Top Ten Books Read in 2012

Exploring Feminisms’ Top Ten in 2012

10.  Eva Braun: Life with Hitler by Heike B. Görtemaker

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This book epitomizes the phrase, “there’s a lid for every pot.”  Little is known about Eva Braun, the woman who was romantically linked and died with Hitler, due to the fact that towards the end he ordered all existing documents to be destroyed, even ones kept by Braun.  However, author Heike B. Görtemaker has pieced together through existing documents and letters a plausible picture of their courtship.  Görtemaker gives us a tale that can be both gripping and questioning, leaving much open for the reader to gather his or her own conclusions as to the validity of Hitler and Eva Braun’s relationship.

9.  Shaken, Not Stirred by Tim Gunn100_2026

 In this Kindle-only short story, Gunn briefly describes his father’s physical deterioration due to alcoholism and Alzheimer’s disease towards the end of his career, and the subsequent effect on his family.  Holding true to steadfast Tim Gunn-style, he is candid, witty, and introspective, thereby recognizing the flaws in his past and kneading them into something fruitful for the future.

IsEveryoneHangingOutWithoutMe

8.  Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

Mindy Kaling, also known as Kelly Kapur on the American version of the “Office”, has written an intelligent and introspective autobiography that offers us insight into the life of a truly funny woman.  Kapur’s writing is highly accessible: she’s sweet, silly, candid, and she possesses an incredible gift that makes you care about her, even though you’ve never met her.

7.  Armadillos and Old Lace by Kinky Friedman
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If you don’t know Kinky, get to know Kinky; the best Jewish cowboy country singer turned Jewish cowboy mystery writer around.  Friedman’s body of work, both fiction and non-fiction is impressive so it may be difficult to find a starting place besides at number one.  If you are going to skip around, then Armadillos and Old Lace (next to Elvis, Jesus and Coca-Cola) would be a safe bet.  Though peppered with slight vulgarity and delinquent humor (mercy!), Friedman always manages to be tender.  The main character, aptly named Kinky, loves animals, old ladies, his cigars, drinking, and saving the day.  He’s a good old boy with liberal sensibilities and stands up for those without a voice.  It’s a light mystery and you know that when  you get Kinky, you always get a happy ending.

GirlsWalksintoaBar6.  Girl Walks into a Bar by Rachel Dratch

Saturday Night Alum Rachel Dratch has written an adorable memoir about becoming accidentally pregnant in her 40s to a man that she is casually dating.  If you need an uplifting true story, especially to do with having children past what society deems to be your “prime” years, then definitely give it a go.  Dratch is a rebel who doesn’t apologize for her life choices and relays her experiences with honesty and a gentle touch; she’s to the point, but doesn’t come down too heavy.

5.  Rotters by Daniel KrausRotters

This book was an accident.  As I was perusing the horror table at the Printers’ Row Book Fair in early 2012, I picked up this book whose appeal factors included grave robbing and corpses, and thinking it was adult fiction, bought it.  Little did I know that in all actuality, it was young adult.  Little did I also know is that teen/young adult novels can be as gory and poignant as an adult novel.  The great thing about this novel, and perhaps in many teen novels, is that little is open to interpretation because it’s messages are blunt; very little beating around the bush.  Sometimes, don’t we all just want to be handed a message that we can understand immediately?  I know that sometimes I do.

IHateEveryone4.  I Hate Everyone, Starting with Me by Joan Rivers

Women aren’t supposed to be funny without femininity.  It may sound archaic, but women are only allowed to be accepted into our society on a large-scale unless their mouth is paired with pretty.  Pretty looks, pretty hair, or pretty jokes intermingled with ugly ones.  Rivers tosses her jokes in the face of a society that is based on the consumption of pretty, feminine women.  She offends everyone to the most extreme degree, including herself, but it’s all one big joke.  Does she really hate mentally disabled children?  Of course not.  It’s all part of staying true to the purity of her craft.  She gets plastic surgery because she understands that no one wants to see an old wrinkled woman on television (isn’t that the ultimate paradox?), but then she uses her place in the spotlight to subvert what is expected of her as a female comedian.  In a nutshell, Rivers’ book is an offensive hoot.  Have fun.

3.  Amy, My Daughter by Mitch WinehouseAmycovers

Written posthumously by Amy Winehouse’s father, Mitch Winehouse pays the ultimate homage to his daughter–he writes her life.  Previous to picking it up, my knowledge of Amy’s life and music was limited to what the radio stations doled out, which was mainly negative gossip.  MW paints Amy as realistically as a father can, except he ups the credibility factor with fault.  He finds fault with himself and with Amy, and this is what brings the reader in because really, who wants to read 300 pages of praise?  If so, where can connections be made?  MW ultimately lets us grieve along with him, his family, and for the tragedy that was Amy’s death.

