Ashlee’s 2012 Book Review

Reading in 2012 went pretty well.  I had a goal to read more non-fiction and spiritual books, which I did.  Many of them aren’t on the list yet because I haven’t finished them.  I have found that I don’t whiz through those types.  I like to really take my time and ponder them.  I like to discuss sections with people before I move on.

I am very grateful for book recommendations from friends and family this year.  Most of these books I read because someone told me it was good.  I had fun reading books for Whitney’s family book club (even though I couldn’t attend the discussions… boohoo….) and for my Relief Society book club too.  The best part of getting recommendations from friends was that it forced me into other genres and towards books I NEVER would have picked up on my own… with very happy results indeed! Specific shout outs to: Alysa, Marie, and Aunt Dee. Thanks ladies!

In 2012 Ashlee Read:

The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex
Mormon Scientist: The Life and Faith of Henry Eyring by Henry J. Eyring
The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Level Up by Gene Luen Yang, art by Thein Pham
Heaven is Here by Stephanie Nielsen
Uglies by Scott Westerfield
Pretties by Scott Westerfield
The Beast in the Garden by David Baron
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
By Small and Simple Things, Talks from the 2011 BYU Women’s Conference
The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo
Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale
The Peace Giver by James Ferrell
The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
An Irish Country Doctor by Patrick Taylor
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
A Company of Swans by Eva Ibbotson
Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History by Art Spiegelman
Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt
Once Upon a Town by Bob Greene
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan
The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan
The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart
The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan
Princess Academy Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale
The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan
Mere Christianity by CS Lewis

The new genre I had reservations about reading from, but was delightfully surprised by:

Graphic Novels.  Maus was easily the most interesting and notable graphic novel that I read.  A Pulitzer prize winning book, I was intrigued by the psychology involved in these two interweaving stories, and I was surprised how his relatively simple illustrations of animals could evoke such a strong emotional response.  Warning:  This book is not for the faint of heart.  Knowing that you are reading about an Auschwitz survivor ought to give you some idea of the content, but there were also very painful details related to the Author (the survivor’s son) as he grapples with his parents stories.  He’s a disturbed fellow.  BUT, I will say that we purchased the book, and that I would like the boys to read it someday.  Ashlee Opinion: Learning about such impactful and important events in human history is best done in individual stories.  Obviously studying the time period or events as a whole is important and certainly gives context to individual tales, but the details of one family’s story always stays with me longer and means more.  I was deeply touched by this book and plan to read Maus 2 in 2013.

The most random, laugh out loud, oddly touching book I have maybe ever read:

The True Meaning of Smekday.  Who is Adam Rex?  Where did this story come from?  I don’t think I have ever laughed so hard while reading a book before.  If you need a good book for distraction this is one I’d certainly recommend!  Thanks Alysa for lending it to me!

Maybe my Favorite Author.  Like… Ever:

Kate DiCamillo.  I love this lady.  If I could write like anyone, I would wish to write like her.  This year I read Because of Winn Dixie (her first novel) and The Magician’s Elephant.  I’d say they weren’t quite as good as the Tale of Despereaux or my personal favorite, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, but they are still wonderful reads.  Kate (I imagine she and I are good friends and we’re on a first name basis) makes me a believer in Children’s Lit.  She actually tackles very adult themes… loss and redemption are two that come to mind… and she does it with such heart and understanding.  She challenges children to think deeply, which I like.  Children are capable of so much more than Captain Underpants, don’t you think? (I know, I know… this coming from a mom who let’s her children watch Spongebob!)  She’s a “refreshingly graceful storyteller,” and I just can’t get enough.

Oh David McCullough, you have ruined me for good!  This year’s biography that disappointed:

Mormon Scientist: The Life and Faith of Henry Eyring.  Okay, let’s start with the positive:  I had takeaways from this book that impacted me as a parent, as a member missionary, and just as an aspiring disciple of Christ.  I wrote in my journal several times about things I was learning, and behaviors I was changing because of his example.  I pulled many quotes that I plan to use in talks someday.  Also, he was a funny character!  The jump on the table stunt?  Hilarious!  BUT… because of the fact that this man was so incredible… I wanted to learn so much more than I did.  There was hardly any information about his personal life, and the book seemed to repeat itself over and over again.  I’d say it’s worth your time, but don’t be expecting a comprehensive biography or you’ll be disappointed.

So very few books merit reading a second time.  This one TOTALLY does:

To Kill a Mockingbird.  I think this was the fourth time(?) I’ve read it.  Different parts of the book stood out to me this reading, and it continues to go deeper and deeper into my heart.  If for some reason you have lived your whole life without reading this novel, please… do yourself a favor and pick it up.  You won’t regret it.  Promise!

