Thursday, December 27, 2012

Reading Envy - The Best of 2012

2012 was a great year for reading! I thought I'd highlight a few of my favorites. Pictures link to Amazon, titles link to GoodReads.

1. Glaciers by Alexis M. Smith 

Maybe this book just resonates with my librarian heart, but the quiet strength of the character and the well-written story have remained with me since I read it this past summer.

Not everything has to be exciting or complicated to be good.  I feel like I may need to say that now, considering what will follow.

2. We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

The book so nice I read it twice in 2012!  The book that started dystopian fiction, or at least helped turn it into what it became, having a direct influence on Orwell and possibly Huxley.

I read this on my own in April, and we recently had a great discussion about it on the SFF Audio Podcast, with Jesse and Professor Eric Rabkin.

This book may sound dark, but it is written like a journal, and is a quick read.  I'd recommend it to anyone.  This goes beyond my love for dystopia, slipping over into just being an important book.

3. Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson

A newer voice in fantasy and science fiction, G. Willow Wilson got her start in graphic novels and this is her first novel.  I was lucky to read a galley of it, but now it is out in print for everyone.  I was drawn in by the political relevance of an unnamed Middle Eastern country and a teenage hacker, his unique ethnic/religious situation, and his adventure that includes jinns, politicians, and love.

I think fans of Cory Doctorow (Little Brother) or Ernst Cline (Ready Player One) would enjoy this one.  I think it is time to read it again.

4. The Ask by Sam Lipsyte

This book is more literary, but hilarious.  I devoured it and wanted more.  He uses words in clever ways, and comes up with characters who are far too realistic not to be believed.  I still want more.

5. You've Got to Read This: Contemporary American Writers Introduce Stories That Held Them in Awe
6. This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz
7. Moscow but Dreaming by Ekaterina Sedia

I read a lot of great short stories this year, and these three volumes were the cream of the crop.  The You've Got to Read This is the best anthology I've seen, unfortunately it is out of print.  It took me a while to find a copy to read the first time around (from a library), when I did a buddy read with one of my GoodReads friends.  I just recently tracked down a copy for my very own. My favorite story from that volume was "Reflection" by Angela Carter.

This is How You Lose Her received great acclaim this year, and for good reason.  Go for the audio if you can- the author reads his own work brilliantly.  I just finished the Sedia stories and they were beautiful and dark.

8. Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil

A dark horse for the Booker Prize this year, I still did not hear much about this book despite its short-listed status.  The only book written by the author (he is otherwise a poet and musician), one he made clear he didn't care if anyone read and that "wasn't for everyone," I loved it.  I loved the writing style, the way the story swirls around you especially in the seven page sentence that starts the novel. I loved how there was no main character, instead a main location, and the story would take different directions depending on who was in focus in the moment.

I would recommend it to people who are willing to try something new, and still want to be swept away.  I was, and I'm hopeful he will write more in the future.  I'm going to try to track down his poetry in 2013.

9. The White Woman on the Green Bicycle by Monique Roffey

In the course of my reading with the Around the World in 52 Books group, I experienced a lot of authors writing about countries outside of the empires.  When I went to the Caribbean for a week, I had stockpiled many books set in the islands to read while I was in the atmosphere.  This was my favorite.  The descriptions of the landscape mirrored what I was seeing, and the non-linear storyline was compelling to the end.

When I see pictures of my trip, I recall bits of the story.  That's what can happen after a bout of immersive reading!

10. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

I almost forgot to include The Hobbit, probably because I read it so recently.  Of course this would rank in my top 10 of the year.  I wish I'd read the book as a child, but am still glad I was able to experience it.  Superb storytelling, fascinating world, and one little hobbit that I can't help but be fond of. 

Practically everyone I know was reading or rereading the Hobbit this year because of the movie.  I participated in a book-blogger readalong, and it was also the December pick for the Sword and Laser Book Club.

This also marked a new reading experience for me -  I used the Whispersync functionality that allowed me to move between an audio book and an eBook.  I loved hearing the story in audio, and could quickly mark a spot and return to it in the text.  Great way to read a special book, although I'm not sure I'd do it that often since it costs more.  If my commute were longer, I'd probably be more willing, but I only drive 3.6 miles each way.

Honorable mentions: rereads of Snow Crash and Cloud Atlas. This year I had several bouts of re-reading, and these two books still rank among my favorites of all time.

You can skim through some of the 200ish books I read this year in GoodReads.  Add me as a friend!


  1. I've not read any of these :(
    I own White Woman on the Green Bicycle though, and you've made me really want to read it!

  2. some interesting titles in here.

    you will find my list in this post:


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