The Books I Loved This Year

Hello lovely people!

I know, I know, where is my book list for the year?  There must be at least two people clamoring for it, and I’ve already missed Hanukkah, and now there’s only, like, a day to shop for Christmas!  Ack!  I’m sorry!  But what better place to do that shopping than your local bookstore, right?  🙂  And what better present than wonderful BOOKS!  And if, like a sensible person, you are all done with your holiday shopping, then you can get these for yourself or save them for someone’s birthday.  Books, after all, are an all-the-time wonderful present.  🙂  🙂  🙂

Of course, I still have some shopping and wrapping to do, so I’m going to try a short, snappy version this year.  (Ha ha!  Let’s see if I’m even capable of such a thing!)

Remember, these are my favorites of the books I read this year, so many of them were not published in 2012 and it’s not an official list by any means.  I just really liked these books and I think other folks would, too.  🙂

For Dog Lovers and Warriors Fans
The Dogs of the Drowned City trilogy by Dayna Lorentz

Only the dogs are left behind after a deadly hurricane sweeps through the city.  How will they survive?  Who will lead them?  And will they ever have a home and family again?  Action-packed and riveting and character-driven, plus written by one of my very favorite people — and now you can get the whole trilogy at once!  Yay!

For Your Quiet Friend Who Would Make an Excellent Queen of the World, and of course any Graceling/Fire Fans

Bitterblue, by Kristin Cashore

Imagine if you were the eighteen-year-old queen who had to rebuild the kingdom after the bad guy was defeated, but your only way to find out what’s really going on is to sneak out of your castle in disguise to wander the town at night…  Written by another one of my favorite people, this is on just about everyone’s Best Books of the Year list, and with good reason, since it is as wonderful and thought-provoking and thrilling as her first two (Graceling and Fire).  Plus LOOK AT THAT GORGEOUS COVER!  Love love love.

For Your Smart, Funny Friend Who Could Totally Win a Murderous Horse Race

The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater

I absolutely loved this book.  It’s wild and romantic and exciting and surprising AND it has a sense of humor, which you may have noticed is something I think all the best books should have.  It’s about these dangerous water horses and a race held on this island every year and the strong, silent guy who needs to win it, but the funny, smart girl who needs to win it even more.  Highly highly recommended.  🙂

For Your Coolest/Weirdest Friend

Pretty Monsters, by Kelly Link

Kelly Link is one of my favorite word magicians ever; she writes beautiful, hilarious sentences that combine into startling, magnificent stories.  Actually, I must confess that I am not the biggest fan of short stories (they usually leave me feeling like WHERE IS THE REST OF IT ARGH), but this collection is so splendiferous and unique and funny that it made my list anyway.  I wish I could write like this!

For Your Friend Who Would Have Survived the Mayan Apocalypse, No Problem, If It Had Actually Happened
and Who’s Already Read All the Post-Apocalyptic/Dystopian Books She Can Find
After: Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling

OK, yes, there’s one more short story collection on my list!  I’m only halfway through this anthology, but I love post-apocalyptic fiction (as you might be able to guess if you’ve read my Avatars trilogy!) and there are some really surprising and cool ideas in here, not to mention some fabulous writing, of course.  🙂

For Your Friend Who Sometimes Wishes They Were Someone Else

Every Day, by David Levithan

This is one of those ideas that’s so great it makes me wish I’d thought of it first, but the author pulls it off so successfully that I can’t imagine it done any other way.  It’s like Quantum Leap with a teenage star — the narrator, A, who wakes up each morning in a new body…and has to deal with what it’s like to love someone when you’re a different person every day.  Fascinating and a super-fun read, too.

For Your Very Best Friend

Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein

There’s kind of no way to describe this crazy, maddening, brilliant book, especially without giving away too much, so I just have to say READ IT — it’s kind of about Nazis and espionage and fighter pilots, but mostly it’s about two girls who are best friends in the middle of WWII, and it’s so well-written and surprising…I loved it and wanted to throw it at the wall at the same time, but I really think everyone should read it.  (Ignore this very strange cover, which tells you nothing about how great the book is.)

For the Friend You Wouldn’t Mind Being Trapped in a Mall for Weeks With

No Safety in Numbers, by Dayna Lorentz

I know, my own friend-I-wouldn’t-mind-being-trapped-in-a-mall-with was very prolific this year — luckily for us, because this beginning of a trilogy for teens is SO exciting and disturbing and crazy-dramatic and awesome!  A biological bomb threat has locked down the mall, and among the people trapped inside are four teens whose lives will never be the same…  How can you resist?  You can’t; just read it, and then bite your nails waiting for books two and three!

