Throughout the year I've read and reviewed a few books (certainly not as many as I bought). Some of my reading time gets devoured by the college lit courses I teach, so I've re-re-read a number of great titles this year (Passing by Nella Larsen, The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien, Medea by Euripides, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, and various short fiction by Flannery O'Connor).
But I'd like to share some of my favorite reads and reviews from this year. One thing I realized as I gathered these links: all but 1 of these books has a great (i.e., perfectly fitting) cover. (Sorry Billy Lynn, while your cover isn't particularly BAD it's not as striking as the rest of these.)
Boy21 by Matthew Quick -- If you don't know who Matthew Quick is yet, you will. Aside from the mammoth critical success of the film adaptation of his debut novel, his 2013 release, Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, will be in the running for major awards. Before all that, though, there's Boy21, a fantastic exploration of two boys who become friends thanks to basketball, the music of Sun Ra, and a shared disconnection from the world.
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain -- ended up on tons of Best of 2012 lists (even lists that were otherwise dull). Worth the recognition and something you should check out if you want a good satire about the Bush years and domestic perspective of Iraq War part deux.
Little Velázquez by Kathryn Kopple -- I blurbed this book. But even if I hadn't blurbed it and didn't become friends with Kopple back in 2008 at the Breadloaf Writer's Conference, I would love this book. A historical fiction about a little known dwarf living in the court of Isabel and Ferdinand, this book blew me away from start to finish. Great sentences, great use of history that never overwhelms, great analysis of women with power, and women without power.
The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour -- A book that haunted me, although that might suggest a more serious subject matter (such as LaCour's debut . The complexity of this road trip novel is never weighed down by the prose and offers some amazing scenes.
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness -- A short review back when I read it because it's the kind of book that elicits a strong response and begs to be experienced purely. Sad, profound, funny, and beautifully illustrated. The kind of book you want in hardcover since the story and the pictures work together.
Echolocation by Myfanwy Collins -- The second book on this list that offers beautiful, crushing, complex presentation of women in crisis. Moves between perspectives with deft and has me looking forward to her collection of fiction, due out in January.
Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews -- a funny and honest presentation of a teenager's views of death and friendship. Walks a fine line and, in my opinion, succeeds. One of two books I read in about 1 sitting, pretty much against my will (Boy21 was the other.)
(Note: all of my reviews are on Goodreads, though some of these links will send you to my blog instead. The content is the same regardless of which site it appears. I just didn't figure out how to get the Goodreads posts to appear on my blog until a few months back.)