Best Entertainment of 2012 – Books Edition

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I confess – I am an addict.   I am absolutely addicted to the written word.    I’m going to compare my vice to a recent episode that I saw of Suburgatory.  Alas, I know that the show didn’t make my Best Of list for 2012.  Nevertheless, there were several shows that I was too late to think of, and I unfortunately don’t revise posts (as readers have pointed out, I also missed Supernatural.  When I thought of Supernatural, I angrily realized that I had also neglected to mention Fringe.  Le Sigh.).     Anyway, in that particular episode of Suburgatory, a newly single Tessa had found newfound love in – wait for it, her iPad.    She wanted to spend every single moment with it, reading books, magazines, playing games and surfing the web.  It offered her everything short of sex that the greatest potential suitor could offer.   While most people found the episode to be funny, I knew that my boyfriend would relate to this episode only all too well.    My boyfriend bought me an Amazon Kindle Fire last Christmas. This device has proceeded to change my life.    I am absolutely obsessed with it.   I now have access to every single newspaper and magazine that I have ever wanted, without paying for them.  I have never been so well-informed in my entire life.   I can also download any book or textbook or magazine that I want and it is momentarily on my Kindle.   As much as I hate to admit it, I don’t often have a ton of money to spend at bookstores.  I unfortunately tend to download a lot of books via torrent websites.  I do feel extremely guilty for this.  However, I do try to make up for it by purchasing paper copies of my favorite books whenever I do have the money on me and find myself in a bookstore (to be honest, there are no bookstores in Queens where I live – I have to go all the way to the city for a chain bookstore, or overpay at an independent bookstore that’s still a few train lines away in Brooklyn).   Whenever I download a book that I absolutely love, I hawk it with unbridled enthusiasm.   I rave about it on Facebook, Tweet about it, become a fan of the author and join their online presence, and do anything I can to spread their word to others.   I hope they’re not upset; hopefully, when I become a succesful published author someday, I would expect the same of my fans. 

Yet another way that I am trying to hawk my love of books onto others is with this list.   I am including both books and magazines.  I am so enamored of the written word, and I have had such wonderful, fantastic experiences with these books that were successful in 2012.   I hope that you take the time out of your schedules to read these books, and I truly hope that you enjoy them.   Please post your reviews in this blog.   After all of the entertainment posts, I also plan on creating a Cultured Book Club.  I want the book club to focus on both old masterpieces as well as brand new creations, but I am going to focus on 2013 publications at least in the beginning to keep things as current and fresh as possible.   Don’t worry, though – we will eventually get to many throw-backs, and I would love your suggestions either way!!

So – without further ado – Cultured Magazine’s Best Books of 2012.

Fiction:

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn:

This book did really well in 2013, and it completely deserves all of the praise that it earned.     Gillian Flynn previously worked for one of my all time favorite publications, Entertainment Weekly.  She knows how to create an incredibly taut, tense psychological thriller.   She was revolutionary because she switched up the narrative in such a brilliant but obvious way.  Every single person I know, including myself, who picked this novel up without reading spoilers was incredibly surprised by her hundreds of plot twists.   I likened it to riding a crazy, twisted antique roller coaster – I was terrified by all of the sharp turns yet exhilarated at the end nonetheless. 

Bonus reading:  If you loved this novel as much as I did, you’ll be thrilled to learn that Gillian previously published two very similar psychological thrillers – Sharp Objects and Dark Places.  I typically don’t enjoy crime dramas, but Gillian’s writing is so fresh and interesting that I quickly devoured these novels.

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker:

I was enthralled by this slim volume that was a chillingly plausible End of the World novel.  The novel dealt with weighty issues like climate change, with an original idea about The Slowing, in which the world begins to slow its descent around its axis, and longer days and nights ensue.   After reading the premise on the back cover of the novel, I didn’t fully grasp how this would make for a compelling storyline.  However, the devil is in the details – Thompson Walker’s story is downright terrifying once all of the consequences are realized.  Not only did the story hit close to home, but it was told in such a simple and thoughtful way.   The narrator of the story is a twelve year old girl, and the story is not so much an apocalyptic nightmare by a coming of age story.  This changed world is this girl’s reality, and she still has to deal with crushes, first kisses, getting your period, getting bullied and parental problems.  Perhaps one of the scariest things of all is that these themes never go away since they are essentially the human experience. 

John Dies at the End / This Book is Full of Spiders – Seriously, Don’t Touch It by David Wong:

When I first came across John Dies at the End and got a few chapters in, I had to go back and start over again from scratch.  I couldn’t believe that I had finally encountered a writer who wrote exactly like me, who had similar ideas, a penchant for horror and a way with comedy.    I have to admit that I wasn’t the happiest with the way that the books turned out – they were way too long with too much horror-filler – however, if they were edited better, these books would have been masterpieces of our generation.   John Dies at the End is being turned into a movie with I absolutely can’t wait to see.  I’m sure that it’s appealing to the true horror-core fans who embraced the book, but if I had my choice, i would have chosen Kevin Smith to direct it.   This movie has the potential to be Clerks meets Ghostbusters meets Pulp Fiction, and I hope that they create a movie with as much dignity and heart as I saw preserved in the written word. 

