Reading the news these days does nothing but make me weep. If you’re like me, and you just need to escape reality for a few hours, I offer you some of the best books I’ve read this year. (Not necessarily published this year.) These books, in their own way, have counteracted some of the worst 2012 has dished out. I treasure them for their ability to transport, entertain, enlighten, and inspire.
My Favoritest Book of the Year
When I grow up, I want to write novels like this one. Quirky, original, spooky, poignant, and beautifully written, Swamplandia! is about the Bigtree family, the proprietors of failing alligator theme park in Florida. Ava, the thirteen-year old protagonist and aspiring world-champion alligator wrestler, aspires to save the park after the death of her mother. Meanwhile, her sister Osceola falls in love with the ghost of a dredgeman from the 1920s. Each sentence is a work of art. Swamplandia! was one of three finalists for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize, though no prize was ultimately awarded because the judges couldn’t agree. How messed up is that?
Best Historical Fiction
Book two in the Century Trilogy, Winter of the World picks up where book one (Fall of Giants) left off. Five interrelated families—American, German, Russian, English, Welsh— experience the rise of Hitler through World War II, and the dawn of the atomic age. Follett is the macdaddy of research, and I’m in awe of his ability to both educate and thoroughly entertain with this impossible to put down novel.
Holy page-turner, Batman! Both my husband and I read this book in three days flat. It’s the story of a marriage gone very, very wrong. A he-said versus she-said, with careening plot turns and twisted characters. This highly original novel dominated the NY Times bestseller list for most of the year, and it’s soon to be a movie produced by Reese Witherspoon. (Here’s my eensy six degrees of separation to the amazing Gillian Flynn — we share the same agent. Meep!)
This ethereal circus arrives unannounced in the night, and features a fierce competition between rival magicians, Celia and Marco, who were raised to ruin each other. Problem is, they fall in love. The Night Circus reads like a Cirque du Soleil production, full of mystery and beauty and magic.
Best Young Adult (A TIE!)
I’m only about ten years late in jumping on the bandwagon of this gorgeous book about an awkward freshman’s unique perspective on high school, friends, and love. The book was so genius, I opted not to watch the movie, fearing it could do nothing but disappoint.
This is a wild book about two very different teens – both named Will Grayson – and how their lives careen together in a wildly hysterical and meaningful way. It’s a feel good read that culminates in an epic musical, and it’s also an amazing study in voice for writers.
Best Middle Grade
For the younger readers on your list, my ten-year old son highly recommends this series. Sam can’t put these big, honking novels down, which makes his mama very happy. Based on Egyptian mythology, the Kane siblings discover they’re part of a magical line descended from Ramses the Great. Rick Riordan used to teach middle school, and said that the only thing more popular with his students than ancient Greece was ancient Egypt. He’s the best selling author of the Percy Jackson series, and he sure knows his audience.
What are some of the best books you’ve read this year? I’m always seeking to expand my list!