Best Read in 2012


As part of our pre-launch countdown celebration we put together a slideshow of our favorite reads of the past twelve months (that is, books we read for the first time last year, not ones that were necessarily published then) titled Best Read in 2012.  While you can still view that original presentation here, we’ve recreated the countdown to now include links to our full reviews of each title.

Enjoy, and be sure to comment below and let us know what you’re favorite books of 2012 were as well.  We’re always looking to add more excellent and highly recommended titles to our already overflowing to-read piles!

The_Age_Of_Miracles#30: The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

This is a poignant portrayal of the ways we respond to crises. And whether we endure global or personal disaster, our greatest fear is not that we will perish, but that our experiences will not retain the importance that we ascribe to them. -KARLI

Faith#29: Faith by Jennifer Haigh

Don’t let the title mislead you. For a novel called Faith, religion takes a surprising back seat. Don’t get me wrong, it’s obviously discussed. How could it not be? Just don’t expect this to be a novel that becomes overly preachy and unfairly balanced in its fervor to defend organized religion. -AARON

#28: A Surrey State of Affairs by Ceri Radford A_Surrey_State_Of_Affairs

A Surrey State of Affairs is hilarious, charming, and quirky, and Ceri Radford’s writing is sharp-witted and fresh. This new novel is a sparkling testament to the state of debut literature. 2012 has been a good year for books, and I’ll be recommending this heartwarming and delightful story for years to come! -KARLI

Lost_Memory_Of_Skin#27: Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks

Banks has taken a hot button issue that many would like to ignore and has spun a fictional tale about those that have been branded as sexual offenders for the rest of their lives. The novel is an engrossing, thought-provoking read that doesn’t offer up any easy answers to the questions that it raises, because sadly there are none to found. -AARON

If_Walls_Could_Talk#26: If Walls Could Talk by Lucy Worsley

I really enjoyed reading this book as Worsley traces the history of domestic life from pre-medieval times to present day amenities. It’s almost like taking a tour of historical English homes and castles without ever having to leave the couch! -KARLI

Man_&_Other_Natural_Disasters#25: Man & Other Natural Disasters by Nerys Parry

Get yourself a copy, take a moment to clear your mind of any troubling thoughts and your schedule of needless commitments, find a comfortable place to settle in, and begin reading one of the most intriguing, magical pieces of fiction you’ve experienced in years. -AARON

The_Song_Of_Achilles#24: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Miller’s writing is graceful and natural, and the book is very well-organized and highly researched. Patroclus and Achilles may not be as famous as Odysseus and Penelope, but Miller’s version of their story is equally tragic and unforgettable – prompting discussions of love, sexuality, gender roles, and sacrifice. -KARLI

Stay_Awake#23: Stay Awake by Dan Chaon

Intense and immediate, all exploring in some way the idea of dreaming vs waking life, every single story in this collection demands the reader’s attention. -AARON

Treasure_Island#22: Treasure Island!!! by Sara Levine

Treasure Island!!! is a strange, quirky book with a very unlikeable narrator, but it may inspire you to take a few steps back from your own life and make sure that you are absolutely nothing like this narrator – so preoccupied and selfish that she’s no longer the protagonist of her own story. -KARLI

Heft#21: Heft by Liz Moore

Heft is a novel that takes a raw, honest look at loneliness through the eyes of two protagonists who couldn’t be more different from one another. In fact, one of the few things the two have in common other than the fact that they’re both male is that they’re both extremely lonely individuals. -AARON

Three_Times_Lucky#20: Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage

As a lover of southern literature, I can’t help but appreciate the book’s southern charm and firecracker plot. Sheila Turnage’s debut YA novel is a delight for teens and adults alike. Mo LoBeau is a sassy, southern-bred heroine, and believe me, you do not want to miss her fast-paced and endearing story. -KARLI

A_Hologram_For_The_King#19: A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers

Reading like a series of amusing anecdotes that are strung together by the strangeness of a foreign setting a la Lost in Translation, A Hologram for the King manages to subtly sneak it’s points across while also keeping the reader highly entertained by the missteps and misadventures of its protagonist. -AARON

Dare_Me#18: Dare Me by Megan Abbott

Abbott must be one of the few people who didn’t force herself to forget what it was like to be a teenager. She can perfectly pen every hormone surge and exaggerated moment of pain or pleasure…With her gritty teenage Americana in Dare Me, she has overwhelmed me with the intensity of her skillful language and insight. -KARLI

Bring_Up_The_Bodies#17: Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

Bring Up the Bodies is a near perfect historical novel. In fact it’s only flaw may be that the third and final book in the series, The Mirror & the Light, doesn’t exist yet, so when you finish Bodies and you’re clamoring for more there’s nowhere you can turn to get this good a Cromwell fix. -AARON

State_Of_Wonder#16: State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

With this book, Ann Patchett reminds us that our own personal world is microscopic, and that the enormity of our planet is unimaginable until our emotional limits and breaking points overlap with someone else’s idea of normalcy. -KARLI

The_Yips#15: The Yips by Nicola Barker

The Yips is deliriously brilliant, but as much as I want you to read it, I also want to keep it for myself. It’s like having a favorite album months before anyone else has heard it and then hating it when it’s eventually all over the radio because you can’t escape it, as if it somehow gets less brilliant with each person that listens to it. -AARON

