books in 2012

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Monday, December 31, 2012
2012 reading

I made a chart! This was just a quick and dirty way for me to figure out how my reading over the course of 2012 was spread out. I like a lot of different kinds of books and generally try to read whatever catches my fancy, so I was curious to know how evenly distributed things were.  (in retrospect, there were a lot of witches this year.)

I made general categories that I knew I'd read in and went from there. Categories: Mystery, Romance, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Non-Fiction, Graphic Novel, YA/J, Literary Fiction. The categories are pretty loosey goosey, but that's okay since I was just trying to get a rough idea. Next time, I'll just put the YA/J books into whatever genre category they belong in since that makes more sense to me. Some of the books could fit more than one category, but I put them in whichever one felt right to me at the time I was scribbling out the list.  Some of them I knew were in the wrong spot as soon as I wrote it down, but I didn't want to write it all out again.

My biggest surprise was that non-fiction dominated! I go to a non-fiction book group, but that really only accounts for 10-11 of the books listed. I was surprised that I'd read so few mysteries, but other than that, things seem pretty evenly distributed.

If you'd like to see the full list sorted by date with covers and descriptions, you can look at my Goodreads 2012 shelf. The ones listed before are not my only favorites! I might have left something off if I've talked about it before or if it doesn't need any more attention. Here are some of my favorites I read this year, sorted by loosey-goosey category:

MYSTERY: Ooh - these were all good. Some favorites include:

Now You See Me by S.J. Bolton which was the only proper crime-y novel I read. If you like modern British crime and puzzles and fictional Jack the Ripper copycats do check it out! It was twisty and thrillery.

Vanish With the Rose by Barbara Michaels - this was a reread of one of her spooky modern gothics with an emphasis on heirloom roses. If you're looking for rigorous detecting and rational explanations for everything, this is probably not for you. I read this with a friend and we had a grand time debating gardening, brooding groundskeepers and things that go bump in the night.

Fever Devlin novels by Phillip DePoy - I read the first two of these and enjoyed them very much. The main character (Fever Devlin) is a folklorist who has returned to his Appalachian home from academia. There can be a lot of information/exposition given at times, but since I find the subject so interesting it doesn't bother me much. These are a hybrid of spooky/crimey. Thanks to Martina for telling me about them!

ROMANCE: This is such a broad category! More on that at a later date. As a general FYI, the comment section of the Help a Bitch Out posts at Smart Bitches is a great place to get ideas for romance books to read if you don't know where to start.  Also great: The Vaginal Fantasy group on goodreads/ youtube!  Some favorites:

The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook - the cover is RIDIC, as happens with a lot of covers of a lot of books. But I loved this story! The steampunk setting is well thought out, and honestly I could have read a whole series of books about these characters. (Lady detective!!!)  Fortunately for me, she's writing a more books that take place in the Iron Seas universe. The Iron Duke is an adventure/detective/fantasy/romance and I had a great time reading it.

The Desperate Duchess by Eloisa James - historical romance with a lot of information about.... CHESS. Eloisa James is a very good writer. This is more typically romance than the Iron Duke and has a full complement of pert young misses, fiendishly clever chess players, rakes, rogues, sexytimes, fancy parties, tight trousers and heaving bosoms. There are more books set in the same society, but I'm spreading them out and saving them for later.

Natural Born Charmer by Susan Elizabeth Phillips - contemporary romance with one half of said romance being a super rich FOOTBALL PLAYER, which is so far outside of my normal field of interest I'm amazed I liked it, but I did! There's also a fair amount of house-fixing-up going on, too and I love that stuff. SEP is a funny lady and I've enjoyed the few books I've read by her. More SEP is on my radar for 2013!

SCI-FI/FANTASY: Mostly fantasy, I notice. Oh, man - so many of these are SO GOOD.

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness - Witches, Vampires, Daemons and Elizabethan England. Oh, yeah! Book two of the All Souls trilogy - I love this series. Book one was not in Elizabethan England, which means one of my other favorite themes had to happen: time travel! I don't know when book 3 comes out, but I can't wait.  I will wait, but I'm anticipating it greatly!

Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson - !!! I liked so much about this, but one of my favorite things was the blending of modern Arab Spring hacker NOW with ancient customs and stories (including the Djinn). She does it so well! I felt like she bridged a cultural gap for me while telling a rip-roaring yarn. I can't wait to read what she writes next.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell - I thought the nested stories were so well done - some I liked better than others, but that's natural and I think intended. The more I think about the novel, the more little pieces click into place - I like a book that stays with me. I have yet to see the movie, although I plan on doing so.

Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire - another cover that I don't like, but the book is SO FUN. Monster hunting, cryptozoology, ballroom dancing, dragons, etc. Recommended for fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Strictly Ballroom - first in a new series. Speaking of series, I enjoy her October Daye (modern fairy noir) books, too! But they're heavier and bound with fairy rules while this is buoyant as she makes up her own rules.

