The Best Books of 2012

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I’ve read 203 books in 2012. I had a great year with some wonderful books. How to choose the best ones? I made a list of all 5 star books I reviewed in 2012 and then crossed off books until I ended up with a number of books that I all found equally good, in their own way.

So, here are the books I consider my best fiction reads for 2012, in no particular order – except for the first one: Ready Player One is standing out for me as a book I lived rather than loved. In the days that I was reading the book, even when I was doing other things, the characters in the book stayed alive for me in a sort-of alternate universe. Only when I’d finished the book I could shake off this feeling. In other words, it totally got under my skin. That, for me, is a great book.

Click on the titles to see my reviews

Overall favorite of 2012:

Ready Player One by Ernest ClineReady Player One by Ernest Cline. Science fiction.

This book is about a world in which most people use an online system, OASIS, for their daily living. Wade Watts is 18 years old and spends all his time there. He’s looking for a treasure that has been left behind by the inventor of OASIS.

Through playing old-fashioned computer games and movies, he gets closer to the treasure, but the powerful Sixes, who work in a large team, are on his tail. They will stop at nothing to get to the treasure.

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Other favorites in no particular order:

Mudbound by Hillary JordanWaterline by Ross RaisinThe Death of Bees by Lisa O'DonnellThe Univited Guests by Sadie Jones

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan. Historical fiction. Laura moves from the city to an isolated farm in the 1940s, that her husband wants to run. But Laura is culture-shocked. Their tenants are black sharecroppers, and things turn sour when the son comes back from the war in Europe, where he was treated as an equal.

Waterline by Ross Raisin. Literary fiction. A newly widowed man can’t stand staying in the house where he lived with his wife. When he also loses his job he decides to leave. His circumstances deteriorate rapidly.

The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell. Contemporary fiction. Two teenage girls bury their parents in the back garden and try to get on with life. With the death of their neglective parents, it seems the girls’ lives are improving, but what will happen when the bodies are found, as they inevitably will?

The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones. Historical fiction. Early 1900s and the impoverished occupants of a country manor aren’t happy to find a group of stranded rail travellers on their doorstep.

Heaven and Hell by Jón Kalman Stefánsson.  Historical fiction, literary fiction. A beautiful story about a twenty-year old boy who loses his best friend when they are out at sea finishing in the dark, freezing, sea near Iceland

The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling. Contemporary fiction. A death in the parish council leaves a small town in search for a new candidate. Many people get involved.

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver. Contemporary fiction. A woman lives in small-town Appalachia where nothing much happens, until she finds a large colony of butterflies in the woods. The whole world comes to her small town.

Room by Emma Donoghue. Contemporary fiction. A little boy and his mother have been spending years in a room, kidnapped by a man. Will they ever escape?

Heaven and Hell by Jón Kalman StéfanssonThe Casual Vacancy by J. K. RowlingFlight Behavior by Barbara KingsolverRoom by Emma Donoghue

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Mystery/Thriller

Mercy by Jussi Adler-Olsen. A well-known female politician was captured five years ago and put in a concrete prison. Detective Carl Mork and his Syrian cleaner are solving cold cases and end up on the trail of the kidnappers.

Before I Go to Sleep by S. L. Watson. (re-read) A woman wakes up every morning not remembering who she is and who the man next to her in bed is.

Mercy by Jussi Adler-OlsenBefore I go to Sleep by S. J. Watson

Nonfiction:

The Discovery of Jeanne Baret by Glynis Ridley. History. In the 1760s, a young French peasant woman sails around the world dressed as a man. Jeanne Baret travels as the assistant of the botanist Philibert Commerson, with whom she has had a relationship that started when they worked together in France.

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers. When the hurricane Katrina hits, a man stays behind in New Orleans to look after people, animals and houses.

Between a Rock and a Hot Place by Tracey Jackson. Fifty is not the new thirty and Tracey Jackson tells you why.

The Discovery of Jeanne Baret by Glynis RidleyZeitoun by Dave EggersBetween a Rock and a Hot Place by Tracey Jackson

Are any of these books your favorites too?

About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at bookhelpline.com. In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

36 Responses to The Best Books of 2012

  1. Great selection! I’ve loved all the ones that I’ve tried – especially Mudbound, Zeitoun and Room. Ready Player One is one I keep seeing positive things about. I’ll have to try that soon, along with Flight Behaviour, Mercy and The Casual Vacancy.

    Thanks for keeping up such a wonderful blog/twitter stream in 2012. I look forward to sharing many more bookish conversations in 2013🙂

    • Leeswammes says:

      I always wonder what new books you have up your sleeve, Jackie. A lot of them make it onto my wishlist if I don’t have (read) them yet. Do try the books you mention there. I do think you’ll enjoy them.

  2. Nice overview! I’m going to add some of those to my to-read shelf on Goodreads🙂

  3. I enjoyed The Discovery of Jeanne Baret too. Thank you for reminding me I still have The Uninvited Guests on my audible wish list… sounds excellent.

  4. Suzanne says:

    I just got my copy of The Uninvited Guests for review and am very excited to read it.
    I am hesitant to try Ready Player One since I was never much into video games but I love your description of how you felt while reading it.
    203 books?! Wow.

    • Leeswammes says:

      I hope you’ll like *The Uninvited Guests *as much as I did. I think lots of people enjoyed Ready Player One so maybe try it, it just sucks you in.