Gone_Girl#14: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

I completely devoured this book. I didn’t leave the house for 2 days and I have a crick in my neck from staring at the book, feverishly turning pages! Not many stories elicit such a reaction from me, so I know Gone Girl is tremendous. Horrifying and jarring – but tremendous…You have no choice but to be consumed by the plot. -KARLI

Children_In_Reindeer_Woods#13: Children In Reindeer Woods by Kristin Omarsdottir

Told by way of a beautiful translation which utilizes clear and concise language to convey young Billie’s point of view, Children in Reindeer Woods is ultimately one of the strangest, most dazzling pieces of fiction one is likely to come across all year. -AARON

Whered_You_Go_Bernadette#12: Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Bernadette’s adventure is both cynical and heartwarming, silly and poignant. I am disappointed that the story is over because Bernadette is infectious and she’s definitely one of my new favorite characters. But it’s really not that surprising considering Semple’s resume. No one is more qualified to create such perfectly quirky characters. -KARLI

The_Teleportation_Accident#11: The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman

On the surface it seamlessly blends multiple genres together as it attempts to tell the not so heroic tale of one young Egon Loeser, a German born theatrical set designer who desires nothing more out of life than to either snort coke up his nose or to f*ck, f*ck, f*ck any woman who’ll have him, or if possible both. -AARON

Wolf_Hall#10: Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Mantel’s writing is unparalleled – I’ve not come across anything that compares to her unique style. Sometimes it’s formal, sometimes it’s conversational, and other times it’s full of dark, witty dialogue. It may be a little inconsistent, but it perfectly reflects the volatile nature of England under Henry VIII’s rule. -KARLI

A_Monster_Calls#09: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

I cried as I finished this book. Let’s just get that tidbit out of the way now. Yes, there I was, sitting smack in the middle of a jam-packed train full of strangers, all of whom were sandwiched together during their morning rush hour commute, silently, uncontrollably weeping. -AARON

Train_Dreams#08: Train Dreams by Denis Johnson

A man like Robert Grainier would have achieved few accomplishments by today’s standards and left behind little that would resemble a legacy, but here Johnson draws our attention to the unrecalled aspects of American heritage. The novella is powerful, offering a portrait of forgotten Americana and questioning what it means to leave a legacy. -KARLI

Swimming_Home#07: Swimming Home by Deborah Levy

In the end almost everyone gets exactly what they wanted, which of course isn’t even remotely close to what they actually needed and for this group of dysfunctional characters, and perhaps for the reader as well, life will never be quite the same again. -AARON

The_Snow_Child#06: The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

It is reminiscent of a Laura Ingalls Wilder book in the descriptions of the isolated landscape and quiet, domestic scenes, but the fairy tale characteristics add a whole new dimension to the story. -KARLI

Billy_Lynns_Long_Halftime_Walk#05: Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

Billy Lynn is a book that’s designed to push the reader out of their comfort zone by way of satire that attacks our love of the 24 hour news cycle, corporate greed, consumerism, and our need for the belief in a higher power that watches over and protects America’s every move. -AARON

The_Hollywood_Sign#04: The Hollywood Sign by Leo Braudy

An entire book about the history of a sign might sound excruciatingly boring, but I assure you, The Hollywood Sign is entertaining and very readable, because it’s not just a book about a sign – it’s about the origins of America’s romance with fame, fortune, scandal, celebrity, and iconicism. -KARLI

The_Canvas#03: The Canvas by Benjamin Stein

Stein pushes the limits of how we as individuals each perceive the exact same events in uniquely different ways as he explores the boundaries of what memory is on a quest that ultimately seeks to unmask the truth with regards to his chosen subjects. -AARON

We_Need_To_Talk_About_Kevin#02: We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Shriver has tapped into the most controversial questions about motherhood here, and I’ve never been more sympathetic to a character than I was with Eva. The nature vs. nurture question has been around for a while, but Shriver takes the implications further, especially regarding the instincts that are ascribed as umbrella terms to motherhood. -KARLI

The_Marriage_Artist#01: The Marriage Artist by Andrew Winer

Andrew Winer delivers by way of The Marriage Artist a hauntingly realistic tale of love and loss that crosses generations, continents, languages, and beliefs. It’s a tale that begins with death, but repurposes that ending as a tool that hints at rebirth and purpose. -AARON

There you have it, our top 30 favorite reads of 2012! What books did you really enjoy reading last year? Tell us what we should be adding to our to-read piles!

About Aaron Westerman

Aaron Westerman is the Manager of Web Architecture for a national human services organization. When he's not busy tearing sites apart and rebuilding them, he spends his ever shrinking free time trying to keep up with his twins, reading works of translated literature, and watching far too many Oscar nominated movies.

  • MagnoliaRando

    Since I missed out on The Canvass giveaway a week ago, I would love to jump right in and say that it is the book on your list that I would most want to read and win! The Orphan Master’s Son is the only title on my top 5 missing from your top 30. Gone Girl is the book on the list that is on the nightstand waiting to be read.

  • Jo Anne

    I am thinking The Marriage Artist. One thing I’ve always wanted to do, as a writer (which I am not), is make people feel. When you say “realistic tale of love and loss that crosses generations” I can only imagine the emotions this tale may elicit.

  • Penny Kollar

    #28 A Surrey State of Affairs by Ceri Radford ! I’ll share with Jackie, for when she wins The Canvas, we’ll read and share and enjoy and be all blessed and happy! :-) I echo her thoughts, the site is splendid – amazing job guys!

    • Typographical Era

      Thanks Penny, good luck!