Disturbing.  Very. :

The Martian Chronicles.  Ray Bradbury died in 2012 so I thought I’d pay my respects by reading one of his more famous contributions to American Lit.  I liked it.  Sort of.

Boring.  Very. :

Great Expectations.  Ugh!  That’s all I can say!  Ugh!  If you are new to Dickens, I recommend reading David Copperfield or a Tale of Two Cities.  Don’t waste your time on this snoozer.  How it became so immortalized is beyond me.

A book recommended to me by at least 10 people that I really enjoyed:

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.  This book is meaty, no doubt about it.  As one who really appreciates thoughtful character development, I was impressed.  Because of my own life I was most touched by the relationship of Francie (the main character) with her brother Neeley.  Even though the time and circumstances were obviously different than my own, the feeling of it all was terribly close to home.

Pretty Fun.  A solid “B-”  But regrettably… still NOT HARRY POTTER (click the link if you are a Harry Potter nerd like Corey and I):

The Lightning Thief Series.  Fun enough that I read them all.  Not fun enough that I’d ever read them again.

No wonder Prophets and Apostles quote it/him.  Wow.  Seriously, such good stuff!

Mere Christianity by CS Lewis.  Corey and I are seriously considering the name “Clive,” for a future son.  This guy had such a knack for words and explanation.  I love the whole concept of the book, and his humility made him very persuasive in my eyes. Obviously I could not agree 100% with him, but it didn’t upset me… it made me sad!  More than anything I wished that he had known the truth of the Godhead.  I will for sure be reading more from him!

Alright!  What should I read this year?!?!?!?!?!  Please do comment!

4 thoughts on “Ashlee’s 2012 Book Review

  1. Oh I shall send you a copy of Anne Murrow Lindbergh, yes wife if THAT Lindbergh … Gifts from the sea!!!! Many many times I gave read it. It is a woman’s journey just lovely.. I hope you can find “In His Steps” if you cannot, I’ll try to locate my copy. Charles Sheldon. Also read many times

  2. Ahhhhh!!! So much to read! I need to get caught up!

    Remember how I told you how much I hated Charles Dickens years and years ago based on Great Expectations??? And then you told me to read Tale of Two Cities (which I did) and Dickens totally redeemed himself? Yeah. What in the world is Great Expectations even about. I am still wondering. But I am grateful that you helped me give him a second chance. And yes, David Copperfield is worth every page.

    I need to try this Smekday book whatever it is. I started reading the Lightning Thief book series and only made it through the first 2 and a half. I loved loved loved the first one and then somehow the others lost steam for me.

    I still need to read David McCullough (I know, I know… I’m so behind! and getting behinder every day!)

    How was Princess Academy Palace of Stone? Maybe you’d have said something about it if you had read it?? Probably not a super good sign, eh?

    And how was Nicholas Benedict? Worth the time?

    I am loving Gone with the Wind so far. I am about 35% into it. I will have to try some graphic novels. I think the only book of Shannon Hale’s that I haven’t read is her graphic novel (besides the new Princess Academy one).

    Ok these are the most random thoughts. But I did love your book review. I always love your recommendations!

  3. I didn’t know you did a book review and I love it! I love reading all your thoughts; thank you tons for sharing them all! I’m starring this in my reader and am going to pick up some that you liked. 🙂 I hope you come to the Maus book group and if you have time you should grab Sorcery and Cecilia for March’s book group. It’s a fun young adult read. Think Pride and Prejudice meet Harry Potter.

  4. I love it! And the timing was perfect because I just finished my last book and was looking for some new reads. I spend tons of time nursing, and I may or may not let my baby nap in my arms a lot, so I probably have more time now than I ever will. I want to be an avid reader, but truthfully, I’m terrible, especially at reading fiction (weird, I know). You’ve probably read every fiction book that I have read (except for the one called *The Invisible Heart: An Economic Romance*, which I loved, by the way). I do have a few suggestions by way of non-fiction, however. One of my favorites is *Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea* by Barbara Demick. She tells the story of six people who escape North Korea and they talk about what it was like to live there, how they escaped, and how they transitioned to life in South Korea. It is super fascinating, and reads like a novel. Malcolm Gladwell’s books are a fun read too, if you’re into pop-psych. I really liked *What the Dog Saw*, which is basically a collection of essays he wrote for The New Yorker. And of course, I would highly recommend any pop-econ books as well: *Freakonomics* and *Armchair Economist* are a couple that I like. They introduce you to basic economic concepts, but are a lot more entertaining than your introductory econ course. I honestly don’t know if you’d like them, given your previous choices, but if you’re looking to branch out, they’re worth the try. Of all of them, I think you’ll probably like the North Korea one the best.

    Oh, and I totally know Alysa. She and her husband lived in the basement of (and managed) a house where I lived in Provo. Her parents owned the house and her little sister was my roommate. Both she and her sister were funny girls.

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