Books Read in 2012

I read 50 books this year, nine fewer than last year. I’ve been tracking my books read since 2003, always with the goal of reading at least 50 books. What follows are the books I most enjoyed this year.

The Sicilian – Mario Puzo He is fantastic at what he does. I thought the downbeat ending is what makes this mafia story less popular than The Godfather.  But very enjoyable escapist entertainment.

Moonwalking With Einstein – Joshua Foer Fun, well-written, and interesting.

Bambi vs. Godzilla – David Mamet He makes arcane arguments, quotes in French, and is constantly cynical.  But I enjoyed this fast, fun read.

Three Uses of the Knife – David Mamet His book, “On Directing Film” made a tremendous impression on me.

The Mailroom – Compiled by David Rensin Fascinating.  A must-read for anyone working in entertainment.  Historically interesting how abusively un-PC the culture in Hollywood was in the 80’s and 90’s.  I find myself mentally referencing this book constantly.

Right Ho, Jeeves – P.G. Wodehouse So brilliant.  Just laugh-out-loud funny.  I’ve read this book before.  Wodehouse is a genius like no other.

Uncle Fred in the Springtime – P.G. Wodehouse Again, his usual linguistic brilliance.

Pirate Latitudes – Michael Crichton Beginning is brilliant, well-researched, and fun.  Later on it gets a bit silly.  This book is published posthumously, so arguably it’s not Crichton’s fault the story falls off toward the end.

Harry Potter – J.K. Rowling Yes, I finally read the series this year.  Each book is better than the last.  What wonderfully imaginative world-building.  A tremendous accomplishment.  Fantastic, transcendent work.

Wigfield – Amy Sedaris, Paul Dinillo, Stephen Colbert At points as verbally brilliant as P.G. Wodehouse and yet not really a captivating tale as there is no likable protagonist.  Still, very, very clever.

Once a Pilgrim – Will Scully Wow, could not put this book down. One man holds off 1,000 looting, pillaging rebels in the ’97 Sierra Leone coup. True story.

Master and Commander – Patrick O’Brian Incredibly well-researched with swash-buckling action sequences.  I’m now on the 7th book in this series and am loving every moment.

The Art of Worldly Wisdom – Baltasar Gracian Some good nuggets of 18th century wisdom.

Many Lives, Many Masters – Brian Weiss, M.D. A fun read; totally not peer-reviewed science.

Easy Riders and Raging Bulls – Peter Biskind Fascinating read about how and why studio movies made incredible movies from 1970 – 1980. Very illuminating.  I mentally reference this book constantly.

Tchaikovsky – Letters to his Family So good.

Where Angels Fear to Tread – E.M. Forster Enjoyed it much more than A Passage to India; lots of fun insight into people and places and behavior.

Whores for Gloria – William T. Vollman Great moments of poetry and innovation; ultimately, the ending left me hanging.

Desperate Characters – Paula Fox Really skilled craftsmanship, brimming with truth and insight.  Not a ton of forward plot here, but just excellently observed – like a good Mad Men vignette.  Extremely Franzen-esque in its honesty.

Agincourt – Bernard Cornwell Really fun and well researched.  A clever way to follow a long bowman through the events leading up to and including the Battle of Agincourt.

The Death of Ivan Ilyich – Leo Tolstoy Insightful and courageous but not my favorite Tolstoy.  I also read Prisoner of the Caucuses and that’s a bit more fun.

The White Tiger – Aravind Adiga A good read; really informative about the state of India and a page turner from an innovative new writer.

Dark Pastoral – Jessica Hutchins A collection of odd po-mo short stories; she has a gift.

Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl On surviving the Holocaust – very powerful book and filled with ideas on the meaning of life that resonate and inspire.

Some Screenplays I really enjoyed this year:  “White House Down” by James Vanderbilt; just dynamite execution.  “St. Vincent de Van Nuys” by Ted Melfi – a tear-jerker for sure.  “Django Unchained” by Quentin Tarantino – what a brilliant idea – challenging and fun.

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