Books I Read in 2012

I worked hard at reading this year, though flagged the last few months.  Still, I’m proud of my comparatively long list and hope to keep exercising my ECT-damaged brain in 2013.  Maybe, someday, reading will become a pleasure again instead of a chore.  One can always dream!

  1. Antonetta, Suzanne.  A Mind Apart—Travels in a Neurodiverse World.  The first bipolar memoir I read this year, and it was stunning.  Written in stream of consciousness leaps that feel like my own brain talking.  Aside from her own bipolar experience, Antonetta also explores the concept of neurodiversity, that those of us outside the “normal” spectrum of brain function actually serve the human race with our unique perspectives.
  2. Behrman, Andy.  Electroboy: A Memoir of Mania.  This book ought to be subtitled Lack of Insight.  I know this is part of the illness.  I know self-destructive behavior is a symptom.  Maybe I’m just angry because I never had the money or connections to build a diving board this big to jump off the deep end.
  3. Brown, Sandra.  Rainwater.  Brown is one of those successful, heavy-hitter romance writers, but I found this story uninspiring. During the Depression a single mother takes in a terminally ill border.  Lots of angst and ugly prejudice, but not much else.
  4. Donovan, Susan.  Not That Kind of Girl.  My mom thought I’d like this modern romance—something to read while I did my laundry.  And since I fashion myself as a purveyor of women’s porn (fan fiction), I thought I’d see how the professionals do it.  A predictable story with a spunky heroine, persistent hero and a long, slow build-up to the steamy sex scene.  Not bad for girl-porn.
  5. Fry, Stephen.  Moab is My Washtub.  Audio CD.  Okay, this was a cheat.  I listened to this brilliant autobiography instead of reading it.  But I love Stephen Fry, and I just knew his writing would be erudite, and filled with literary nuance, and—oh, yes—lots of potty humor and wicked British swears.  I was right.  And even though I didn’t have my reading disorder in my way, I still missed half of his references.  Which was fine.  His voice is golden honey (he voiced all the Harry Potter novels), and his story of growing into his homosexuality and bipolar disorder is poignant and insightful.  I don’t care that I cheated—I wouldn’t have missed this treasure for anything.
  6. Gaddam, Sai and Ogi Ogas. A Billion Wicked Thoughts—What the World’s Largest Experiment Reveals About Human Desire.  Fascinating study done using the internet as a research tool to probe the world’s real expression of desire.
  7. Hornbacher, Marya.  Madness: A Bipolar Life.  What a shock to read that Hornbacher received electroconvulsive therapy from the same doctor who fried me.  But, she remembers it better than I do.  She tried a few more ways to kill the pain—anorexia, alcoholism, drug abuse—but her life is my life with all the roller coaster rides and dysfunction.  It’s not easy being a member of this club.
  8. Jamison, Kay Redfield.  An Unquiet Mind.  The leading researcher in bipolar disorder tells her own story.  Very interesting to get the view of one firmly entrenched in the Western medical model.  It slays me how so many of these BP memoirs are of wealthy, successful people.  Jamison was crazy as a bedbug, but still managed a mental health clinic, taught students, and vacationed in England.  Sooooo not my life.
  9. King, Stephen. 11/22/63.  Nary a monster in sight.  Not even Lee Harvey Oswald.  The villain, if anything here, is Time itself.  Well-written and engaging—as always.
  10. Lachenmeyer, Nathaniel.  The Outsider—A Journey into My Father’s Struggle with Madness.  A fascinating account of a young man’s search to understand his father, who suffered from schizophrenia and died homeless and alone.  As the author tracks his father’s life from college professor to transient, he adds glimpses of the loving dad he knew as a child.  Deft reporting with heart-wrenching personal sorrow.
  11. McGraw, Dr. Phil.  The Ultimate Weight Solution—The 7 Keys to Weight Loss Freedom.  The right book at the right time for me.  Absolutely changed my life.  Perhaps it’s because Dr. Phil believes “self-monitoring” is the key to lasting change.  Hmmm.  Where have I heard that before?
  12. Pratchett, Terry.  The Wee Free Men.  Part of Pratchett’s hugely successful Disc World series, about a world where magic and humor rule.  I love this series, especially the books about the witches.  This time, a pre-teen witchling does battle with the Queen of the Fairies with the help of tiny, ribald, blue-skinned pictsies.  Pandemonium ensues.
  13. Smith, Hilary.  Welcome to the Jungle.  Less of a bipolar memoir than a survival manual for teens or college-aged folks just diagnosed with the illness.  Smith tackles practical matters, like how to secure a safety line when one stops taking meds against doctor’s orders (because, let’s face it, since the majority of bipolar sufferers go off their meds at some time in their lives, teens and twenty-somethings will absolutely do it).  Very reader-friendly.
  14. Sting.  Broken Music.  I love Sting’s music, so was delighted to find his memoir just as lyrical and engaging.  He creates a lovely, layered narrative that weaves together his struggle to deal with his parents’ deaths, his uncomfortable childhood, and his early success.  A beautiful book.
  15. Wiggs, Susan.  The Firebrand.  This historical romance takes place around the time of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.  The heroine is an early suffragette, the hero a conservative banker.  What I liked best was the author’s ability to weave a romance between these two without compromising the heroine’s principles or zeal.  Well done and historically interesting.
  16. Wiggs, Susan.  Lakeside Cottage.  Another modern romance from my mom’s library.  This author tells a good story.  The hero saved the President from a bomb threat and has to deal with the media blitz.  He hides out at the lake, where the heroine is vacationing with her special needs son and recovering from losing her job.  Too much talking during the sex scenes, though—there is a point where conversation must cease!

