Monday, December 31, 2012

Book Club Favorites: 12 Good Reads of 2012

I was always one of those nerdy kids who loved to read and who asked for books for Christmas and birthdays. And yet, I hadn't read a lot in the last few years.  New babies have a way of short-circuiting nighttime reading.

But 2012 was the year of the book for me and I was delighted to return to my first love. In the spring, I began to write down the titles of books I read. I am not sure what I read earlier this year, but this is what occupied many late nights in 2012.

In a wonderful turn of events, I formed a book club this year with a dear friend. We tend to like the same genres and both read rather quickly. We alternate choosing books but both must agree on the final choices.  These were our three favorites of 2012, all earning 5 stars (out of 5).

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand – biography. An amazing story about the life of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner turned WWII airman who’s shot down over enemy territory. Compelling story and well-written. I loved Hillenbrand’s Seasbiscuit too. 5 stars (and would have given this 10 stars if I could.)

The House at Riverton and The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton.  We read these two “Downton Abbey” style novels back-to-back and enjoyed them immensely. 5 stars.

Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese – a sweeping family saga, beautiful and tragic (and overly long). The focus is on twin brothers who are raised in an Ethiopian mission hospital by two skilled doctors.  The book's beginning is particularly strong. 4 stars. 

Room by Emma Donoghue - novel told from the perspective of 5-year-old Jack who has been imprisoned since he was born in a room with his mother. Original and absorbing. 4 stars.

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Books – novel about the plague and how it impacted an English village in 1666. Beautifully imagined and it is much more interesting and compelling than a book about the plague should be. Plus, it had a protagonist I loved. I would have given the book 5 stars if I hadn’t disliked the ending so much. 4 stars.

Little Bee by Chris Cleeve – Story of two women, a young Nigerian refugee and a married British magazine editor, and how their lives converge under extraordinary circumstances, This novel started out strong but left me cold. There is a horrific graphic scene in one section.  3.5 stars.

My Korean Deli: Risking It All For a Convenience Store by Ben Ryder Howe – funny memoir of a struggling young couple who try to please the wife’s Korean immigrant parents by buying a Brooklyn deli. 3.5 stars.

Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley - mystery narrated by precocious 11-year-old chemistry prodigy who has an affinity for poisons.  A sweet, simple, often funny, story set in a sleepy English village in 1950.  Suitable for young readers. 3.5 stars


Of the 12 books we read in 2012, our least favorites were Garden Spells and The Weird Sisters. Both were novels about adult sisters who return to the family home. Of the two, we preferred Garden Spells.  

I also read several books outside of the bookclub.  They included: Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford; Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson; Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson; The Call by Yannick Murphy; Wesley The Owl by Stacey O'brien; Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel In Letters by Mark Dunn; and Private Patient by PD James.

Of those, my two favorites were: Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (5 stars) and Major Pettigrew's Last Stand (4.5 stars). 

Do you have a book to recommend?  As we bid adieu to 2012, we're looking for titles for our 2013 reading list and would love to have your suggestions. 

Wishing you a wonderful new year!  Happy reading.


  1. Izzy, i too am trying to balance the things that I enjoy doing. reading is one of them. thanks for all suggestions here! i will take a look at them. tfs!!

  2. These all sound wonderful!! I follow a few book review blogs and have added to my reading lists from their recommendations! :) Happy New Year!!

  3. Thanks for this..reading has really taken a back seat to blogging/creating etc. I hope to pick it up more in 2013 so I'm pinning this review...thanks so much and Happy New Year:)

  4. A wonderful list of books, Izzy! :) I couldn't agree more about Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. I'd love to know more about The Private Patient. I'll have to look that one up.

  5. Great list! I miss the book club I was part of in Nashville. I read many of these titles with them - was surprised at how much I enjoyed Cutting for Stone. It was really interesting. I liked both of Kate Morton's books too. A few that we read that I also liked were The Help by Kathryn Stockett, State of Wonder by Ann Patchett, Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay, and the Peach Keeper and the Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen. All good reads! :)

  6. Why on earth do we live on opposite sides of the country?! I want to live next door to you and be your best friend. I feel like we have SO much in common. I would totally join your book club.

    I don't keep track of the books I read (though I do maintain an ongoing list of books I WANT to read). I'm thinking I should start, and adding a rating system seems like a good idea too. I can never think of what books to recommend when someone asks, even though I've read a ton of good books in the past year.

  7. Oh great post. I want to read more but hard juggling it in. I will be referring to this!!

  8. I haven't read a good book in quite a while....I'm going to refer back to your list to help me pick my next one!

  9. I want to start reading again! I, like you, loved it as a child and teen. I haven't been able to read much lately, but hope to start back up in January!

  10. I read every night before bed but I like Fantasy Novels (the more sequels the better!). I just started the Wheel of Time series and am all caught up on the Game of Thrones series (been waiting years for the last ones to come out!) and I love the Indigo series by Louise Cooper and the Sword of Truth series from Terry Goodkind amongst a ton of others. Love my Nook so I don't have to go without a book :)

  11. I have read Room, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Forgotten Garden. I loved all of them! I will definitely check out the rest of your choices. I never know what I should read next! :)

  12. Always looking for good book recommendations!
    I have to agree that The Weird Sisters was not a favorite of mine.
    I stopped half way through!

  13. LOL Izzy....great list of books here....I loved the Girl with the Dragon Tatoo...have you read the 2 following books in the series? Will certainly use your list when I get a moment to start reading again....must put a new one of my bedside table, for just in case! ;-)

  14. I'm so glad you posted about books because I am always stuck when I finish a book, and I'm all, "now what?" LOL. Now I have several recommendations to read after I finish Life of Pi. :)


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