Monday, December 3, 2012

Favorite Books of 2012

I never think I've read as much as the year before until I start making this list every December. These are the books that stuck with me this year, the ones that I keep thinking about long after I've read them.
In no particular order:

Only Time Will Tell and Sins of the Father by Jeffrey Archer. (Fiction) Say what you will about Jeffry Archer, I'm no fan of his politics and he has spent time in jail, be he's one hell of a storyteller. Both these books feature his usual themes; class divide, underhanded connivers, good people who are smart and resourceful. Always a pleasure to read his stuff.

Various Positions by Martha Schabas (Fiction) Coming of age stories are popular because they're the one thing that everybody can identify with, because everyone has to figure out their way through the world, whether they want to or not. And reading about someone who's doing a way worse job than you ever did is strangely compelling. This story of a young ballerina trying to figure out who she wants to be is stark and uncompromising, and you will remember how awful it was to be out of your depth and how far you've come since then.

Flying with Amelia by Anne de Grace  (Fiction)History is often one of the worst taught subjects in school, because it focuses on the big events, but not how people actually lived through those events. This book, a collection of short stories, really, tells history as it should be told, from the ground up. How people navigated situations that they didn't even realize were big events when they were in the middle of them. A working knowledge of Canadian history is helpful here, she doesn't do much background for you, but a quick Google search will get you up to speed on the more obscure events.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Fiction)I'm not much of a fan of post-apocalyptic, distopian fiction, but my kids said this book was terrific, and I read, reluctantly,  it because of then. I think I tore through it in about a day and half. Terrific pacing and all kinds of twists and turns, as well a love story and a bad-ass heroine made this one rollicking read. The next two books in the series, Catching Fire and Mockingjay didn't capture me quite as much as the first one, but I still HAD to find out what happened.

Mad Women by Jane Maas (Non-Fiction)Written  by one of the few women account executives on Madison Avenue in the 60's and 70's, this memoir of life as a woman in the working world before "women's lib" was utterly fascinating. For example, she said that any woman who wasn't a secretary would keep her hat on all day, to distinguish herself as a woman who wasn't a secretary. Loved this book.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed (Non-Fiction)After her mother died and her marriage broke up, Cheryl Strayed found herself alone and rootless and searching desperately for something to help her put her life back together. And she decided hiking eleven hundred miles alone along the Pacific Coast trail would do it. A powerful memoir, honest and funny and poignant and beautifully written.

11/22/63 by Stephen King (Fiction) I used to LOVE Stephen King as a young adult (The Shining still gives me the odd nightmare.) but stopped reading his stuff after a while because I felt it got too gorey and weird. But I read Bag of Bones a few years ago and really enjoyed it, and was willing to take a shot at this one because of that. Boy, am I glad I did; this book was one of the best I've ever read. The progagonist finds he can go back in time, to the late 50s....what if he just hangs around fro a few years and prevents JFK's assassination? Excellent story of time travel and love and suspense. It's a huge book, though, and I'm glad I read it on my e-reader.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Won’t Stop Talking by Sarah Cain (Non-Fiction) In a society that rewards people  hugely for airing their entire lifetime of dirty laundry on television, introverts get a bad rap. But this book explores not only what it means to be an introvert (news flash: it's not always the person at the party staring at their feet) but also how introverts have powerful talents that are often overlooked. This book gave me a new perspective on how other people are wired; a lot to chew on here.
The Mystery of Mercy Close by Marian Keyes (Fiction) Marian Keyes could write a grocery list and I would read it. I love her. LOVE her. Her books are all hilariously funny while exploring some pretty dark subjects (i.e. depression, domestic violence, drug addiction.) This was no exception.

Winter of the World by Ken Follett (Fiction) The second book in a trilogy about the twentieth century. The first book, Fall of Giants, dealt with World War 1, this one is about World War II and the next one I think is about the Cold War. Wonderful historical fiction which does what good historical fiction should do: brings you into the middle of things and tells you how people got through it. Not the happiest of reads, but well worth the ride.

A Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling (Fiction) Most of the criticism I read about this book was that it's "not Harry Potter". Of course it isn't; that story is over. But this really isn't anything like Harry Potter. It's set in the fictional town of Pagford in present day, and there's not one character in this book who isn't petty or mean or badly behaved at one time or another. She's a good enough writer that I'm willing to go on whatever journey she's offering, and after an intial slow start, I found myself reading this every chance I got.

One Last Thing Before I Go by Jonathan Tropper (Fiction) Jonathan Tropper is one of the few authors that I am delighted to find has a new book coming out; I love his stuff. His main characters are usually messed up men who, in real life, you'd fing yourself avoiding like the plague. But he makes these guys believable and sympathetic and very likeable. Not an easy task, but Tropper makes it looks easy.


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