  5. 200+ books is very impressive. congrats. I loved your tops list as many I book that I enjoyed in the past as well: Mudbound, Flight Behavior, Room and Zeitoun in particular. Many of the others are on my future reading list.

    Happy Reading in 2013.

  6. Ready Player One made my list of best reads in 2012 too, it was just so complete a little (virtual) world.🙂

  7. Alex says:

    I’m seeing Ready Player One in lots of list which makes me want to bump it up on my list of priorities. Room was one of my favorites of 2011 and one of the books I still recommend more often,

    • Leeswammes says:

      Alex (Sleepless), I loved Room much more than I expected after the hype about it. It’s very good and I’m glad I found it in a hotel “library” where I did a swap with a book I’d just finished.🙂

  8. I didn’t read 200 books last year, but still it’s quite weird I didn’t read a single one of your favorites (except Zeitoun that I’m reading at the moment). So I’ll have to catch up a little bit & look after those books. Thanks for the useful tips.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Ole, my favorites are quite well-known books I think so it’s indeed surprising you didn’t read any of them. Have a look into it, some of them you’d definitely enjoy (I know this because the books are quite varied, so I’m guessing at least a few will be something you like).

      • I have a lot of confidence in your opinion, so I’ve just uploaded most of your favorites to my ereader. But at the pace you’re reading I will never catch up with you. That ‘s why I’ll start with your favorites. In this immensity my thought sinks drowned and sweet it seems to shipwreck in this sea.

  9. Love, love, love Ready Player One. Also, I quite enjoyed The Discovery of Jeanne Baret. The library I work at had her come speak to our book club this past year when we did a unit on historical women in science. It was lovely.

  10. Laura Caldwell says:

    I also loved Ready Player One. Now, as a mid-fifty-year-old, I am very familiar with the eighties and have one son who started playing video games then, and another who started in the mid-nineties, so although I don’t play them, I am quite familiar with them. Not sure if this is why I enjoyed the book as much as I did. One of my top 2012 reads.

    • Judith says:

      Laura, I used to play computer games more than I do now, but I think a general interest in computers is useful to enjoy this book. Good to see that it made your best-of list too.

  11. Athira says:

    I loved Ready Player One, so I’m glad it’s a favorite of yours too! Death of Bees is high up on my wishlist for someday. Great list!

  12. JoV says:

    I’m glad waterline got into your hall of fame. I must surely read this book!

  13. Isi says:

    I haven’t read any of them!
    I have Ready player one, but my boyfriend read it first and he didn’t love it, so I was thinking about reading it or not (now I’m going to read it, obviously).
    About the rest, I have Before I go to sleep, that I want to read soon, and I’m also interested in Room; I’ve read great reviews about this book.
    And I think the non-fiction ones sound great too!!😀

    • Judith says:

      Your boyfriend isn’t you, Isi.🙂 Unless you always like the same books. Maybe try a few chapters and see what you think. Room is very good, lots of people loved it.

  14. Leslie says:

    Definitely agree with you on Ready Player One. I read it in 2011 and it was a favorite. I just finished Flight Behavior and it will definitely be at the top of the list for this year.

    I’m listening to Room now for my book club. I didn’t read it when it was first published because I thought it would be a bit too depressing but it’s so compelling that I’m overlooking the disturbing aspects of it… or perhaps that’s why it’s so compelling. I’m almost finished with it after only two days!

    • Judith says:

      Leslie, I thought Room would be depressing and put it off for ages. But really it’s very good and not actually depressing. Yes, there certainly are a number of disturbing elements to it. Glad to see confirmed we still have a similar reading taste.

  15. Charlie says:

    What a great number! I loved Jeanne Baret, it’s always wonderful when a historian brings into the spotlight someone who has been forgotten although they made a big impact (thinking also of how Dumas’s father is now known). Glad to hear about the Sadie Jones and of course about The Casual Vacancy🙂

    • Judith says:

      Charlie, indeed, it’s great when a historical character comes to life. I very much enjoyed reading this while I’m not really a history person.

  16. Carole says:

    Hi there, the January edition of Books You Loved is open for entries. Here is the link Books You Loved January Edition Please do pop by and link in a post about a book/s you loved. Maybe this post? Cheers and Happy New Year!

  17. Marie says:

    I’ve been looking forward to reading your choices! I completely agree with you about Ready Player One and it sounds like we had quite similar reading experiences – completely immersed in the pages, I felt like I was in such a daze when I had to put the book down! I really enjoyed Mercy, too, and have bought the sequel for my Dad for Christmas so I’m impatiently waiting for him to get it finished and pass it on to me…

    The Uninvited Guests is one that piqued my interest at the beginning of the year but then I forgot about it until seeing it on several people’s end-of-year reviews. Might have to pick up a copy.

    Great choices, and here’s to an even better 2013!

    • Leeswammes says:

      Marie, nice to read that you felt the same about *Ready Player One*. I didn’t like the sequel to *Mercy* quite so much, but the third book (which may not yet been translated to English) was very good again. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, just not as good as *Mercy*.

  18. I agree with you on Room, but not The Casual Vacancy (beginning to think I’m in the minority for that one), There’s several books on your list that I have but haven’t read yet – Mercy and Before I Go to Sleep.

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