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2012 Book a Week Recap

2013 is here and that means that the book a week challenge is over and complete. 52 books in 52 weeks!

It was tough to do but not nearly as difficult as it sounds. When I read about doing this a year ago, I thought it was crazy. But then I started to think about it more and I realized it’s really not that hard.

Starting off in January, I was doing great. I was actually ahead a couple weeks at one point and I had a good schedule going – I read for a while at night and I read Saturday and Sunday mornings. Then spring came around and all of a sudden it wasn’t dark when I left work and there was so much to do outside that reading really fell to the wayside. Spring is when the first slump occurred. I really struggled through a couple books at this point and had to try to get back on schedule.

Things seemed to level out for a while and the balance was restored but then the baby news came and started to dominate our lives (in a good way). Did you know that babies can keep you from reading? Even when they aren’t there yet!

In the last few months I thought I’d be a few books short but in the end, I got through all 52.

The initial response most people have to hearing about reading a book a week is, “what was your favorite book?” That’s a hard question to answer because there were so many different books that its hard to really compare one book to the another. So instead, lets take a look at some of the books that stood out in my mind. But first, in case you were curious…Of the 52 books I read, 33 were fiction and 19 were non-fiction. The longest book I read was 624 pages and the average book was 283 pages!

Let’s run em down


Robopocalypse was great (and I hear they’re making it into a move!). Think World War Z and replace zombies with robots.

 


The Talented Mr. Ripley was awesome. I was literally sad when the book ended. When was the last time you read a book and said, “wait, there has to be more. I don’t want it to end!” well, there is more. In fact there are a few more books in the series!

 


Speaking of good a series, Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole series (The Snowman, The Leopard and The Devil’s Star are just three books from the series that I read this past year) is fantastic. It will settle your craving for another Girl With The Dragon Tattoo book. They have the same dark, cold Scandinavian vibe. Also read Headhunters! Same author. Different story line. Great book.

 


Were we talking about book series’? well then, check out the Hap and Leonard books by Joe R. Landsdale. I read the first, Savage Season, and I think it’ll be worth seeing what happens to these two guys (I’d describe the two characters for you, but you would either laugh or never read the books…intrigued?).

 


Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking was so refreshing to read. Finally a pro-introvert book. Just because you’re louder doesn’t mean you’re better….or even right, in fact you’re probably wrong.

 


Astronauts and Heretics is by far the funniest book I read all year. Its a collection of short stories, not all of them are funny…but I literally LOL’d reading a couple of them. ha…lol.

 


Unbroken was the biggest surprise. War hero bio’s typically aren’t my thing, but the story is literally amazing and it was written well enough to keep you turning the pages. If this is your ‘thing” read Lone Survivor It’s another amazing story but it can be a little political at times.

 


The Picture of Dorian Gray was the biggest disappointment (and the cause of my worst reading slump). It’s so dry and dull that I wish I didn’t read it…except that the ending, and I’m talking about the last paragraph was great. Getting there however was not.

 


Speaking of endings, Casino Royale has the best, absolute best ending of a book I can recall. “The bitch is dead”

 


Outliers was good. Purple Cow (and anything by Seth Godin) was good. The Art of Non-Conformity was fun, especially if you like travel. Six Pixels of Separation was probably good when it was originally published but its a little dated now. The Thank You Economy was good and will make you angry the next time a business doesn’t go out of their way for you, like they should! (it did for me )

 


If you like bikes (bicycles that is, and that probably eliminates everyone reading this), try reading the two books I read. Just Ride: A Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike is an inspiration to get out and ride your bike just because its fun. It’s All About the Bike is more for someone with a serious bike addiction (ahem). It has a lot of great history and amazing info on all sorts of bike components.

 


The Day of the Jackal is a classic and should be required reading.

 


Snow Crash is like The Matrix before anyone even knew what The Matrix was. Amazingly ahead of its time and it still holds up today.

