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2012 Reading Recap

Another year, another collection of consumed media. More fiction this year than usual.

Nonfiction

The Wave (Susan Casey)
My favorite book of 2012. Casey travels the world with world-class surfers, climatologists and oceanographers to find, witness and study the biggest waves the ocean can serve up. A mix of surf culture and hard science, this is an amazing narrative of how the sea generates waves thousands of feet high and the impact is has on coasts and cultures all over the planet.

Fiction

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Jules Verne)
It’s interesting how fiction has changed. 20LUTS has little plot. The story was the journey itself, and exceptional detail is given to the flora and fauna found in the ocean, the sunken things, and the characters’ dialog as they smoke seaweed cigars and slaughter sharks. The narrative is crisp, but the cleverness is lopsided toward Verne’s technology predictions, not in the story itself; it was as if he dreamed up Nemo and the Nautilus, threw them in the ocean, and then went to work on something else.

A Fire Upon the Deep (Vernor Vinge)
This is science fiction at the most distant. Vinge’s universe is vast and strange, and alien life is appropriately weird and non-Earth beings dismiss humans as a cosmic accident. Very good concepts and ideas, but the book is just not that engaging.

The Hammer of God (Arthur C. Clarke)
If you’ve ever borne witness to the disaster that was the move Armageddon, you know the plot. There’s a Big Object on a collision course with Earth. Guys fly up in space ships to knock it off course. This book, unlike that movie, is very good. True to Clarke’s style, the scientists are competently competent and the solution ends up being math, not bombs. Even though you know the end before you start reading, it’s still hard to put down.

The Illustrated Man (Ray Bradbury)
More mid-century science fiction full of “taking rockets to New York” and “automatic picture painters” and “atomic wars”. While Bradbury was not as technology prescient as Clarke, he tells more compelling stories, and his humanism is on particular display in this collection of shorts. I craved a good Bradbury gateway drug, and this delivered.

Labyrinth (Kate Mosse)
Told across two time periods, Mosse wraps up this thriller-mystery in a bundle of Holy Grail lore and little-known historical context to keep the reader guessing as to what, precisely, the “Grail” really is. If you like bold roast history-entrenched fiction illuminating both modern Christian practices and pop culture religious cliches, boom.

The Lost Constitution (William Martin)
A fascinating period-jumping novel exploring the drafting of the Constitution and the political battles fought over centuries around the Second Amendment. Told across many time periods, it sheds penetrating light on both sides of the gun and militia argument at the pace of a high-speed thriller.

Sphere (Michael Crichton)
Not going to lie to you: I needed a cheap sci-fi thriller as mental ginger between longer books, and this was it. “Better than the movie.”

The Swan Thieves (Elizabeth Kostova)
She rocked our worlds with The Historian. She will fail to rock your world with The Swan Thieves.

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