Friday, January 18, 2013

Top 10 Books of 2012


Let me take this opportunity to offer a belated "Happy New Year!" to my tens of followers. I hope that 2013 is off to a good start for all.

Yes, I have been a bad blogger again. Life has been challenging. Blogging is time-consuming. And that's all I'm going to say about that. I thank you all for sticking with me, and I'll try to do better moving forward. That's what new year's resolutions are for, right?

One of my favorite things about the end of the old year and the beginning of the new one are all the top 10 lists. I have participated by posting a top 10 lists of my favorite books each year. This year was among the very hardest to narrow down due to the sheer number of books I read in 2012. In the end, these were my choices. It is my habit and tradition to only rank my #1 book. All others are listed in the order in which they were read.

1. Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon

The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson

Gods Without Men by Hari Kunzru

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

In One Person by John Irving

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz

The Round House by Louise Erdrich

A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rivka Brunt


I have to tell you, I have spent the past several days crafting a fantastic blog post. I wrote a paragraph or more on why each book was selected. It had live links to the books, the authors, video I shot, and lots of cover art. I saved it dozens of times along the way, and I was almost finished. It would have been posted tonight. And then it just... disappeared. And only the tinest bit of it was recoverable. I don't know why. I'm fairly sick about it. And I don't have the energy to recreate the effort. So, I'm afraid all you get this year is a list. :-(

Suffice it to say, I cannot recommend these 10 books highly enough.

In brighter news, my next post will list all 202 books I read in 2012.


  1. I can't understand what people see in THE ORPHAN MASTER'S SON.Probably my own dislike of this book is a case of too much hype about it, too much exclamation about how great it is, too much insistence that it will be the best book I ever read. I expected too much; therefore, I'm disappointed.

    It was difficult to read such choppy writing. As a result, I thought throughout that I was missing something as I tried to get a handle on the orphan master's son, Pac Jun Do.

    I know for sure that Pac Jun Do is a master liar. But I couldn't tell for a long time whether he was a good guy or a bad guy.

    The story gets better when Jun Do is part of a delegation traveling to Texas. But the reason he goes with the North Korean officials is never clearly sated. He doesn't seem sure himself.

    In my opinion, someone did some great marketing of this book and put out there some stupendous reader reviews that really sold the book to a lot of readers who believed them. In reality, it's difficult to follow. It is hard to tell if description is imagined or true. The writing is clumsy. First Jun Do is here, then he's there, then you can't tell where the heck he is. Too much is left unsaid, left to the reader's imagination.

    I didn't like this book at all.

    1. Hi Techeditor,

      Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. It's okay to disagree with me. I've read A LOT of top 10 lists, and while every single book on my list made someone else's list, none of them were identical to mine. Opinions--what are you going to do?

      To some degree you are right about the marketing campaign. The Orphan Master's Son first came to my attention when Johnson's editor at Random House--David Ebershoff, a man I greatly respect--sent a galley to me with a personal letter. You'd better believe I paid attention. That's not typically how galleys come my way. (The cover blurb from David Mitchell, one of my favorite authors, didn't hurt either.)

      But for me, the novel absolutely lived up to my raised expectations. The first thing that set it apart was the extraordinary North Korean setting, a real place that so few of know anything about. Adam did extensive research and even traveled there. The way North Korea was depicted felt like a cross between a dystopia and a satire to me, and it was so hard to wrap my head around the reality of the place. In some book's, the settling is like a character in the story, and that was very much the case here. And I think the realities of that repressive culture very much drove the plot of the story being told. You're right, it is a little confusing or tricky at time, but that made me like it all the more. Rather than grow bored, I paid attention all the harder. I thought Jun Do's story was extraordinary, compelling, and ultimately deeply moving. And I have to disagree about the caliber of the writing. Any choppiness or lack of elegance was the due to the voices of the well-fleshed narrators.

      I'm sorry you didn't enjoy the book. What were some of your favorites from the past year?

  2. Glad you're back, Susan! Please keep posting. :-)

    I have to agree, The Orphan Master's Son wasn't all that great. It was special, because of the topic, but I was bored half the time. I just about finished it, because I skimmed sometimes (I will admit to it).

    With other books, we don't seem to agree either. The Age of Miracles was fun, but not all that special. The idea yes, the story, no.

    The Round House was OK but again, a little on the boring side. A Hologram for the King, yes, that was a great one. still not in my top-10, though! Here's my list:

    Hope this year will be a good one too!

    1. Oh, Judith, you are my blogging guru! I don't know how you do it, but I aspire to be like you. :-)

      And while we may not always agree, I think we do, in general, more often than not. I know we frequently dislike the same books. And we certainly read enough of the same books. I think it's often a matter of degree. And let's face it, we all know I'm a very enthusiastic reader.

      I took a glance at your list. Your top book, Ready Player One made my top 10 list last year. Of the others I'd read, I'd really liked The Death of Bees and Before I Go To Sleep a lot, and Flight Behavior, too. The Casual Vacancy and Room were just okay for me, but I think Room suffered from the hype Techeditor alluded to above. Anyway, I shall continue to read your reviews and opinions. Whether I agree or disagree, I know you'll have something interesting to say. :-)

    2. True, Susan, we do like/dislike a lot of the same books so it's a matter of degree, as you say.

      As for being your blogging guru, well, I actually laughed out loud, so: LOL (which I never use because generally I don't laugh out loud when reading something).

      I only read Ready Player One last year, so I was a year behind with that one. Good to see it was on your list last year.

      I'll keep an eye on your reviews - I love to see what you're reading. Luckily, if you don't blog about them, at least I get to see them on Shelfari (I'm not so good with Shelfari as with my blog. With my blog, I can give the publisher's blurb and then add my opinion, whereas on Shelfari I have to write the whole thing myself - extra work. :-) ).