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Reviewletts: Catching Up on 2012

I like to start out each new reading year with a clean slate, so I decided to do some mini-reviews of all the books that, for whatever reason, I ended up not writing about more fully this year. It’s a mixed bag — there are a few books I just didn’t have much to say about, and there are others that I had many thoughts but never got around to writing them down. There are several that I just felt “meh” about, and several others that I loved.

If you have more questions about any of these, feel free to leave them in the comments!

Ex Libris by Anne FadimanEx Libris is a lovely, must read collection of essays by one of my favorite authors. In the brief book, Fadiman writes about her lifelong love of books, tackling the questions that vex most readers – if and how to combine libraries with your spouse, the odd bookshelves for idiosyncratic passions, and the proper treatment of books. This is a lovely book that I highly recommend.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – I got really excited when the first trailer for Baz Luhrman’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby came out, so I decided to re-read the book. Fitzgerald’s writing is even more lovely than I remember – sparse but evocative and rich – but the plot still doesn’t do much for me. I am, however, even more excited to see it on the big screen. I think Leonardo DiCaprio is going to be a wonderful Gatsby.

Bossypants by Tin Fey (audio book) – I was prepared to fall in love with Bossypants, but for whatever reason it just didn’t grab me. I really enjoyed many of Fey’s stories, particularly those near the end that talk about her career and challenges as a woman writer, but on the whole this one wasn’t so great that I felt compelled to write or talk about it much… trust me, I’m super bummed about that!

The Influencing Machine by Brooke Gladstone – If you are at all curious to get a basic lesson about mass media and journalism theory, then you must pick up this book. Gladstone, a reporter with NPR’s On the Media, partnered with artist John Neufeld to write a graphic nonfiction book about the state of media. Because of my background, a lot of what Gladstone covered was a bit of a review, but even I learned some new things. If you happen to be one of those people who likes to talk about (or insult) The Media, you owe it to yourself (and those around you) to pick up this book.

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman – I read Seraphina late in the evening during the October Read-a-Thon, so I don’t know that I have much to say about it other than it was quite fun. It reminded me a lot of one of my television addictions of the year, Merlin, which made it even more enjoyable. If you like good YA fantasy, then this is one to check out.

Pitch Perfect by Mickey Rapkin – If there is one book I am most sad I didn’t write a full review of on this list, it would be Pitch Perfect (the book that the totally hilarious movie of the same name is based on). In the book, journalist Mickey Rapkin follows three college a cappella groups during one season to understand “the quest for collegiate a cappella glory.” My sister and I were going to read this one together for a sister’s book club, but Jenny (who doesn’t normally like nonfiction) thought sections were boring and didn’t finish it. I thought it was delightful and recommend it for nerds everywhere.

Matched, Crossed and Reached by Ally Condie – Over Christmas, I needed some books to read that would be fun without taking too much brain energy. My sister recommended the three titles in Ally Condie’s Matched series, which I ended up racing through in just a couple of days. They weren’t perfect – I thought the love triangle was pretty lame and the rebellion against The Society is pretty reminiscent of the plot in The Hunger Games series – but overall they were pretty enjoyable.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple – I am a sucker for a good epistolary novel, and Where’d You Go, Bernadette did not disappoint me. The book is, ostensibly, a series of documents – e-mails, F.B.I documents, discussions with a psychiatrist – that try to put together the story of how 15-year-old Bee Fox’s mother, Bernadette, disappeared. The novel is quite funny, and the mystery of Bernadette’s disappearance is well-paced. It was quite fun.

As Texas Goes… by Gail Collins – Picked As Texas Goes… on a whim from my local library while I was exploring the new nonfiction shelves. In the book, Collins looks at how the people and politics of Texas have “hijacked” the American agenda, everything from education to banking deregulation. Although Collins makes some compelling points, the book felt unbalanced to me, almost unwilling to give Texas/Texans any credit for successes. At the same time, I’m not sure being balanced was the point of the book, so maybe I am craving something Collins wasn’t trying to do in the first place.

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  • Tanya Patrice January 2, 2013, 6:08 am

    Bossypants was not my jam either. But I’ve seen others who absolutely loved it. And Bernadette is going on my reading list – too many people are raving about it, and I actually own a copy.

    • Kim January 2, 2013, 6:34 pm

      Most of the reviews I read were very positive, so I was surprised that it didn’t grab be. But we’re all different readers 🙂

  • bermudaonion(Kathy) January 2, 2013, 8:25 am

    I really enjoyed Where’d You Go, Bernadette too. I listened to the audio version and thought it was great!

    • Kim January 2, 2013, 6:39 pm

      I wondered about the audio, if it worked with all the letters and stuff. I’m glad it did!

  • Jessica @ Quirky Bookworm January 2, 2013, 9:09 am

    I didn’t love Bossypants either. I’m glad to hear you didn’t actually, I thought there was something wrong with me since everyone else is raving about it.

    And – Pitch Perfect is a book?! I recently got coerced into watching the movie with friends. I’d have never guessed it was based on a book.

