2012 was a great reading year for me. Here are some of the best books I read this year. While not all of the books I read this year were published in 2012, I did include some of my favorite, recently published books in this list.
Beyond my own reading in 2012, I noticed that memoirs, like Wild by Cheryl Strayed, topped many lists this year. Also, this year saw more genre mixing in literary fiction; books like Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn topped bestseller lists but broke through the boundaries separating literary and genre fiction.
I read so many good books this year, and these are only five of my favorites. (If you want to read an extensive list of the books I read this year, check out my Goodreads page.)
5. Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. I’ve been a vegetarian since June 2011. I started vegetarianism on a whim, but since then, I have found that vegetarianism fits in with my dietary needs and my beliefs. Foer’s Eating Animals is one of the most intriguing books I’ve read about vegetarianism. Like Foer’s fiction, it’s a fun and eclectic read. It mixes Swiftian satire, personal observation, humor, and thorough research. Even if you’re a meat-eater, this book is worth it.
4. The Pale King by David Foster Wallace. For me, this was the year of DFW. I finished Infinite Jest in February, read A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again shortly after, and spent part of my summer reading through and annotating his unfinished novel The Pale King. I’ll admit: this novel feels very incomplete and doesn’t resolve itself in the way that Infinite Jest does. But it does provide an interesting perspective on boredom, work, anxiety, and living a meaningful life. Plus, it has all of DFW’s acerbic humor and sense of irony. I blogged about this throughout the year, so check out some of my posts.
3. Born To Run by Christopher McDougall. I started running in 2009 when my junk bicycle broke down. Before then, I had become a regular cyclist, but hadn’t enjoyed running. With a little help from running friends and books, I grew to enjoy running, and now I do it regularly for recreation and fitness. Born to Run is an excellent narrative about the joys of running. It also covers the history and evolutionary development of running. After reading this book, I have found the joy in running. If you’re into running books, I also recommend Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, which explains the connections between running and writing.
2. This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz. Diaz’s latest short story collection follows Yunior, a young Dominican immigrant who seeks out love and sex, but does so for all of the wrong reasons. If you have read Diaz’s first short story collection, Drown, and his novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, you’ll recognize some recurring characters. What makes this novel so excellent is Diaz’s tight control of language. He mixes in street-language, witty observations, and the honest insecurities of a lost man with a poetic control.
1. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I am kind of surprised that this book is my number one choice. I had not expected it to be such a great read. Immediately after reading this, I was annoyed (anyone who has read this and got to the end will know why!) but the more I’ve reflected on this novel, the more I realize that Flynn’s characters represent one of the most realistic portrayals of 21st Century American life. Yes, it is, first and foremost. a great murder mystery/thriller, but it’s also a poignant exploration of what it’s like to live in a media saturated, post-recession America. For that reason, I understand why this novel was so popular this year, and it’s why I love it. I hope to read Flynn’s other novels soon.