"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt Disney

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Best Books of 2012

Every December companies release a list of their bestsellers for that year. Here are seven I missed, but am adding to my “to be read” list. At the bottom is a link to Barnes&Nobles 100 top sellers for 2012.

 Pulitzer Prize-winner Junot Díaz’s first book, Drown, established him as a major new writer with “the dispassionate eye of a journalist and the tongue of a poet” (Newsweek). Now Díaz turns his remarkable talent to the haunting, impossible power of love – obsessive love, illicit love, fading love, maternal love. On a beach in the Dominican Republic, a doomed relationship flounders. In the heat of a hospital laundry room in New Jersey, a woman does her lover’s washing and thinks about his wife. In Boston, a man buys his love child, his only son, a first baseball bat and glove. At the heart of these stories is the irrepressible, irresistible Yunior, a young hardhead whose longing for love is equaled only by his recklessness—and by the extraordinary women he loves and loses: artistic Alma; the aging Miss Lora; Magdalena, who thinks all Dominican men are cheaters; and the love of his life, whose heartbreak ultimately becomes his own. This Is How You Lose Her lay bare the infinite longing and inevitable weakness of the human heart. They remind us that passion always triumphs over experience, and that “the half-life of love is forever.”


 “What are you reading?” That’s the question Will Schwalbe asks his mother, Mary Anne, as they sit in the waiting room of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. In 2007, Mary Anne is diagnosed with a form of advanced pancreatic cancer, which is almost always fatal, often in six months or less. This is the inspiring true story of a son and his mother, who start a “book club” that brings them together as her life comes to a close. Over the next two years, Will and Mary Anne carry on conversations that are both wide-ranging and deeply personal, prompted by an eclectic array of books and a shared passion for reading. Their list jumps from classic to popular, from poetry to mysteries, from fantastic to spiritual. The issues they discuss include questions of faith and courage as well as everyday topics such as expressing gratitude and learning to listen. Throughout, they are constantly reminded of the power of books to comfort us, astonish us, teach us, and tell us what we need to do with our lives and in the world. Reading isn’t the opposite of doing; it’s the opposite of dying. Will and Mary Anne share their hopes and concerns with each other—and rediscover their lives—through their favorite books. When they read, they aren’t a sick person and a well person, but a mother and a son taking a journey together. The result is a profoundly moving tale of loss that is also a joyful, and often humorous, celebration of life: Will’s love letter to his mother, and theirs to the printed page. 


In this magnificent biography, the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of American Lion and Franklin and Winston brings vividly to life an extraordinary man and his remarkable times. Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power gives us Jefferson the politician and president, a great and complex human being forever engaged in the wars of his era. Philosophers think; politicians maneuver. Jefferson’s genius was that he was both and could do both, often simultaneously. Such is the art of power. Thomas Jefferson hated confrontation, and yet his understanding of power and of human nature enabled him to move men and to marshal ideas, to learn from his mistakes, and to prevail. Passionate about many things—women, his family, books, science, architecture, gardens, friends, Monticello, and Paris—Jefferson loved America most, and he strove over and over again, despite fierce opposition, to realize his vision: the creation, survival, and success of popular government in America. Jon Meacham lets us see Jefferson’s world as Jefferson himself saw it, and to appreciate how Jefferson found the means to endure and win in the face of rife partisan division, economic uncertainty, and external threat. Drawing on archives in the United States, England, and France, as well as unpublished Jefferson presidential papers, Meacham presents Jefferson as the most successful political leader of the early republic, and perhaps in all of American history.



