After a few years of trying to juggle work, night life, laziness and reading, which resulted in not having read as many books as I would have liked to, I finally arrived at a score of 26 books per 2012, which will, hopefully, translate to 2013 as well.
Of course, quantity is not quality, so let’s take a look back at 2012 and see what I’d been doing with my reading time… (also, I bet those people who read at least 5 books per month are snickering at my proud introduction).
1. Robert Sheckley – Mindswap: This hilarious sci-fi reminds me of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide…”; it talks about a young guy who, in search of some excitement in his life, swaps his body for an alien’s body (which is in that setting quite a normal thing to do), but trouble begins when it turns out that there are more minds than bodies and someone’s bound to be tricked big time in this unfair trade. There’s one dialogue between the main character and a fantastically strange and feisty little creature he meets on his travels, that made me cry from laughter.
2. Julian Barnes – Talking it Over: This is what I call a real literary treat. I enjoyed every single sentence in this deliciously charming account of a love’s triangle. Clumsy Stuart is in love with Gillian, Gillian loves him back but doesn’t like his overly confident best friend Oliver, Oliver laughs at Gillian’s unstylish jeans-and-sneakers combination, Oliver realizes he’s falling for Gillian, Gillian realizes she’s falling for Oliver goddamnit… All told from three different perspectives and in a wonderfully entertaining way. Strangely, I can’t remember the ending, but I know it’s not a happy one. This is safe to say, because this fact can in no way spoil the book for you.
3. Kurt Vonnegut – Timequake: This is my first encounter with Kurt Vonnegut; though the plot didn’t take my breath away (timequake that made the world and all people go back in time and relive every single moment in those ten years exactly as the first time around, without any free will to change anything), Kurt’s witty prose did.
4. Douglas Adams – The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul: A detective investigates a series of puzzling occurrences that are somehow connected to god of thunder, Thor. Douglas Adams had me at the introductory sentence: “It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on Earth has ever produced the expression ‘as pretty as an airport’.” May I just say that not many things are as unjust as Douglas’s death at the age of 50-something.
5. Doris Lessing – The Summer Before the Dark: Though a Nobel winner, the author didn’t do anything in this book to justify her praise-worthy accomplishment. In a story about a woman whose life of an impeccable housewife and mother disintegrates into a chaotic quest for her identity, I found nothing interesting.
6. Jacques Merlino – Yugoslav truths are not all good for telling: This was a very important book for me, because it reassured me that we, Serbs, are not complete monsters. Jacques Merlino is a French journalist who was very eager to get at the bottom of what really happened to trigger the wars in Slovenia, Bosnia, Croatia. Merlino presents UN reports, parts of his interviews with presidents and military leaders, parts of Hague judges’ conclusions and his own conclusions, to give us a more complete picture of a war that unjustly gave rise to the image of Serbian nation as the world’s new number one villain.
7. Margaret Atwood – Writing with Intent: Essays, Reviews, Personal Prose 1983-2005. Entertaining, witty, smart as always. Margaret Atwood is a woman who always has something (wise) to say.
8. Milorad Pavić – Last Love in Constantinople: Though a masterful sentence-weaver, the author failed to create more than an occasional satisfactory poetic image in this confusing novel. Is my reading of it.
9. Arkady and Boris Strugatsky – Space Apprentice (a.k.a. Probationers): This is my third novel by the wonderfully imaginative brothers Strugatsky, and I can’t decide which of the three is my favorite. This one follows a group of experienced cosmonauts on their way to complete a mission, who entertain and are entertained by a young “apprentice” in awe of their expertise. They tell stories and lead long, philosophical conversations, raising some of the most important existential questions. Beautiful friendships are made between cosmonauts during the trip, and also between the reader and her dear imaginary book friends.
10. Azar Nafisi – Reading Lolita in Teheran: You can read my review of this book in the “English” section of Waiting for Nobel.
11. Viktor Pelevin – Omon Ra: I reviewed this book as well.
12. Neil Gaiman – The Graveyard Book: I reviewed this book in the “Serbian” section. For those who don’t speak Serbian, the bottom line is: read the book! It reminds me of those wonderful movies and books we had when we were kids; they rarely make characters so warm and interesting nowadays.
