Looking at what I wrote on this subject last year I am almost appalled that I failed to keep my promises regarding my expected reading for 2012. Still, the Amanda Foreman title about the American Civil war sits above my desk with not one of the 800 pages having been cracked and, in addition, none of the Dickens books from the Penguin Classics collection have been read either. In the case of the Dickens books, my excuse is that they are bound so nicely I don't want to spoil them. I will get to all of these soon enough. I read 19 books this year which is the same as last year and several books took me a while: Something Happened by Joe Heller and Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel both of which I found very slow going. In the case of Wolf Hall, I know a lot about the history and I recognize the fine writing but I found it dense and I'm not sure I'll be reading the next one. (Accidentally, we started watching The Tudors on the TeeVee box which is far more enjoyable but of course more sudsy.)
As in other years, The Millions keeps asking people what they've enjoyed reading in the past year and their link is here.
Here's my list in reverse order and check out my LibraryThing and my Bookstore
Re Imagine - Tom Peters
Fault Line - Robert Goddard
The Prague Cemetary - Umberto Eco
Waging Heavy Peace - Neil Young
Iron War: Dave Scott & Mark Allen in the Greatest Race - Matt Fitgerald
The Power of Habit - Charles Duhigg
Wolf Hall - Hilary Mantel
Mr. Timothy - Louis Beynard
The Snowman - Jo Nesbo
The Mulberry Empire - Philip Hensher
Mr. Paradise - Elmore Leonard
Mission to Paris - Alan Furst
Death and Life of Bobby Z - Don Winslow
Penguin Book of Fights, Fueds, Hart felt Hatreds - Philip Kerr
Unfamiliar Fishes - Sarah Vowell
Before the Poison - Peter Robinson
Stone's Fall - Iain Pears
Royal Charles - Antonia Fraser
Something Happened - Joe Heller
Neil's book was very enjoyable - discursive - but he showed a lot more of himself in this book than I thought he would. My other favorites from this list were Iron War, The Power of Habit, Mission to Paris and Royal Charles.
Iron War tells the story of the intense rivalry between triathletes Dave Scott and Mark Allen which had its apotheosis (for those like me who deify supreme athleticism) in the 1989 Kona Iron Man where the two men swam, rode and ran literally side by side for 138 of 139 miles. Not only do I recall seeing this on television at the time but when I was in high school on Maui in the early 1980s I recall hearing about a crazy bunch of guys who had done the first Kona race and I recall laughing at the whole idea. I have run 15 marathons and I can't conceive of how hard a triathlon is and to do one in the manner in which Scott and Allen did that day is just unbelievable to me. By the way, between them they won Kona 12 times.
One of my Random House friends gave me The Power of Habit which I enjoyed and it made me think about how triggers and rewards help me manage my activities and priorities. What I found interesting were things I do to organize my life which fell into the methodology Duhigg spoke about in his book.
Royal Charles was immensely enjoyable and tells the history of the second King Charles who ascended the thrown not only after Parliament had killed his father, he had escaped death several times, wandered around Europe almost penniless all while the country underwent a revolution and the dictator (Cromwell) tried to pass the mantel to his son. Once eventually crowned King he was largely successful in stabilizing government but sadly died before the succession could be fixed and we ended up with James who was a complete ass.
In 2013, the Forman book and those Dickens books will feature again on my list as will several other books that have remained unread for a very long time. By way of example, the Royal Charles book was a gift from Mrs PND in 1993. As was the case this year, newer titles not currently on my shelf will interrupt the balance but not, I hope, to the extent that I push Foreman to 2014.
Happy New Year.