Saturday, January 5, 2013

Favorite Reads of 2012

This year has been a great reading year.  After not awarding a single 5 star review in 2011, there are 7 books for which I’ve done so this year.  I’ve revisited the list again to see if I regret any of those 5-star ratings – was I too generous? – and determined that every single last one of them earned it.  Below are my 10 favorites which were not necessarily published in 2012, just read by me in 2012.  They are in no particular order.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

This was my first read of 2012 and broke the slump of over a year with no 5-star books.  This book is not likely to inspire profound thoughts or change your life but it sure is a gigantic ball of fun.  A pure joy read.

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

The thing that struck me the most about this book was how perfectly crafted it was.  It is short with each sentence adding something to the whole.  An engrossing read about a man exploring the imperfect memory of his life.  

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

This is a book about which it is best not to reveal too much but it left me feeling emotionally distraught, disturbed and depressed – i.e. this is a book that really tapped into some core emotions.  This emotional reaction is brought on slow and easy with a mystery that unspools in a perfectly paced narrative.  

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

This novel is an exploration of human nature and relationships through the lens of a long-term hostage situation in an unnamed South American Country.  Also reveals the role that art and beauty might have in being human.  I was really engrossed by this beautiful book.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller  

This book is making a lot of people’s top ten lists and rightfully so.  It is a well written retelling of the Achilles’ myth and the Trojan War from the point of view of Patroclus, a minor character from the Iliad.  A great story, well told and so enjoyable to read.

Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier

This is such an enthralling novel that leads the reader with relish towards impending doom. So much about this book is perfect - the tone and atmosphere, the pacing, the narrator's voice. It all adds up to a completely satisfying read with one of the best endings I've encountered. It all seems so effortlessly choreographed.

Persuasion by Jane Austen

This was the last of Jane Austen's books that I hadn't read. I think I was taking my time to get to it as I liked having one left to read. But now that I have read it, it is no surprise that I loved every bit.  I think more than any of Austen's other books, very little happens in this book. Its focus is all on the minutiae of life but also about the passion lurking underneath and the wisdom that can be gained in an ordinary life. It is what Austen does best. 

Fables Series by Bill Willingham et al.
I am cheating here including an entire series but it deserves some love because almost all of the sixteen volumes I read this year were rated 4 out of 5 stars.  This was my introduction to graphic novels and I couldn’t have asked for a better.  The focus on fairy tales but with an adult focus was perfect and the artwork is astonishing.

Excellent Women by Barbara Pym

I read this in the final two days of the year and couldn’t have asked for a better final read.  It was contemplative but light and funny at the same time.  I’ve found myself talking about it with several people urging them to read it and it has stuck with me.  

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

This is another book that is just so much fun and Scott Lynch creates such a fascinating world and characters that you know you’re going to enjoy your time in their company.  

Honorable mention: Gun Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt, Doc by Mary Doria Russell, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson.

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