My 2012 in Books

For the last twelve months, I have been tracking and rating every book I read through the Goodreads Reading Challenge.

Starting out I set my goal to 100 books (ha, ha, HA!) but quickly changed it to a more manageable 52 books, or one book a week for the year. Which sounds perfectly doable, right? Especially if you tend to read books quickly, usually in no more than two sittings.

But it isn’t really, because as quickly as you read books, you don’t always have the time to read them at all. So I’ll just about make my 52 books, more from reading binges than constant or regular reading and only if I finish all five of the books I’m currently in the middle of. However tracking my books means that when it comes to deciding which ones I liked best, it’s easy to decide (and remember the ones I read in the first place!)…

(NB: These are my favorite books that I read in 2012. Although most of them were published this year too, not all were.)

Picture 13

The nominees for the Novel That Depressed Me The Most Because I Know I’ll Never Write Like That (i.e. “Best Novel”) Award are…
  • Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
  • Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
  • The Dinner by Herman Koch
  • Ascent by Jed Mercurio
  • The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker.

And the winner is…

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter! 

Just a fabulous book that, as another review of this title put it, reminds you why you love to love books. I would never desecrate a book by writing on it but if I did such things to, say, highlight my favorite phrases, descriptions that struck me or just sentences I wanted to remember, my entire copy of Beautiful Ruins would’ve been destroyed. Funny, touching and a page-turner to boot.

It also wins the prize for my favorite book cover of the year (the one pictured above, which is the US hardback that I ordered especially so as to avoid having to look at the horrendous cover of the UK paperback version. Yuck!).

Picture 14

The nominees for the Crime Novel I Loved The Most/I Read So Much Of It, It Needs Its Own Category On Here Award are…
  • Criminal by Karin Slaughter
  • Broken Harbor by Tana French
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  • Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes
  • The Black Box by Michael Connelly
  • The Treatment by Mo Hayder.

And the winner is…

Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes!

(I know, I didn’t choose Gone Girl, even though I’m a huge Gillian Flynn fan and have been reading her since long before the rest of the world discovered her this year. That’s not to say that Gone Girl isn’t brilliant. It is. But this is even better…)

There’s something about this book that just curls every last nerve ending you have into a fist of tension while you read it. It is easily the most tense and suspenseful book I’ve ever read. All the more impressive because it’s a relatively simplistic plot. “Psychological thriller” is applied to so many books, but this one actually delivers that. So, SO good.

Picture 15

The nominees for the Non-Fiction Book That Made Me Turn To The Nearest Person And Bore Them With New Stuff I’d Learned About The World (i.e. “Most Interesting”) Award are:
  • The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of Tour de France: Doping, Cover-Ups and Winning at All Costs by Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle
  • How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming by Mike Brown
  • Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History by Antonio Mendez
  • People Who Eat Darkness: The True Story of a Young Woman Who Vanished From the Streets of Tokyo and the Darkness That Swallowed Her Up by Richard Lloyd Parry
  • Wild: From Lost To Found on the Pacific Coast Trail by Cheryl Strayed
  • Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin and the Race of a Lifetime by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin
  • Totally Wired: On the Trail of the Great Dotcom Swindle by Andrew Smith
  • Exposure: Inside the Olympus Scandal by Mike Woodford

And the winner is:

A four-way tie: The Secret Race, How I Killed Pluto, People Who Eat Darkness and Wild!

Sorry, but I just can’t pick. Although if we spilt them into categories (Best Sports, Best Science, Best True Crime, Best Memoir), they can all be winners. Hooray!

If I had to pick just one novel and one non-fiction book to recommend to you, I think it’d probably be Beautiful Ruins and The Secret Race. You cannot go wrong with those two.

So what’s the one novel or non-fiction book you’ve read this year that you’d recommend everyone reads? 

25 thoughts on “My 2012 in Books

  1. ironholgs says:

    Have to agree with you, the best book I’ve read this year is the Secret Race. Even if you have no interest in cycling it is a fascinating and disturbing insight in to how far individuals will go for success. I’m a big cycling fan, and I just couldn’t but this book, I’ve read Dan Coyles other books and enjoyed them too.

