Between now (seriously, people, it's actually too early now) and the middle of February (sometimes, even that late), we'll be seeing a ton of Best-Of lists jumping out at us from every corner of the book industry. In fact, didn't Amazon decide to have an early year-end party a month ago when it released its Best Books of 2011 list? Now that's something I can understand if this were 2012, because the world might be ending soon and everyone wants to get the word out already. So, while being forced to reckon with deciding the books that made the most impact on me this year, I keep getting distracted by the books that I didn't get to.
The one book I wish I had stood in lines for on its release date and hunkered down in my bedroom for hours with is Murakami's 1Q84. This book has been receiving a lot of buzz since months earlier, and while that had made me very curious, I didn't exactly share that fascination then because I hadn't read any of his books. Until Kafka on the Shore, which I read couple of months back, and which I admit quite abashedly that I didn't fully understand, but the brilliance of the book and Murakami's indifference to the rules of fiction simply stood out. Since then, I've been looking forward to reading more of his books, and 1Q84 quickly climbed to the top of my must-read list. Sadly, it has stayed there since, because I can't quite churn out the time to read this monster of a book at close to 1000 pages!
One of the books that was much talked about during BEA 2011 was Chad Harbach's The Art of Fielding. Said to be about baseball to baseball-fans and not about baseball to the non-fans, it is a book that I've heard had a lot of good stuff packaged for both camps. To a non-sports fan like me, the word 'baseball' in the blurb alone turned me off, but then when I read glowing reviews from others who also didn't much like baseball, I was intrigued. I still have my big fat ARC copy sitting in my ARC shelf, waiting for me to someday pick it up.
By now, some of you may know about my love for Craig Thompson. His previous book, Blankets, is one of the best graphic books I've ever read, and I have been waiting for his next one ever since. I actually read a few pages of Habibi when I went to B&N once, and much as I wanted to walk with the book to the cashier, grinning as if Christmas came too early, the price tag scared me away. Firstly, the artwork on this book is just so beautiful. And secondly, can I just say how much I love the font of the title on the book's cover? - how well it mixes the Arabic alphabet with the English! (The 'b' in the title are actually Arabic characters - since they have the dots below them).
Orientation by Daniel Orozco was another book that I wish I had already read by now. I'm not exactly sure why I'm drawn to this book - I guess the colorful cover has something to do with that. It has enough diversity, quirks and uniqueness that makes me feel that this is a book worth spending some time with. Orientation is a book of short stories about the hidden lives of a cast of characters who are as different as can be. And since characters are the make-or-break-deals of a book for me, and since I love books with multiple protagonists, this book held enough of a fascination for me to want to read it.
I have a big appetite for immigrant stories - probably because I identify with them best - the culture clash, the feeling that you don't belong anywhere, the frequent questioning by people on both sides about where home is. My Korean Deli wasn't so much about immigrants, but about the author's experience managing a store that his wife buys as a gift for her immigrant parents. I read a chapter of this book at my bookstore (I really should stop just reading and go ahead and buy the books too), and found it laugh-out-loud funny.
Something about the mind and the way it works engages the intellectual in me. I very nearly considered doing a part-time 'fun' major in brain science, but I'll stick to books like The Psychopath Test instead (I don't think I can go through another hormonal intensive graduate course). I usually feel that psychopathic tragedies are preventable, but they are also the hardest to stop once started, since psychopaths don't feel remorse nor are their scales of right/wrong the same as the rest of the sane world's. Although I came close to reading this book many times, I never really got to it.
And finally (finally, just so that I can end this post somewhere, not for a lack of books I wish I had read), Reamde by Neal Stephenson was the last book to make that list. My brother loves Stephenson so much, that I won't be surprised if he has a secret man crush on him. But for some reason, I had never read this guy yet. I probably wouldn't have been too eager about it, if not for falling head over heels in love with Ready Player One. Cyberpunk is becoming my new favorite. At close to a thousand pages, this is another book that will just have to wait awhile before I can get to it.
So these are some of the books that I wish I had read and possibly rave about (assuming I would enjoy them). Maybe they should be my first picks for the next year, when I can finally get some reading downtime, but until then, I'll resort to living vicariously through some of you.
So which book(s) do you wish you had read by now?