It’s time for one of my favorite posts of the year: the bookish year-in-review. I’ve attempted this year to keep a running list of the books I’ve read, and while I can’t vouch for the fact that every single title I read made my list, I feel confident that it’s mostly complete. (By the way, I keep all my lists up under the tab marked “Booklists.” :-) )
According to my list, this year I’ve completed (well, excepting Les Misérables, but I’m determined to complete it before 2012 is history) somewhere in the neighborhood of fifty-five books. I hoped to read a book a week, so I did that. In addition to the ones I read on my own, I also read about nineteen books aloud to my children, so that brings my total up to seventy-four. At this stage in my life, that’s a respectable number. ;-) This year was extremely heavy on the middle grade fiction end of things, which I think I can blame on the pregnancy funk I’ve been in the last half of the year. I just hadn’t the mental capacity to hold out for anything longer or more complicated for several months. However, I’m finishing strong with Les Misérables, a classic I’ve attempted to read two times before. That makes me happy.
As far as favorites go, I really enjoyed all the adult fiction I read this year, so most of that makes the cut.
1. The book that totally swept me away (and the only one that I actually handed off to a friend this year, something I rarely do) is The City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell. I don’t often re-read fiction, but I think this one is one I’ll want to visit again in the future. If you like quiet, peaceful, thoughtful reads, this is the book for you.
2. I was wowed by Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. Although marketed as a piece of YA fiction, I would have no qualms recommending it to any adult who enjoys spy stories, World War II fiction, or adventures. I’m eager to see what kind of accolades this one garners.
3. I rediscovered a genre I enjoyed a lot in my younger days as a reader this year: mysteries. I think one of my problems in reading mysteries is that so much depends on remembering a lot of details, and my brain is not too good at that anymore. Still, I enjoyed every mystery I read (enough that I hope to read more by the authors I read this year), but the one that stands out as a favorite is The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley. I love good characterization even more than plot, so this book really tickled me. I look forward to reading more of Flavia de Luce.
4. You knew I’d pick Les Misérables, didn’t you? Although I haven’t finished it and I’m a bit too close to it (and the movie, which we saw yesterday) to really be objective about it, I know it deserves a place in my top ten. Such a sweeping tale of love and redemption! Wow.
For the past few years I’ve tried to read a lot of new children’s fiction, mostly thanks to the Cybils. Although by the end of the year I’m pretty well over it (that is, until the shortlists come out!), I still look book and realize I read quite a few great stories.
5. Hands down, my favorite middle grade novel this year is Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt. I love how beautifully Schmidt weaves the theme of hope into every chapter of this sad (but ultimately hopeful and uplifting) story. Highly Recommended.
6. I also loved Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai for similar reasons, though the stories are very different from each other. I love reading books about the immigrant experience, and this novel-in-verse succeeded in convincing me that maybe I do like this genre after all.
7. I’ve yet to meet a Joan Bauer novel I don’t like, and Close to Famous is no exception. Quirky characters in a story shot through with hope? Yes, please.
8. Laugh with the Moon by Shana Berg satisfied my need for a story in an exotic locale. I didn’t read any Alexander McCall Smith this year, but this one made me long for the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.
9. Heart of a Shepherd by Rosanne Parry is the only audiobook to make my list, so I’m not sure how much the narrator played a part in my loving this quiet tale of a ranching family in the state of Washington. I have to think I’d love it just the same if I read it on my own. Highly Recommended.
10. Last, I have to add Splendors and Glooms by Laura Ann Schlitz to my list. While it is very dark for a children’s novel especially, it is so well written that it stands head and shoulders above the other novels I read this year. It’s reminiscent in style to Dickens, if that tells you anything.
Previous years’ top picks posts are linked below: