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My Picks in Book Riot’s Best Books of 2012

This week, Book Riot, a bookish website I regularly contribute too, published it’s Best Books of 2012 list. For the list, editors asked each Riot writer to share two of their favorite books published in 2012. It is, I would venture to guess, one of the more eclectic best of the year lists, and I’ve already added books to my toppling TBR pile from reading it.

It was really hard to narrow down my two picks, but I comforted myself by planning out a full week of different book lists inspired by my reading life in 2012 for later this month (I can’t wait to share them). But, as a teaser to both those lists and Book Riot’s big best of list, I wanted to share my two picks for Book Riot with you here:

Fooling Houdini by Alex Stone

Fooling Houdini was, hands down, the most delightful, nerdy and fun book I read this year. Ever since he was a kid, Alex Stone loved magic. As a physics graduate student at Columbia University in New York City, he discovered the world of real-life magicians, complete with back-room secret societies, three-card monte games on the streets, and research in cutting-edge psychology labs. Stone’s journey to magical superiority begins with an embarrassing showing at the Magic Olympics and ends with the story of how he developed a signature card trick that combines his love of physics with the study of magic. This entire book is a completely engaging look into a subculture built on secrets that combines elements of science, psychology, neuroscience and history into a wonderfully geeky narrative that should appeal to fiction and nonfiction lovers alike.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

When she was in her mid-twenties, Cheryl Strayed made the remarkably foolhardy decision to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through Washington state alone, without any training or previous distance hiking experience. In the wake of her mother’s death and her failed marriage, Strayed viewed the trail as a place to piece back together her life and find herself once again.

There has been a ton of praise for Wild this year, and I, for one, agree with nearly all of it. While some readers I admire have criticized the book for feeling whiny or self-indulgent or criticized Strayed for her nearly fatal lack of thought going into her hike, I simply couldn’t be bothered to mind those things during the single sitting it took me to read this book. I loved the voice and maturity that Strayed brought to looking back on her life, and the way she was able to take her single extreme experience and make it feel somehow universal and understandable. I was absorbed from beginning to end, and am looking forward to revisiting this one in the years to come.

So there you have it — two of my favorite reads from 2012, with a promise of more to come soon. If you’re curious about what the rest of the Rioters are reading, check out Book Riot’s Best Books of 2012.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Sheila (Book Journey) December 6, 2012, 6:28 am

    Thanks for the thoughts on WILD. I had it checked out from the library and never got to it. Now I think I will go for it again,

    • Kim December 9, 2012, 1:58 pm

      I hope you like it! When I got it from the library in the spring, I just sat down on a Sunday afternoon and read through the whole thing. I thought it was a very effective and angaging memoir 🙂

  • bermudaonion(Kathy) December 6, 2012, 6:52 am

    I love all the end of the year lists but I feel very under read when I see them – I haven’t read either of these books.

    • Kim December 9, 2012, 1:59 pm

      I feel the same way! I looked at the NYT notable books of 2012 list and had only read one of them. It’s impossible to keep up, it seems.

  • ShaReKay December 6, 2012, 7:22 am

    I keep seeing WILD everywhere. I guess it is time to break down and buy it .

    • Kim December 9, 2012, 2:01 pm

      It looks like the paperback will be out at the beginning of March, so you can probably wait until then. I thought it was great, though, so I hope you like it too.

  • Tanya Patrice December 6, 2012, 8:34 am

    Thanks for sharing your picks. I have been eyeing Wild for a while, but just couldn’t decide if I should read it or not. Looks like I might just have to pick it up now 🙂

    • Kim December 9, 2012, 2:02 pm

      It’s definitely worth a try! I know some people have not liked it, but so much of it really resonated with me.

  • Penelope December 7, 2012, 3:51 am

    I need to download Wild. Sounds like something I would have done.

    • Kim December 9, 2012, 2:04 pm

      You know, it is 100 percent not a thing I would have ever done, but I loved reading about it 🙂

  • Charlie December 7, 2012, 5:12 am

    I hadn’t heard of Fooling Houdini, and love the sound of a book that discusses the combining of science with magic, the two being at rather different ends of the spectrum! And a trick of both magic and physics sounds very interesting. Wild I’m currently considering as a Christmas gift for a relative who loves walking and travelling, it’s the more personal aspects I’m not sure about in this case, the lack of thought, for example, as you’ve mentioned.

    • Kim December 9, 2012, 2:06 pm

      If you’re a serious hiker, Wild might be totally aggravating. I mean, Strayed had NO idea what she was doing and really put herself in some danger because of it. You have to be able to accept that she was a foolish young woman, struggling with a lot of things, and find that part of her story and learning experience compelling, I think.

      Fooling Houdini was a super fun book. I have recommended it to A LOT of people and will continue to try and shove it down people’s throats 🙂

  • Jennifer December 7, 2012, 8:29 am

    I adored Wild. I haven’t read Fooling Houdini though and it sounds fab!

    • Kim December 9, 2012, 2:07 pm

      It is fab! Alex Stone is a charming narrator for this story. I loved it.

  • Stephanie December 8, 2012, 6:02 pm

    Wild has been on my to-read list for a while. 🙂

    • Kim December 9, 2012, 2:09 pm

      I hope you get to read it!