Top Ten(ish) Books I Read in 2012

Reminder: This list refers to books I read in 2012, not necessarily books that were published only in 2012.

Best Overall:

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I thought this was one of the best books I’ve ever read, and had difficulty doing it justice with a review. Other reviews go there first, and used the words that echoed my thoughts: exquisite; extraordinary; tough; damn near genius; heart-wrenching; brimming with joy; elegantly plotted; touching valentine to the human spirit; beautiful, shining sentences that you just want to underline in every single colour and cut out and put on the wall and glue onto postcards; freaking amazing….

Best Non-Fiction:

Devil in the Grove by Gilbert King

This masterful and riveting non-fiction book, subtitled “Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America” is about some of the bravest men in the history of this country. It is a useful corrective to anyone who thought (from reading The Help, for instance) that Jim Crow America wasn’t so bad. Or worse, those who thought that what was described in The Help was as bad as it got!

New-to-Me Author I Fell In Love With:

On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

I loved this intricately plotted, expertly structured book, which won the 2009 Michael L. Prinz Award for literary merit in a book for teens. The author impressed me so much, I immediately ordered her other books, and loved them as well, especially The Piper’s Son and its predecessor, Saving Francesca, both of which I also highly recommend.

Most notable writing:

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

This magical story drew me deep into its world with the enchanting, almost photo-quality sharpness and loveliness of the imagery. The author’s ability to chart the evolution of the marriage of the main protagonists is just extraordinary.

Best dystopia:

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

I loved this post-apocalyptic story; it has it all: adventure, bravery, love, danger, suspense, tenderness, betrayal, and loyalty. But the love is really the best part. And I don’t just mean the love between the adults, but also the tenderness and devotion between the adults and children. There’s something in this book for everyone, whether you like post-apocalyptic books, medieval tales of tribes and bravery, or just plain old swoony love stories.

Most Heartwarming – Middle Grade:

Flyaway by Lucy Christopher

A touching, uplifting, and all around wonderful story.

Most Stunning Impact:

Stolen by Lucy Christopher

I read this book with my mouth open and eyes wide the whole time! There are basically only two characters: 16-year-old Gemma, and 24-year-old Ty. The book is written in the form of a letter sent from Gemma to Ty. You won’t want to put down this absorbing portrait of two shattered people who navigate through their angst and fear and rage in search of healing and renewal, and you won’t soon forget it.

Most Twisted (Double Entendre):

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

The story offers a mordant commentary on the nature of relationships, putting in stark relief the Janus-faced possibilities of marriage: we want to be our best selves for our spouse, but it is also far too easy to disintegrate into our worst selves as well.

Biggest Surprise:

11/22/63 by Stephen King

This is not a stereotypical Stephen King horror book at all, but a time travel tale involving the assassination of President Kennedy and the desire to change history, and a beautiful and bittersweet love story. It is a very long book, so get ready to spend a lot of time with the characters – enough to miss them dearly when you are done reading.

Most Necessary to Read if You Follow the Series:

Phantom by Jo Nesbo

I hesitated to add this one, because it definitely should not be read as a standalone book, for reasons, needless to say, I can’t tell you!

This is the latest police detective thriller in the Harry Hole series, and it brings back a number of characters from earlier books. On the surface it is a dark, gritty tale about competing drug gangs in Oslo, but the story goes much, much deeper. It is a must read for Harry Hole fans, but don’t pick it up until you have read the books that precede it!

Overall Impressions

This was not the best reading year for me. Although there were a few gems, such as the books shown above, for the most part I could compile a much bigger list of “Most Disappointing” books.

Here’s hoping for a better 2013!!!


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35 Responses to Top Ten(ish) Books I Read in 2012

  1. Caroline says:

    I’m glad to see I have 4 of your best of on my piles already and I’m pretty sure they are good. And I added two more (Stolen and Under the Never Sky). I had a similar experience. A few wow novels, many disappointing ones as well.

  2. Beth F says:

    My list goes up tomorrow — Snow Child is a great pick. I was not as taken with Gone Girl as the rest of the world.

  3. Heather says:

    Gone Girl was on my list too! I really want to read Under the Never Sky but I’ve been really “over” dystopian YA lately. Let’s see if that makes my priority list for next year …

  4. diane says:

    Love these lists. I must make time for Snow Child this year, and loved 11/22/63 (read in 2011). Hope 2013 is a great year for you Jill.

  5. bookingmama says:

    I respect your opinions on books so much that I just requested a few of your list from the library.

  6. Yay for GONE GIRL and 11/22/63!! I love the pic with THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, and I have heard so much about it that I know I’ve got to pick that one up at some point. I keep picking it up in the store and then not getting it, for some silly reason. Happy New Year to you and yours!

  7. Jenny says:

    I do agree with you that 2012 wasn’t the best reading year for me. Hopefully next year will be amazing! I’m going to add The Devil in the Grove to my must read list, and Jellicoe Road is already on there!