 


American Gods was one of the strangest (in a good way) books that I read. It’s like a modern take on Norse Mythology. If I were to read it again, it might make more sense (especially because I read The Children of Odin:The Book of Northern Myths as well) but even not knowing that much about Norse Mythology, it was a good book.

 

So what’s next?

So with the challenge over, what shall I read now? At the moment, I’m reading Seth Godin’s latest book, The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly?. I’m also gearing up for The Art of Fielding.

There are a few books I intentionally shied away from this year that I’d like to read, because they are both very large. 1Q84 (over 1100 pages!) and…Moby Dick (I know, I’m rolling my eyes along with you but its over 500 pages) both have been on my list all year.

I also really like Jo Nesbo. There are a few books of his I haven’t read yet, so I’ll more than likely finish the series. Aside from dark crime fiction, he also happens to write childrens stories of all things and being as though my wife is currently with child, why not read Doctor Proctor’s Fart Powder!?

Other than that, I want to finish all of the James Bond books by Ian Fleming (three down so far) and the rest of the books in the Talented Mr. Ripley series.

If you’re interested, I keep an updated list of what I want to read on Amazon. You can check it out here. I also keep track of the books I’m currently reading and have completed on Goodreads.com. Click here to check out my profile.  And lastly, you can stay up to date with my digital bookshelf here.

August Recap | Book A Week In 2012

It’s a month late but that’s just because I’m a month behind in reading. But fear not, the sun is setting earlier each day and its getting colder and colder each day. That means that I’ll be reading more and more each day! I’m over the hump, 37 books down and 15 (only 15!) to go if you’re keeping track at home.

Without further ado, lets look at what I read in August.

 

Siddhartha

This is written by Herman Hesse, the same guy who wrote Steppenwolf (the book, not the band), which I also read. He’s kinda far out there. His stories tend to revolve around religion/spirituality and the purpose of life.

Siddhartha is a story of an Indian man who goes in search of his purpose in life. He becomes a monk, he follows Buddha, he becomes ‘one with nature’ and then he becomes a rich man living in sin. He experiences all sides of life both good and bad, learning from each of his experiences. In the end, his life comes full circle, living again as a spiritual man, knowing no more about life than he did as a youth.

Siddhartha is an interesting book and if you’re looking for something different and maybe off the beaten path, this wouldn’t be the worst thing you could pick up. It may not however be the most exciting thing you read this year. Instead, you might consider a more modern version of this story in The Celestine Prophecy

 

 

Frankenstein

Frankenstein is a classic. It’s constantly referenced. It shows up without fail every Halloween and yet, I don’t think I’d ever actually read it. Maybe, I’d read bits and pieces maybe but never the whole thing. I’m glad I did though because its a great book.

 

 

 

 

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

This has been on my list for a long time. The premise is cool and kinda funny in a very smart-ass kinda way. So it’s been on my kinda-want-to-read list for over a year and well, that’s what the book a week challenge is all about. Right? So I read it…and it was great.

It’s a great mix of American history and vampire folklore. The story does a great job of bring up points throughout history and interspersing vampires into the story.  It works well and it’s lots of fun.

 

 

The $100 Startup

This is a great book from Chris Guillebeau. It is full of inspiration. If you’re looking to start your own business or just looking for some creative inspiration, it’s well worth your time.

The book reads like a list of case studies and examples of people who have done some amazing things. Not Microsoft or Facebook type behemoths but strong businesses that allow people to live comfortably working for themselves. Some of the businesses featured in this book make several million dollars a year, others are intentionally kept small by the owners. The point of all of these businesses is that whatever your interest or passion, if you work hard, you can make a business out of it. You may not be the next Mark Zuckerberg but you can get out of your 9-5 (if you want) and work for yourself.

Chris is a fascinating guy with a really good blog. Take some time and check it out.

