To choose only one book out of a year’s worth of books? That’s just hard.
We must admit that we’ve started out this year hoping to read more relevant and intelligent books, but as the months passed we may have slipped into more chick lit, romance novels, lifestyle books and magazines than we care to admit, not that there’s anything wrong with these books. We love a good escape as much as the next reader.
That being said, we did read a lot of books this year… intelligent or not, here are our favorites.
Title: The Fault in our Stars
Author: John Green
Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 13, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs… for now.
Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.
Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.
The Fault in Our Stars (TFOS) is, quite simply, beautiful. John Green spins a gut-wrenching tale of first love amidst sickness and death. It left me a heart-broken, sobbing mess by the time I turned the last page. Green captured all the kilig and despair (ah yes, the despair of teenagers) of young love but somehow managed to show the maturity and depth of love tested by hardship and pain. (Summary from Good Reads)
You can tell I am a sucker for love stories.
The Young Adult genre has been flooded with love stories attempting to be epic… More often than not, you’ve got vampires, werewolves, demons, witches, and angels all contributing to the (attempted) epic ness of the novel. None of those, in my opinion, have the breadth of emotion TFOS evokes. It isn’t just the love story that tugs at your heartstrings either. The interaction between Hazel and her parents – those of healthy parents and their sick child- is both raw and tender. I had an aunt who was sick since I was born, and the love and care my uncle (her husband) showed her throughout her long sickness was echoed in the relationship between Hazel and her mom and dad. The characters are so real, especially Hazel and Gus (okay, admittedly, they are more eloquent than any other teenagers i have encountered) they perfectly capture the beauty of everyday life. To be able to show the beauty of life, love, and youth (and make the reader appreciate them as the gifts that they are)- that for me is what makes an epic love story. And this is exactly what John Green has accomplished with this book.
Title: Child 44
Author: Tom Rob Smith
I don’t read thrillers much nowadays because I read so many of those a decade ago. I usually already know how they’ll go. I’m glad I gave Child 44 a try though, because it’s so good. It’s not a typical detective novel. There actually isn’t much “detecting” going on in the first half. This book in set in the Soviet Union in the 50s, and I feel this could beat out Gorky Park as my favorite Soviet- era thriller. I don’t need to tell you the plot, as it’s a simple thriller- “someone dies, someone tries to find out who did it.” Yes, it’s genre fiction, thus formulaic, but it’s written so well, and the historical sketches are so vivid, you’ll find yourself wanting to finish it in one sitting.
This is part one of a trilogy.
Title: Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything
Author: Joshua Foer
Warning: not a book on “how to improve your memory”.
Joshua Foer is the brother of Jonathan Safran Foer, the novelist who wrote Everything is ILluminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. just in case you’re wondering why the name sounds familiar.
this book is written in the first-person singular and follows Joshua Foer for a year as he trains for the United States Memory Championship. It’s a fact-filled and engaging read.
Title: Farm City
Author: Novella Carpenter
When Novella Carpenter–captivated by the idea of backyard self-sufficiency as the daughter of two back-to-the-earth hippies–moves to a ramshackle house in inner-city Oakland and discovers a weed-choked, garbage-strewn abandoned lot next door, she closes her eyes and pictures heirloom tomatoes, a beehive, and a chicken coop.
What starts out as a few egg-laying chickens leads to turkeys, geese, and ducks. And not long after, along came two 300-pound pigs. And no, these charming and eccentric animals aren’t pets. Novella is raising these animals for dinner.
An unforgettably charming memoir, full of hilarious moments, fascinating farmer’s tips, and a great deal of heart, Farm City offers a beautiful mediation on what we give up to live the way we do today.
Novella Carpenter lives in a really depressed part of Oakland. Her apartment is beside an empty lot where she starts putting in plants, later diversifying to animals like goats, rabbits and pigs. She also has bees and chickens. And since Novella and her boyfriend are on a strict budget, they try to be as creatve as possible in making their urban farm thrive, with schemes like climbing into the garbage bins of some restos!
