Now that 2012 is nearly at an end, it's time for my annual Best and Worst Reads post. This year I read 67 books, which is twelve fewer than last year. I blame my dissertation and a faulty car CD player for the lower number. Since finishing my exams in July, I have been reading more essays and chapters than full-length books--and the crappy CD player has made it so I haven't been able to listen to books on tape. So, I'll have to step up my efforts for 2013 and maybe figure out a cheap way to fix that CD player. (I'm open to suggestions.)
At any rate, here are my lists. As usual, the books I list are those that I read this year. Most of them were not published in 2012, although a few of them were. Excluded from the Best and Worst lists are book I've read at least once before.
Five Best Fiction Books:
1. Paradise--Toni Morrison
2. A Short Stay in Hell--Steven L. Peck
3. Lolita--Vladimir Nabokov
4. The Blithedale Romance--Nathaniel Hawthorne
5. Piney Ridge Cottage--Nephi Anderson
Five Best Non-Fiction Books:
1. The Viper on the Hearth--Terryl L. Givens
2. The Mormon People--Matthew Bowman
3. Desire and Duty at Oneida--Terzah Miller
4. The Incorporation of America--Alan Trachtenberg
5. Novels, Readers, and Reviewers--Nina Byam
Five Worst Books:
1. American Pastoral--Philip Roth
2. John St. John--Nephi Anderson
3. The Wine-Dark Sea of Grass--Marilyn Brown
4. The Golden Apples--Eudora Welty
5. Charly--Jack Weyland
Of course, I've never comfortable with the idea of ranking favorites and least favorites. I enjoyed all of the books in my favorite fiction list for different reasons, and I can't say that I enjoyed one less than another. Placing Paradise at the top of the list, therefore, is kind of arbitrary, and I could place any of the other four in that spot as well and still feel satisfied. The only reason A Short Stay in Hell isn't in the top spot, for example, is because I just finished it today and I don't want my post-read enthusiasm for it to get the best of me. Lolita, perhaps, should be in the top spot, but it's the obvious choice.
American Pastoral, however, is hands down the worst book I read this year. Maybe it won a Pulitzer back in '97, but I can't see why. But I've also never been a fan of Philip Roth--except maybe for a few of his short stories.
John St. John is also another clear loser. By far Anderson's worst novel.
My reasons for having The Wine-Dark Sea of Grass on there are more complex. I plan on developing them into a dissertation chapter.
The Golden Apples bored me to death. Which seems to be the effect most of what Welty wrote has on me.
Charly seemed a little underdeveloped to me. So it goes.