I had a wonderful reading year filled with diverse and excellent books. In this list, there are three novels that made me cry, a classic that I reread, psychological thrillers, a dystopian novel, a time-travel one, two nonfiction books, a retelling of a Greek classic, two translations and a young adult novel. It really has been a great year for reading. So without further ado, here's my top ten of 2012 in the order I read them. Happy New Year and see you all in 2013!
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
I love John Green. I read two of his books this year - this one and Will Grayson, Will Grayson which was delightful and funny. I initially debated about which one to add to this list and though I might say I preferred the Will Grayson book because it was lighthearted and fun, The Fault in Our Stars is exceptional and deserves to be on a top ten list. In this book, John Green is tackling teenagers with cancer. When I first heard the premise of this book, I was afraid that it would be too depressing but it actually wasn't. Hazel is sixteen, with terminal cancer, when she meets Augustus at her kids-with-cancer support group. Hazel introduces him to her favorite novel, An Imperial Affliction, and together they embark on a quest to the Netherlands to meet the reclusive author and finally find out what happened to the characters in his open-ended novel. But apart from this quest, the book is about love, friendship, death and finding joy in living even when one knows that time is short.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
I loved this book! I've been recommending it to everyone I know. It was so much fun and by far the most entertaining novel I've read this year. It's 2044 and the world is a mess. The environment has deteriorated, unemployment and poverty are the norm. People spend more and more time at their computers, living another life in a virtual world called the Oasis created by recently deceased James Halliday. Left with no heirs, Halliday stipulates in his will that the person who finds the three keys hidden in the Oasis and opens the connecting gates will inherit his vast fortune. Years pass and no keys have been found though millions immerse themselves in Halliday's favorite 1980s films, music and video games hoping these hold the clues to the keys' locations. Wade Watts is an overweight, acne-ridden teenager who goes to school in the Oasis and spends ninety percent of his life as his avatar Parzival. We find out in the first few pages of the book that Wade is the first to find a key and unlock the first gate. This discovery unleashes a wave of other treasure hunters, some of whom will stop at nothing to win the ultimate prize.
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
I adored this one! The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller is a retelling of parts of the Iliad focusing on the story of Achilles told from the point of view of his closest friend and lover, Patroclus. Most of you probably know how this story will end but in spite of that Miller has written a moving and beautiful love story where Achilles is a wonderful and charismatic hero (so unlike the Brad Pitt version in Troy). Patroclus is sensitive and awkward and can't help falling in love with his best friend. I was completely caught up in the story and I loved the two main characters. This is a passionate and ultimately heartbreaking novel.
People who Eat Darkness by Richard Lloyd Parry
I don't usually read books that are reportages of true crime events because generally this genre is usually melodramatic and badly written but The People Who Eat Darkness: the True Story of a Young Woman Who Vanished from the Streets of Tokyo--and the Evil That Swallowed Her Up was a very well-written page-turner but a harrowing and chilling read as well. This is the true story of Lucie Blackman, the 21-year-old former British Airways stewardess turned hostess, who disappeared in Tokyo in the year 2000. It was a fascinating and intense read and even if you don't like this sort of thing I highly recommend it if you enjoy reading crime or mystery novels.
Out by Natsuo Kirino
To say that I loved this book sounds so strange considering it's a psychological crime novel that involves dismemberment. But it's so much more than a crime novel. I would say it surpasses genres. Out is also about women banding together to save one of their own kind; about women discovering their own dark natures and the fragility of some female friendships. It's about being desperate and doing things one would never do in normal circumstances. There's actually quite a lot of layers in this book and it stays with you long after you've finished it. It was also an extremely intense and compelling read.
Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino
Because I really enjoyed Out by Kirino, I decided to follow it up with Grotesque, which turned out to be just as disturbing and weird as Out, but still so engrossing. Beautiful half-Japanese sisters Yuriko and the unnamed narrator are as different as can be - one pretty and popular and the other not. Years later Yuriko and a friend of both sisters, Kazue, become prostitutes and are then brutally murdered. Grotesque is an exploration of the effects on women of a society that condemns and judges women based upon their looks. This is an excellent though twisted psychological novel.
11/22/63 by Stephen King
This was my first Stephen King novel. I was attracted to the premise- English teacher Jake Epping travels back in time to 1958 to prevent the Kennedy assassination and thus change the course of history. Since it's only 1958, he has to wait a few years to do his deed so in the meantime he enjoys the simplicity of life in this time period, teaches at a local high school, falls in love with a lovely woman and spies on Lee Harvey Oswald, the future assassin of JFK. This is was an excellent read. Besides the exciting plot, Jake learns quite a number of life lessons along the way. As the reader we are left wondering about particular events in our own life and what would happen if we could alter them. Where would we be now?
The Great Gatsby by F.Scot Fitzgerald
This was the second time I've read The Great Gatsby and I loved it this time. My book club picked it for the month of July. It's just perfectly written and now I understand why it's considered one of the best American novels of all time.
Broken Harbor by Tana French
I loved In the Woods by Tana French and though I've read all her novels since then, that one still stands out as the best one. However, Broken Harbor was also a tense and intelligent thriller. The novel is narrated by Mike Kennedy, the detective investigating an attack on a family which leaves the father and two young children dead and the mother seriously injured.What makes this exceptional is the depth and humanity Tana French infuses into her main characters particularly that of Mike Kennedy.
The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups and Winning at all Costs by Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle
I've never been a fan of professional cycling but I guess like most people I admired Lance Armstrong for beating his personal battles and for his amazing public triumphs plus the ongoing investigation into his drug use has definitely been interesting. I sampled this on Amazon and was immediately hooked. If you've ever wondered what really goes on in the world of professional cycling then read this book. It's shocking, sad but so fascinating.