Favorite Books Read in 2012

Last year, thanks to my Kindle and the Goodreads 2012 Reading Challenge, I read a total of 58 books. I originally had set a goal to read 40 books last year. When it was obvious I’d surpass that goal, I bumped it up to 55 books. I’m pretty sure I’d already broken a record for the number of books read in a year at 40 books, so it just goes to show you that having a Kindle is a good thing for book lovers, even those like me who still love physical books. Ultimately, whatever gets you to read more is a good thing.

Having a Kindle changed how I read in many ways. For starters, shopping for books has never been easier. The ability to sample books prior to purchasing them for download really streamlined the process, and Anyway, I thought I’d share my top five favorite books read in 2012, listed in the order in which they were completed.

Vertical, by Rex Pickett – finished January 12, 2012

verticalWhen I first read Sideways back in early 2009, I wanted to read more Rex Pickett… but I discovered at the time it was his only novel… so I was really excited at the end of 2011 when I found out he had written another novel… and even more excited that his newest novel was a sequel. More adventures of Miles and Jack? How could I resist? It’s true that sequels often don’t meet expectations, but I suspected Vertical might be different. I bought the book right away.

Vertical takes place seven years after the events of Sideways and takes Miles and Jack to Oregon’s Willamette Valley for the International Pinot Noir Celebration (IPNC). But the book isn’t just about Miles and Jack and their friendship, but about Miles and his mother, who he ultimately plans to take to Wisconsin to live her last years with her sister.

I finished Vertical with a glass of Pinot Noir from my in-law’s winery.

Many people fell in love with Sideways the movie, but there’s much more to the characters of the books. I highly suggest reading them both. Of course, saying that, I should add that Rex Pickett is currently in Chile as part of research for a third book in the Sideways trilogy.

True Grit by Charles Portis – finished August 23, 2012

truegritI’d never read a western before, and decided to give it a try. It’s a well written story with a lot of depth to the characters, detail to the scenes, and suspense in the action. If you’ve never read the western genre before, True Grit is the place to start.

I’d never seen either of the two film adaptations when I read the book, but I did watch the Coen Brothers’ version soon after and enjoyed it as well, for it was a faithful adaptation of the novel. I was less impressed with the original movie with John Wayne.

Domestic Violets, by Matthew Norman – finished October 1, 2012

domesticAs a fan of Nick Hornby and Jonathan Tropper, I’ve made many attempts to find other authors of the “lad lit” genre that appealed to me. It’s been a difficult search. Domestic Violets, however, turned out to be just what I was looking for. The debut novel from Matthew Norman, is about 35-year-old Tom Violet, an aspiring novelist stuck in a job he hates, and his father has just won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Tom’s work antics are hilarious, and it is a great story of family and career expectations.

Of course, since Domestic Violets is a debut novel, Mr. Norman needs to get his next novel finished quickly so I can read more.

The Age of Miracles, by Karen Thompson Walker – finished October 30, 2012

miraclesI was intrigued by the concept of this book long before I actually decided to finally read it. It’s about Earth’s rotation suddenly and inexplicably slowing down, and impact of that on the daily lives of the world’s population, as seen by Julia, who is 10 years-old when The Slowing begins.

The impact of the natural phenomenon on the world is given incredible thought and eerily realistic detail by the author. But it’s not merely science fiction, it’s also a coming-of-age story as we see how The Slowing plays a role in Julia’s social and family life.

Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline – finished December 7, 2012

readyI first heard about this book on Twitter in a tweet by author Jonathan Tropper. I hate to admit that it took me well over a year to finally check it out, because I loved this book. As a fan of dystopian novels, technology, and a child of the eighties, this book was it was so hard to stop reading just because I needed to get a few hours sleep before work the next day. My last sitting with the book, covering the final third of it, was over two hours, and ended at nearly 1:00 in the morning.

The book takes place in the year 2044, the real world isn’t all that pretty, and most of the world is connected to a vast virtual reality called the OASIS. The creator of the OASIS, who died prior to the start of the events of the book, has bequeathed ownership of the OASIS to the lucky individual who first finishes the quest he created within this virtual world. Everyone is trying to unlock the first clue of the three puzzles, and when Wade Watts becomes the first person to do so, the race is suddenly in full force. The story is full of action, suspense and eighties nostalgia.

Honorable Mentions

Of course, I liked most of the 58 books I read last year, so boiling them down to just the top five is difficult to do, so I have to give a couple honorable mentions.