  2. Gilly Fraser says:

    The best novel I’ve rfead this year is ‘Me Before You’ by JoJo Moyes. I loved every sentence of this book – and I was particularly mesmerised by the way she managed to convey the absolute anguish and horror of one particular incident in the narrator’s life – without spelling it out in graphic, gratuitous detail as many a lesser writer would have done. Masterful stuff.
    Non-fiction – would be a book called Paddock Paradise by Jaime Jackson, which is all about the need to create better environments for our horses.

    • catherineryanhoward says:

      Really enjoyed Me Before You—was in a puddle by the end and as you say, masterful. I really respected how the ending wasn’t the “easy” option some other authors may have opted for instead. I have The Girl You Left Behind on my To Read pile for 2013.

  3. missycahill says:

    My favourite non fiction book this year without a doubt was Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand. Remarkable and frankly unbelievable at times.

    You got me thinking now about my favourite fiction book. Hmm. Gone Girl blew me away. I’ll have to check out your reccy for Into the Darkest Corner. As if I need another book to read, the pile beside my bed is bigger than me. Sweet nibblets give me the time.

  4. kellie larsen murphy says:

    You sold me. Into the Darkest Corner is now on my to read list! If you haven’t already (and you probably have), check out Joe Nesbo. His Harry Hole is one of my favorite characters. I do love biographies and memoirs, too, and found Pete Townshend’s Who I Am very interesting. Happy reading!

    • catherineryanhoward says:

      Love Jo Nesbo! THE SNOWMAN was easily one of the creepiest crime novels, if not THE creepiest, I’ve ever read. Kind of went off him a couple of books back though (around The Leopard…?) just because I couldn’t stomach the violence. Might go back, though.

  5. cravesadventure says:

    I loved Wild! I am reading Dark Places and have Gone Girl on my list to read. I enjoy reading Tana French and Karin Slaughter – will have to check out Elizabeth Haynes. Thanks for sharing – Happy Friday!

  6. Louise Behiel says:

    what a great challenge for you, Catherine. I’m going to add it to my goals. I had a goal of posting reviews but that became too time consuming, but this might work really well

  7. journeyofjordannaeast says:

    I can’t tell you how much I love this post! We have the same taste in reading, so I just overwhelmed my Kindle with samples of the above titles, anxiously awaiting the Amazon gift cards I’ll surely receive for Christmas.

    And I can’t wait to do the challenge next year. (I practiced this year. Made it to 66 books. Not too shabby.) And I hope one of my books makes a post like this in a future end-of-year round-up. *Fingers crossed*

  8. Laura says:

    Brand new reader…I plan to investigate some of these books for my trip this week.
    Side note: I think you have a beautiful picture of yourself on your site.

  9. Elizabeth says:

    Great choices Catherine.

    Agree with you on Beautiful Ruins – big, bold, gripping, intimate, insightful – the perfect ‘great american novel’ and Where Did You Go Bernadette? – loved the details of day to day working life at Microsoft.

    Do try the clever and suspenseful True Believers by Kurt Andersen – US Supreme Court potential nominee examines her student radical past…..

  10. carolyndonaghey says:

    Thanks for your 2012 list, quite a number of books that take my interest – will have to add to my Goodreads ‘want to read’ list.
    As for the 52 books – I attempted this 2 years running and bah failed dismally each time. I’m not a consistent reader; fits and bursts are my style. I am now just focussing on some little challenges – Australian Women Writers challenge is a great one. Highly recommend you check it out if you want to read some Aussie women writers. (past and present)

  11. emilyadwan says:

    Favourite fiction: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I know it seems a little bit late to decide to read it now, years after everyone else was raving about it, but I didn’t think it would be my cup of tea – I was wrong. Lisbeth, you’re my hero!

    Favourite non-fiction: Alex’s Adventures in Numberland – Alex Bellos. I hated maths at school. This book made me feel like I had been missing out on a fundamental part of the beauty of the life and the mystery of the universe.

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