    • Kim January 2, 2013, 6:36 pm

      Yes! The movie is based on a work of narrative nonfiction (crazy, right?). The book is pretty different from the movie (lots more background on the legal/organizing side of college a capella), but you can see a lot of the quirks and some of the particulars in the movie in the three a capella groups Rapkin profiles.

  • Florinda January 2, 2013, 3:47 pm

    What Jessica said–I didn’t know Pitch Perfect was based on a book, either! I think I see my next ebook purchase…since I don’t think I’ll get around to seeing the movie. Thanks for that heads-up :D! And speaking of movies, I am WAY on the fence about …Gatsby. I’ll wait for the reviews on that one.

    • Kim January 2, 2013, 6:39 pm

      The movie is super fun, in a really goofy way. When my sister and I saw it, I just smiled the entire way though. I liked the book too, although it is. on the whole, more serious than the movie (as serious as you can be about a capella, anyway).

      I think the Gatsby movie is going to either be really awesome or just terrible. But I am in love with the idea that Lurhman is just going all in with the crazy because you can see that in the book (even if Nick is so vanilla that it gets glossed over).

  • maphead January 2, 2013, 9:22 pm

    Since As Texas Goes is currently on my list of books to read I appreciate you sharing your impressions of that book.
    Ex Libras sounds quite promising. Might have to give it a shot…

    • Kim January 3, 2013, 7:41 pm

      I’m really curious what you’ll think of that one! Collins has a nice, conversational style that I appreciated… but I just had this feeling that the book was missing something. Like if I went to a party and started making one of her arguments, someone smarter than me would have better facts and I’d look totally stupid. Does that make any sense?

  • Laurie C January 3, 2013, 5:47 am

    I’ve already added Where’d You Go, Bernadette to my TBR list, but can’t decide whether to read it or listen to the audio. I just cut my driving commute in half with a new job, so my audio time is going to go down too. Great job with the mini-reviews! I keep meaning to do that too, but I keep thinking the posts will be too hard to tag. (Probably just an excuse…)

    • Kim January 3, 2013, 7:42 pm

      I enjoyed reading it, but have heard from several other people that the audio is great. So I guess I can’t help there!

      And uh, post tagging. I hate it!

  • Iris January 3, 2013, 8:26 am

    I have Ex Libris on my shelves, and now I cannot wait to read it. It sounds lovely.

    • Kim January 3, 2013, 7:43 pm

      It is! I have her two other small books of essays — Rereadings and At Large and Small — that I’m looking forward to as well.

  • Daniel B. January 3, 2013, 3:52 pm

    Great snippets. I’m adding The Influencing Machine to my list to read this year.

    • Kim January 3, 2013, 7:44 pm

      That one is really fantastic, especially if you don’t have much background studying the media or journalism. She really explains a lot of concepts and issues well in a fun format.

  • Jenny January 3, 2013, 7:47 pm

    I loved Where’d You Go Bernadette, even though I didn’t expect to at all. A friend of mine lent it to me, and his taste is only sporadically aligned with mine. But I loved it so much I got it for my mother for Christmas. I nearly got it for Indie Sister too.

    • Kim January 5, 2013, 5:24 pm

      That book was such fun! I’m glad I had a chance to read it (yay, library!).

  • Savvy Working Gal January 3, 2013, 9:01 pm

    I waited forever for my Bossypants hold to due at my library. The week before it came in I read a negative review from a trusted blogger and never bothered to read it. The commenters on the post did think it was more enjoyable as an audiobook rather than actually reading it.

    • Kim January 5, 2013, 5:24 pm

      I listened to it as an audio book, which I do think is the way to go — Tine Fey is really expressive, and you get a lot of her sarcasm. But I still felt a little meh about it anyway.

  • Joanna January 4, 2013, 4:27 pm

    I was disappointed with Bossypants too – I love 30 Rock and think that Tina Fey is really funny, but the book didn’t really do it for me. Though I did like the chapter on motherhood and the guilt of a working mother.

    I agree, Matched etc is good but doesn’t compare with The Hunger Games.

    Pitch Perfect sounds great! I used to sing with a group that did a lot of a capella and this book sounds right up my alley!

    • Kim January 5, 2013, 5:25 pm

      Pitch Perfect is a ton of fun. Some of the chapters about the politics and organization of college a cappella drag a bit, but if you skim through those you get back to the singing and the college kid drama that is delightful.

  • Katie January 8, 2013, 6:03 pm

    I loved bossypants but I’m also super obsessed with Tina Fey. What probably made me love it so much was I listened to it and it was narrated by her so it was an extra bit of wonderful.

    Not surprised about Pitch Perfect. When I heard it was a book (after seeing the totally enthralling movie) I was like how could this be better than the movie?! You can’t hear them singing?! Sometimes the movie is just great. (like devil wears prada).

    felt the same about the Matched series. I enjoyed the first one. Bored by the second and I haven’t gotten to the third. It’s a great book to read if you are crazing a weird society book.

  • Nicole January 31, 2013, 9:53 am

    I discovered your site last night and plan to check out Good Prose and Friendfluence. Thanks for the recommendations! Where’d You Go, Bernadette is one of my favorites from 2012.