feel terrible. You just say that God has a plan. You don’t stop praying. You don’t instantly stop believing in prayer. Because, really, you’re after that feeling of adrenaline. You will continue praying, even if your prayers go ‘unanswered’, because one time what you want to happen will happen (statistically speaking) and you’ll feel that good feeling again! That makes it worth it.
Do not kill me for butchering the explanation above, that is my paraphrased summary of what I remember from this book. But if all that interests you, I definitely recommend checking out the book for the details!
- Will Write for Food by Dianne Jacob – Leslie Rating: 4/5
- Longitude by Dava Sobel – Leslie Rating: 4/5
- Goodbye to Berlin by Chris Atwood – Leslie Rating: 3/5
- The World Until Yesterday by Jared Diamond – Leslie Rating: 3/5
- On the Map by Simon Garfield – Leslie Rating 3/5
- Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks – Leslie Rating: 3/5
- War Trash by Ha Jin – Leslie Rating: 3/5
- The Murder of the Century by Paul Collins – Leslie Rating: 3/5
- Descent by Brad Matsen – Leslie Rating: 3/5
- Chaos by James Gleick – Leslie Rating: 3/5
- The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks – Leslie Rating: 3/5
- Going Solo by Eric Klinenberg – Leslie Rating: 1/5
Watership Down by Richard Adams
If I had to recommend one book to anyone, it would be this one. Adams’ insight into a fictional society of rabbits is far more complex and mature than you would expect. There is folklore (think Tolkien style), accurate animal descriptions, and a beautiful relationship to nature.
The plot itself is an adventure story. A small group of rabbits are on a journey to find a new home, after fleeing from danger. It’s not the obstacles and detours that keep your interest. It’s the characters. Adams’ power to feel so much compassion and empathy for rabbits is amazing. You may even forget they’re rabbits at one point.
Stoner by John Williams
Stoner is one of the best pieces of literary fiction I’ve read to date. The main character, William Stoner, leads a simple, typical American life in the early 1900’s.
He leaves the family farm, attends college, and becomes a teacher. He has a loveless marriage, a child, then his wife goes crazy. He has an affair. There is a minor villain at work.
There are no adventures. No excitement. No journeys, well some personal ones. But the minimalism of the story and character is pulled off flawlessly. Williams’ writing is fluid without polluting the simplicity of the story.
Perdido Street Station by China Mieville / Fantasy & Steam Punk
Several years ago I read Kraken and hated it. It was verbose writing, a boring world, and a terrible plot. And whenever I told people that, they nodded and told me to read Perdido Street Station. So I did.
This story is fantastic. It’s exciting. A perfect use of fantasy. A perfect use of steampunk. His writing is still verbose at times. But I like how he doesn’t give things away. He doesn’t treat the reader like an idiot.
The plot holds strong until the end. It felt to me like Mieville gave up and vomited an ending. Maybe he had that planned all along. Maybe I’m just grumpy because I wanted to see how he pulled it off. But the story itself was so exciting and riveting, I give him a pass.
Even if you’re not a big fantasy fan, I really recommend this one. Think fantasy as in different worlds, not dragons and swords.
Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card
Reading Ender’s Shadow after reading Ender’s Game is interesting. Both books have the same exact plot. And are told during the same exact time. Just focusing on two different characters. And their perspectives are different enough to still make this interesting. It takes a lot to make a story unique twice.
I do think you could read these in interchangeable order, since they tell the same story. It’s impressive that Card made a story with two very complex characters. It’s clear that Bean is more than just a sidekick. I do wish I had read both of these when I was younger, but do not regret reading them at all.
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
Let me say, I love Ray Bradbury. I love everything he’s done. I was so excited to get this book from the library. I was so excited to start reading it.
But reading it was difficult for me. This is another book that I might have enjoyed more if I was younger. But it wasn’t just that. This is a story of two boys who find an evil carnival. There is magic and whimsy. There is darkness and fear. There is an adventure of two best friends. The plot is fantastic all around.
It’s the story-telling I just couldn’t follow. His writing, smooth and beautiful, was too beautiful. The descriptions too descriptive. Sometimes I couldn’t even tell what he was talking about. The prose was so distracting, it took right out of the setting. I never felt scared or close to the characters. I was too busy trying to figure out what was happening. I would never say this is a bad book but it was a harder reading experience for me.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Admittedly, I couldn’t finish this book. The teenager writing and jaded world-setting bored me to death. The story was predictable and overdone. The superfluous 80’s references added nothing. It failed my 100 pages test. The characters were empty. The world dull. This story has been told over and over. I saw nothing new here. Nothing was done better. I typically enjoy adventure stories (even if they are predictable). But his writing was painful for me to read.
- American Vampire by Jennifer Armintrout – Leslie Rating: 4/5
- Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman – Leslie Rating:4/5
- Rumor of War by Philip Caputo – Leslie Rating:4/5
- Blueprints of the Afterlife by Ryan Boudinot – Leslie Rating:4/5
- Cheese Monkeys by Chip Kidd – Leslie Rating:4/5
- John Dies at the End by David Wong – Leslie Rating:4/5
- The Prestige by Christopher Priest – Leslie Rating:3/5
- Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan – Leslie Rating:3/5
- Dark Places by Gillian Flynn – Leslie Rating:3/5
- True Grit by Charles Portis – Leslie Rating:3/5
- Canada by Richard Ford- Leslie Rating:3/5
- Mort by Terry Pratchett – Leslie Rating:3/5
- Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin – Leslie Rating:3/5
- The Golden Compass by by Philip Pullman – Leslie Rating:3/5
- So Long and Thanks for all the Fish by Douglas Adams – Leslie Rating:3/5
- The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams – Leslie Rating:3/5
- How Soon Is Never? by Marc Spitz- Leslie Rating:3/5
- The Son by Philipp Meyer – Leslie Rating:3/5
- The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler – Leslie Rating:3/5
- Lit: A Memoir by Mary Karr – Leslie Rating:3/5
- The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer – Leslie Rating:3/5
- The Dinner by Herman Koch – Leslie Rating:2/5
- One Last Thing Before I Go by Jonathan Tropper – Leslie Rating:2/5
- Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan – Leslie Rating:2/5
- Metzger’s Dog by Thomas Perry – Leslie Rating:2/5
- The Woman Who Died A Lot by Jasper Fforde – Leslie Rating:2/5
- Songmaster by Orson Scott Card – Leslie Rating:2/5
- Big Brother by Lionel Shriver – Leslie Rating:2/5
- In the Heart of the Canyon by Elisabeth Hyde – Leslie Rating:1/5