Books I Couldn’t Finish

Most of the books I start, I can’t finish.  It’s the nature of my particular reading disability (thank you, ECT).  My eyes go jiggy, or something in the text jump-starts my anxiety, or the print is too small and feral.  But, sometimes I don’t finish a book just because I don’t like it.  Those are the ones I want to list.  And since I didn’t think about doing this until October, the list will be short (I hope).

  1. Fisher, Carrie.  The Best Awful.  I so wanted to enjoy this book.  I love Carrie Fisher’s humor.  And I have dreams of writing a novel with a bipolar heroine, so I thought this would be a great example of how that might be done.  Maybe I’ve read too many bipolar memoirs.  Maybe I’ve gotten intolerant and self-righteous about how hard one must work to manage a mental illness.  Whatever the reason, I could not stand the protagonist.  She’s just another self-indulgent, rich and pampered crazy person without a smidge of insight.  Boring.
  2. Martin, Michael A. and Andy Mangeles.  Star Trek Enterprise: Kobayashi Maru.  This is the writing team sanctioned to author most, if not all, the Star Trek: Enterprise novels for Pocket Books.  And it burns my ass.  While they’re great at getting the historical facts of the show correct, they stink at capturing the characters.  And their run-on sentences make me throw their novels across the room in frustration.  Repeatedly.  I gave up on this one when T’Pol and Malcolm strayed so far off-character I couldn’t suspend my disbelief any further.  Clearly, I could do a better job.  Hrumph!
  3. Walker, Alice. Anything We Love Can Be Saved.  I know Alice Walker is a national treasure.  Her work is true literature.  This book of essays is focused on her activism.  Like politics, activism makes me uncomfortable.  While I believe strongly in working for a better world, a fairer world, a healthier world, most activists I’ve met or read scare me.  The gleam is a little too bright in their eyes; the words a bit too angry.  This is one of those books.
  4. Cameron, Julia.  God is Not a Laughing Matter.  The author of The Artists’ Way talks about her spiritual path and offers exercises and journaling questions to help others do the same.  Unfortunately, she bashes meditation and vegetarianism (guess she had some experiences with “extremists”), which completely turned me off.  I love her books on creativity, but this one is defensive and fearful.  A huge disappointment.

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Fork in My Eye
    Dec 30, 2012 @ 08:47:26

    The Wee Free Men is one of my favorite Disc world books (after anything with Granny Weatherwax in it). The little guys are awesomely funny.


  2. David Kanigan
    Dec 30, 2012 @ 09:02:51

    Impressive list…Your list has inspired me to get at it.


  3. Linda Schierman
    Dec 30, 2012 @ 10:33:12

    Dear dear SandySue Person of So Much Interest/Interestingness to me who shares….OOPS, way too long of a run-on sentence was beginning to happen…plus, it sounds a little like FanWorship which I utterly abhor (pretty much any Worshipworship).Thank you so much for your reading lists, both. Points out to me what I was beginning to suspect that I haven’t been reading for many months, a big part of my mental life abandoned or resting or …ok, I’ll do my self-monitoring in private on this. I am very quietly cheeks-alternatingly-squeezing happy (lower, not facial) that I asked my diagnosed young neice-in-law if I may fwd your blog to her. Guess you don’t need to know this, and, certainly, no pressure to perform (am I speaking from my own anxieties, duh?). I particularly wanted to share your Mind Map — thank you very much.LindaLinnie (am changing my names from post to post till I settle, maybe?)


    • Sandy Sue
      Dec 30, 2012 @ 19:39:00

      Linda/Linnie, thanks as always for your kind words. I’m honored that you thought this might be useful for your niece. I hope she takes a look and leaves her fingerprints.


  4. littlesundog
    Dec 30, 2012 @ 20:45:06

    I was at least pleased to find one book on your list that I had read; #8, An Unquiet Mind. I read the book some years back and realized it perfectly described a family member. It did help me have new understanding. I love your style in reviewing these books! I appreciated especially, the details of what you didn’t care for on the “Books I Couldn’t Finish” list. Nice post and great reviews!


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