Sacre Bleu, by Christopher Moore:

Christopher Moore is hands down my all-time favorite writer, next to David Foster Wallace.  In fact, I put Christopher Moore at Number One since his fantastic fiction sweeps me away hilarious, heartfelt worlds that I don’t want to leave, while DFW’s nonfiction makes my own world brighter.    Christopher Moore’s 2012 effort was Sacre Bleu, a fantastic peon to art history, the mysterious origins of the color blue, and the notion of muses, and truly giving up one’s soul for one’s art.   The themes resonated with me, and the hardcover was absolutely beautiful with its gorgeous illustrations and beautiful font.    Christopher Moore was able to make history interesting and funny, and he taught me a lot about a world that I never thought that I would take much interest in. Although Sacre Bleu isn’t his strongest book by any means, it was a solid contribution to the literature of 2012.

Bonus:  If I could give you any gift for Christmas, it would most certainly be the gift of Christopher Moore.  He is a writer that comes up with zany plotlines, funny lovable characters, hilarious jokes and an awesome supernatural element that makes these fantastic stories absolute page turners.   If I could leave any books by him under your tree, I would choose the following:

A Dirty Job – a story about a recently widowed, neurotic father becoming the Grim Reaper.  Another wish would be for Tim Burton to direct the film version because it would be SO. FUCKING. GOOD.

Island of the Sequined Love Nun:   I am obsessed with the culture of Hawaii and other Pacific Islands, and I love how Christopher Moore explored the world of cargo cults in the Pacific Islands after World War 1.  This book is hilarious and poignant in so many ways – it is truly a masterpiece.

Practical Demonkeeping – This is one of the first books that successfully melded horror and comedy, and it did so with such incredible grace.  Disney has optioned the rights to this movie, and I hope that it becomes the greatest stoner horror movie ever starring Matthew McConahey.  

The Hunger Games Trilogy, by Suzanne Collins:   Yes, I did read these YA books and I absolutely fell in love with them, as did every single other twenty-something I know who read them (and trust me, there were a lot of it). 

Bonus:  Nothing, and I repeat, NOTHING compares to the Harry Potter books by JK Rowling. Twilight can’t hold half a flicker of a candle flame.  Alas, neither can the Hunger Games.  If you haven’t read them already, the Harry Potter books will change your life, just as certainly as they changed mine and anyone else with half a speck of imagination and an inclination to write.  All hail Ms. Rowling, as any fantasy writer bows at her feet.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs:   I thoroughly enjoyed this novel; it was fresh and new and gave reading paranormal fiction an interesting new tactile twist with all of the photos and found footage.   I was a bit disappointed in the boring, lackluster hero that Riggs created, but the idea was fresh and inventive and the writing moved along relatively quickly.

 

Now, let’s move on to media, which I read nearly as much, if not more, than novels. 

Best Magazines:

Entertainment Weekly:    This magazine writes stories about everything that I am interested in.  I love their intelligent, in-depth coverage of everything entertainment.  I eagerly devour this magazine cover to cover in about an hour or so every Friday, and it is a joyous time.

GQ:   I am always so pleased with the fantastic issues that GQ manages to put together.  They find some of the most riveting original journalism that I have read in any publication or book.   Their true crime stories and hero profiles are wonderfully interesting.  I also agree with all of their entertainment and lifestyle stories.  This is another magazine that I absolutely savor every month.  I wish that they came out on a weekly basis.

Rolling Stone:   RS is so hit or miss sometimes, but when they hit, they hit a home run that goes right out of the ball park.   My favorite aspect of RS are the amazing features and original journalism.  Look to RS to publish anything controversial or out of the box.  Their expose of Scientology will go down in the history books, and their fantastic True Crime stories are written so well and so meticulously chosen that they should be MTV films in their own right.

Martha Stewart Living:   Martha is one of my idols.  She comes up with such original, fantastic recipes and amazing ideas to be more crafty and domestic, and I have no idea how she comes up with the sheer amount of it all.  

The New York Times:   This is the only paper of true substance.  The Times has made me a more intelligent human being, and I am grateful to them for that.  They are also the only paper that is not a tabloid.

Saveur Magazine:  This magazine is absolutely gorgeous, and the writing is superb.  It truly gets me excited about food, and it’t not all about cooking.  They devote equal time to the actual science behind the food.

Science Illustrated:  This gorgeous publication comes out every other month, but it has taught me a wealth of invaluable scientific information.  It makes science easy to understand, as well as infinitely interesting.  I loved their 2012 special issue.

National Geographic:   I’m a huge fan.  Their photography is amazing, and I adore all of their stories.  As with the Times, I am a more intelligent fan for reading Nat Geo.

Esquire:  This a surprisingly choice for me, but it’s one of my favorite new magazines.  The writing is simply superb, and their features are excellent and interesting.

Well, that’s about it for now.   Enjoy!

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