Monday, December 31, 2012

Top Ten Books of 2012

     Made it through another retail Christmas (my 22nd!). So it must be time for another year end roundup. 2012 was another wonderful year of reading for me, I read 70 books - averaging 1.35 books a week, just a touch behind last year's average. You can click on the title of some of the books to see my original review.

1. The Dog Stars by Peter Heller. I knew this was something special almost as soon as I started it. What propelled it to my number one spot is the fact that even now, 4 months after I finished it, parts of the book are still with me. I find myself wanting to be fishing, walking through the woods with a great companion, or flying in a small plane. The Dog Stars tells the story of a man struggling to survive in a world where 99% of the population was wiped out a decade earlier. The writing in this book is beautiful and took me away to another place - the biggest thing I ask for in a book.

2. The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield. A wonderful piece of Southern literature by an excellent new writer. Highly recommended to me by one coworker and one former coworker, I am so glad that I listened to them. The girl in this book, Swan Lake, is a worthy successor to Scout from To Kill A Mockingbird.

3. The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson. The first really good book this year and my favorite for a good chunk of the year. A fascinating look at the life of a young man in North Korea. This is a culture we know so little about and Johnson really brings it to life in this sometimes horrifying and sometimes hilarious tale.

4. Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo. Easily the best nonfiction I read this year, this is devastating look at life in a Mumbai slum won the National Book Award this year. The author spent 3 years researching this book, conducting numerous interviews with the subjects. They really come alive and are people you deeply care for.

5. Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson. Quite possibly the funniest book I have ever read, this is the memoir of The Bloggess, a woman who grew up in a small Texas town. The only book on this list I have read twice - once to myself and the second time aloud to my wife over a period of time. Please read this book! 

6. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. A beautifully lyrical story of a retired British man that sets off to walk across the country to visit an old acquaintance dying of cancer. Has some of the feel of "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society".

7. Wonder by R.J. Palacio. This wonderful children's book about a physically deformed boy entering the 5th grade made me laugh and cry.

8. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I love mysteries and thrillers, probably my favorite genre. I read a lot of them and all too many of the new authors I try are formulaic. That is why it was exciting to come across this book which felt fresh and original, albeit very dark.

9. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker. Excellent story of a young girl coming of age during a time when the earth's rotation is slowing down. Days are becoming much longer, throwing off, people, animals, and crops. The book keeps a steady hand moving between her concerns with life as a 12 year old girl and dealing with the possible end of the world.

10. A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash. Very good Southern fiction about a group of people in a small community in the Carolinas. After a boy dies during a church service, the investigation into it reveals many secrets, some long buried. Great characters kept me glued to this story.

     A few honorable mentions: "Where's You Go Bernadette?" by Maria Semple, "The Twelve" by Justin Cronin, "The Gods of Gotham" by Lynsday Faye, "Heft" by Liz Moore, "Telegraph Avenue" by Michael Chabon, "Among Others" by Jo Walton. And a nod to the most disappointing book of the year for me - "The Red House" by Mark Haddon. It may not have been the worst book I read this year, but it was close and I had it on my list of my most anticipated books of 2012.
     And to wrap it up, a little pat on the back for myself. I know I am not much a of a writer, but I do enjoy sharing my thoughts on books. The publishing site Edelweiss chose my review for Telegraph Avenue as one of their featured reviews on the book. Almost like being published! :)