My Year in Books: 2012

31 December 2012

winter"I am a product of . . . endless books"
— C.S. Lewis

The world's approach to New Year's is much like Cogsworth's approach to love: "Flowers, chocolates, promises you don't intend to keep . . ." Though the talking French timepiece was speaking of what to give one's beloved, I believe the principle still applies here. Something in the idea of a fresh, untouched new year right at our fingertips pushes us into a mode of frantic nostalgia. We reminisce about the old year, lingering over memories that bring tears to our eyes when recollected, we drink bubbly apple cider and play games until midnight, and we make our paper resolutions for the next year. All this is well and good, of course, until we wake up sometime in January's second week and realize our dispositions are still the same. We cannot perfect ourselves by virtue of simply promising to do so. Real change, to bring Churchill into the matter, takes blood, toil, tears, and sweat. And far beyond all that, it takes the recognition that we alone cannot change ourselves. Only the Holy Spirit can truly meld and reshape our hearts.

But I digress. The true purpose of this post was to share the titles I've read this year, as well as to give a passing glance to those I hope to devour in the new year. As anyone who's anyone would tell you, the books a person reads and the pages among which he hides his nose say a lot about said person. I have seen my reading choices mature with the passing years, the passing months even, for that matter. I could not give proper time and attention to every tome, so I'll be selecting a few of my favorites, those that truly changed and melded me in these past twelve months.

In required reading, I began the year off by diving into Chaim Potok's The Chosen, a title I was predisposed to dislike. It was actually quite an interesting read, full of details on the various sects of Judaism. It was also a heartbreaking book about the friendship of two young boys and their respective relationships with their fathers. I read Night by Elie Wiesel, a graphic account of the author's experiences in Auchwitz, and though I was not scarred for life, it was a terribly horrific read that I won't be picking up again. In the spring I was first exposed to To Kill a Mockingbird, which to this day remains one of the best books I've ever read. I also re-read The Old Man and the Sea, which filled me with a great sense of admiration for Hemingway's ability to convey emotion through his brief, simple sentences. Rebecca was stunningly written, the sort of book that puts you in the mind of rich velvet and smooth dark chocolate, and it would have been my favorite book of the school year, were it not for its shameful ending and its heroine's surprising lack of morality.

What with the rest of the world going positively mad over the famous Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, I devoted some of my free time in the spring to reading them, primarily to reassure myself that the hype was all for nothing. On the contrary, I found the books intriguing and certainly gripping, despite the complaints I could raise with Collins' writing abilities. They were rather depressing at moments, as would be expected, but I still enjoyed the trilogy reasonably well.

Over the course of the summer, I spent my time among the pages of Alan Paton's social novel, Cry, the Beloved Country. I had hardly expected to love it as much as I did, and it certainly left a mark upon my heart. As the year progressed, I delved into Greek classics when I rediscovered The Iliad and read Sophocles' Oedipus Rex and Antigone. In November I was marked forever by the dark background and literary brilliance of Shakespeare's tragedy, Macbeth. 

My favorite read of this year was undeniably Jenny Freitag's The Shadow Things, followed in close second by her sister's novel, The Soldier's Cross. Both books were beautifully penned, compelling tales that drew my soul to them. Something about The Shadow Things in particular was so magnificent that it can hardly be drawn out in words, and several scenes gave my heart such a terribly lonesome ache that I can only describe as sehnsucht. I am eagerly awaiting future titles from these brilliant authoresses.

My to-read shelf for 2013 is so extensive that it could practically make a book all on its own. After a time, however, I must make some sort of deference between them all and form lists of those most important to me. The titles I've included below will, Lord willing, be completed in this coming year.

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo (started, but haven't finished)
The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper (started, but haven't finished)
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
North & South by Elizabeth Gaskell
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (started, but haven't finished)
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Tales of Goldstone Wood by Anne Elisabeth Stengl
The Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Mind of the Maker by Dorothy L. Sayers
Saratoga and Victory at Yorktown by Richard M. Ketchum
The Eagle of the Ninth, The Shield Ring, and many other titles by Rosemary Sutcliff

It's by no means a paltry list, and the master document from which it stems is nearly five times its size. Hardly a day passes that someone does not recommend a book to me; and while they are not all titles from which I would profit, those that are still tend to add up. Sometimes I feel a bit overwhelmed by the weight of them all, and it pushes me to such feats as attempting to read three or four books all at once (which, in the end, never works out well). There are so many titles, and I want to read every last one . . . !

There are, of course, worse problems to have.

6 epistles:

  1. Wonderful post to close the year of 2012, Lady Elizabeth! You have introduced me to several books I had yet to find, among a good many that I've already enjoyed. I look forward to more book reviews and writing tips!

