For a while, I wasn’t even going to do a top reads list for this year. I changed my mind after several people told me that they were looking forward to seeing what I picked. I read 177 books in 2012, down about 20 books from 2011. When I look back at my list, I’msurprised by how many books I read that I didn’t actually care for. This seems to have been a theme for 2012. I read a lot of books that I didn’t like, and didn’t watch as many movies. I think my problem has to do with the amount of media I consume. When you read as many books and watch as many movies as I do, you become a lot more critical and more easily bored. I’m looking for new and different stories, and I’m bored of reading things that are similar to things I’ve already read.
I actually read a lot more non-fiction than fiction in 2012. For several months, I only read non-fiction. I’ll update my non-fiction reads soon.
Please remember that what I remember most is my feeling about the book. I can’t often recall all the details and plot points when I think about a book I’ve read a year ago. I often just remember how the book made me feel.
I am a major fan of novels that are happy and sad at the same time. This is my favourite genre and I love a book that can make me laugh and cry. I’m a sucker for stories about families. I love coming of age stories, and tend to read a lot of books about childhood. My favourite books are character driven, rather than plot driven.
1. Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol- I credit my friend Leah with this discovery. This was a feminist story about a girl who discovers a ghost in a well. It gets really creepy at the end. Loved this.
2. The Blue Dragon by Robert Lepage- There’s also a play based on this story. This was a good story, complimented by beautiful art work. Also, it’s a story about China and it’s not Orientalist! Bonus!
3. Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton- Kate Beaton makes me laugh. She writes funny little comics about Canadian history and literature. Very creative. Loved this.
Fiction (in no particular order)
1. The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson- A novel about a family of performing artists, their childhood and their grown up lives. I liked the originality of this story, and enjoyed both the humour and the sadness in it. It’s also a story about how people can hurt others with their art and how children are affected by their parents.
2. The sense of an ending by Julian Barnes- This was my first Barnes! I read it in an evening, as it’s more of a novella than a novel. This was a book that intrigued me because I had no clue where it was going. It’s masterful writing and a surprising story.
3. The Astral by Kate Christensen- This is a story about a marriage that breaks apart. I really liked the characters and the relationships in this story and there are scenes that still stick in my head. This is not a plot-driven book, and ultimately it won’t be for everything. Harry, the main character, was exceptionally well-written.
4. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach- Definitely one of my favourite books of 2012. This book is about baseball the same way that Friday Night Lights is about football. I loved the Wisconsin setting and the characters. The writing was exquisite. I don’t normally get crushes on characters in books, but I had a HUGE crush on Mike Schwartz, one of the main characters in this book.
5. Tell the Wolves I’m home by Carol Rifka Brunt- The book that I’ve been recommending the most. I loved this story because it was so different. It’s a story about a relationship between a teenager and her uncle’s lover. The story is set in the 1980s and the uncle has died of AIDS. It’s a coming of age story about friendship, love and grief and it’s both sad, funny and quirky. This book did not get enough press and I’ve been talking about it to anyone who will listen to me.
6. Y by Marjorie Celona- I loved the writing in this book, and I liked the story. Adoption is pretty common, which makes it weird that there are so few books about adoption.
7. Inside by Alix Ohlin- This was a story about four characters and how they were broken and wanted to connect to each other.
8. The Blondes by Emily Schultz- A satire about a sickness that causes blonde women to become bloodthirsty attackers. Think of this as a metaphor. It’s part thriller, part social commentary.
(I also liked Jamrach’s Menagerie by Carol Birch, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and the originality of Glen Duncan’s The Last Werewolf)
I didn’t seem to read as much YA as I have in previous years.
My two top YA reads are
1. The Fault in our stars by John Green- This was one of my favourite books this year. It’s the story of two young cancer patients who fall in love with each other. It’s both funny and sad and touching and I bawled my eyes out. Highly recommended.
2. The reluctant journal of Henry K Larsen by Susin Nielsen- Strangely, I picked this up right after the tragedy in Connecticut and had to read it because I was so riveted. Henry’s brother Jesse, was severely bullied. He responds to his bullying by killing his attacker, and then himself. The novel picks up what happens after this, and the effects on the family. It is beautifully written, gut wrenchingly sad, true and hilarious all at the same time.
Poetry collections that I loved were-
1. Omens in the year of the Ox by Steven Price
2. Impact! The Titanic Poems by Billeh Nickerson
3. Yes by Rosemary Griebel