Last January, I challenged myself—via Goodreads—to read 52 books during the upcoming calendar year. I ended four books shy of my goal, reading a total of 48 books in 2012. I’ll take it.
At an average of 349 pages per book, I read a total of 16,775 pages in 365 days. Need a further breakdown? I read an average of 47 pages per day.
When I mentioned I read a lot, I wasn’t exaggerating. Nor did I embellish my inclination to re-read my books. Of the 48 books I read last year, 12 of them were not my first go-around. Similar to how others re-watch their favorite movies—or engage in movie marathons to catch up on first installments before their sequels premiere in theatres (Harry Potter, Twilight, etc.)—I do the same with books. Insurgent is about to be published? Time to re-read Divergent. A new addition to my favorite-of-all-time-Dean-Koontz Odd Thomas series? Time to re-read the first four Odd books.
And so on and so forth.
Due to the speed with which I fly thru books, I often have friends come to me with questions of what book they should read next. Which brings me to one 0f my favorite posts I wrote last year: 2011 in books.
I’m doing it again this year. Looking for some new books to read? Need a few recommendations? Here is my Top Ten List of my favorite books I read in 2012. Just keep in mind the following books are merely ones I read in 2012, not necessarily published in 2012. There were a lot of great books last year, which makes it hard to narrow it down to ten. So, I’m beginning my list with two honorable mentions.
HM #2 – I’d Know You Anywhere, by Laura Lippman
This book reminded me too much of my #9 read this year to be able to include it in my top ten. Though, I did really enjoy this book and it made me want to look up Lippman’s other novels.
HM #3 – Robopocalypse, by Daniel H. Wilson
I picked up this book when I heard Steven Spielberg had optioned it for the big screen. I’m an avid supporter of read the book before the movie. Based on the synopsis and cover, I thought I’d be reading a variation of Terminator or I, Robot. I was pleasantly surprised when this wasn’t the case.
#10 Book of 2012 – The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
I know I’m late to the bandwagon on this book, as it seems everyone and their mother has already read it. It’s your classic coming-of-age story, which many compare to The Catcher in the Rye. I also picked this one up due to it’s movie counterpart recently being released. While the main character, Charlie, experiences all the familiar high school rituals, Chbosky keeps the narrative from turning into a cliche. Thoughtful, though sometimes dark, Chbosky has written a character with whom it’s easy to find common ground. Quick, easy read.
#9 Book of 2012 – Dark Places, by Gillian Flynn
I remember seeing this book cover a few years ago, when it was first published. It drew me to the shelf and I’ve wanted to read it ever since. Flynn had me hooked from the first page.
I have a meanness in me, real as an organ. Slit me at my belly and it might slide out, meaty and dark, drop on the floor so you could stomp on it. It’s the Day blood.
Flynn’s beautiful writing paints a picture on every page, switching between chilling flashbacks and present day narratives to weave the mystery of Libby Day, a sole survivor of a family massacre perpetrated by her brother, Ben. While Libby’s story is disturbing and at times painful to read, you find yourself eager to turn the page. It stays with you even after you close the book and has turned me into an official Gillian Flynn fangirl.
#8 Book of 2012 – Machine Man, by Max Barry
The first book I ever read by Max Barry was Jennifer Government, solely because the cover design reminded me of an old television show I used to watch, called Dark Angel. I’ve been hooked on Max Barry ever since. Barry began Machine Man as an online serial, posting one page a day. Though Machine Man skews slightly darker than Barry’s usual corporate satire (Jennifer Government, Syrup, The Company), it’s equally as funny and eccentric. I’ve never closed one of Barry’s novels without laughing.
#7 Book of 2012 – The Leftovers, by Tom Perrotta
This was another book I picked up solely based on the cover design (see a pattern?). The Leftovers picks up three years after a Rapture-like event. Instead of focusing on the possible reasons behind such a widespread disappearance, the story deals more with how people cope in the aftermath of such an unexpected tragedy as it follows the reactions of the Garvey family—Kevin, Laurie, Tom and Jill. Without getting preachy, Perrotta has a drafted a great character driven narrative that feels real and truthful, leaving it up to the reader to make their own mind up about the origin of the rapture-like disappearance.
