Thursday, December 27, 2012

Year In Reading 2012

In December 2011 I made a short list for the upcoming new year, not of resolutions, but of specific goals I wanted to accomplish. Some were big (trek to Mt. Everest Base Camp... check), some small. One of the smaller tasks I set for myself was simply to read more. I've never really been a big reader, but after moving abroad with no television, traveling and being on the move so much, I have a newfound respect and enthusiasm for reading. My goal for 2012 was to read 25 books by the end of the year; roughly, a book every two weeks. With 2013 just a few days away, I'm pleased to say that I knocked it out of the park. I read a total of 31 books this year. To some that may not be impressive, but it's definitely a personal best and I'm pretty pleased. Some of the books I read were better than others, but, disaster or masterpiece, I enjoyed them all.

If anyone's looking for something new to read, I've made a list of what I read in 2012, along with a few thoughts.

Blake's take: Had to kick off the year with a classic. Despite the adventure, I struggled to keep my eyes open through parts and had to really power through the tedious, dated writing. Still, this book is full of shipwrecks and cannibals and there's a reason that people have been read it for 300 years. Bad ass recommended.

Blake's take: Murakami's anecdotal memoir focuses on his writing and his running. Light and insightful.

  1. The Hunger Games (Collins)
Blake's take: Oh come on, everybody's doing it! I have to say, I prefer Battle Royale.

  1. Freakonomics (Levitt and Dubner)
Blake's take: I had to take econ twice in college and not because I loved it so much. However, these guys do a great job of applying economic principles to “the hidden side of EVERYTHING”. Good stuff.  Interesting, fun read.

  1. Life Of Pi (Martel)
Blake's take: I really enjoyed this book from cover to cover. Great read. Probably one of my favorites of the year. I'm curious to see how the movie will hold up.

Blake's take: Not the best overall, but I liked the premise. The author argues that modern tourism is just a fake experience that people pay for... People travel to a new country, just to sit in the confines of their resort or luxury hotel by the pool, not to actually travel and experience new cultures and places. No one really explores anymore. He ends up in what is possibly the last “unknown” territory on the planet-- Papua New Guinea-- deep in the forests, with native peoples that have never seen a “tourist” before.

  1. The Alchemist (Coelho)
Blake's take: Good read. Makes you think... inspirational... yada, yada, yada...

  1. The Pilgrimage (Coelho)
Blake's take: I liked The Alchemist, so I thought I'd read another Coelho book and since some friends of mine had walked the pilgrimage in Spain (El Camino de Santiago), I thought this book might be interesting. I have one word for it... WEIRD. Coelho may have lost me with this one.

Blake's take: I read this while in Nepal to get a better insight and understanding of the country's (unfortunate) history and modern-day political situation. The historical timeline was interesting, but a little boring.  Overall, well-researched and written, and really helpful in understanding why and how Nepal got to its current state.

  1. The 4-Hour Body (Ferriss)
Blake's take: After reading his best-seller on how to create income while traveling the world full-time, I thought I'd read Ferriss' 2nd book (also a best-seller) about hacking the human body. The tag line says that it's “an uncommon guide to rapid fat-loss, incredible sex, and becoming superhuman”. Sounds like another cheesy self-improvement or get-ripped-quick book, but after reading all 500+ pages, I stand by it. It's incredibly well-researched, tested (usually Ferris, himself, is the guinea pig), interesting, and entertaining. It's also the only book I know of with it's own trailer (watch it here), which is pretty badass. Read this, hack your body.
  1. Into Thin Air (Krakauer)
Blake's take: This is one of my favorite books and I read it for the second time while on my trek to Everest Base Camp in Nepal. It's the story of the 1996 disaster on the mountain that claimed the lives of nine people. Krakauer (also wrote Into The Wild) does an incredible job. He was actually part of the expedition and on the mountain when the storm hit. In my opinion, his journalistic talents are unmatched.  READ THIS BOOK.  

Blake's take: As always, Bryson is hilarious. This is the true story of his (mis)adventures while hiking the Appalachian Trail with his childhood best friend. Funny and informative. Puts the AT on the Bucket List.

  1. Emergency (Strauss)
Blake's take: Strauss (also wrote The Game), in journalistic style, infiltrates the world of “doomsday preppers”. This book is not only the story of the lenghts people will go to prepare for a super-disaster, but also a How To Guide for your own use. Interesting, funny, extreme.  Not gonna lie, I have a survival pack ready to go at all times.

Blake's take: Ferriss' first best-seller on how to “escape 9-5 and live anywhere”. I'm half way there.

  1. Neverwhere (Gaiman)
Blake's take: Really enjoyed this one. Gaiman is awesome. He's done everything: fiction, comic books, TV, movies, and even children's stories. This one's a dark, intense, but fun novel about a hidden underworld that lives in the tubes and tunnels underneath London. 

