The Armchair BEA Post of the Day, today, are the best books you've read (so far) in 2012.
The past two years, since joining GR, I've made a concerted effort to read more new release type books. As a guide, I use the most popular books feature in Goodreads. (Most Popular Books of 2012 on Goodreads) So, looking over the 166 books I've read so far this year, I was surprised. I haven't given a 5 star rating to any books published in 2012. So, I'm going to my best of 2012 into categories and hope for a better second half of 2012.
Best Books Read in 2012 (Regardless of Publication Year)
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. Not only are these books set in the same time period (April-ish to December, 1984), they also share a lot of themes, ideas, and even a character. They really should be read together. I'd also suggest 1984 by George Orwell. I read all of these within a week or so of each other and it makes Murakami's books more understandable. Interesting thing, Orwell's book also begins in April, 1984. I'll quote the famous first line of the book, "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen." (We later find out the book begins on April 4, 1984)
Runner up: (Best Book Read in 2012)
Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes. The best war novel I have ever read. The writing itself is astonishingly good. But it's what you take away from the novel that makes it truly amazing. You will never be able to see news about war without thinking of the true cost of war on an individual level because Marlantes makes you truly see how the loss of a single person damages all of us. The death- especially of young men and women- removes from the world all of their potential for good. Their hopes, their dreams, their future accomplishments are forever extinguished. It was a hard novel to read on an emotional level, but I am so glad I read this. I read it with a book club and got so much more out of the novel. If you belong to a book club- in person or online, this is a book you should read this year.
Best Series Discovery:
The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne. I was a little skeptical (okay, a lot skeptical) of a male author writing urban fantasy. It's just not a genre I associate with male writers. Plus, I'm just burned out on the genre. But, I kept hearing about this series on Goodreads- a pretty universal, "OMG this is good!". So, I decided to give the series a try- and proceeded to read all 4 books within a week. (Book 5, has a release date of December, 2012. Trapped) A nice change and fresh voice in urban fantasy. The first book in the series is Hounded
Best Young Adult:
A tie between Enchanted by Alethea Kontis and Darkness Before Dawn by J.A. London. I was just charmed by Enchanted: Review of Enchanted. It was a must read for me just seeing the cover. Darkness Before Dawn surprised me- I really thought it would suffer by (obvious) comparison to The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa. My review of both books is here: Welcome to the Thunderdome.
Best Mystery: Defending Jacob by William Landay. As good (or better) as John Grisham ever was. I don't want to say to much about the book- except "Read it!!!"- because in mysteries if you tell someone an unimportant detail, you're giving something away. And I don't want to give anything away and possibly take away any enjoyment you will have from reading this book.
Best Memoir and Best Humorous Book:
Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson. This is more than a humorous look at Lawson's dysfunctional family, it's also a touching (but funny) look at the day to day life of a person with mental illness. Around the same time I read "Pretend", I also read Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman. Two very different styles, and yet...Unorthodox always maintained a wall- a distance- between author and reader. Unorthodox relied on our "natural" sympathy to generate sympathy for the author. In other words, the normal and natural empathy you feel when bad things happen to other people. But, Feldman wasn't able to bridge that gap between author and reader the way Lawson did. That you feel a part of the author's intimate circle of friends. Which is why "Pretend" is my memoir of the year (so far)