The Best Books Read in 2012

Submitted just as the window of year-end reminiscences is closing, this post is my chance to look back at the dozen books that stood out most for me in 2012. I hit some kind of reading slump toward the end of the year, my pace of matching 2011’s total of 60-plus books, well in reach around summertime, taking a hit late to settle for 53 books. Better luck in 2013, I guess. Coming up with this list wasn’t too difficult, nor was selecting one of the 12 as my favorite of the year. It was a book I read early in the year, and nothing I read in the remaining months came (anywhere) close to matching it for ambition, scope, and resonance.

Drum roll, please…

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#3: Catch-22 (1961), by Joseph Heller

Yossarian…strode out of the apartment, cursing Catch-22 vehemently as he descended the stairs, even though he knew there was no such thing. Catch-22 did not exist, he was positive of that, but it made no difference. What did matter was that everyone thought it existed, and that was much worse.

——

“You have a morbid aversion to dying. You probably resent the fact that you’re at war and might get your head blown off any second.”
“I more than resent it, sir. I’m absolutely incensed.”
“You have deep-seated survival anxieties. And you don’t like bigots, bullies, snobs or hypocrites. Subconsciously there are many people you hate.”
“Consciously, sir, consciously,” Yossarian corrected in an effort to help. “I hate them consciously.”


Catch-22 is a difficult novel to develop a relationship with. The chronology jumps back and forth, there is little semblance of a plot, and dozens of characters are presented as if you already know who they are. With no easy entry point, it’s tempting to put this novel down after a few chapters and read something else (I did, twice.)  But I’m glad I stayed with it; once I buckled down and committed myself to forge ahead, the novel soon opened up to me.

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