She doesn’t try to dress up urban farming to appear like it is something hip, or cool. Her book is refreshingly honest, talking about her successes and failures.
Title: The Perfectly Imperfect Home
Author: Deborah Needleman
I was a big fan of Domino magazine when it was still in print and I am also big fan of the Domino book as well. I love browsing through sites like Décor8 and Design Sponge. And, I constantly look through the Ikea catalog year after year.
Obviously, I am a frustrated apartment owner and, maybe, I am also quite the frustrated designer.
Just like my belief that fashion is art and is a means to express one’s personality, I also believe that one’s living space should be reflection of one’s persona, like a personal narrative.
Reading this book has kept me inspired and optimistic about my future apartment. The books provides a lot of style tips and advice on how to personalize your home while also highlighting the importance of suitability, functionality, living well and just being generally happy about your décor.
Another plus, the illustrations are just so dainty and pretty.
The Perfectly Imperfect Home is just a nice book to cozy up with on a lazy weekend while drinking a cup of tea and relaxing on a comfortably glamorous couch.
Title: Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder
Author: Nassim Nicholas Taleb
If Antifragile came out earlier in 2012 and I had enough time to read it, I would probably picked this one as my favorite book for the year.
The premise so far sounds very promising. I am a fan of Nassim Nicholas Taleb and when I am in the mood for it, I really love reading his books.
Business, politics, social science and history discussed through his writings as a philosophical essayist is always interesting and stimulating.
Reviews have been good so far so I am definitely planning to read this one over the Christmas break.
As the world continues to experience one financial crisis, regime change, and calamity after the next, wouldn’t it be a good idea to know more about what it takes to gain from all the disorder?
After all, it’s 2012… the Mayans have predicted that things would fall apart right about now, right? In the spirit of 2012, I’d say reading this book now is also timely.
Title: Ready Player One
Author : Ernest Cline
I know this book came out last year, but I only got my hands on a copy in the middle of this year.
In the year 2044, the real world is an ugly place, so most of humanity spends their waking hours plugged into the OASIS, a free virtual utopia composed of thousands of planets. Upon his death, James Halliday, creator of the OASIS and massive 80s fanatic, announces via his last will and testament, that who ever could solve the puzzles and riddles he’s hidden somewhere in the thousands of planets that make up the OASIS, would inherit his massive fortune. The book follows the massive hunt/contest from the perspective of Wade, an eighteen-year-old gamer, who’s just solved the first puzzle before anyone else in the world has.
Once I started it, I couldn’t put it down. I literally had to force myself put it down with about 3 chapters left, so I could get some sleep. Ready Player One has all the elements of an adventure – riddles, puzzles, action, danger, and a tiny bit of incredibly PG and age appropriate romance. It’s both fun and a little ironic that what I, and a lot of other readers, enjoyed most in Ernest Cline’s futuristic romp is the crash course on the history of gaming and 80s pop culture.
Title: Visit Sunny Chernobyl: And Other Adventures in the World’s Most Polluted Places
Author: Andrew Blackwell
This is not your run of the mill travel book. Andrew Blackwell’s pollution tourism takes you to some of the dirtiest places on earth, starting with the Chernobyl exclusion zone in Ukraine. You’d think a book on the world’s most polluted places would be rife with environmental activism, but it isn’t. The book has more history, science, anthropology, and story in it than the “save the earth” advocacy you’re probably bracing for upon opening the book. Blackwell doesn’t choke you with all that. Instead, he shares the wonder, (and horror) of visiting and experiencing these places. He takes you drinking in the exclusion zone, and happily describes the sludgy banks of India’s most polluted river. He doesn’t just focus on the landscape or the damage humankind has left in these places. Blackwell introduces you to the people and communities who live and work there, and you come away with some understanding of it all, or at least the sense that the situation is truly as confusing/confused at you thought it was. For a book that takes you to some of the ugliest places on the planet, and tackles such a large and important issue, Blackwell does a great job of keeping it personal, amusing, and surprisingly light.