Bedwetter2.  The Bedwetter by Sarah Silverman

It’s jarring to hear a woman be so vulgar, compared only to the likes of Joan Rivers and a sprinkling of other female comedians who don’t give two shits about what mainstream culture says about them, but it’s also extremely refreshing.  Silverman’s no-holds-barred tongue is just the ruffling of the waters, much like Rivers’ book, that is needed to chip away at gender inequity, bit by bit.  Silverman’s book is a memoir of how comedy entered her life and how she has existed in that world.  Bedwetter is sometimes a tangled tale of inequality in the comedy arena that leaves you pissed off, intertwined with inspiration and gumption that makes you glad that there are women like Silverman out there who are disrupting at least one person’s sleep.

1.  It’s Always Something by Gilda Radnerit'salwayssomething

If you are seeking a solid story that leaves you feeling truly human and truly grateful, then read Radner’s autobiography.  In it, she hands us raw Radner on a plate and it leaves you completely changed at the end.  Radner’s memoir is one of cancer and her will.  She takes us on a journey that is the definition of bittersweet: getting cancer, its recession, fathoming her own possible demise, the ebbs and flows of hope, and her relationships and their own dealings with her cancer.  This book was written over twenty years ago and it reads as if it were written yesterday because love, friendship and struggle are (un)fortunately constants in life.

 

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2011: Explore My Literary Feminisms!

At the beginning of 2011, I set a goal to read 24 books before the year was through in the attempt to trump my 17 from 2010.  If I didn’t reach it, no biggie, the point is quality, not quantity.  I did feel though, that a good amount of my time was melting into endless nights of watching the uber-dramatic and the really important issues of wives from Beverly Hills and the Mob.  Maybe a portion of my time would be better spent on what I sometimes forget that I really love?

My choices were not preplanned at the beginning of the year and I tried to tackle a range of books resulting in some feminist, most not, and a surprising few dabbled in Library Science, which I saw as more bang for my buck in the end.

My reading plan for this year not only differed from last year in goal (from 17 to 25), but also price.  Besides one or two that were bought for me, I checked all of the books out from the library.  Like many library types, a good amount of us buy our books.  Shocking, I know.  A lot of us are collectors of books and pride ourselves on showing off our giant libraries.  Think of it as battle scars.  However, being on a fairly strict budget for much of 2011, I decided to put my money, or rather, no money, where my mouth is (I think this also had a direct impact on my increased number of books).  Once I remembered that I had free access to an endless amount of books, I found it difficult not to fill my arms with mass amounts of fiction and non-fiction with the  voracious appetite of a brain eating zombie who had just encountered fresh prey!

Top 10

The Night Eternal
by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan (2011)

The third and final book in the Strain Trilogy about vampires taking over the earth.  The trilogy was amazing and each book led me on an emotional roller coaster.  Needless to say, I cried when I closed the last book.

With GDT himself and yes, I am holding the first book of the Strain Trilogy

Neverwhere
by Neil Gaiman (1996)

This year I discovered Gaiman, as you will see as you read further.  I read most of his adult fiction this year, and Neverwhere was my favorite Gaiman novel, and second favorite overall this year.  It had a happy ending, a very likable protagonist, and it sucked me in within the first few pages.  I also recommend this on audiobook because Gaiman himself reads the text and because of this, the audiobook expresses exactly what the writer was thinking when he was writing it.

Gunn’s Golden Rules
by Tim Gunn (2007)

This book is my Bible, or the closest thing I’ve ever read to a guide on how I want to live my life.  Gunn gives practical advice on how to act like a normal human being, encompassing good manners, the importance of treating yourself with respect and of course, making everything work.  I will definitely be reading this on a yearly basis and I recommend buying this one.

An Object of Beauty
by Steve Martin (2010)

If you like artwork, New York, fashion, Steve Martin, coming of age stories, color pictures in books or any combination thereof, then this book is for you.

Herland
by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1915)

Three men crash land into an all-female utopia where the women actually function just fine!  Go figure!  Plus, it’s a classic by a classic woman.  If you haven’t read CPG yet, I recommend starting with her short story the Yellow Wallpaper.

American Gods
by Neil Gaiman (2001)

Gods living on earth in human forms.  What more could you want?  This piece of fiction is epic and like Neverwhere, grabs you right away.  At times, this book tackles some tough life and death issues but not so much that you feel like you’re reading a Russian novel.

Bossypants
by Tina Fey (2011)

Fey is a feminist and Fey is funny.  And I also want her to be my best friend.  Recommended for women and men who aren’t scared of childbirth, rotten breath or pubic hair that resembles vermicelli noodles.

The Fellowship of the Ring
by J.R.R. Tolkien (1954)

This year I thought that I’d take on the book since I love the movies so much.  It really reinforced that books and film are two totally different mediums and therefore are difficult to compare.  The book fills in gaps in the movie that I didn’t even know there were.  Plus, I was surprised by what an easy read it ended up being.

Based Upon Availability
by Alix Strauss (2010)

Short stories about women who are interconnected by their association with the Four Seasons Hotel.  Like her last fiction novel, Joy of Funerals, Strauss is really great at writing from varied female points of view.

Men Are Stupid and They Like Big Boobs
by Joan Rivers (2008)

What can I say?  It’s Joan Rivers and she rocks.  She’s a bipartisan powerhouse with a voice and an opinion.