 The mystery of the body in motion. The surprise of seeing what seems impossible. And the pure, joyful optimism of it all. Dancers Among Us presents one thrilling photograph after another of dancers leaping, spinning, lifting, kicking—but in the midst of daily life: on the beach, at a construction site, in a library, a restaurant, a park. With each image the reader feels buoyed up, eager to see the next bit of magic. Photographer Jordan Matter started his Dancers Among Us Project by asking a member of the Paul Taylor Dance Company to dance for him in a place where dance is unexpected. So, dressed in a commuter’s suit and tie, the dancer flew across a Times Square subway platform. And in that image Matter found what he’d been searching for: a way to express the feeling of being fully alive in the moment, unself-conscious, present. Organized around themes of work, play, love, exploration, dreaming, and more, Dancers Among Us celebrates life in a way that’s fresh, surprising, original, universal. There’s no photoshopping here, no trampolines, no gimmicks, no tricks. Just a photographer, his vision, and the serendipity of what happens when the shutter clicks.


 The exuberant, exhilarating photographs of dogs underwater that have become a sensation. From the water's surface, it's a simple exercise: a dog's leap, a splash, and then a wet head surfacing with a ball, triumphant. But beneath the water is a chaotic ballet of bared teeth and bubbles, paddling paws, fur and ears billowing in the currents. From leaping lab to diving dachshund, the water is where a dog's distinct personality shines through; some lounge in the current, paddling slowly, but others arch their bodies to cut through the water with the focus and determination of a shark. In more than eighty portraits by award-winning pet photographer and animal rights activist Seth Casteel capture new sides of our old friends with vibrant underwater photography that makes it impossible to look away. Each image bubbles with exuberance and life, a striking reminder that even in the most loveable and domesticated dog, there are more primal forces at work. In Underwater Dogs, Seth Casteel gives playful and energetic testament to the rough-and-tumble joy that our dogs bring into our lives.


The book that inspired the Academy Award–winning short film, from New York Times bestselling author and beloved visionary William Joyce. Morris Lessmore loved words. He loved stories. He loved books. But every story has its upsets. Everything in Morris Lessmore’s life, including his own story, is scattered to the winds. But the power of story will save the day. Stunningly brought to life by William Joyce, one of the preeminent creators in children’s literature, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is a modern masterpiece, showing that in today’s world of traditional books, eBooks, and apps, it’s story that we truly celebrate—and this story, no matter how you tell it, begs to be read again and again.


It was just another after-work happy hour at a bar downtown—until the madness descended. And after twelve minutes of chaos and violence, more than eighty people lay dead. Lieutenant Eve Dallas is trying to sort out the inexplicable events. Surviving witnesses talk about seeing things—monsters and swarms of bees. They describe sudden, overwhelming feelings of fear and rage and paranoia. When forensics makes its report, the mass delusions make more sense: it appears the bar patrons were exposed to a cocktail of chemicals and illegal drugs that could drive anyone into temporary insanity—if not kill them outright. But that doesn’t explain who would unleash such horror—or why. Eve’s husband, Roarke, happens to own the bar, but he’s convinced the attack wasn’t directed at him. It’s bigger than that. And if Eve can’t figure it out fast, it could happen again, anytime, anywhere. Because it’s airborne…


For a list of the top 100 Bestsellers of 2012 click here.  
What were your favorite reads this year?

6 comments:

Julie Luek said...

I haven't read these, although I've read JD Robb (aka Nora Roberts) before. Glad you pointed these out.

I loved the film short Flying Books-- was fantastic!

M.L. Swift said...

I'm the perpetual student, always have been, so much of my reading this past year has been about writing: the how-to's, free thinking, novel development, marketing - that sort of thing. I've read some great character crafting ones.

Leisure novels have been scarce, although I did read The Help...even that turned out to be a study on writing in dialect.

Your site seems wonderful. It will be a treat to explore.

M.L. Swift said...

I think something's up with Google Chrome today (my browser)...a lot of places are taking forever to load, and parts of them, like your "follow me" area, never load, so I can't sign up. I'll follow you when it's working properly. :o)

Tony Laplume said...

Daniel Handler's Why We Broke Up will be one of the books from 2012 that I will probably eventually read. But I've been off the path of reading like that for quite some time now.

Sherry Ellis said...

These look like excellent books. I'd really like to read the first one!

mare ball said...

Just finished "Bloom" by Kelle Hampton about the delivery and first year with her Down Syndrome baby, Nella. So touching and beautifully written. Loved it and highly recommend it!