2012 was an interesting year for me, reading-wise. For the first time since I can recall, I struggled to read. I went an entire calendar month – April – without finishing a book. Where I normally went from one book straight to the next, I had a hard time picking books to read. For the previous four summers I spent a lot of time with a book on the deck or in the driveway, keeping one eye on the girls while they played. Last summer I barely did that. And I read a lot of fluff that padded my numbers a bit. Some graphic novels, a few informational books, etc.

All that said, with a late push I still managed to read 54 books for the year. I was sitting at 47 the week before Thanksgiving, so I did some work late. Excepting four Christmas stories, I’m going to break the last five notable books of 2012 into two posts for easier digestion.

Hope: A Tragedy – Shalom Auslander. I loved the idea behind this book. Solomon Kugel and his wife move from New York City to the country in an attempt to simplify/slow down their lives. They have a young child, a troublesome tenant, and Solomon’s elderly mother in the house, too. Soon Kugel finds a nutty old woman who claims to be Anne Frank living in their attic. And hilarity ensues.

Or at least it was supposed to. I kept wanting to get sucked in but never could. I kept wanting something big to happen, but it never did. Well, something big happens in the final pages, but it’s not enough to save the rest of the book. At least for me.

I fear this is one of those stories that is an allegory, but is too allegorical for me. I saw deeper meanings within, but they didn’t connect with me.

The Expats – Chris Pavone. This book, though, I really enjoyed. It’s a nice twist on the classic spy formula. In this case a former CIA officer who quits the agency to move with her husband for a mysterious job he gets in Luxembourg. Things never quite add up, but she has promised never to use her investigatory skills on her husband.

Eventually she has to, though. And the mystery she unravels is interesting and fun and juicy. It’s not high art or anything. But it’s a really cool tale of how our current, hyper-technological age allows us to lead lives of mystery right under the noses of those we love.

The Wind Through the Keyhole: A Dark Tower Novel – Stephen King. He sucked me back in. I tackled 11/22/63 recently and figured I’d go ahead and read his addition to <em>The Dark Tower</em> series. This was far from a great book, especially given the mythical status this series has for many of us who loved it. It is even disappointing in a way, as it is a story inside another story with a little Roland’s Ka-Tet; wrapper around it. I understand why some people were disappointed by it. I would much rather have had another long tale of Roland, Jake, Eddie, Susannah, and Oy’s adventures. But I’ll be honest: as long as King wants to roll out stories that are even slightly connected to The Dark Tower regulars, I’ll read it.