One Last Thing Before I Go by Jonathan Tropper – finished June 9, 2012

I first read Jonathan Tropper in August of 2009. I read This Is Where I Leave You, loved it, and went back and read his four previous novels within a matter of months. It was a long wait for a new novel. Long enough that I managed to get an advance copy so I wouldn’t have to wait an extra month for it. The novel has all the elements of a classic Tropper novel (a dysfunctional family, an estranged/dead father, sibling rivalry) but this one is not written in the first person narrative. An interesting change of style which certainly was necessary for the story, but definitely a departure from his previous work, which took some getting used to.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith – finished June 23, 2012

This was a book I never expected to want to read, let alone read and really enjoy. I don’t care for the vampire/zombie genre at all, but my brother liked it, and it was soon to be a movie, and so not long before the movie was released I decided to at least give it a shot. Turns out it was a great read.

The story masterfully blended history with fiction and fantasy. It was clever and exciting.I finished the book a couple hours before going to to the film adaptation, which wasn’t nearly as good, quite frankly there was so much more to the book that the movie is pretty much worth forgetting.

Back To Writing

It’s been over five years since Mark Noonan and I wrote/published our first book, Caucus of Corruption. As much as writing another book appealed to me in the months that followed, eventually I came to the conclusion that there were no more books (at least nonfiction) in me. But, recent events–and by recent events I mean the 2012 presidential election–rekindled the writing spark in me and I’m happy to say that Mark and I have begun the process of writing our second book.

Over the past week, we’ve been doing significant amounts of research, laying the groundwork for what I believe will be a really great writing project. We’ve ambitiously set a goal to have the book finished and ready for sale for CPAC 2013. Who knows if that will happen, but that is the goal.

So, I’ll be sure to post regular updates on our progress. I hope it won’t be long before we can reveal the title and cover.

Authors and Branding

So, I was pretty psyched this week to receive an advance reading copy of Jonathan Tropper’s new book, ONE LAST THING BEFORE I GO.

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I finished it in less than a day.

This is not going to be a review, that will come later, I’m actually more interested in talking about the book cover right now.

Tropper’s previous (and breakthrough) novel, THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU, had a nice cover design, which, upon the book’s success resulted in the cover deigns of his previous novels to be redesigned and the paperbacks re-issued. You can see all the book covers here.

His previous four novels had horrible book cover designs and the reissues where a vast improvement and an indication of the creation of a brand. I’m not one to advocate judging books by their covers, but that, as a freelance logo/brand identity designer, I think a poorly designed cover can reflect poorly on the words contained within. And I think a successful author can benefit by having his or her books have a similar look. I figured that’s what the Dutton books, Tropper’s publisher, was going for.

Apparently not, as can be seen by the galley in the photo above. The cover of his new book is a complete departure from the identity that had been established by the new covers designed for his previous books.

I should note, I don’t dislike the cover of ONE LAST THING BEFORE I GO, I just find it odd that money and effort was put into creating what was essentially a brand for Tropper, and then tossing it out. The lettering is reminiscent of the Superman movies of the late 1970s and early 1980′s. I thought maybe there was a connection in novel itself, but no.

So, I am not sure what the reason was for abandoning the book cover archetype that had been applied to all his previous books. But. in the end, an author proves their worth by writing good books. Tropper writes excellent books, and that, not the book cover, should be the reason people read his books.

A Dvorak Typist Slumming It Typing QWERTY on the IPad

So, I was hoping that with the release of iOS 5 that support for a software Dvorak keyboard would finally happen. It didn’t. And I was momentarily swayed away from getting an iPad because, as a Dvorak typist, I would prefer not to switch to typing QWERTY just to use the coveted device.

And here I am, typing on an iPad, using the software QWERTY keyboard.

While I cannot type very well on a typical keyboard with QWERTY, using the software keyboard on the iPad is surprising acceptable. It took me a good while to fully transition from QWERTY to Dvorak, but thumb-typing on the iPhone never changed. The small keyboard size on the iPhone and the single-digit touch typing method on the device has never been a problem for me, and I suspect that the experience of typing on the iPad, while closer to normal typing, still isn’t all that different from thumb-typing on the iPhone. With no keys to press, the sensation is basically the same, even though I’ve gone from two digits to ten. The size of the on-screen keyboard is smaller than the split, ergonomic keyboards I use at home and work, and that appears to make a difference.

That said, I did purchase a Bluetooth keyboard for Dvorak typing, and i have used it. That will always be my preference for typing, as long as Apple continues to deny Dvorak typists like myself the option of an on-screen keyboard in our layout of choice. But typing QWERTY on the iPad is a sacrifice I am willing to make, and have managed to conquer without much struggle.