  1. Neverland (Bartolomei)
Blake's take: This is the first novel by a great friend of mine and soon to be famous American author. It's about new and old relationships, and living the dream in California. Proud to say I got to read a “pre-published” copy.

  1. Siddhartha (Hesse)
Blake's take: I was supposed to read this high school, but like most assigned readings back then, I opted for the Cliff's Notes version. I'm glad I gave it a second chance. It's a bit dry and can take some concentration to get through some parts, but it's short and well-written. I really enjoyed Hesse's storytelling intertwined with philosophy and Buddhism. If you skipped this one like I did, do yourself a favor and read it. Eat your knowledge.

Blake's take: Yep. It's a text-book and I read it cover-to-cover. Don't act like you can't tell.

  1. The Watchmen (Gibbons/Moore)
Blake's take: This was recommended to me by several people and is the first graphic novel I've read. AWESOME. If you've were turned off by the movie, give the book a try... totally different. Great story, artwork, and writing. There's a reason why it's on TIME's List of the 100 Best Novels of ALL TIME!

Blake's take: My favorite author and possibly my favorite fiction book. This book isn't quite as a dark as his other work, so if you haven't read McCarthy, it's a good starter. Do it; you won't regret it. Cormac McCarthy is one badass dude and the best writer of our time. That is all.

Blake's take: Insightful and informative, if at sometimes boring. Still, it's an important issue and an interesting read on the history of Burma-- from British colonial rule up to the current political situation under the military regime, and the struggle towards democracy.

  1. Hatchet (Paulsen)
Blake's take: Took a day to re-read this old survival tale and my favorite book from elementary school. It held up (kind of).

  1. Born to Run (McDougall)
Blake's take: One of my favorite books of the year. At first, I refused to read it. I'm opposed to the whole “I'm a hippie, look at me run barefoot” idea, and I don't really enjoy distance running in general. However, I finally gave in, and WOW. Not only is it a pretty incredible story, it's well-researched, and makes the evolution of running interesting and ultra-distance racing exciting. No, I'm not a barefoot convert now, but I am giving the minimalist shoes a try. Seemed to work well for me with my first 1/2 marathon.

  1. No Easy Day (Owen)
Blake's take: Whether or not is what ethical for this SEAL to publish his account of the Bin Laden raid, I don't know. Was this the most well-written book I've ever read? Nope. But I will tell you that it's a page turner and a pretty fascinating look into the world of Special Ops and what it took to bring down the most infamous terrorist of all time. Give it a read.
  1. The Tipping Point (Gladwell)
Blake's take: Gladwell's way of thinking and writing is truly unique. I really enjoyed this book and recommend it to anyone interested in psychology, marketing, networking, or the intricate concept of how ideas are formed and spread. I'm looking forward to reading Outliers next.

  1. Blood Meridian (McCarthy)
Blake's take: Earlier, I mentioned All The Pretty Horses as one of McCarthy's not-so-dark books. Blood Meridian is the opposite. Probably the most gory book I've ever read. It's an awesome story of cowboys, Indians, gun fights, and scalping. Great characters too. BRILLIANT.

  1. The $100 Startup (Guillebeau)
Blake's take: Always working towards my next big idea. OK, I'm still working on my first big idea. This book is helping.

Blake's take: Six years in college wasn't enough. My brother, Sam is making a run at the title and I'm gonna make sure that doesn't happen. I might as well get good grades while returning to grace. 

Blake's take: Deep, bro. Real deep. Think about it.

  1. On the Road (Kerouac)
Blake's take: I've been wanting to read Kerouac for a while. With my upcoming cross-country journey approaching, what better than now to read this modern classic, the ultimate tale of American road tripping. Great read.

  1. Killing Lincoln (O'Reilly and Dugard)
Blake's take:  I have to say this was one of my favorite non-fiction reads of the year.  It's written like a fast-paced thriller rather than your usual monotonous history book.  Well-researched and exciting look at the Lincoln assassination and conspiracy, and really gets inside Booth's head.  Looking forward to reading Killing Kennedy.

I've enjoyed the transition from tequila worm to book worm.  Hopefully, 2013 will bring even more words than 2012.

PHOTO CREDIT (top): “Art Books, Verona” (2012)/Courtesy Eli Klein Fine Art.

Blake's bookshelf:

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail
No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden
The 4 Hour Workweek
The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation
The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference
On the Road
Forget Kathmandu: An Elegy for Democracy
How to Become a Straight-A Student
All the Pretty Horses
The Hobbit
Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West
The Hunger Games
The Diary of a Young Girl
Finding George Orwell in Burma
The Alchemist
Robinson Crusoe
The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future

photo credit: “Art Books, Verona” (2012)/Courtesy Eli Klein Fine Art


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