Best Reads of 2012

I’ve read so many books this year I don’t remember all of them. So many books that reading interfered with the writing. Which is not okay, but I can accept it.

So these the best of the books I do recall reading. If there is one thing this list is based on, it is how memorable the books are, how much I liked it, how much I re-read each book. That list bit, re-rereading, probably puts a basis on books from the beginning of the year, since there’s been more time to re-read a book from January than the book I finished last week. At the same time, I am more likely to recall the book I finished yesterday than the book I finished in January. I figure that evens things out.

So in no particular order:

1) A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan

I read A Natural History as an ARC, it comes out on February 5, 2013, and I still have to do a review on it. But let me just say it’s fabulous. It’s written as a memoir of a old lady who had the most fantastic adventures in her youth. She studies dragons, falls head long into danger and apparently does something for the cause of feminism. She also gets her husband killed, which leaves me wondering how she acquired the title Lady Trent. I like the matter-of-fact way this is written. I can almost believe this is a real memoir. It’s very different (and also much better IMO) than previous Marie Brennan books.

2) Goblin Quest by Jim Hines

Funny, full of adventure, and also has goblins as I never pictured them before. Fun to read and I cannot wait to get started on the next Goblin book.

3) Men Under the Mistletoe by Ava March, Harper Fox, Josh Lanyon & K.A. Mitchell.

This is an ARC from last Christmas, one I only got around to reading in January of this year. 😉 But it’s one I’ve re-read again and again and again. I said in the review that Winter Knights Harper Fox is the best story, but I keep re-reading the Lone Star by Josh Lanyon. I don’t actually understand why.

4) The Serpent Sea by Martha Wells

This is another book I’ve re-read a few times. It’s good. I love love love the world and the main character. I want more books in this world. I don’t think Martha Wells has come close to plumbing the depths. Even if she chose a different main character, I wouldn’t mind, I love this world so much. It’s beautiful and magical and really vivid.

5) Imagine by Jonah Lehrer

This is probably the only non-fiction book on this list. It’s about imagination and creativity and how it all works. Very interesting.

6) Stars & Stripes by Abigail Roux

I don’t know how many times I’ve re-read Stars & Stripes. A lot. I don’t know what it is, the romance, the ridiculous danger or the characters. This one is special is because the main characters come out to their family, act openly like a couple for maybe the first time. There is even talk of children. Next, they need to come out at work.

7) Bridge of Dreams by Anne Bishop

I don’t know how long I waited for Bridge of Dreams to come out (ever since I heard about a new Anne Bishop book probably). It’s worth the wait and explores the word in far greater detail, has far more bizarre creatures than I dreamed even Anne Bishop to come with and make work. I loved it, and yes, this too is a book I’ve re-read a few times.

8) Servant of the Underworld by Aliette de Bodard

I’m pretty sure Servant of the Underworld is a first novel and it is amazing. It doesn’t feel like a first novel at all. I can quite decide if this fantasy or urban fantasy or something in between, but whatever it is, this book pulls you in.

9) To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to include this in a Best Reads list, but even though I never really re-read, it is still worth reading and not a book I am likely to forgot anytime soon so . . .

I don’t know what else to add. 9 are probably enough. But in case they are not, here are some honorable mentions:

1) Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold: I love Lois McMaster Bujold and I wanted to add this just for that, but I don’t think it stands out quite enough for a Best Read novel. 😦

2) Cake by Derekica Snake

I feel that Cake could have been stand-out, but it’s missing something. I don’t know what. It’s a disturbing and exciting all at once, but it needs something.Memorable, though, if only for how disturbing it is.

3) Confessions of a Murder Suspect by James Patterson & Maxine Paetro

Finished this just yesterday and fun fun fun read. Fun!!!! Also, quick. Took only a few hours to finish reading.

4) Black Sun Rising by CS Friedman

I love the setting, the system of magic. Very imaginative. I like the anti-hero. Very nice. But I am not sure about this one yet. I need a little bit more time to digest, I think. It falls in some bizarre science fantasy category, though I put it on my fantasy shelf.

Covers to come later!

General · Writing

I is for Imagine: How Creativity Works

I is for Imagine. That is the book Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer.

It’s pretty interesting, filled with lots of stories and anecdotes. The stories come from all over, from business, science and art.

Basically it says, anyone can learn how to use their imagination and be creative. It says the normal beliefs about creativity and the imagination (beliefs all involve the muse) but that instead it’s really different thought processes. Anyone can be imaginative; you just need to know how to think.

It talks about insight and hard work. Apparently all you need is a moment of insight, followed by tons of hard work. It reminds me of Thomas Edison quote: Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. It emphasizes how much work people do after they get their idea. Getting an idea to work isn’t easy or fast.

Insight is basically an idea about something. An idea how to solve a problem, an idea about what the problem is to begin with, a new piece of art.

He talks about insight and the brain. Apparently the brain uses different areas when it’s in the middle of an insight. When you are creating something new (musicians improvising is the example he uses) the area of the brain associated with self-expression lights up and changes happen in the impulse control section of the brain, too. The language and speech production parts of the brain become more active, too. (He compares music notes to words; music patterns need to memorized like nouns and verbs and so on.)

So it seems to me that no self-control plus self-expression plus bone-deep knowledge of basics equals creativity.

No impulse control means you don’t dismiss an odd or dangerous idea the moment it occurs to you. It is easier to be brave, I think. Or maybe that’s foolish. LOL It is easier when you are relaxed. I mean, how many eureka moments do you have when you are tense and thinking too hard? Sometimes you need to do something else and let go.

The bone-deep-knowledge-of-basics thing is more important than it sounds like. You have to be bit of an outsider to the problem. Being an outsider makes it easier to think outside the box. Easier to see the issues sometimes. The outsider bit is why most new ideas come from blending different fields. Different cultures, different ways of thinking.

He says that’s why group creativity is important. People are more creative in groups than by themselves. Apparently group work has been studied –  Broadway musical, Pixar, traders. The most successful musicals were the ones with a mix of artists, some new, some who know each other. Pixar forced its people to go to the same bathroom so people from different departments talk to each other. The traders who talked the most with other people were the most successful. (It sounds oddly like networking to me.)

Cities are most creative of all! LOL Despite the internet and how it connects people, nothing can replace the city! It’s how you meet lots of different people, from different places. It makes you more aware of stuff that is different elsewhere. Travel does this, too. That awareness and random conversations with people sparks the imagination, too.