2012: A Year in Books

A mountain of reading
It’s been a busy year of reading! When I look back at 2012 I see I started off the year with a run of the Her Royal Spyness series.  I loved the historical detail as well as the fun of a mystery.  I’m ending the year with mysteries, too.  I’m presently reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. I’m going to the source after being captivated by the Sherlock Holmes movies, the tv show Elementary, and the BBC series Sherlock. This year I had a huge boost to the number of books I read by participating in the YALSA Best of the Best challenge early in the year-that got me to read 25 things I might not have read otherwise. I set a goal for myself on Goodreads and was very pleased that I had to move it two times because I met it so early on! I seemed to have a big number of 5 star rated books this year, and all at once, too. In YA books this year I often found myself confused between all the books like  Matched, Divergent, etc. Maybe they need longer titles! I enjoyed participating with friends across the country in a post-apocalyptic book club. We met up using Google hangout, which is a great way to connect. I’m finding myself wondering if I should even be keeping up this blog. The fact is I don’t have a lot of visitors or commentors and I seem to have a hard time keeping up.  I started it for myself and because I didn’t like what was available at the time.  I do like Goodreads a lot now and diligently keep track of my reading there, but there is something nice about having an online place that is just mine. I guess I will just add to my 2013 resolutions the same one i had for 2012-to do a better job keeping this up.

So how many books did I read this year? And what were my very favorite?

Total Books Read: 93.  Wow! That’s way more than last year. I chalk that up to the inclusion of many shorter stories (a couple children’s books) and many graphic novels and short non-fiction books from the challenge. As I’ve mentioned before, though, I don’t feel bad about “counting” something like House of Dolls alongside Code Name Verity, because it’s the story that counts. So some were long, some were short, some simple, some complicated, some prose, some pictorial, but overall I read 93 different stories that came out of an author’s imagination. Thank you, authors, for sharing those stories with me!

There is a category that I don’t keep track of here, and that is audiobooks. I’m not an audiobook listener by nature, but my kids absolutely love them.  Consequently we’ve listened to many together in the car, especially over the summer and for long drives.  The standouts we’ve all enjoyed (ages 5-7, 40-43) have been the World According to Humphrey series and the Brixton Brothers series (narrated by Arte Johnson.) I believe it was also this year that we listened to Gone Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright.  This is one of my all time childhood favorites and it was very exciting for me to listen to it with my family and have them enjoy it.

Now, on to the Top Ten!

Top 10 (12) Favorite Books of the Year (read in 2012, not necessarily published in 2012. Thus, you’ll see a book and its sequel.) I gave 15 titles 5 stars on Goodreads. They are:Mrs Queen Takes the Train,Code Name Verity,Hypnotist’s Love Story,A Surrey State of Affairs,Crown of Embers,I’ll Be There,Rules of Civility,Raven Boys,Probability of Miracles,Girl of Fire and Thorns ,Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt,Scorpio Races,Fault in Our Stars,Ready Player One,and Son.

Of these 15, 8 were YA titles. And of those 15, these are my top reads of the year (in no particular order):

  1. Mrs Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn: an absolute top this year, this was a thoughtful and respectful novel with bits of humor throughout, really engaging.
  2. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein: amazing historical fiction, heartbreaking, vivid, and cleverly crafted. I don’t know that this would really have much YA appeal, but I found it amazing and shared it with my mother, who also liked it.
  3. Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty: a long engrossing story, varying points of view, and uncertainty about the ending, this was completely satisfying as well as entertaining
  4. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline: a book I’ve referenced all year long since reading it last winter. Tailor made for people who grew up in the 80s, including obsessive pop culture references and total immersion into video games and virtual reality. Add in a compelling unappealing vision of the future and a race to the ending and this book was un-put-down-able.
  5. Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater: an unappealing title and cover gave me no interest in this book-I only read it on recommendation and as part of the challenge. It was so captivating I still recall exactly where I was when I got to the end of the novel. It left my head in a fog for days afterward. To say it’s a book about a horse race is a disservice because Stiefvater has created a magical and somewhat violent world with strange creatures and traditions, mashed up with an almost modern world (kind of Brigadoon-y), and all kinds of character issues. Simply wonderful.
  6. The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson: This sequel to Girl of Fire and Thorns was one of the strongest middle books of a trilogy I’ve ever read. It stood on its own as a fantastic adventure story, filled with intrique, love, double crosses, and magic. I found the ending thrilling and perfect.
  7. The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson: This was a marvelous story of adventure, love, and magic all set in one of the most detailed and fully and vividly imagined places I’ve read about. As a reader it was wonderful to watch the heroine truly become a heroine.
  8. I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan: a quiet YA novel that ends up having nail biting suspenseful scenes of survival, combined with a heartwarming and emotional story about love, as well as employing a writing style I especially like, made this a sleeper hit for me this year.
  9. The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder: two weepy cancer books made my top list this year. This one didn’t get as much hype as the other, but was just as good. It’s hard going into a story knowing the main character is going to die, but this one managed to keep a smile on your face for most of it, and when the tears came, well that was ok, too.
  10. Rules of Civility by Amor Towles: a jazzy age novel that entranced me with historical detail, not to mention a really good story about people’s successes and failures
  11. Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater: twice on this list! I enjoyed Scorpio Races so much I didn’t hesitate to read this. I was wowed by the strange story blending ancient magic with modern day life, as well as by the admirable construction of the story.
  12. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green: wasn’t sure if I would include this, but then I went back and read my review and was reminded that this was an amazingly well written story about two people who happen to have cancer. Green manages to address the usual cancer story tropes (as does Wunder in Probability of Miracles) and poke at them a bit. Be prepared to have a good cry.

So there you have it. My favorite reads of the year. And you know what? I so enjoyed writing that that I will indeed continue to keep up the blog despite my earlier doubts in the day. Thanks to the visitors who stop by and may your 2013 be filled with wonderful stories that come alive in your head and stay with you after you close the book.

–Sarah

*What’s with the picture? That’s Little Blackie, one of our baby guinea pigs (born Dec 27th), atop my current Sherlock Holmes book, Beautiful Ruins, which I meant to read all year long and didn’t, and an assortment of lovely non-fiction books I’ve gotten this year: Chicken and Egg (how I’ve used it here), Free Range Chicken Gardening, and Colorful Embroidery, which inspired the two embroidered book marks I made this week to practice some stitching. It’s a mountain of reading for a little piggie!

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