While I know that 2012 isn’t technically over, I decided to get a start on posting my favorite books of the year this week before the holidays hit and I lose all motivation blog. If I read any life-changing books before the end of the year, I’ll add an addendum to the lists or consider them for my favorite books of 2013. I’m starting with fiction, and over the next two weeks will have a series of posts on my favorite nonfiction, memoirs, and the books that got away.
(Astute readers will notice many of these books were not originally published in 2012. These lists highlight my favorite books from the year, regardless of when they were published.)
The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff
I think 2012 was the year I re-discovered my love of literary mysteries, starting with the truly delightful The Monsters of Templeton. When a small town’s wayward daughter returns home in disgrace, she discovered that the story she’s been told about her father is a lie. As she digs into her hometown’s past, she discovers a host of dark secrets. I just loved everything about this book, and I can’t wait to read more from Lauren Groff.
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
I never actually reviewed The Sparrow this year (except briefly at Book Riot), which is a real shame because it was, hands down, my favorite fiction read of the year. As I wrote at Book Riot, “I don’t know how to quickly summarize Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow except as the beginning of a joke: ‘Four Jesuit priests, a child prostitute turned computer expert, a doctor, an engineer and an astronomer head off into space…’ But this book doesn’t end with a punchline, more like an emotional punch to the stomach as two competing storylines – the tale of the mission to find aliens in Alpha Centuri and the rehabilitation and interrogation of the sole traumatized survivor – converge to an emotionally wrecking conclusion that feels inevitable but surprising. I was, and still am, stunned by this book.”
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
I barely remember the 1980s, was never much of a computer geek, and don’t love video games, but I absolutely adored Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Set in 2040, this book tells the story of a high school student, Wade Watt, and his quest to uncover the Easter eggs in a virtual reality world called The Oasis. I listened to this one as an audio book, which I think was a great choice. Narrator Will Wheaton was a perfect narrator, and listening to the book really highlights how much fun it was. I’ve recommended this book many, many times this year.
The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
As far as I can tell, readers either loved or hated The Casual Vacancy. Clearly, I’m on the loved side of the spectrum. Even though most of the characters are unlikable, I was absorbed by this story of small town politics that explored what happened when a single incident throws off a carefully-calibrated equilibrium in a closed community. I saw a lot of J.K. Rowling’s distinctive style in the writing, which reminded me of my favorite things about Flannery O’Connor. This certainly isn’t Harry Potter, but I loved it anyway.
Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway
Angelmaker is another example of the really odd but wonderful books I read this year. It’s a mix between a spy thriller and science fiction, with excellent writing and engaging characters to boot. I just recently wrote about this one so I won’t say much more other than that I suspect this is another book that I will hoisting on unsuspecting readers when they ask me for recommendations.