Top 10 Reads of 2012

Well, I made my Goodreads goal of 40 books for 2012. I feel a little bit guilty about it, however, since in the last weeks in December I specifically chose some very slim books off of my “to be read” bookshelf with the purpose of hitting that goal. My last book was a more normal length and that means I am going to (attempt to) celebrate with a clear conscience.

I sort of missed #libfavs2012 on Twitter this year with a flurry of new responsibilities at work and vacation and the challenges of not going home for the holidays which meant getting shopping and shipping done in time rather than waiting ’til the last minute. So, here I will share my favorite 10 books I read in 2012. This does not mean they were published in this last year – I rarely get to buy new releases and the wait in the library can be very long, but that’s okay – I’m patient. (Oh, and I borrowed this format from BrassyLibrarian at A Librarian’s Lists & Letters)

10) A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh

Why I Read It: It had been sitting on my shelf.

Why I Loved It: This is my second Waugh – my first was Brideshead Revisisted. His wit is fantastic and this book just flew by! Waughs books bring the interwar years to life in highly riveting and entertaining ways.

9) High Tide in Tucson by Barbara Kingsolver

Why I Read It: I loved all of Kingsolver’s fiction pieces so my mom gave me this book of essays.

Why I Loved It: The topics Kingsolver discusses within these pages – becoming a mother, heartbreak, the desire to escape – are timeless. Each essay contains a multitude of stories within it and yet the entire book is cohesive and moves through topics and time as a whole. Her essays drive me to be what I perceive as a better person and to feel calm and at peace.

8) The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

Why I Read It: This was a book club pick – I heard it was artful and interesting so I voted for it.

Why I Loved It: The story itself is wonderfully fantastical and Selznick does an amazing job marrying the text with the images. The variety of images was very interesting as well – from charcoal pencil drawings to black and white photographs (or drawings so well done they looked like photographs).

7) Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

Why I Read It: This has been sitting on my shelf for at least 5 years, I thought the movie was very good in high school, and that it was about time to read this book.

Why I Loved It: A beautiful and extremely well-written novel. Guterson’s book is set on an island off the shore of Washington. His main character, Ishmael, grew up on the island. The story follows Ishmael from his current time back to growing up and his love for a girl. Center to the story is the issue of racism and nativism – pitting the “American” islanders against the “Japanese” islanders. Guterson was masterful in setting the beautiful scene of the island, and drawing the various characters together in this compelling story.

6) A Game of Thrones (A Song of Fire and Ice #1) by George R. R. Martin

Why I Read It: A book club pick – I voted for this title because it seemed like something I wouldn’t read on my own.

Why I Loved It: Each chapter in this book changes the narrator between the characters which provides a well rounded view of events but does not prevent the reader from becoming attached to individual players. Some of the characters you love, some you love to hate. However because no one character is the central player it is easier for the author to dispose of (potentially) everyone should the storyline require it.

5) The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Why I Read It: I had ordered a copy for my nursing and MA students at school and thought it would be beneficial to read so I could recommend it more thoroughly (it worked I came up with a suggestion for a resource for a student looking for good things that resulted from German Nazis).

Why I Loved It: This book was very well written. It alternates between the medical community and the Lacks family – demonstrating the two sides of the story in an even and thorough manner. The story does jump around chronologically but each chapter clearly indicates where in time it is set with a timeline at the top. This book is a great background on current issues – from obtaining consent from human subjects to the issue of modifying cells and access to DNA records. I would recommend this book to anyone and I was pleasantly surprised that despite the grave issues contained in the story, that it was not a depressing read.

4) Bossypants by Tina Fey

Why I Read It: This is a highly popular book and I wanted to see why.

Why I Loved It: A fast read and widely amusing book. I knew very little about Tina Fey before reading this book other than she worked at SNL, had a show called 30 Rock, and was perhaps best known for her impersonation of Sarah Palin. It was an absolutely delightful read. Repeatedly throughout I wanted to read sections aloud but could not have done justice to the Tina Fey voice in my head.

3) The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball

Why I Read It: This book had been calling to me for a while because of the subject matter – and I was given it as a present.

Why I Loved It: The Dirty Life chronicles not just the ups and downs of farm lie, but of holding a vision outside of the contemporary concept of “normal,” and of love and relationships. It demonstrates how finding something you love and someone to share it with forms a strong bond that can completely transform your life and that the future is often not what you planned. I loved reading this book but would like to find something with the story a bit switched – urban man falls for rustic farm girl – any suggestions?

2) Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Why I Read It: The cover was interesting, my friend suggested to lend me her copy, and I was looking for a “Halloween Read.”

Why I Loved It: The prose is easy to read and the story sucks you in until you’re paging through chapter after chapter. How Jacob’s current events fit in with the tall tales of his grandfather takes a while to become clear to the reader but it was an enjoyable experience. The ending is a little unsatisfactory because it seems unfinished – and perhaps will be solved with a sequel. The novel is a combination of mystery, fantasy, historical fiction, and adventure. Written for the young adult crowd, many “regular” adults will enjoy it as well.

1) Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore

Why I Read It: I loved Moore’s Lamb and was excited as soon as I found out he was writing a book about French artists -right up my alley! My husband gave it to me for my birthday.

Why I Loved It: Sacre Bleu is set in one of my favorite places (Paris) in one of my favorite historical times (late 19th century) with fascinating real characters (Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, Monet, Renoir, Manet, Pissaro, and Whistler). The book is absorbing but it does not have the same comedic quality that Moore’s other novels (most notably in my opinion Lamb) have – and does not live up to its subtitle: A Comedy d’Art. The book is better characterized as historical fiction and fantasy (with a heavy dash of irreverence and satire). However the characters, the twists and turns, and the masterly way Moore recreated the art scene on the butte makes this a must-read.

What were your favorite reads in 2012? Anything you think I should read?

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