  8. I LOVED Under the Never Sky too. And The Fault in Our Stars is the first book out of my huge must-reads that I will read in 2013.

  9. It made me happy to see we have a couple in common. Thanks for all the great recommendations this year, Jill!

  10. The Fault in Our Stars has shown up on a lot of 2012 favorites. I haven’t read John Green yet, but I need to.
    2 Kids and Tired Books

  11. Amy @ My Friend Amy says:

    lol I thought about doing a book I liked least, maybe I should have! I love that you, me, and Ana all mention Jellicoe Road! ♥

    I need to get to a few more of these. I really mostly enjoyed my reading this year!

  12. I felt exactly the same way about 11/22/63.

  13. TFiOS is on my best list! And, ok, I’ll finally get around to putting 11/22/63 on my TBR list.

    Could you please post a list of your most disappointing titles?? I bet it’d be super funny!! 🙂

  14. The only one I’ve read is 11/22/63 and it made my best of the year list as well.

  15. I’ve only read one of your top 10ish – same one as Kathy. Kinda wanted my time back. I need to give my copy away or swap it or *something*. There are several on your list that I want to read and one I’m avoiding (the John Green). Early wishes for a happy 2013!

  16. Jenners says:

    I usually end up reading almost everything on your year-end lists and I found that I’ve read more this time than in previous years. Just a few to get to! You are a big influence on me. : )

    I wish you a much better reading year in 2013!!!

  17. Stephanie says:

    Great post! I love The Fault in Our Stars too.

  18. florinda3rs says:

    THE FAULT IN OUR STARS is on my list too (which won’t post till January 7, but it won’t change, either). I just bought THE SNOW CHILD, so it has a shot at my 2013 list :). And I’d be interested in that “Most Disappointing” list, too!

  19. Caite says:

    I must buy The SnowChild….

  20. Priscilla says:

    I’m adding Devil in the Grove to my wishlist NOW. I live in Atlanta, and the evidence of Jim Crow is still so apparent, even though people like to pretend it’s all over and done with. Also happy to see 11/23/62 on so many lists–I am getting ready to read it for my February book club. Happy reading in 2013!

  21. I love the graphic with Fault in Our Stars! 🙂 11/22/63 will definitely be on my best of 2012 list too (if I ever get my act together and post one).

  22. Rachel says:

    I have The Fault in our Stars and The Devil in the Grove on my TBR shelf now. I’m glad to here that they’re really good. And I agree with Gone Girl – so great!

  23. Rita K says:

    Will read the ones I haven’t yet. But haven’t been able to get through Gone Girl. Don’t know why. But would definitely agree with your top pick. The Fault in our Stars was a lovely if sad book!

  24. Just about everyone is raving about Green’s latest. I guess maybe I should read it too. 🙂 I was glad to see The Snow Child on your list. I received a copy for Christmas and am anxious to dive in. Great list!

    Have a wonderful New Year!

  25. stacybuckeye says:

    I started Gone Girl this morning making it my first book of the year! At some point I need to try the Nesbo series.

  26. Iris says:

    There are quite some on here that I am hoping to read soon, particularly The Fault in Our Stars and The Snow Child. I have been looking at Under the Never Sky as a title that might interest me – and you might just have tempted me 🙂

  27. Ti says:

    My year of reading wasn’t all that great either. Today, although I started what is supposed to be a good one (Light Between Oceans) I can’t get into it quite yet. It’s warm here today and I am sitting in the sun. Enough said.

  28. Athira says:

    I can’t wait to read the John Green book – having heard tons about it, I am a bit nervous about how the hype will get to me, but I think now is a safe time to read it.

  29. Quite honestly, I am in love with your list big time!! There are many here that are on my list to read but knowing how much and why you loved them makes it all the more imperative that I get to them!

  30. Alex says:

    I see The Fault in Our Stars, Gone Girl (most talked about book of 2012?) and The Snow Child pop up is lots of best-of-the-year lists. Only haven’t read Mantel’s last year because my bookclub will read it this year (just waiting for the paperback version).

  31. Laurie C says:

    I find it hard to write a review right away when I really love a book, so sometimes those reviews never get written. I’ve GOT to read The Snow Child soon!

  32. Trish says:

    FEEL ALL THE THINGS. Ha! Yes, that sums up John Green doesn’t it? And biggest surprise? Yipes…I’m about 17% of the way through right now and am really pleased to be back in Derry with my IT friends. King sure does spin a good yarn, huh? And I need to read Snow Child! Thanks for the reminder.

  33. You win some, you lose some I guess. Hope 2013 brings you more hits than misses. I never really thought about reading the John Green book, but now I’m really curious!

  34. I agree that The Snow Child’s prose is great – not my typical preferred writing style, but it did draw me in. I really enjoyed Gone Girl, to my surprise! Stolen and Under the Never Sky sound amazing.

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