December 28, 2012

2012--My Year in Review

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."

I know that I have been extremely remiss in posting to ProSe over the past couple of months, but there's been a lot--a great lot--going on in my life of late.  This posting, while some of you may find it of interest, is probably written more for my own edification than anything else.

In early-August 2012, my oldest daughter received her Ph.D. in English from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, Nebraska.  I cannot begin to tell you how proud all of us are for the hard work she has put in over the years to achieve this significant milestone.  I was extremely honored to have been asked by her to read and review her dissertation prior to it being finalized and submitted to her committee.  She is still teaching at UNL while she begins the task of trying to find a full-time teaching position at a four-year institution.  I am sure that a good school will snap her up soon.

My very elderly mother passed away after a long struggle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or "Lou Gehrig's Disease") on November 7, 2012.  She died quite peacefully in the morning with family and friends surrounding her in the sun-room of my parents' house in southern Arizona.  I was able to spend a lot of quality time with her over the past couple of years, and for that I shall always be eternally grateful.  ALS is a terrible and miserable disease, and my heart simply goes out to any who have a family member struggling and endeavoring to cope with it.  I also want to give a huge 'shout-out' to the magnificent angels who involve themselves in all aspects of home hospice care.  I think having my mom in her own home surrounded by her own possessions and memories, her cat, her friends, and my father--in short, her Life--made the struggle so much easier for her to bear.  I also want to say that my father is really doing very well, and that my younger brother has moved in with him to lend a helping hand.  We all miss you, Mom!

Concurrent with my mother's passing, my wife and I found out that our oldest son (my stepson, my wife's son) had been selected to attend the U.S. Army's Warrant Officer Career College at Fort Rucker, Alabama.  He has been in the Army for 14 years and has been deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan over the past few years.  He was a Sergeant First Class when selected to become a Warrant Officer, which is a hugely positive career move.  At the same time that he was off to Warrant Officer school, his wife (our daughter-in-law) was deployed to the large U.S. military base in Doha, Qatar, in the Persian Gulf.  She is active-duty Army too, and began her year-long deployment in early November.  So, "Grammie" (my wonderful wife) and I have taken in their two children--a wonderful seven year-old boy, and a sweet little two-and-a-half year-old girl.  We set up one of our guest rooms for the kids, and are now back to being full-time parents, running kids hither and yon.  I am 56 years old, and I can absolutely attest to the fact that raising young children is most assuredly a young person's "sport"!  At the same time, it really is kinda like riding a bicycle, you really don't forget how to do it.  Depending upon the needs of the Army, the kids could be with us through July 2013, or as long as November 2013.

Early November 2012 also saw the President being reelected, and I was profoundly relieved that the American people saw fit to give his administration another four years.  Personally, I do believe the country is moving in the right direction under his leadership.  I just wish that there was some of way of stepping back from the extreme polarization and partisanship that seems to have overtaken the two political parties.  I am cautiously optimistic that President Obama can use his second term in trying to find a way to bridge the gulf--more like a chasm--between the parties and get the Congress back to doing the Nation's business.

From a literary perspective, 2012 was a very good year for me.  I read over 110 books this year, and I've still a few days left! Of the books I read, some were 'old friends' that I was revisiting, and others were brand new to me.  While I read a lot of fiction, 2012 was also a year in which I read a lot more non-fiction than is typical in a given year, as I explored the latest books associated with human origins and anthropology, and a whole raft of relatively recent military history books about the American Civil War.  I thought it might be fun to share "My Best Books of 2012"--

Best of Non-Fiction
Lone Survivors: How We Came to Be the Only Humans on Earth, by Chris Stringer (Science/Anthropology)
Hardy: A Biography, by Martin Seymour-Smith (Biography)

Best of Military History
The Battle of The Wilderness, May 5-6, 1864, by Gordon C. Rhea
The Battles for Spotsylvania Court House and the Road to Yellow Tavern, by Gordon C. Rhea
This Terrible Sound: The Battle of Chickamauga, by Peter Cozzens
Gettysburg: A Testing of Courage, by Noah Andre Trudeau

