2012 was another wonderful year for reading so I thought I would share with you the list of books I really loved. I don’t claim this list to be comprehensive or exhaustive…it is just reflective of my reading over the past 12 months. Some of the titles were newly published in 2012 and others are not quite as recent. But, each of these titles resonated with me strongly. Whether through beautiful prose, memorable characters or compelling stories, each of these books found a place in my heart.
#10. 2666 by Roberto Bolaño. This is a dark, challenging and unsettling novel. Like David Foster Wallace, #3 on this list, Bolaño really challenged the idea of the traditional form of the novel with this book.
#9. The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Johnson. This novel was an unexpected gem. Fun and funny, this book made me hope for more Scandinavian translations coming to English markets. It’s a fantastic contrast to all the “noire” books Scandinavian writers have become more well-known for in recent years.
#8. The Beginner’s Goodbye by Anne Tyler. Anne Tyler just gets human beings and hits readers in the heart.
#7. Wish You Were Here by Graham Swift. I reviewed this book for work nearly a year ago now and loved it so much. I feel like it really flew under the radar so like to tell people about it. Sure, it’s a difficult subject, but Swift’s prose is perfect.
#6. Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel. Okay, it’s a bit of a cheat because it’s two books — but I loved them both a whole lot and couldn’t choose one over the other. They really are as good as you keep hearing and I am suffering withdrawal waiting for the final book in Mantel’s planned trilogy.
#5. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach. This is Harbach’s debut novel. It pretty much made me want to quit writing because I could never do anything this amazing on my first go. You do not have to have a love of baseball, or even a passing interest in the sport to appreciate the story and its beauty.
#4. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I really don’t read Young Adult fiction very often at all. It’s all too supernatural, sparkly and fang-y for my tastes. BUT…this novel blew my mind. I read it to see if it would be appropriate for my 15-year-old niece (it is!!) and it ended up capturing my heart. Green treats his teenaged readers as smart, capable people. This novel is – in my mind – an elevated form of YA and gave me hope for the genre.
#3. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. BOOM! This novel is next to impossible to explain or summarize. It’s incredible and a big challenge for readers. I think it’s safe to say DFW was a genius and very interested in challenging narrative form and structure. Do not be afraid of the footnotes. And don’t even think about skipping them.
#2. Ru by Kim Thúy. What a quiet, beautiful story.
#1. In the Orchard the Swallows by Peter Hobbs. Hobbs’ novel has been sitting with me for months now. Another quiet, beautiful story, Hobbs accomplishes so much in a brief amount of space and with elegant yet simple prose. Another novel that flew under the radar, I would love for you to read this special book!
#5. Why Be Normal When You Could Be Happy? by Jeannette Winterson. Winterson’s early life was bleak but at no point is she trying to elicit our sympathies.
#4. Gold Diggers: Striking it Rich in The Klondike by Charlotte Gray. I loved the stucture of this book. Gray uses six different people to weave a bold picture of life in the Klondike.
#3. Every Love Story is A Ghost Story by D. T. Max. I read this right after finishing Infinite Jest and it really added to that novel. I knew a lot about DFW prior to reading this biography but Max adds humanity and compassion to the man and his very troubled life without straying into sensationalism.
#2. Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor by Brad Gooch. while this wasn’t the best written book, the access Gooch had to O’Connor’s archives and personal letters made this a fascinating read.
#1. Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature by Linda Lear. I love Potter and Lear did a fantastic job giving readers a big, full picture of Potter’s life – beyond her wonderful children’s books.
* A History of the Present Illness by Louise Aronson – a short story debut collection from Aronson – an associate professor of medicine at University of California at San Francisco. I loved how the line between fact and fiction blurred for me while reading these stories.
* State of Wonder by Ann Patchett – now, I love Patchett and spend a lot of time wishing I was her. Haha — what’s not to love? She’s a tremendous author and, as of last year, owns and runs a successful independent bookstore in Nashville. This novel features some very thought-provoking subjects.
I am quite liking that all of my 2012 favourites have to do with connecting. Whether it was because of a fiction writer creating strong characters trying to find their way in the world or nonfiction works that served to help me feel a kinship with their subjects, all of my choices were very personal reads for me this year and huge for the heart in their stories. (Though i am puzzling over how Mantel’s books fit this, exactly. Haha!!)
I would love to hear your recommendations! What were the best books you read in 2012??