Thursday, January 10, 2013

Five best books (& three surprises!) of 2012

Sometimes I agonize about my favorite reads of the year. Sometimes I pick ten books, sometimes three, sometimes five... Often I scribble titles down, scribble them out, find myself weighing the merits of a middle grade sports book vs. a tear-jerker historical fiction, and wondering how in the world I can decide. But for once, this year was fairly easy. Five books stood head and shoulders above the rest. Strangely, four out of the five I've either already re-read, or I've bought myself a copy recently, and am eagerly looking forward to re-reading. The fifth is a little dark... but I've already read another book in that author's repertoire. Anyway, enough talk, onto the list!

Here they are, in the order I read them, the best books of 2012:

1. How to Save A Life by Sara Zarr (audiobook) (my review here).

2. The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. by Kate Messner

3. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman (audiobook)

4. The FitzOsbornes in Exile & The FitzOsbornes at War by Michelle Cooper (a very brief mention here). (Books 2 and 3 of a trilogy--the first is also good, but 2 and 3 I consumed like a woman starved for words).

5. Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A. S. King (my thoughts here).

Unfortunately I managed not to write many reviews this year, but partly because these books have all been raved over on Goodreads. Do check them out.

And because I love book stats, here's a few for my top five:

4 Young Adult books
1 Middle Grade book (Gianna Z.)
1 Historical Fiction (while, technically two, but they're both in the same series, so I'm counting them as one!)
2 /12 Contemporary  (How to Save A Life & Gianna Z. Vera Dietz is also clearly contemporary, but has elements of magical realism)
1 1/2 Fantasy (Seraphina & Vera Dietz)
2 audiobooks
6 female, first-person narrators (How to Save A Life has a dual narrative)
1 Australian author (Michelle Cooper)
4 American authors

For more of my 2012 reading stats, see Tuesday's post.

In past years, my favorites have shown more diversity. This year they read like a how-to manual to create a book Anne loves: a rich, detailed setting, totally believable and sympathetic characters, and exquisite writing. The only slight deviation from the mass of young adult novels is Gianna Z, but I'm so pleased to include it. I read a ton of middle grade this year, and while some were easily forgettable, Gianna struck me as both a book I would've loved to read as a child, and the type of book I would like to write as an adult.

I said compiling this list was easy. However, there were three books that, while they didn't quite make the top five, were unexpectedly pleasant surprises, and I wanted to make sure to mention them:

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell: Read by my Bristol book group, I was amazed that even as an English major in college, I had never read anything by Gaskell, and with her focus on religion and social justice, plus a swooningly romantic story, I was totally hooked. Here's my thoughts about the book & gushings about the movie version.

Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay (audiobook): Recommended by one of my blog readers (thanks, Monica!). I had heard of Guy Gavriel Kay before, but never known much about him, never tried him. Thankfully my future will involve much more reading of Kay. My review here.

Way Station by Clifford D. Simak: A Hugo-winning sci-fi novel from the 60s. A writing friend recommended it because she saw similar elements in one of my wips, and I was blown away. My review here.

Okay, enough gushing for now! Have you read any of these? Any other recommendations? What are your favorites of 2012?


  1. Way Station sounds like something I would like to read. I must say I did enjoy CINDER from a plot perspective.

    1. You know, I keep hearing good things about Cinder. It didn't really seem like my type of thing, but I may have to give it a look-see. Thanks!

      Way Station really was amazing--literary, thought-provoking, beautifully written. Depressing, really, all these books from previous years that I've never heard of, and will probably never read, but were amazing.

  2. Good recommendations (endorsements) Anne. How did I miss all of these?
    Now onwards to 2013...

    1. Happy to share, Mirka! It is exciting to think of all the new reads waiting for us in 2013, isn't it?

  3. Some of the books I've enjoyed reading this year are ones you've recommended in your blog, so I'm definitely going to give some of these a try. ;)

    I'm glad you enjoyed Tigana. I'm always a tiny bit apprehensive about recommending my favorite books to others (what if they don't *like* them?!), so I'm happy that it made your list. ;) I also recommend the Vorkosigan books (starting with Cordelia's Honor). They're completely different from Kay's work, but I love, love, love them, too. ;) --Monica.

    1. Yay! So glad my recommendations have steered you right! Seraphina isn't a typical fantasy novel (it's more about the writing, characters and world building than plot) but it's achingly beautiful, and I really think you'd enjoy it.

      That said, though, I know EXACTLY what you mean about how scary it is recommending books to other people. I'm so happy to get recommendations, regardless!


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