  2. To Kill a Mockingbird and Rebecca were two of the first novels that really made me stop and say "Wow" regarding the skill and beauty of the writing. Daphne du Maurier's stories themselves seem to be a mixed bag (I've only read a couple others), but my, she could write!.

    Some good ones on your to-read list! I've read the first half-dozen, with the exception of The Count of Monte Cristo. I'll be interested in reading your thoughts on them!

  3. I'm twiddling my toes in the very first chapters of "To Kill a Mockingbird" now, and haven't the least idea what I'm going to think of it. But having heard so many good things about it recently, I decided I should give it a shot.

    I must say, I'm very pleased with your to-read list! It tickles me to see so many of my own favorites on there. Do stick with "The Last of the Mohicans" - the beginning is dull as sand, and he can be extremely verbose, but just wait until it gets going. And of course "The Tales of Goldstone Wood" ("Veiled Rose" is my personal favorite) - and "The Mind of the Maker" - and "A Tale of Two Cities." "North & South" has an excessive amount of death. As for "The Count of Monte Cristo," I'll just say - good luck.

  4. Sarah — Thank you! I'm glad you were inspired. :)

    Elisabeth Grace — Both titles were favorites of mine this year, for obvious reasons, but I simply couldn't abide the ending of Rebecca. It was as if the author was trying to dissolve every bit of admiration I'd held for her prior to that last chapter. I still admire her writing quite a lot, though.

    Abigail — I'll give you the same advice with To Kill a Mockingbird that you gave me in regards to The Last of the Mohicans: stick it out, and it will be worth it ten times over. The first few chapters are slow and somewhat tedious; the only reason I trudged through them was because I had to do so. As soon as the trial begins, the pace picks up dramatically. When you're finished, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

    I confess to being very excited about getting into the titles you named, and am having quite a time deciding which to begin first. By necessity, I'll be reading A Tale of Two Cities sometime in late January/early February, since it's a part of my literature course, but the order in which I read the rest remains to be seen. As for N&S and Count, I'm relatively familiar with the stories of both, so I'm hoping this knowledge will help me to keep a good grip on the plot through the slower parts.

  5. Oh my goodness, how can you not have read "The Lord of the Rings"? You are truly missing out if you haven't read those. "The Count of Monte Cristo" is another one of my all-time favorite books. When I finished it, I simply marveled at its breadth and genius. I'm glad I'm not a writer, because I would be so intimidated by the work of those authors.

  6. It has been fascinating to read the 2012 reading list of many bloggers the last few days, and yours among them, Elizabeth dear! While I confess to not having read any of the titles you read in 2012 besides 'The Soldier's Cross' and 'The Shadow Things', there are familiar faces in your hope-to-reading list for 2013!

    I read 'A Tale of Two Cities' a few years back and loved it ever so dearly (poor Sydney Carton!). Like most of Dickens' books, there are the slow and arduous parts, but the whole of the tale and the wonderful cast of characters make it more than worth your while reading through the slower parts.

    Like you, Les Misérables by Victor Hugo is on my to-read list this year despite its elephantine length (I've thumbed through bits of it already!) And one of these days I should like to attempt 'The Last of the Mohicans' by James Fenimore Cooper and 'The Mind of the Maker' by Dorothy L. Sayers but I am not sure when; schoolwork is on my top priority list this year ;).

    Courtesy of Jenny and Abigail, I read and came to love Sutcliff's writings in 'The Eagle of the Ninth' and 'The Silver Branch' (great books they are, you'll love them!). Currently I am reading through 'The Shield Ring' which to my mind is simply heart-breakingly beautiful!

    You haven't read 'The Lord of the Rings' yet? Well, I promise that you'll LOVE them, Elizabeth! They'll be, most likely, the literary highlight of your year as they were to mine in 2012! I found that beside watching the movies (which are fantabulous!), a delightful way that helped me along in the reading of Tolkien's saga and brought to life the story even more, was listening to someone I found on YouTube who is currently making The Lord of the Rings books into audio books unedited with sound affects (like the movies), different voices for differing characters and sound mix of the soundtracks from the movies. It is really great and so very professional! It's really REALLY good. You can check it out on this link The Lord of the Rings

    Dad, who read 'The Count of Monto Cristo' told me that the story-line was rather filled with too much revenge, but he recommended to me Alexandre Dumas' 'The Man in the Iron Mask' which it seems he really enjoyed. So hopefully I'll get my hand on that sometime =D

    All the best with this new year's reading, Elizabeth! I look forward to more reviews on your blog too =D. Oh, and I would love it if maybe you could find a moment to stop by my blog in the next day or two for my own reading list for 2012/13 ;)

    Joy @


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