Sequins: Cliche Year-End Summary Of… Books?

I know, I know, this is supposed to be a fashion and crafts blog. Although if we want to play semantics, it’s supposed to be a moose blog. Really, it’s Sequins & Stripes’ blog, and while I won’t speak for Stripes, I will say that I’ve never considered myself anywhere near the realm of potential fashion blogger.

No no, what I am is a nerd. I gravitate towards that term seamlessly. I’m a book nerd, a clothes nerd, a crafts nerd, a comics nerd, and occasionally a gaming nerd. Mostly, though, above all else, I’m a book nerd. Thus this post.

Back story: I graduated from college during the “off season”–that is, during the end of fall, and not during spring. This meant that the budding of my post-grad life aligned itself perfectly with the dawn of a new calendar year. I knew I would spend the first half of 2011 working part time, before it evolved into a full-time position in July. I’ve always been one for grand, elaborate schemes, and the large stacks of books I received as Christmas presents inspired me to outline my “life goal” of 2011.

I would read. A lot.

Feel free to pause and take a moment to snicker, or perhaps roll your eyes at the lack of any shock in that goal. I already do read. A lot. It’s kind of my thing. yet I wanted to take it further, so I decided to log every book I read, including start date, finish date, and a brief summary of my thoughts. It worked amazingly well, and I’ve noticed a consistent depth to my reading, as well as promptness in finishing books (whereas in previous years I tend to be a bit lazy with books I find uninspiring).

Total books read for 2011: 50

So in honor of cliche year-end blogging lists everywhere, I made a list of my top picks. The criteria for each book listed is twofold: 1) I read it in 2011 and 2) I liked it more than others I read in 2011. *Note: this means that a lot of these books didn’t come out in 2011. So don’t be shocked. They also aren’t listed in any order of preference–they were all amazing reads!

1Q84, Haruki Murakami
This is one of the few books I read that actually came out in the year I was reading it. I’m a really big fan of Murakami, but I always find that his weakness in writing is that he forgets he has readers–that is, sometimes he forgets to explain, in however rudimentary and simple of way, his leaps in his fantastical logic. This book was an excellent sample of his writing, though, and I think it is his best to-date. He manages to maintain that crazy fantasy of alternate realities and creative remixing of worlds while still letting the reader follow him along in the story, instead of chasing after his train of thought.

Master & Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov
I’m a big fan of Russian authors, so when a friend of mine recommended this novel I jumped on it. And I’ve seriously been jumping on it ever since–I friggin’ loved it. It’s one of the more modern Russian novels I’ve read (not that it’s modern–it was published in the 1930s), and it’s just proven that I need to continue with this fan-girl approach to Russian writers. This novel is hilarious, snarky, and impressive, considering it was written during the height of Russian censorship, and manages to mock that very censorship. The writing of the book is an example of the power of the human spirit, and the book itself is just this fabulous middle-finger to the politics that Bulgakov was experiencing.

Al Jazeera, Hugh Miles
I like to balance my fiction love with the occasional non-fiction. You know, continuing to work on my poli-sci interests and all. This book should be required reading for anyone who has ever participating in American-centric media. It gives an alternate viewpoint that is absolutely essential to developing critical thinking towards the media. The author is clearly an Al Jazeera fan boy, but that in no way takes away from the marvelously concise and informative piece he wrote on them. Required reading!

Doctor Zhivago, Boris Pasternak
I’ve been waiting for the Pevear-Volokhonsky translation of Doctor Zhivago to come out, and I wasn’t disappointed. They have a mastery of translating Russians into English that manages to capture the original essence of the authors, and it allows you to fully appreciate the talent that the original authors displayed in their writing. Doctor Zhivago isn’t stuffy or boring–it’s poetic, and lyrical, and the translation did full justice to it. I have a personal rule of not writing anything too in-depth about an author I’ve only read once, so I’m really looking forward to sitting down with Doctor Zhivago again and absorbing Pasternak’s piece more fully in the upcoming year.

Footnotes in Gaza, Joe Sacco
Westerners, specifically Americans, so often lose perspective, and don’t have the opportunity to hear from the “other” side in the conflicts our countries have managed to engage in. Joe Sacco’s piece was a very hard read, but it’s a topic I’m pretty passionate about. Sacco is very unapologetic about presenting accurately the viewpoints of Palestinians living in Gaza–and yet he does it in a full and complete way, so it’s easier to empathize when they express anti-American and militaristic sentiments. The graphic novel form that this book was written in makes the story that much more intense, and he weaves history in with the modern in a very impressive way. This should be required reading for anyone living in “the West”, just to have some idea of how other people live and experience the world.

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