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My Best of Books for 2012

So I have some goals for the upcoming year and one of those goals is to spend more time doing what I enjoy doing. Simple, eh? Two of the things I enjoy doing most in this life are reading and writing.  So why not combine the two and write about reading? (weeee!)

2012 was the year I (finally) joined a book club and the year I rekindled my love for young adult literature *swoon*.  I read a crap-ton of books this past year and I want to share some of my favorites.

*****Favorite Young Adult Book I read in 2012*****

    The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

“Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning-author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love”- Amazon.com description

You guys, I have such a crush on this book. If I could make out with it, I would. John Green is one of my favorite writers and I was super duper excited to get my hands on this story. There was a lot of hype for this book and a lot of high expectations. BUT  I have to tell you:  All the hype was not overblown and this book exceeded my incredible expectations. It’s seriously good (and humorous and heartbreaking and ever-so lovely). John Green creates characters who are so multi-layered and a plot so vivid that you could swear you are part of the story.

*****Honorable Mentions*****

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

“It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.”-Amazon.com description

I have a little obsession with stories that take place during the Holocaust. It started in the fourth grade, when I first read Letters to Rifka, and has been going strong since. But this book is a different animal. It sneaks up on you slowly and then it pounces and you fall into this extraordinary story… and before you know it you’ve been on the couch for 6 hours and haven’t eaten all day. The writing is breath-taking and I don’t use that phrase lightly. There were points where my breath was literally caught in my throat as I read and then re-read certain lines and phrases. It’s not a light read and it’s not a quick read, but it’s a story that will burrow its way into your heart and linger with you for a long time.

The Sky is Everywhere By Jandy Nelson

“Lennie plays second clarinet in the school orchestra and has always happily been second fiddle to her charismatic older sister, Bailey. Then Bailey dies suddenly, and Lennie is left at sea without her anchor. Overcome by emotion, Lennie soon finds herself torn between two boys: Bailey’s boyfriend, Toby, and Joe, the charming and musically gifted new boy in town. While Toby can’t see her without seeing Bailey and Joe sees her only for herself, each offers Lennie something she desperately needs. But ultimately, it’s up to Lennie to find her own way toward what she really needs-without Bailey.”-Amazon.com description

I tumbled into this book so swiftly and so entirely that, by its end, I emerged blinking and punch drunk. I fell in love with these characters immediately—the whole quirky lot of them. I also enjoyed the  poems that were scattered throughout the story.

This is one of the most sincere and thorough stories that I’ve read about loss, grief, and coping (and all of the other confusing stuff that happens in between).  It hurts, but it’s written so poetically that it entices the reader to see the beauty that can hide in that hurt.

*****Favorite Adult-y Book I read in 2012*****

  Everything Matters! by Ron Currie Jr.

“In this novel rich in character, Junior Thibodeau grows up in rural Maine in a time of Atari, baseball cards, pop Catholicism, and cocaine. He also knows something no one else knows-neither his exalted parents, nor his baseball-savant brother, nor the love of his life (she doesn’t believe him anyway): The world will end when he is thirty-six. While Junior searches for meaning in a doomed world, his loved ones tell an all-American family saga of fathers and sons, blinding romance, lost love, and reconciliation-culminating in one final triumph that reconfigures the universe. A tour de force of storytelling, Everything Matters! is a genre-bending potpourri of alternative history, sci-fi, and the great American tale in the tradition of John Irving and Margaret Atwood” –Amazon.com description

When he accepted the Nobel Prize, William Faulkner said, “Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it.  There are no longer problems of the spirit.  There is only one question:  When will I be blown up?”

But what if you know the exact date and time that you will, indeed, be blown up? What happens then? (eeee!) This story made my little existentialist heart leap for joy.  I paced around my bedroom laughing and crying (the pretty kind of crying- the single glistening tear kind of crying). I haven’t gotten this excited about a story in a long time.

This isn’t a “pew pew pew” Armageddon kind of book (pew pew pew is the sound a gun and/or laser makes in my head). This is more of thinking kind of book– A book about big themes and big questions. The structure is inventive and the writing is darn solid.  This story definitely got me excited to read more of Mr. Ron Currie Jr.

*****Favorite Short Story I read in 2012*****

The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach by Karen Russell

This story takes place in the late 70’s and centers around Nal, a teenager whose life is beginning to fall apart. His mother lost her job and his brother is dating the girl that Nal has spent years adoring and wanting.

When the seagulls arrive on Strong Beach, they wreak havoc. They scavenge and steal and seem to follow Nal around wherever he goes. But there’s something strange about these gulls—something a little off…

I love me a solid coming of age story. Add a touch of magic realism, and I’m good to go. This story deals with the themes of fate and choices and, for  me, it was a really enjoyable read.

This lovely gem of a story can be found in:

 

 

*****Talk it Out*****

What were your favorite books of 2012?

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