My Top 15 Books of 2012

So I read 137 books in 2012. I already gave the full list, but below are my top 15 favorites from the year. I shared this list in my recent book, 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, in which I explain how I managed to read so many books (and talked to someone who read a lot more books than me).

I tried to narrow my list down to a top 10, but there were just too many good books to talk about. So here we go:

  1. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
    Most of this book takes place in a multi-player online game (like World of Warcraft, only bigger), which makes it very geeky. For that reason I’m always a little hesitant to recommend it. But if you can get past that (and the author makes it very approachable), it’s an incredible story. Geeky and fun, full of pop culture references (both real and made up), fast paced with plenty of action. I already want to read it again.
  2. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
    Every time I tell people about this book they look at me like I’m crazy. It’s a funny story about two teens dying of cancer. See? Crazy. But it’s amazing. The teens are sarcastic and funny and full of life, even though they’re on the verge of death.
  3. Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
    I have a hard time getting into nonfiction, but this book tells a story that is so captivating it’s easy to forget it’s real. It helped that I got into running this year and found this book to be very motivational. Check out my blog post explaining the book and my own journey into running this year.
  4. Every Day by David Levithan
    This book didn’t just have a unique idea—a person wakes up in a new body every day—but the way it tackled that idea was so interesting and engaging. There were so many unique things: Like the fact that the main character doesn’t have a gender because they don’t have a body or the author’s willingness to go to difficult situations, like the body of a druggie in withdrawal, a suicidal case or an illegal child laborer. Plus, the actual story centers around a really good romance that gets to the idea of what we’re actually falling in love with.
  5. 11/23/63 by Stephen King
    Time travel and thwarting a presidential assassination? What more could you want? This one is long, but with Stephen King’s writing that’s no worry. There’s a love story in this one too, which makes the whole thing even more engaging.
  6. Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson
    This one and World War Z are very similar—varied accounts of the robot or zombie uprising. The different perspectives make both books engaging, but Robopocalypse keeps coming back to the same characters and letting you see how they’re getting along. That makes it more cohesive and interesting, gripping to the bitter end.
  7. Without Warning series by John Birmingham
    At first glance, this series sounded stupid: A mysterious and impenetrable “bubble” descends on the United States and wipes out every living person, isolating most of the contiguous United States. But good stories aren’t about what happened, they’re about what happens now. (For example, I think LOST derailed when they tried to explain what happened. The show was interesting when they focused on what happens now. Mythology and explanations can be interesting, but they can also be a distraction.) Weird set up aside, the what happens now in Without Warning was engaging. It was fast-paced, apocalyptic action and—like a good Stephen King or Joss Whedon story—you never knew when a character might get killed. The second installment slowed down a little bit, but the finale picked up again.
  8. Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick
    Post-apocalyptic zombie horror. This one was crazed, edge of your seat action. The story had a lot going on, it kept up a frightful pace and the characters were engaging. As fast as it was, I also liked that the author knew when to slow down and let you feel safe again. My only complaint is that it’s the first in a trilogy, so there’s no sense of closure at the end (something I realized in horror with 40 pages to go).
  9. For the Win by Cory Doctorow
    I read three novels by Cory Doctorow this year and I was tempted to put all three on this list. But I went with For the Win as the best of the three. It’s one of those multi-thread stories where the threads eventually overlap and intertwine. As usual for Doctorow, he explores an interesting tech scenario and pushes it further. Good stuff.
  10. Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate
    This is a story told as a poem that can easily be read in one day. It’s the heart-breaking tale of a Sudanese boy who comes to Minnesota as a refugee. The free verse style does an excellent job of communicating the language barrier. It really  helps you understand the perspective of a refugee.
  11. Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon
    A good kick-in-the-pants book for creatives. Short, simple and full of fun illustrations. Check out my review and interview with Austin Kleon over at Church Marketing Sucks.
  12. Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz
    I discovered this book during my first real trip to the South and it was timely. I’ve always been interested in the Civil War and coming to terms with the current take on the Confederacy has always been kind of weird. Good book to help me process some of that. My blog post exploring the book.
  13. Wrecked by Jeff Goins
    A great little book about how to deal with the incredible brokenness of life. Check out my review and interview with author Jeff Goins over at Church Marketing Sucks.
  14. The Search for Wondla / A Hero for Wondla by Tony DiTerlizzi
    I found this series to be delightful. It was just full of, well, wonder. Very childlike and engaging.
  15. Gone series by Michael Grant
    Another sci-fi story with a bubble, this one with a lot of trappings of Stephen King (oddly enough, he has his own bubble story I read this year). Gripping, engaging story, even when the premise seems ridiculous. In this case, all those bubble trapped teens started developing super powers. The series has ups and downs, but I think it’s worth riding it out to the end (the last book comes out this year).

What were your favorite books of 2012?

2 thoughts on “My Top 15 Books of 2012”

  1. My favorites from 2012 are listed below. All are new reads for me; I have picked a few classic must reads each year to fill out my poor reading background and engineering education.

    The Giver (Lois Lowry)

    Pride & Prejudice

    Entire Rick Riordan “original” Percy Jackson series. (1st five starting with the Lightning Theif. Recommend to read out loud to older elementary aged kids)

    Ender’s Game

    Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

    Into the Woods, Faithful Place and The Likeness all by Tana French. (Been on the waiting list at the library for 5 months for her last book, Broken Harbor… still at #46 on the list to get it!)

    The Alto Wore Tweed (Only recommend to Anglican musicians)

    The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society

    I personally read 48 or 49 books last year. Granted, a lot of Youth fiction was in there, but I like to read what the kids are reading. That is a lot for me, and I have a list of about 5 must reads for this year (to catch up on my reading deficit.) Reading Chaim Potok’s “The Chosen” right now, hoping to form a reading group for Dostoyevkey’s “Brother’s Karamazov”… only way I’ll get through it.

  2. 48-49 books a year is awesome! Way to go. Up until my crazy reading last year, I’d only read that many books once.

    Ender’s Game is one of my all time favs. Good stuff.

    Brother’s Karamazov? Ug. They forced me through it in college and I hated it. More power to you if you can do it.

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