My favourite books of 2012

As some readers may know, this year I made a new year’s resolution concerning my habit of buying new books. I said I would only buy one book a month in order to curb my tendency to purchase books only to put them on my shelf. There they sit waiting for me to eventually get around to reading them. Well, I failed this resolution and ended up purchasing way more books than I should of, 39 more to be exact. In a kind of paltry defense, some of these were for my dissertation research. But most weren’t.

Anyways, as part of this resolution I also decided to record everything that I read in full (cover to cover, prefaces, forewards and acknowledgements excluded). Below you’ll find my stats and some of my favorite picks of the bunch. I’m amazed that I read this much, and it gives me confidence that I can do 10-10-12 next year.

52 novels/collections of short fiction
89 graphic novels/comic books
16 books of non-fiction
10 books of poetry
10 academic books
5 plays

Favourite Reads of the year:

Nilsen, Anders. Big Questions: or Asomatognosia.
– This is a massive graphic novel that is epic, philosophical, moving, and all kinds of other adjectives. I loved the artwork, but most of all I loved how much Anders Nilsen pushes the form

Eugenides, Jeffrey Virgin Suicides
– I’ve seen the film adaptation a few times and thoroughly enjoyed it. I finally got around to reading the source text this year and was not disappointed. This is an amazing novel (almost a novella) about suburban Detroit, teenage longing, and environmental collapse. Read it now!

Dick, Philip K. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
–  Similar to Virgin Suicides, I’d seen Blade Runner and loved that movie. However, after reading this novel, I’m not inclined to link the two anymore. Ridley Scott does some great things with this novel, but Dick’s original is very, very good. It is a challenging work of science fiction that asks questions about what it means to be human while also being a compelling read.

Best new artist
– I discovered this graphic novelist fortuitously and have been thankful ever since. I`ve read everything the local public library has of his. He has a dry, black sense of humor. I really like his clean art style and the anthropomorphic characters.

Favorite new writer
David Mitchell
–  I read Cloud Atlas and loved it. I have since read Number9dream and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. All three are very large novels and I don’t really read long novels. I’m no 18th century scholar. Enough said.

War and Peace award (book that took the longest to read)
Bryson, Bill. A Short History of Nearly Everything.

Most challenging

Nikiforuk, Andrew. Tar Sands/ van Wyck, Peter Highway of the Atom
–  These two books are amazing in very different ways. Nikiforuk’s is a long, hard look at the Alberta Tar Sands and what they mean for Canada’s future. It is necessary reading if you want to understand the current crisis that we find ourselves in (despite Mr. Harper’s protestations otherwise). Van Wyck’s book is a meditation on Canada’s involvement with the Manhattan Project via the uranium mines in what is now the Northwest Territories. It is an academic work, so be ready for some Derrida and deconstruction, but it is accessible and asks good questions about what nuclear energy and waste means for human culture.

Here is a list of some of the other notable reads from the year (and a few not so notable ones)

Fiction: Michel Basilières Blackbird
Dionne Brand What We All Long For
Ivan E. Coyote Bow Grip
Jeffrey Eugenides Middlesex
David Mitchell Cloud Atlas
Wayne Johnston Colony of Unrequited Dreams
Aryeh Stollman The Illuminated Soul
David Adams Richards Hope in the Desperate Hour

Short Fiction: Don De Lillo Angel Esmeralda and Other Stories
David Bezmozgis Natasha and Other Stories
James Salter Dusk and Other Stories

Graphic novels/comic books: Bechdel, Alison. Fun Home.
Canales, Juan Diaz. Blacksad
Jason. Why Are You Doing This?
—. I Killed Adolf Hitler.
Kreuger, Jim. Earth X.
Lemire, Jeff. Collected Essex County.
McNeil, Carla Speed. The Finder Library.
Poplak, Richard. Kenk: A Graphic Portrait.
Thompson, Craig. Habibi.

Non-fiction: Bryson, Bill. A Short History of Nearly Everything.
Terpstra, John. Falling into Place.
Vasey, Paul. The Age of the Cities.
Wright, Ronald. What is America?

Poetry: Ala, Salvatore Straight Razor and Other Poems.
McKay, Don. Strike/Slip
Zwicky, Jan. Songs for Relinquishing the Earth.

Worst read:
Miller, Frank. Holy Terror
Nobody should read this book. I have laid out my reasons for this on another blog here.


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