 

The Affair

This is my guilty pleasure, it’s like a guys version of a romance novel. It’s fun to read but there aren’t many redeeming qualities about these books. They are easy to read and more or less the same general story recycled with each book but I’ll be damned if Child isn’t good at recycling his own material.

This one is more of a back story about what led of to Reacher leaving the military. It’s a good, quick read and if you pick it up, you’ll more than likely enjoy it mildly or enthusiastically. The book aside, shouldn’t we be talking about why in the world Tom Cruise is playing Jack Reacher in the upcoming movie, Jack Reacher (which is based on the novel One Shot, which again, is good and you won’t regret it if you read). Jack Reacher is described over and over in each book as being 6’5, 250. A lumbering guy who is admittedly not quick, not fast, but he is effective. That’s the main premise of the entire series, he’s a big guy who get stuff done. It’s never pretty but it’s always effective. That is essentially, Lee Child’s thesis statement for the Reacher series….and they pick Tom Cruise to play him? Cruise is the absolute antithesis of who Reacher is supposed to be. Cruise is short, nimble and for lack of better term, sexy. Reacher is none of those. He is a wandering lug of a man who rarely shaves, cuts his hair or changes clothes. <sigh> I’ll probably still watch it and I’ll probably enjoy it and just like the books, not regret watching it.

July Recap | Book a Week in 2012

Summer is really cutting into my reading schedule. Technically I’m behind a couple weeks but we’re still trudging along.

Here is what I read in July…


I am Legend

I thought the movie was ok, but more importantly I thought the premise (i.e. what the book probably is) was very cool. Then I came upon the book which I found out is quite old and it’s a sort of cult classic. So I took a chance.

It is sooo much better than the movie. Think of it more like Night of the Living Dead (the original, black and white movie) as opposed to what was portrayed in the Will Smith version of the movie. Much more story, more plot, more thought and less action/special effects. This is just another in a long line of example of how much better the book is than the movie.

 


The Leopard

Another quality Norwegian thriller from Jo Nesbo. This is a follow up to The Snowman, which was also quite good. This series follows Harry Hole, a detective in Oslo, Norway. He is a flawed hero that specialized in serial killers.

If you read and liked, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo books and are looking for something with that cold, Norwegian vibe, this is a good author to read.

 

 


The Art of Racing in the Rain

I read the first paragraph and had to put it down…picked it up a month later (blocking out the first paragraph from my memory) and started back up.

I wanted to like it from the start, but nothing pulled me in. I was ready to dismiss it but then the climax of the story hit and the villain(s) entered the story. This book has quite possibly the most evil bad guy(s) that I’ve ever read. They aren’t murderous characters, they fight through words and legal actions, which is far more frustrating than throwing punches.

The Art of Racing in the Rain is a decent book. It’s not going to blow you away and as far as dog stories go, it’s not at the top of the list. It is however kinda funny. It’s very sad and the ‘twins’ as the dog refers to them really are evil.

 


Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that can’t stop talking

This is a fascinating look at introverts and extroverts, what those terms really mean and a great look at the studies that have been done on the subject. ‘Introvert’ always seems to have a negative connotation to it, associated more closely with being anti-social. As an introvert myself, it was nice to read about all the positive aspects of being an introvert.

One aspect of the book that I didn’t quite enjoy was the polarizing talk about introverts and extroverts. Some of the examples that are provided and some of her commentary (especially at the Tony Robbins seminar) are a little extreme but those examples come early on in the book and the further into it you get, the better it gets.

June Recap – A Book a Week in 2012

I’m really starting to feel the heat (literally and figuratively). Falling behind is a serious reality. Truth be told, the Tour de France is really digging into my reading time. Seriously. It’s on every night from 7-10, which previously was a great time to read. Now I’m glued to the TV, reading a page here and there during commercial breaks. “The Tour de France?” you’re thinking to yourself. Yes, Le Tour has done me in..it’s just so damn exciting. Just give it a try, you’ll see! (I may or may not have a cycling addition)

Here’s a look at what I read in June…

 


The Children of Odin: The Book Of Northern Myths

Who doesn’t love a little mythology? This urge was spawned after watching The Avengers (which Thor, Odin’s son is apart of) and realizing that I’ve never actually read any Norse mythology…and I love mythology.

