I’ve been keeping lists of all the books I read for the past three years, and whenever I enter a book on my list, I also note whether it is a favorite. I always know instantly upon finishing a book if it’s a favorite, and sometimes even before. 2010 (a red-letter reading year for me) and 2011 each had 6 favorites. 2012 has only four. In the order in which I read them, they are:

The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes

I read that Barnes was shortlisted for the Booker Prize three times before writing this book, which finally won. Though I hope to eventually read more of his work, it’s hard to imagine something else being more deserving than The Sense of an Ending. This is the kind of book I imagine a writer building up to for his entire life. I’m not sure anyone much younger than Barnes, who is 66, could have written this book. It is so full of the kind of humility that age brings that it wounded me as I saw myself in its descriptions of the narrator’s self-perceived shortcomings. Fortunately, any intelligent reader north of oh, say, 13, can appreciate its beauty. It is also technically masterful, with a twist that lends the book poignant irony without being sensational. I couldn’t speak for a full forty minutes after finishing.

Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson

I told a friend this is “the most suspenseful book in which not much happens that I’ve ever read.” The first line, “My name is Ruth,” is more than an introduction to the narrator; it is the first of many ties to Moby Dick and an entire philosophy that Robinson single-mindedly sustains over the course of the book without ever being preachy or heavy-handed. The prose is masterfully, unselfconsciously beautiful. One could stop to unpack nearly every line, but it is never obfuscating or overwrought. I later read Robinson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Gilead, which is also perfect, but Housekeeping is the one that I feel closer to and expect I will read again and again in years to come.

Wool, by Hugh Howey

The most fun I had reading all year. Dystopian science fiction with a truly badass main character who just happens to be female, some truly suspenseful action sequences, and a verrry reasonable e-book price.

The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, by Andrew Solomon

An open message to Andrew Solomon:


Really, if you’ve ever experienced depression or know anyone who has, I can’t imagine a better book to make you understand what it feels like, or make you gasp with recognition. It’s also quite funny, because depression, honestly, sometimes is.

Total Books Read:64

Re-reads: 8 (56 new books)
Worst Book of the Year: I guess Tyra Banks’ Modelland was pretty lame, but I have a high tolerance for lame, so…
Most Popular Genre: Literary Fiction, 17 titles. I’m proud of boosting my Non-Fiction reading up to 10 titles this year, and sad that I only made it to 7 YA books.
Longest Book: The Executioner’s Song, by Norman Mailer.
Unfinished Books: Some Kind of Fairy Tale, by Graham Joyce. I’ll definitely read it this year; it just didn’t grab me at the right time.
I am already reading for 2013, namely The Desert Spear, second in the Demon Cycle by Peter V. Brett, and Marilynne Robinson’s Home, a sequel to Gilead. I will be reading and reviewing A Great and Monstrous Thing, a great and monstrous (really, just enormous) history of London in the 18th century. I’m eager to see what books will make my Favorites list this year.

4 thoughts on “2012 Books in Review

  1. Pingback: November So Far: Snap Reviews of Hugh Howey’s Dust, Julian Barnes’ Levels of Life, and Emma Chapman’s How to Be a Good Wife | Effusions of Wit and Humour

  2. Pingback: 2013 Books in Review | Effusions of Wit and Humour


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