2012 was a weird reading year for me. I feel like I didn’t read quite as much as I did last year. I read bits of things and more non-fiction than I usually do, there was more grazing than proper book devouring. I still got through a decent number of books. I didn’t, however, keep a proper list so I spent a lot of time staring at my shelves trying to remember if I read things this year or last year. For 2013 I will attempt to keep a proper list.
This is in no way, shape or form a “best of” list. This is stuff I read in 2012 and liked a lot. Most of them were not published this year.
There are two books in here that ended up with my name on them. There are a couple that had been on the to-read shelf for years. There’s a book that I read in its entirety in all of 15 minutes last week. There’s a cocktail book.
And a whole lot of Kate Atkinson.
Here is your visual aid*:
Let’s start with the Kate Atkinson, shall we? My reading year was Atkinson-themed, I’d acquired Case Histories in Canada during my 2011 book tour and I took it on an airplane this year partially because it was a good size to fit in my bag and I got kind of obsessed after that and read all the Jackson Brodie books. I adore the way she writes, and I love a good mystery, and I love a multi-faceted narrative where everything feels disparate at first but then everything connects. They’re my new favorites to push on people, because sadly not nearly enough people in this country have read her books, but I hope that changes.
Rest of the tower, in order from top:
The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories is filled with tiny bits of wonderment and delicious illustrations and it only took me 15 minutes (possibly less) to read but I know I will read it again and again.
The Vanishing Act by Mette Jakobsen. First of the two with my name on them, I read this book before it was published in the US, curled up on a February afternoon with a pot of tea. I simply adore it, I’ve pontificated about it before, I recommend it to people whenever I can, book evangelist, etc. LOVE THIS BOOK. Love.
Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. Had been sitting on the to-read shelf far too long, partially because I was avoiding circus books in general while working on The Night Circus. Finally read it and loved it this year, both a little bit sorry that I waited so long and a little bit glad because I think I read it at the right time for me.
The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry. This was given to me by a lovely bookseller at Politics & Prose last year but I didn’t get around to reading it until this year, after several other people had recommended it to me, usually after hearing that I’m working on a fantastical detective-esque book-thing. It is a delightfully surreal detective story, and having spent a great deal of time reading a lot of classic, not-so-surreal detective stories lately I loved it all the more.
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. I meant to get to this last year but didn’t actually get a hold of it until it was out in paperback though I am pleased about that because the paperback is such a pretty color. This was one of those books I couldn’t put down and then couldn’t stop thinking about afterward, though it made me oddly melancholy.
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. True confession: I have owned it since it came out in paperback but I only finally got around to it because I wanted to read it before I saw the movie. People have been recommending this to me for years knowing my taste in books, so I think I expected to like it a bit more than I did. I loved certain sections, I only liked others, but the book as a whole is astonishing. (I liked the movie, too.)
The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters. As I mentioned, I have been reading a lot of detective stories. I also have apocalypse fatigue. I was primed to not like this book and I loved it. I especially loved the treatment of the impending end of the world, which felt nuanced and real and yet never overwhelmed the mystery, only informed it.
The PDT Cocktail Book by Jim Meehan & Chris Gall. I think it is fair to say that I drank more cocktails this year than I read books, but I did also start collecting more cocktail books which should count for something. This is one of my favorites, because beyond having fantastic cocktail recipes it’s an interesting, gorgeously illustrated book.
Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler & Maira Kalman. The Basic Eight remains one of my all-time favorites, and this book reinforced my belief that Daniel Handler is or has been an adolescent girl, even though I’ve met him and he appears convincingly manly in person. This would be a brilliant, bittersweet story on its own but the Maira Kalman illustrations of the contents of the break-up box turn it into something extraordinary.
Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway. Read as 2011 turned into 2012 and I said last year it’d likely make the 2012 favorites list and it did, of course. And it has the honor of being the very first book I ever blurbed, which makes it special. Also, it’s shiny. Also also, it truly did give me a raging crush on a fictional lawyer.
*Other books I enjoyed in 2012 that are not pictured for various reasons:
Vermilion Sands by J.G. Ballard, lent to me and thus not in the pile. First Ballard I’ve ever read and some of the imagery will be in my head forever, I’m certain.
Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer, because I read it before everyone found out he was a lying liar who lies and I loved it then, and I still love a lot of the ideas behind it.
The Resurrectionist by E.B. Hudspeth. I read a PDF galley and I cannot wait to see the finished book when it comes out next year. Beautiful and macabre, one of my very favorite combinations.