When I found this, it was a free kindle download from Amazon, which is great. But later after I’d started reading, I found an illustrated version for $.99. I thought that was a no-brainer and paid the buck. here are my two recommendations. Read the book and keep the dollar. The ‘illustrated’ version basically has a picture at the top of each story…let me rephrase. A crude, black and white illustration at the top of each story (maybe 10-12 all together). The cover of the illustrated version makes you think that this is going to be full of pictures of the gods and the battles, giving you a beautiful representation of the story…that’s unfortunately not the case.

Regardless, it was fun to finally read some Norse mythology. Go check it out.

 

The Hitmans Guide to Housecleaning

Sounds interesting right…right? A little different maybe? While this wasn’t bad, I thought based on the title, it could have been better, maybe even a little more unique. I had the same disappointment when I read American Psycho (which I don’t think I’d recommend to anyone). American Psycho would have been sooo much better without the blood and guts and more of the main character freaking out inside his own head at the color and font on his ‘friends’ business card…(the color was ‘Bone’ if you don’t remember). Killing people was just fluff, the real meat of that story was how this uber rich brat was so caught up in being better than everyone and having the “best” things and even a better business card that it was driving him crazy…literally. More of that and less of the actual murders would have elevated that book by leaps and bounds.

So how does that relate to The Hitman’s Guide to Housecleaning? The book wasn’t bad…I’d have to say it was mediocre at best, bordering on good. There just wasn’t a whole lot of memorable aspects of the story other than the setting in Reykjavik. In my opinion, much like American Psycho, this book would have benefiting from more internal dialogue. Let the reader hear what’s going on in his head as he’s stuck in hiding…better yet, when he has to find a job…make him a housecleaner as the title suggests! Walk the reader through how this former Hitman goes about cleaning a house like he would have done a hit. How he relates a mop and bucket to his former tools of the trade. That would be more interesting and much more memorable. Instead we’re left with an odd story about a hitman on the run who ends up in Iceland and falls for a girl whose parents are religious fanatics.

 

A Monster Calls

Here is another one that wasn’t exactly what I was expecting (maybe June should be the month of not what you were expecting). Again I ran across this on Amazon and judging by the cover, I thought this would be really interesting. The artwork is fantastic and a little creepy at first glance. It pulled me in.

Turns out this isn’t a horror novel or scary story, it’s a fantasy novel about a boy whose mother is dying of cancer. The monster is his conscience trying to help him through this horrible time in his life. This wasn’t a bad book by any means, just not my cup of tea.

 

The Thank you Economy

Thank You Economy is one that’s been on my radar for a long time. It’s written by Gary Vaynerchuk who runs winelibrary.com. If you’re not familiar with this, you may be more familiar with Tony Hsieh’s (founder of Zappos) book on a similar topic.

Essentially it’s all about caring about your customers and trying to create a relationship with them. It’s not Mad Men anymore, you can’t buy customers through a TV commercial or billboard.. You’re customers have an impact on your bottom line and you can’t ignore that. You can’t talk over them or buy a huge ad to shut them up. The internet has given a voice to your customers and social media has given you the tools to interact with them and show them that you feel that they are an important part of your business, which they are.

The Thank You Economy is a great concept, but one that few companies actually adopt. There are a multitude of reasons as to why (Gary actually runs down this list in the book) but the fact remains that media is changing and the way companies interact with customers is changing. To stay relevant and to keep ahead of your competition, businesses need to create relationships with their customers and start interacting with them rather than pushing them aside.

Great read, I’m glad I finally picked it up.

