The Best of 2012

My best books of 2012, in case you weren't already overwhelmed with "best" lists. Here's to a year of great reading in 2013!


Best book I didn't review: Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles. This book had been on the edges of my awareness since its release last year, but I didn't pick it up until this summer. I read the whole thing in two days, and loved every sentence, every phrase, every perfectly captured moment, so much so that I'm still not quite sure how to review it properly--and so I don't think I will. 

Best book published in 2012: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce. I missed this one over the summer because I was focused on my Summer of TBR, but I received a copy as a birthday gift and promptly devoured it. Uplifting and heartbreaking at the same time, this one will make you slow down and think and think some more--one of the highest compliments I think we can pay a book.

Best Audio: Shine Shine Shine, by Lydia Netzer. I'm cheating by adding an audio category so I can get another literary fiction book in here, but Netzer's debut was the perfect balance of quirkiness and emotion and lovely storytelling that it can't be overlooked. Plus, it's great on audio.


Best classic I can't believe I never read: The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. This little book caught me by surprise--so much more linear, and yet more whimsical, than Tolkien's hefty trilogy. I can't believe I missed it as a child, but am ever-so-glad I got to it before the movie made a muddle of the simple story.

Best classic I *defeated* this year: Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy. Yep, I think "defeated" is about as good a word as I can use for Anna Karenina--but that's not to say I didn't like it. In fact, despite my initial hesitations, I found it to be accessible, relevant, and entertaining. And the movie was luscious eye candy, to boot.

Best re-read classic: The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway. I read this as part of my 26-by-26 list, and gleaned so much more from it as a pseudo-adult (if I'm not yet 26, I refuse to consider myself an adult) than I did as a 13-year-old. 


Best bestseller: Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn. This one's on a lot of lists, which, I'll admit, generally makes me hesitant to read a book. But Flynn's story is whip-smart and ceaseless in its twists and turns, and a chilling pleasure to read.

Best mystery: The Likeness, by Tana French. My first Tana French, and I'm hooked. Though I read this out of order (not realizing that In the Woods comes first), I'll be going back to fill in my reading of this series, and look forward to more from French.


Best feminism: Why Have Kids?, by Jessica Valenti. Though I enjoyed Caitlin Moran's How to Be a Woman, Valenti's work was so smart, so to-the-point, and so head-spinningly-eye-opening that it easily tops the favorite of the nonfiction books I read this year. I'm looking for more suggestions in this vein, so feel free to share!

Best history: Island of Vice, by Richard Zacks. This history of Roosevelt's short tenure as police commissioner in New York City is detailed and well-researched, but never dry or dull.

Best biography: The Black Count, by Tom Reiss. Alexandre Dumas' father (yes, that Alexandre Dumas) lived a life so fantastical that it is hard to believe it is real--but it is, and Reiss captures every bit of it in this stunning biography.


  1. Why Have Kids sounds so interesting! As does Rules of Civility.

    Best wishes for 2013!

    1. They were both excellent - I hope you get a chance to read them!

  2. I like the way you broke these up! And I really need to add a bunch of these to my TBR list

    1. Thanks! I was struggling with the standard top ten type list, so went a different direction.

  3. I really enjoyed this list over the standard "best of" lists. I received Harold Fry for Christmas and can't wait to read it. Why Have Kids sounds really interesting too. I tend to enjoy a good non-fiction along side reading a fiction book. Also, try being almost 30, married for over a year and still no sign of babies in the near future, lol ;p

    1. Thanks! It was easier to do it this way for me - I couldn't do just 10, plus they area all favorites for such very different reasons! I'm married 2 years and get the same baby talk all the time... it's infuriating! I think you'd like Why Have Kids; it's a really smart, thought-provoking book.

  4. I have been meaning to read Harold Fry for months. I really need to get around to it! I'm "tackling" Anna Karenina this month, as part of my 2013 Classics Challenge.

    As for The Old Man in the Sea - ugh. It was my only 1 star review of 2012.

    Oh, and I loved The Likeness, but didn't really enjoy In the Woods. So, maybe you don't want to go back! Or maybe, since you love TOMitS you'll love In the Woods, who knows? :)

    1. Oh you must read Harold Fry! It is just so lovely. I hope you like Anna Karenina - I must say I enjoyed it more than I had expected to (it was long, but not nearly as difficult as I'd thought it would be). Just make sure not to give up at Section III. I promise it gets better when Levin stops with the farm theory.

      Good to know about In the Woods. That one seems to be a love it/hate it, so maybe I was best starting elsewhere in the series!

  5. interesting titles and categories! The Black Count is on my list too:
    you will find my list in this post:

  6. Wasn't The Likeness great! I just read it and I'm still thinking about it.


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