For Your Super-Smart Friend Who Should Run His or Her Own Virtual Fantasy Kingdom, or Who’s Been Trying to Figure Out How to Sneak In and Out of China Undetected, You Know, As You Do

Reamde, by Neal Stephenson

I LOVE Neal Stephenson’s writing — funny, clever, unusual, very very very well-researched and complicated and intelligent — and this latest book might be one of my top three favorites of his.  It’s kind of a thriller with lots of action and chases and crazy characters, but there’s much more to it than that…it’s the smartest enormously fun book you’ll read all year.  🙂  (Just be warned, it’s REALLY LONG, but it doesn’t feel that way while you’re reading it.)

For Your Dad

11/22/63, by Stephen King

Another really long book that went very fast and didn’t feel long…I haven’t read much Stephen King (although his book On Writing is one of the best ever), but the idea of this one — a guy finds a door to go back in time and decides to try to save JFK — was too right up my alley for me to resist.  Entirely enjoyable.

For Your Mom

Before I Go to Sleep, by S.J. Watson

Well, if your mom likes suspenseful, slightly disturbing books that are impossible to put down, anyway!  This book is told in the first person by a woman who wakes up with no memory each day, which you’d think would get a teeny bit repetitive 🙂 but it doesn’t at all — it just hurtles toward the shocking ending and you can’t stop reading until you get there.

For People Who Like Perfect Books, Especially If They Never Had to Read This One in High School 

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

I hadn’t read this in a long time (I don’t think I ever had to read it for school…not that I can remember), and it’s going straight onto my very short list of Perfect Books (with Walk Two Moons and Where the Wild Things Are and maybe Seabiscuit, basically).  Funny and wise; there’s a reason it’s a classic.

For Your Friend Who’d Survive a Quieter, More Thoughtful Apocalypse

The Age of Miracles, by Karen Thompson Walker

This was recommended by the wonderful people at Newtonville Books, and I liked it so much I’m thinking of going in there every week to ask for something new to read.  It’s about the quietest end of the world ever — the Earth’s rotation has started slowing down, so the days are getting longer and longer — and how this affects the 11-year-old girl telling the story, and her family.  It’s sort of hard to encapsulate, but it’s beautifully written and really worth reading.

An Odd Assortment of Nonfiction to Improve Your Life

Mindless Eating, by Brian Wansink, Ph.D.

The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin

Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep, by David K. Randall

Books about eating, sleeping, and being happy — or, to put it another way, all the most important things!  😉  All three of them are really fascinating reads, with some very helpful perspectives on why we eat so unhealthily (and how to change that), how to make ourselves happier, and the immense incredible importance of sleeping enough (something I firmly believe…I think if everyone got enough sleep, the world would be a MUCH happier place.).

For Your Friend Who Loved When You Reach Me, or Everybody

Liar & Spy, by Rebecca Stead

Rebecca’s third book is funny and captivating with lovable, believable kid characters, just like her first two.  Plus I love how New York it feels, as someone who still misses NYC sometimes.  Hey, you could give this and When You Reach Me (her Newbery winner) as, like, a perfect gift set!  🙂

A Few Honorable Mentions, Mostly Because I Don’t Have Time to Describe Them All

Redshirts, by John Scalzi 

Saving Fish from Drowning, by Amy Tan

The Leftovers, by Tom Perrotta

Grave Witch, by Kalayna Price


A Certain Dragon Book I Could Mention, by Me

🙂  Especially since Book Two is coming really soon!  🙂  Like in a little more than a week!  Eeeeeee dragons!  (Or, wait, RIGHT NOW!  You guys, it looks like you can get it RIGHT NOW!  Craziness and excitement!)

(Or, if you’re into historical fiction instead of epic fantasy, there’s my other book that came out this year:

Farmer Boy Goes West, also by Me)

Shiny shiny books in all directions!  Hooray!

Whew.  So that only took me all day!  😉  (OK, there may have been some distracting children to blame.)  But when I read wonderful things, I just have to tell you about them, don’t I?  It seems like my responsibility, as a person with a blog which book-loving people might read.  🙂

In any case, I hope this leads some of you to something new and marvelous.  And for those of you looking for last-minute gifts besides books that also make the world a better place, may I suggest a few options:

Heifer International

Shining Hope for Communities

Room to Read

The International Rescue Committee

Doctors Without Borders

And I hope you are all having a wonderful splendid holiday season!  Mine is deadline-tastic, but I think with enough eggnog we’ll make it through somehow.  Not that I can get anything done with adorable munchkins being adorably excited about everything over here!  (For the older one: presents! traveling! relatives! sparkly lights everywhere! Santa at the mall! Santa at his school! eight days of Hanukkah presents! (I know, he gets BOTH holidays, lucky kid) candles! Christmas music! his school holiday concert! candy canes! I could go on and on…  Whereas for the baby, the highlights of this month have been: almost crawling (so close! almost there!) and, I think, blueberries.  BLUEBERRIES ARE AWESOME, sez the eight-month-old.)

Happy holidays to everyone, and in case I don’t make it back to the blog in the next week, Happy New Year, too!  🙂

Quote of the Day:  “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” — Abraham Lincoln