Towards the end of the year, everyone comes out with “best of” lists spouting off what they consider the best of the year. But what I consider the best is probably going to vary based on the age of the reader. I doubt my grandmother and niece would agree on any top ten list. If I told my 14 year-old niece that one of my all time favorite books was A Tale of Two Cities, I doubt that she’d ask to borrow my copy. I doubt it even more that if I asked my favorite Lit professor to read Fifty Shades of Grey that he would. I’ve done a good bit of research, and I’m afraid that I cannot honestly put together a list of what I consider the “best” books of 2012. I can, however, point out the books that made big waves this year. After cross referencing all the big “bestseller” lists (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Publishers Weekly, Goodreads, New York Times), I have come up with this list. Some have literary merit, and I would recommend reading. Some of them, I would recommend waiting for it to become available at your local library.
I was quite surprised to see how well this book has done. And, honestly, I have not read it. But, I will tell you I intend to. I was raised in a world where the extrovert was praised. My mother was a very successful saleswoman when I was growing up, and I was her little protégé. It took me years to figure out that this was not who I was naturally. I’m a behind the scenes person. I prefer one on one to big crowds, and I am an introvert. Now, don’t think I added this book to this list for personal reasons. I had a hard time deciding between this book and Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken. Quiet has been on the bestseller list for 20 weeks, and it approaches a subject that is something I would consider the opposite of American culture. We are all about outspoken and showy people, no matter the quality of their content. Don’t believe me? Folks, we are home to Honey Boo Boo and Jersey Shore. Or take The Real Housewives shows. This is all about being completely out there and exposed. Susan Cain looks past this and looks at the sleeping giant in the world. She is brave enough to condemn the sales pitches we were fed growing up. But, it’s not just the content. It is the way in which she approaches the subject with outside and scientific view. Yes, this most certainly is a wave maker this year.
9. Shadow of Night
Deborah Harkness returns with the second book in the All Souls trilogy. Now, other than the big guns like Harry Potter and the Hunger Games, we don’t typically see subsequent books in series take off quite
so well. Of course, they are well received by their respective fan bases, but aside from that, they are seldom featured on the front tables. They might garnish a front spot within their own genre, but not in the store altogether. This book was a crowd favorite for Paranormal Fantasy and with all the new books that
come out every year, I was surprised to see the a #2 in a trilogy would grab this spot.
8. Killing Kennedy
Bill O’Reilly returns again after his explanation of the killing of Lincoln to approach the death of a man who could be considered the most loved president of our country. This man was truly out to set reforms into motion. This is why it is also most justly subtitled “The End of Camelot.” Just as the Knights of the Round Table sought to bring peace, Kennedy was our golden boy. So it should not surprise us to see this book top charts all over the place. It relives the pain of the day while retelling the story in a way that draws in and captivates its readers.
7. The Fault in Our Stars
If you read the blurb about this book, you might not be quite so tempted to pick it up. It’s about two young cancer patients who fall in love. But, this is very a la Romeo and Juliet. The story, while wrought with sadness, is about two young lovers and their perspective on life. This book has gotten rave reviews the world over. It’s not often you have so many people shouting the praises of a book about teenage cancer patients without a byline resembling “it’s so sad, I mean, it’s good though.” No, instead you’ll hear how wonderfully written this book was. It topped the YA fiction category for the Goodreads Choice awards, and for once, it seems like the literary critics were right along with the readers in saying that this book is
6. Beautiful Ruins
Set during the filming of Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra, this book is the foray into the Greek isle and imaginary towns. It’s managed to garnish so much attention because of the wealth of the adventure. In
this, you enter others’ lives and become a part of their beautiful adventure. While Jess Walters has a number of accolades to set beside his name, this is certainly his best-selling.
5. The Orchardist
I was really happy to see this book do well. Here on the literary side of the writing world, you can’t get very far unless you have an MFA, Masters of Fine Arts. But, even an MFA doesn’t necessarily guarantee you gainful employment or anything of the like. It’s just ups your chances a bit. So, when Amanda Coplin writes a bestselling literary fiction, it kind of makes me swell with joy. See, this isn’t the kind of woman who had it easy. She worked shelving books for someone she knew. She even worked for a stint at Barnes and Noble. This was a true, loved-the-art-of-writing kind of woman who took her passion and made it into something noteworthy. As a debut novel for her, this could not have gone over any better. The novel itself has been heralded as the best historical fiction of the year. And don’t get all worried, this has nothing to do with kings and queens. This takes place in the rural country of the Northwest, US… and it manages to hold everyone’s attention. That, to me, is quite a feat.
4. Fifty Shades Freed
Like I said, this list is not about the best written book or even the most enjoyable book. This is about books that made waves. Fifty Shades of Grey hadn’t hit my little circle of non-internet/writer friends
until about the time that the third book was releasing. Still, it was a poorly written book that went on to top best seller lists from Amazon to Barnes & Noble to The NYT Lists. It’s rather scary to think that something written so poorly can garnish so much attention and money. I guess it’s true what they say…
anyone can be a writer. It takes some actual skill to be a good and respectable writer, though.
3. No Easy Day
The Firsthand Account of the Mission that Killed Osama bin Laden – This kicked up a lot of dirt, so they say. This book was released early because the Pentagon had a hissy fit that it hadn’t had the opportunity to review it prior to publication. Everyone was all up in a tizzy because the US Department of Defense was worried that Mark Owen (pen name) had revealed super secret military tactics. Is it just me or wouldn’t you really have to be off your rocker to write a book revealing compromising military intelligence and sharing it with the world? I’m sure his “tell all” had plenty of dirt in it; I just don’t think he leaked out info that was going to bring about the collapse of our nation. We seem to do that just fine on our own. To
me, I’m guessing that some Pentagon official was getting kickbacks for pretending to be upset over this release. I mean, it was the scandal that surrounded it that shot it to the top of the charts.
2. Gone Girl
This book topped all kinds of lists. It did especially well in the United States where psychological thrillers are almost always a shoo in for good sales. What sets this book apart is its transcendence beyond the typical genre ploys and into the ranks of literary fiction. This book gives long-term relationships a hard and cruel look, while weaving it among the heart dropping intensity of murder.
1. The Casual Vacancy
I debated putting this as number one. I don’t think it should be number one except on a disappointment list. Maybe that’s what makes it so noteworthy. The renowned author J K Rowling returns to the scene with her first book following the Harry Potter series. This fiction focuses on small time rural politics, and Rowling captures every nook and cranny of human nature. Perhaps that is her flaw. She’s good writer. Hell, she’s a great writer, but even the best of writers can get caught up in the whirlwind of their own prose.