Runners Up

The Anansai Brothers
by Neil Gaiman (2005)

The story of two reunited brothers who are the sons of an African God.  Very Gaimanesque: death; life; Gods; whimsy; a somewhat awkward central character who comes into his own; and as always, he presents us with magic and superstitions and makes it so easy to want to be part of that world.

Oh No She Didn’t: The Top 100 Style Mistakes Women Make and How to Avoid Them
by Clinton Kelly (2010)

Kelly’s guide makes you reflect on  your own wardrobe, laugh out loud on the bus and then look around to judge everyone near you.  However, I think his critique on eyebrows is totally incorrect.

Locke and Key
by Joe Hill (2008)

I am going to say it, Stephen King can’t hold a candle to his son’s writing.  Having never been a real graphic novel fan (besides being made to read Maus and Persepolis in undergrad), Hill’s graphic novel has prompted me to want to read the next three in the series.  A little bloody, a little disturbing and totally enthralling.  (May I also recommend Hill’s fiction: Heart Shaped Box and Horns.)

The Graveyard Book
by Neil Gaiman (2008)

The story of a baby who is adopted by ghosts in a graveyard after his parents are murdered.  Though technically a teen novel, I thoroughly enjoyed this coming of age story.

Carrion Comfort
by Dan Simmons (1989)

If you liked the Strain Trilogy, I’d recommend this novel as well.  Vampires living on earth unbeknownst to humans, a group of rag-tags on the hunt and characters that you fall in love with.  The end gets a little murky and I wouldn’t hold it against you if you speed read the last 1/4 of the book.

Tim Gunn’s Guide to Quality, Taste and Style
by Tim Gunn (2007)

Like Joan Rivers, I like everything that Gunn writes so naturally he’d make it to my runners up group.  Though not one that I’d stress that you buy, he does give good, solid advice on fashion and style, though through a somewhat more conservative lens.  Maybe it’s a New York high fashion thing.

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter
by Seth Graham-Smith (2010)

Sometimes we need something to read where we don’t have to think, right?  Well this is it.  Lincoln was actually a vampire hunter and guess what, slave owners were usually vampires.  It’s real!  Seriously!

Wigfield
by Paul Dinello, Amy Sedaris and Stephen Colbert (2003)

Yet another book where you can just laugh and not have to think much, though be prepared to accept the utter silliness and absurdity of the whole piece.  I’d recommend this on audiobook because Paul Dinello, Stephen Colbert and Amy Sedaris perform the voices for several of the characters.

Mister B. Gone
by Clive Barker (2007)

The concept for this book is really unique–a first person, or rather demon, point of view.  Demon Jakabok Botch is trapped within the pages of the book that you are reading, at that very moment, and he warns and implores you throughout the book to stop reading or else be damned!

The Vegetarian Low-Carb Diet
by Rose Elliot (2006)

Okay, so I am listing this as a runner up because I lost ten pounds in two months.  I was a vegetarian already but the low-carb thing really works.  I wouldn’t take this book as word, but it’s easy to use it as a general guide and make it your own.

Summer of Night
by Dan Simmons (1991)

This book is a prequel to another Simmons book, Winter Haunting and describes a group of boys over the course of one summer.  It entails possession, ghosts, baseball and creepy teachers.  It’s an easy, mindless read and I would recommend it if you have nothing better to read.

The Terror
by Dan Simmons (2007)

I keep reading Simmons because I feel like a lot of the time he almost gets there, but not quite.  This book falls in the typical Simmons style, much like Carrion Comfort.  Most of this book is great–the story of an arctic expedition, Eskimos with special powers, and a large killer spirit who kills off a ship of 19th century English explorers.  The first 3/4 of this book keeps your interest piqued, and then the last 1/4 goes a little off course.  If you can stretch your imagination and suspend belief for a few dozen pages, then you’ll be fine.

Eh.

Holidays on Ice
by David Sedaris (1997)

I realize that by saying this I may be pegged with eggs on the street by strangers, but this book is not great.  The stories are disjointed and the book doesn’t seem to have much focus.  I think it could have been a lot better it if were just stories about his normal [holiday] anecdotes, but it pulls in some strange tales, such as a young Asian girl moving in with an American family and the mother killing her grandchild.  While this story is totally acceptable and somewhat entertaining, it seemed like it would be better in another book.

Salem’s Lot
by Stephen King (1975)

The more I read Stephen King, the more disappointed I am, and the more I read.  Stephen King is known as the king (pun intended) of horror, but I think that his novels are just okay.  I’m not drawn in, scared or excited by his stories and this novel was no exception.  There were a lot of gaps in the story and I was missing the meat of a great vampire tale.  The idea behind it was great, a vampire comes to a small town, but it lacked the follow-through.

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon
by Steven King (1999)

A little girl gets lost in the woods and is accompanied by a battery operated radio with the voice of commentators reporting on baseball player Tom Gordon.  I did like how King describes being perpetually wet and stung by mosquitoes, because we can all relate to this.  However, I felt myself becoming bored at times because like Salem’s Lot, I felt like the meat of the story was lacking.