The 12 Books of Christmas?

Santa Reading by a Fire

Santa Claus Gets Lost in a Good Book | Vintage Coca-Cola Ad

I realize that we’re still a full week away from Cyber Monday, but just in case you have a voracious reader on your list, I wanted to share twelve books I’ve read during the past year, that I think everyone should consider reading, too.

These are not ranked, merely listed with the most recently-read titles at the top.

  1. The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks and Giants of the Ocean, by Susan Casey – It’s about surfing, storm-chasing and giant waves, and even the science-y parts are really interesting.
  2. The Naked Gardener, by L. B. Gschwandtner – Delightfully funny and insightful, and full of feminine energy and woman-power.
  3. Body Work, by Sara Paretsky – the first V.I. Warshawski novel in several years, does not disappoint. Great plot, great dialogue.
  4. Under Orders, by Dick Francis – Dick Francis never disappoints, and this book is no exception. It’s not terribly recent, but it’s still a great read, especially if you follow horse-racing at all.
  5. Roast Mortem, by Cleo Coyle – coffee, romance, and murder – what else does one need?
  6. A Guide to Quality, Taste and Style, by Tim Gunn – probably the most gracious style guide ever written – and Tim Gunn can be hilarious.
  7. Lunch in Paris: a Love Story with Recipes, by Elizabeth Bard – part memoir, part cookbook, all delicious.
  8. Confessions of a Prairie Bitch, by Alison Arngrim – the funniest, most candid, celebrity biography EVER.
  9. Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin – gives you hope for the future, and provides a much-needed perspective on world events, as well.
  10. The House on First Street, by Julia Reed – a post-Katrina memoir with architectural details. Brilliant.
  11. The God of the Hive, by Laurie R. King – the most recent in her Mary Russell / Sherlock Holmes series. Intriguing. Interesting. Inspiring.
  12. Population: 485 by Michael Perry – Actually either of his other two memoirs, Truck: a Love Story or Coop would be acceptable. This man’s writing is just…brilliant.

I should note: Not all of these books were WRITTEN this year – in fact, hardly any of them were – but most are fairly recent.


Six years ago, I had Lasik surgery on my eyes, and went from not being able to see the big E at the top of the chart to 20:20 vision, though it wasn’t instant – it takes time for eyes to settle.

People always ask what having the surgery impacted the most, and they generally expect grand answers like, “I can scuba dive without a special mask,” but the reality is, it’s the little things that you really notice, things like being able to see to shave your legs in the shower, or put on make-up, being able to read the numbers on the alarm clock when you wake in the middle of the night, and being able to read in bed without fear of rolling over on your glasses, or forgetting to remove your contacts and harming your eyes. (Ditto falling asleep on planes)

It is with this in mind that I present the following meme, in honor of the first 48 hours after surgery, in which I was forbidden to read anything at all.
These are the top 106 books most often marked as unread by LibraryThing’s users. As in, they sit on the shelf to make you look smart or well-rounded. Bold the ones you’ve read, italicize the ones you own but have not read.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
A Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Iliad
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books
Memoirs of a Geisha
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West

The Canterbury Tales
The Historian : a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible : a novel
Angels & Demons
The Inferno
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s Travels
Les Misérables
The Corrections
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes : a memoir
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake : a novel
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield
The Three Musketeers