Best of Historical Fiction, Fantasy, or Horror
Hide Me Among the Graves, by Tim Powers(Historical Fiction/Fantasy/Horror, and my review here)
11/22/63, by Stephen King (Fantasy)
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, by Max Brooks (Fantasy/Horror)
Stardust, by Neil Gaiman (Fantasy)
Coraline, by Neil Gaiman (Fantasy)
The Fall of Troy, by Peter Ackroyd (Historical Fiction)
Something Red, by Douglas Nicholas (Historical Fiction/Fantasy/Horror)
Morality Play, by Barry Unsworth (Historical Fiction/Mystery)
The Road, by Cormac McCarthy (Post Apocalyptic and a re-read for me)
The Forge of Darkness, by Steven Erikson (Fantasy)

Best of Classic Fiction
Far From the Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy (A re-read for me)
The Return of the Native, by Thomas Hardy (A re-read for me)
Bleak House, by Charles Dickens (A re-read for me)

Best Poetry
The Oresteia, by Aeschylus (Translated by Peter Meinick)
The Lays of Beleriand, by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Iliad, by Homer (Translated by Anthony Verity)
Beowulf: A Dual-Language Edition, Translated by Howell D. Chickering, Jr.

Special 'Kudos' to Neil Gaiman's Stardust, Douglas Nicholas' Something Red, and Tim Powers' Hide Me Among the Graves.  These three books may very well be my favorite new reads of the year, and I highly recommend them to readers. I'd have to give an 'Honorable Mention' to Stephen King's new novel, 11/22/63 as well.

Finally, the book that I am really looking forward to reading is the final volume in the monumental "Wheel of Time" series of fantasy fiction that was started by the late Robert Jordan, and is being finished up by Brandon Sanderson.  The fourteenth and final book, A Memory of Light, is being released on January 8, 2013, and I can hardly wait.  I have been reading this series for over twenty years, and it really is some of the very best fantasy fiction out there.

A very Happy New Year to each of you as we ready ourselves to leave 2012 and begin 2013.  I look forward to stopping by and visiting each of your blogs and sharing our love of all things literary as we start a new year.  Cheers!



  1. I'm so sorry to hear about your Mom, Chris -- but your good news makes me smile! I hope everything is right for you this New Years. Good to hear from you!

    1. Delightful to hear from you as well! I've enjoyed stopping by and reading your latest musings when I've the chance. Your M&Q is really a lovely place to visit. Thanks for the kind thoughts about my mother. It really is a blessing that she didn't suffer too terribly. Be safe, do well, and keep writing! Cheers! Chris

  2. I have "Gettysburg A Testing of Courage" on my book shelf. I'm glad to know it's good and I will certainly read it before the 150th commemoration in July. I, too, re-read Bleak House this year and enjoyed it very much. My son just started his Ph.D. program in Philosophy at the University of Toronto. He tells me that "seven years" would be getting done early. Best wishes for your daughter finding a tenure-track position. My sympathies on the death of your mother. Being surrounded by family and familiar things is so important at that time.

    1. Donna, thanks so much for your visit! Trudeau's book about the Battle of Gettysburg was superb, and I am actually planning a trip back to Gettysburg during the summer of 2013 to celebrate the 150th anniversary. My very best wishes to your son as he works on his degree, and a wonderful 2013 to all of you! Cheers!

  3. How nice to find your post in my google reader! First, I'm so sorry to hear about your mother. I'm glad home hospice care enabled a peaceful passing in her own home. We had a similar experience with my husband's mother last summer - the hospice workers were wonderful! Congratulations to your daughter and best wishes as she begins her job search.

    I haven't read Hardy since college... perhaps I will rediscover him in 2013.

    1. JoAnn, thanks for stopping by, and all the best in 2013! Please do consider dipping into some of Thomas Hardy's terrific fiction and poetry, you shan't regret it one bit. Cheers! Chris

  4. I'm very sorry to hear about the passing of your mother, Chris. It's nice that she was able to have such a peaceful passing surrounded by her loved ones.

    It looks 2012 was a wonderful reading year for you.

    All the best to you and your family in 2013.

    1. Melissa, thanks for your kind words, it means a lot. I wish you the best in the New Year, and I look forward to following your reading adventures. Cheers! Chris

  5. You've had an eventful year. I'm so sorry to hear about your mother. Love your blog and look forward to reading in 2013! I always appreciate the Thomas Hardy poetry even if I don't comment. I started Bleak House this year and didn't make it through, but I intend to. Happy new year!

    1. Deb, thanks for stopping by, it is always greatly appreciated. I'm glad you like my Hardy poetry postings. He is one of my favorite poets--a real storyteller. Give Bleak House another try, it is so worth it. Best wishes in 2013! Cheers! Chris