#6 Book of 2012 – The Age of Miracles, by Karen Thompson Walker
I bought this book from a Barnes & Noble e-mail, for their Discover Great New Writers recommendation series. Walker’s debut novel received a lot of buzz prior to its publication, in addition to its movie rights being optioned early on by River Road Entertainment. Though some refer to it as a general coming-of-age story, its premise is rather unique. 11-year-old Julia and her family wake to breaking news on the television—the Earth’s rotation has suddenly begun to slow, causing the days and nights to grow longer, affecting gravity, which leads to other environmental concerns. Similar to Perrotta’s The Leftovers, Walker focuses on Julia’s story rather than delving into the physics of this sudden catastrophe, beautifully capturing what it feels like to be a teenager. First loves, friendship struggles, the uncertainty of growing up, this novel covers it all. Worth all the buzz? I’m going to say yes.
#5 Book of 2012 – Lucy, by Laurence Gonzales
Home to another high-concept premise, I’ve had this book on the to-read shelf since hearing about it from LaineyGossip in the summer of 2010. As Lainey says, Lucy is:
addictive, uncomfortable, heartbreaking, even if it’s not entirely plausible, there’s a message here that feels too true.
Couldn’t say it better myself, so I won’t.
#4 Book of 2012 – Room, by Emma Donoghue
Room is another recommendation from LaineyGossip. It’s told from the limited point of view of 5-year-old Jack, who’s spent his entire life in—you guessed it—a room. Having been held captive there with his mother by the man who kidnapped her seven years ago, Room is Jack’s world. It’s all he’s ever known. While the story itself is disturbing and often uncomfortable, it unfolds slowly until you’re left with the most brilliantly written child narrator I’ve ever read. This book haunts you, lingering long after you’ve read it. It’s imaginative, painful. And yet, lovely.
#3 Book of 2012 – The Fault in Our Stars, John Green
Let’s not sugarcoat it. This book will make you cry. The narrator is 16-year-old Hazel with stage IV thyroid cancer who begins attending a support group for teens with cancer at the unwelcome encouragement of her mother. It’s witty and clever and I highly recommend reading it in the privacy of your own home, unless you don’t mind sobbing in public. But, seriously, John Green really is brilliant.
#2 Book of 2012 – Where Things Come Back, by John Corey Whaley
An award-winning debut for John Corey Whaley, I happened upon this novel after seeing someone tweet about it. Hands down, best Twitter recommendation ever. Another character driven story, I fell in love with 17-year-old narrator, Cullen Witter and his fictional small town of Lily, Arkansas. The dialogue is so natural and real, you almost forget you’re reading fiction. Plus, Whaley ties all the loose ends together for one of the best endings I’ve read in a while. It’s a magnificent debut and I can’t wait to read what Whaley writes next.
#1 Book of 2012 – Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
I’ve heard so many people recommend this book. I’ve recommended this book more times than I can count. I’ve seen Gone Girl listed on nearly every Top Ten list this year. I loved it so much I searched out Gillian Flynn’s previous two books just to get more of her brilliant storytelling (see #9). It really is that good. Flynn is a MASTER of suspense in this tale of a marriage gone terribly awry. She weaves expertly back and forth from present day to flashbacks, keeping you guessing until the end. One revelation literally had my mouth hanging open. To keep from spoiling anything, all I’m going to say is, read this book.
I’ve set a new goal for 2013 to read another 52 books, so wish me luck I can at least pass the 48-mark this year. I’ve just joined my friend’s book club, which takes care of 12 books. I need 40 more. Have a favorite book of your own from last year that’s not on this list? I’m always looking for recommendations, so please share.
Regardless, I’ll be back here next January with another Top 10 list. Until then, happy reading.
- lindsey archer