 

Confessions of a Freelance Penmonkey

Ugh. I really like this guy, but I think I bit off a little too much writing advice in a relatively short time. The problem isn’t when I’m reading this book, because I do like it. The problem is the thought of picking it up doesn’t sound as enticing as something else I could be reading.

Truth be told, I’ve been reading this on and off for about three weeks and I’m still not technically finished. It will get read, but maybe not before the end July. Confessions of a book a week reader.

May Recap | A Book A Week In 2012

May was a tough month for reading. The sun came out, the birds started chirping and the amount of time spent inside reading seemed to dwindle down. Even with the extra daylight and warm weather, I managed to stay on track. Five months down, seven to go.

 

The Picture of Dorian Gray

This was one of the more difficult books to finish so far this year. Mainly because it just wasn’t that entertaining. I picked it up because I knew roughly the story behind Dorian Gray. There is a painting of Dorian and the painting starts to age while Dorian stays looking young.

It sounded really interesting but Oscar Wilde takes 3/4 of the book to get to any of the ‘good’ stuff. The majority of the book is about the painter, his friend and Dorian…a bunch of rich guys in old world London. They spend their time going to dinner parties and talking about nothing of any real substance.

It isn’t until the last quarter of the book that you find the real meat of the story, when Dorian becomes obsessed with the painting as he spirals out of control, living a seedy life of sin just to see how those sins are projected onto the painting. The ending is quick, to the point and great. The problem is getting to the ending is a chore.

 

 

The Headhunters

Jo Nesbo is one of my new favorite writers. His style is similar to Stiegg Larsson (it helps that his stories also take place in Sweden) so if you enjoyed the Millenium trilogy, you’ll probably also enjoy Nesbo’s books.

This one is coming out as a movie soon, so it prompted me to read the book before I see the movie (which I will). This is the second book by Nesbo that I’ve read and this one held up just as well as the first. The Headhunters is a story about a recruiter, an executive recruiter (headhunter) and an art thief. Very similar to The Thomas Crown Affair in that you have a successful businessman who also steals art. That’s probably the only connection between the two stories but it’s a good plot to start with nonetheless. In this story, the main character ends up stealing from the wrong person and people around him end up getting killed and he struggles to stay alive as he’s chased by the man he stole from.

This is a great story, quick, fun and easy to read. I have high hopes for the movie but we’ll see how it stands up.

 

 

Unbroken

Unbroken is an amazing story of a WWII bomber whose plane crashes in the Pacific and who eventually survives on a raft for over 40 days! It’s amazing to even consider anything remotely close to that. He eventually finds land unfortunately its enemy territory and he becomes a POW for over two years, enduring unbelievable conditions only to come home and be haunted by his experiences.

This is a wild ride. The story takes you from happy to sad to angry to happy back to sad and disappointed and back to happy. The author doesn’t hold back and sometimes I even found it hard to root for the guy. At other points in the book I got so disappointed for him and couldn’t BUT to cheer him on.

The person in this story went through so much, it’s hard to think twice about any of the negative things that happen in the story. It does however have a happy ending but it’s a long road to get there.

This a great book, written by Laura Hillenbrand the author of Seabiscuit. Check it out if you get a chance.

 

 

Shotgun Gravy

First things first, this is a novella, a short(er) story…it still counts.

I really like this author. I’ve read some of his fiction back in January, some of his non-fiction on writing back in December (I’m actually right in the middle of another of his books on writing at the moment as well).

This is his first novella in a series about Atlanta Burns, a teenager who’s been in trouble with the law and who is recently back in her old town. She keeps finding trouble and trouble keeps running into her. Her problem is less of trying to do the right thing, but the approach she takes in trying to resolve issues…a lot of the times she uses a shotgun to get her point across.

I think this is technically a YA book but what isn’t these days, right? If you want something a little different and quick to read, this one isn’t bad (and it’s only $.99) but there are definitely other books i’d recommend before this.