As 2013 comes rolling in, here’s a quick look back at my favorite books of 2012.These 10 are my absolute favorites of all the books I read in the past year (and I wrote the reviews for many of them if/when they were selected as an Amazon Best Book of the Month).
1. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain (nonfiction; January)
Power to the introverts! This is the first book I’ve ever read that made me proud to be an introvert. But it never bashes extroverts; instead, it explains how each type of person is particularly well-suited to different things. With parenting, relationship, and educational tips, as well as real-life stories and accessible neurological research, this is a must-read for anyone who is or knows an introvert (in other words, it’s required reading for humanity).
2. The Light Between Oceans, by ML Stedman (debut fiction; July)
A gorgeous, heartbreaking story about the lengths we go to for love. It’s been years since I was so transported by a book; my boyfriend interrupted my reading session one day and I was in a daze for five minutes, struggling to bring my mind back to reality and out of early 20th-century Janus Rock, Australia.
3. The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo, by Tom Reiss (nonfiction; September)
This is a fascinating book. Of course, I’m biased, being an avowed Francophile, but this book combines so many different elements (military history; French and American racial relations; social, cultural, and political history; literature; life as a slave and as a slave owner in the French colonial Caribbean; biography; Napoleonic history…) that it has an incredibly broad appeal.
4. The Snow Child, by Eowyn Ivey (debut novel; February)
Another very atmospheric book. This book evoked winter in Alaska better than actually visiting Alaska in the winter did for me. Of course, 21st-century Anchorage and turn of the 20th century Alaska wilderness are quite different, but still. I love the magical realism that creeps in, and the deftly drawn characters. This book lingers.
5. Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo (debut Fantasy; June)
An excellent start for a YA trilogy with a fresh, new magic system and a reimagining of Imperial Russia. There were twists that took me by complete surprise, which I loved, and the world was incredibly original. I can’t wait for the second book in the series!
6. Grave Mercy, by Robin LaFevers (Fantasy; April)
Another YA (though, I should mention that all the YA books on this list are considered as such mainly for marketing purposes. Very, very little teenage angst here). Set in a well-depicted Medieval Brittany, it focuses around young women who train to become assassins; the saint that they serve marks their targets in ways that only these women can see. I loved the author’s depiction of the middle ages, and of a country struggling to stay independent.
7. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan (debut novel; October)
A literary Da Vinci Code! Okay, yes, that’s a rather silly description. But this is a great book for any bibliophile. There’s a treasure hunt using books, a look at Google’s internal structure, a home-made scanning device made out of cardboard, a secret society, and plenty of laugh-out-loud lines.
8. Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman (debut Fantasy; July)
A brand-new perspective on dragons. A YA book that has a friendship triangle rather than a love triangle. And another very promising start to a series. There’s espionage, courtly intrigue, music, and shape-shifting dragons unlike anything you’ve read before.
9. Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar, by Cheryl Strayed (nonfiction; July)
I don’t typically have a high tolerance for advice columns, and this is a collection of advice letters. But Sugar’s letters are so amazing…she uses her own life to illustrate the lives of those who write to her more fully, and to give context to her advice. Some of her responses made me laugh; others made me wince at her brutal honesty and kick-in-the-ass motivation; others made me tear up on the bus. You’ll learn as much about Sugar as you do about yourself.
10. The Art Forger, by B.A. Shapiro (literary thriller; October)
I’m an amateur painter, and I love art history, so I was bound to like this book! A masterful weaving of old letters and present-time narration marks this mystery about one of the Degas paintings stolen in the Gardner Heist. Not only will you learn how to forge a painter, you’ll be racing to piece together this absorbing mystery.