13. Erlend Loe – Fvonk: I read every single book by Erlend Loe that is translated into Serbian and I love all of them. “Fvonk” is the last novel he published, I think, and it has the same sensibility as his previous works. It’s a story about two lonely men; one, a successful leader of the country, the other, a failed man in almost every sphere of his life. They meet and recognize each other in their loneliness, thus starting a 200+ page friendship full of humor, sadness, tenderness and urgency. My diagnosis: If you don’t love Erlend Loe’s books, there
must could be something wrong with you.
14. Vedrana Rudan – The Skeletons of Madison County: Vedrana Rudan is a Croatian author who writes about women who are unhappy being married, women who can’t stand their husbands anymore, women who realize having kids is not so great as they say, and every now and then she visits the “sex is overrated” and “we hate the US monopoly” topics. She is a very smart, brutally honest and wonderfully funny/vulgar writer whose novels it is a delight to read. In “The Skeletons of Madison County” Vedrana writes about a 70 year old woman who cheats on her husband with another 70 year old guy – her truest love.
15. Muriel Spark – Loitering With Intent: I reviewed this amazing novel in the “English” section.
16. Ante Tomić – Tadpoles: Another wonderfully funny Croatian author. My goal is to read all of his books. “Tadpoles” is about a young girl’s summer vacation at her grandparents’ house where seemingly nothing special, but actually a lot happens. Growing up is tough.
17. Muriel Spark – Girls of Slender Means: I loved “Loitering With Intent”, but “Girls of Slender Means” is not even a shadow of this absolute masterpiece. It talks about young, well-brought up, respectful but poor women in a home for girls in post-war London, whose main concern is to get married. I didn’t like this book much because it seemed very scattered, with no central character, no central plot, no apparent point at all.
18. Russell Brand – My Booky Wook: Ah, funny Russell. I reviewed his book in the “English” section.
19. Margaret Atwood – The Handmade’s Tale: Same thing as for Russell’s.
20. Carol Hill – Amanda, Eleven Million Mile High Dancer: I reviewed this book in the “Serbian” section. Don’t ask me how I choose which book to review where. It’s possible that on some days I write better in one language than in the other, and my fingers intuitively recognize the appropriate language to write in. As for Amanda, she’s a charming sex bomb blonde/astrophysicist who’s sent to space to check what’s going on up there, because many mysterious catastrophes are happening on Earth. The first two-thirds of the book are wonderfully imaginative, but the third part of the book is a little over the top. The author loses her credibility and ruins the ending. Still, it’s worth reading for the successful first part and very charming characters, among which there’s a cat named Shrodinger (check out the “Shrodinger cat”, if you don’t know this experiment and physics term) who sleeps most of the time, but is a genius when awake.
21. Ante Tomić – Love, Electricity, Water & Phone: I read this book with 4 of my girlfriends as part of our attempt to get the literary club thing going. This was the second attempt, 5-6 years after the first one, where one of my friends and I almost beat each other to death over whether Henry Miller’s main character in “Quiet Days in Clichy” was a misogynist or not (I said he was). Our second meeting was much more civilized, though we didn’t have much to say about “Love, Electricity, Water and Phone.” It’s one of those books that is much better reading than talking about it.
22. Istvan Oerkeny – One Minute Stories: I reviewed this book in the “Serbian” section. Mr. Oerkeny’s collection of short stories is one of the most imaginative, delightful, humorous pieces of work I’ve ever read, and long after I finished the book, I couldn’t properly enjoy anything else in writing.
23. Alek Popov – Advanced Level: I reviewed this book as well.
24. Kurt Vonnegut – Bluebeard, the Autobiography of Rabo Karabekian: To me, this book was similar to “Timequake” in that it had little to offer in terms of plot and story, but much in terms of discourse content. Rabo Karabekian is an old artist who’s tired of life after his wife’s death; an unexpected visit from a younger, energetic, attractive woman brings him back to life, but at a certain price. Most of the plot’s strength is in Rabo’s (Kurt’s) wonderfully humorous storytelling, his musings on life, art and everything in between.
25. Srđan Valjarević – Joe Fraser and 49 + 24 poems: I already wrote about this collection of poetry. I love it.
26. Dan Simmons – Hiperion: In my review of “Hiperion” in Serbian I blame my boyfriend for suggesting this book to me and “wasting” my precious two months time on reading a book that doesn’t end, but has a sequel, and why wasn’t I aware of this fact? Now that I had more time to reflect on the book, it’s actually much better than I gave it credit for.