Magician King by Lev Grossman - !!! Another second in a series that I love. It takes turns being delightful, thrilling, and heartbreaking. The characters are three dimensional, the world is at once familiar and strange. I have no idea where the final book will go and I kind of love that.

NON FICTION: seriously - so many non-fiction books this year!

Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photos of Edward Curtis by Timothy Egan. - this just came out and it's fascinating if you're interested at all in photography, a man dedicated to a cause to the detriment of his career and family, Native Americans, and/or the American West.

River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey by Candace Millard - take TR's outsize personality and thirst for adventure and set him down in the middle of an ill-equipped expedition down a never-explored branch of the Amazon river filled with all manner of danger such as piranhas, malaria, and hostile native tribes. The result is this crazy adventure that would be too over the top for fiction - but it happened!

Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum -  CSI Prohibition, essentially, except with the guys who INVENTED all the ways to test for poison because before them murderers got away with poisonings all the time.

84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff - Brief but completely charming. I have a friend who says I must see the movie, but I don't know - the book is such a jewel by itself!

The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science by Richard Holmes - this book is a monster, but a monster that paid off for me. It was a tough read in parts, but so worth it in the end! I never realized how intertwined so many of these great discoveries were.

GRAPHIC NOVEL: a lot of the graphic novels that I read this year were in continuing series. Some favorites:

Sailor Twain: the Mermaid in the Hudson by Mark Siegel - So good! I followed along with this as it was being published online, but it was a complete pleasure to start at the beginning and turn pages to the end. History, fantasy, action - good stuff.

The Unwritten 3: Dead Man's Knock & The Unwritten 4: Leviathan by Mike Carey, illus. Peter Gross - thoroughly enjoying this series which is about the nature of stories, books, secret societies, conspiracies, and chase scenes.

Baby's in Black: Astrid Kirchherr, Stuart Sutcliffe, and The Beatles in Hamburg by Arne Bellstorf  - the title says it all, pretty much. I enjoyed this alternate point of view.

Y.A. / J Most of these would be fantasy/paranormal if I were writing my chart out today. Some favorites:

Chime by Franny Billingsly - Swampy, witchy, magical. I wish I had it here in front of me so I could quote a passage from it - the language was a joy to read.

The Diviners by Libba Bray - flappers, ghosts, flapper slang, uncles, musicians,  a "museum of creepy crawlies," and some really scary parts. (almost too scary for me! but I'm kind of scare-wimpy.)  This is the first book in a new series - I thought it was a little longer than it had to be, but it was terribly entertaining!

Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor  - These books are so good! This is the second in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy (? series? I think there's going to be 3 but I'm not sure). She's a beautiful writer who has created a world of such richness that it feels like it's whole. Sometimes with fantasy novels there's only enough of the world made up for plot points to happen in - this story is big, but the world feels bigger - like there are a million other stories happening. She's great and I hope she keeps writing for a very long time.

Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett - I love the Tiffany Aching books so much I'm stretching them out so they last longer. This takes place in the Discworld universe, but they stand alone.

LITERARY FICTION: So many good books this year! some favorites:

Diving Belles by Lucy Wood  - These short stories wind themselves in and around Cornish folklore. The sea (the windy, wet to your bones sea) features heavily. I loved it.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter - I loved this book because it's generous even while getting in its digs, smart, ambitious, funny, tragic, etc.  Jess Walter keeps getting better and better - I liked him before, then saw him read at the Wordstock Festival and like him even more now. He seems like a good guy and he is a great writer.

We Only Know So Much by Elizabeth Crane - This novel is thoughtful, funny, tragic, droll, and kind to what would be the most unlikeable characters in another story. There is a first person plural omniscient narrator (I like it). There are real human feelings (I like it).

It Chooses You by Miranda July - I never saw the movie this was associated with, and I kind of like it that way. Alone this reads like Miranda July, Investigative Reporter - but an investigative reporter obsessed with the Penny Saver.

Treasure Island!!! by Sara Levine -  I have heart eyes for this book. Core values: boldness, resolution, independence and horn-blowing. Darkly hilarious, but at the same time makes me feel like maybe I'm a bad person for laughing. (I enjoy this ambiguity!) I saw her at Wordstock and she was delightful.


So ends my list! What were some of your favorite books from the year? Do you keep track?

3 comments on "books in 2012"
  1. Hooray! Lots to add to my to read list! I am glad you liked the Fever Devilin stuff! I feel like I didn't read enough in 2012. I will have to remedy that this year.

  2. Yay for reading and for lists! Here's to an excellent reading year in 2013.

  3. Love your chart. Simple idea and so helpful.


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