Best of the Year – My Favorite Books of 2012

Merry Christmas everyone and Happy Holidays. Here in Austria, we give our gifts on December 24th, so I only have to wait until the evening to unwrap things! Which also gives me some time to kill until then.

I love browsing through other bloggers’ top reads of the year. When you have to choose only the very, very best books of your reading year, there are bound to be some great recommendations. Plus, it’s impossible to read all new publications, even if you only pick one genre, and these lists help me move the books I’ve missed to the top of my next year’s to-read-pile. Win win, right?

Good bloggeress that I am trying to be, I won’t keep my own personal favorites of the year from you. Here it is, my list of favorite books read in 2012 (not necessarily published in 2012), as well as others worth mentioning.

TOP TEN READS OF 2012

Honorable mentions:

And if you want it more specific than that…

Catherynne M. Valente – The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
Catherynne M. Valente – The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There

 It was the title that got me interested in the first book but it was Cat Valente’s immesurable imagination and her way with language that made me a fan. I cannot stress enough how much magic lies within these pages. These two books are easily my favorites of 2012 and Cat Valente is the discovery of a decade. She swept me off my feet with her poetic prose, her folklore woven into a modern fairy story, and I can’t wait to follow our not-quite-heartless heroine September into more adventures in fairyland.

valente fairyland 1

fairyland 1

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Genevieve Valentine – Mechanique

mechaniqueThe only reason this isn’t at the top of the list is because Catherynne Valente had two books to enchant me with and Miss Valentine only the one (and a handful of equally amazing short stories). But Mechanique was my first crush of the year. Nobody uses parentheses as effectively as Genevieve Valentine and nobody made me feel so many emotions at the same time as making me jealous that I can’t write like that.  Here are two of those writers that make me angry at my own lack of talent. Valente and Valentine (must have been my subconscious nudging me in the direction of writers whose names start with a “v”) may not make the world a better place with their writing. But they sure as hell managed to make mine a little brighter.

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Guy Gavriel Kay – Tigana

tigana

For a book that I considered lemming after only one chapter, this one gained my favor pretty easily in every succeeding chapter. The way this story unfolds, slowly and with a couple of wonderful twists along the way, drew me in completely. What started out a convoluted mess of names that didn’t mean anything to me became an epic story of memory and patriotism, of sacrifice and love.

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China Miéville – Perdido Street Station

China Miéville - Perdido Street Station

It took me ages to finally read one of China Miéville’s books. What urged me to suddenly do so in 2012 was a series of podcast interviews with China that I listened to. After which I watched every video with China Miéville in it I could find on youtube. After which I was so impressed with him as a person that I couldn’t wait any longer. I picked up this book – a huge knock-out-burglars-with-this-brick  kind of book – and I lost myself in the filthy, teeming city of New Crobuzon. The city, the monsters, the species all come to life in my head. The story got me really involved and offered many thrilling, hold-your-breath moments. And the best thing? I think I haven’t looked up so many words since I was 14 years old. Thank you China Miéville for teaching me stuff while taking me on a wild ride through an original universe. I definitely need more of this! (Note: I’m not even done with it yet, but even if the ending is terrible – which i doubt – it’ll be on this list. That’s how good it is.)

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N.K. Jemisin – The Broken Kingdoms

broken kingdoms

I wasn’t as overwhelmed with the first book in Jemisin’s The Inheritance Trilogy but the second one hit me right where it hurts. As I followed Oree through her daily life, involving gods that walk among humans – and one particular specimen that she should have called Grumpy instead of Shiny – I found myself loving the universe the author has created. All the troubles I had with the first book were gone. Jemisin managed to give depth to her characters and make them realistic and relatable – even the gods, in a way. That ending is still tugging at my heartstrings. This was certainly one of the most beautiful love stories I have read in a while.

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Nnedi Okorafor – Who Fears Death

Who Fears Death

Because I haven’t read much (if any) fantasy set in Africa or dealing with race and gender issues, this little gem caught me unawares. Onyesonwu was a heroine I could completely relate to (despite our many, many differences) and while I didn’t give this book as high a rating as some of the others featured on this list, it has remained in my mind for the entire year. And I can still remember the protagonist’s name – that says something, right? Akata Witch by the same author is already sitting on my TBR pile, eagerly awaiting to be devoured.

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Ysabeau S. Wilce – Flora Segunda
Ysabeau S. Wilce – Flora’s Dare
Ysabeau S. Wilce – Flora’s Fury

The Flora books had me at the first sentence. Crackpot Hall has eleven thousand rooms but only one potty. The voice of Flora narrating her story is full of charm and the world of Califa so original that even though they weren’t perfect, these books hold a tender spot in my heart. These characters have grown on me so quickly that I read all three books in a row – and then I still didn’t have enogh. With Flora’s Dare being the best of the bunch, I think there is still a lot more for Flora to discover and I hope the author gets a chance to share new adventures with us, her readers.

flora segunda

Ysabeau S. Wilce - Flora's Dare

floras fury

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Terry Pratchett – The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Friends

amazihng maurice alternate

It has taken me a long time to properly warm to Terry Pratchett. Despite the constant praise and rave reviews he gets from everyone, I didn’t really like the first few Discworld novels I read. The Guards made me believe that I wasn’t a totally lost cause and when I picked up this little novel, I had to ask myself what my problem had been all these years. Pratchett is wonderful! Maurice gets the prize for best cat character of the year and an extra ribbon to play with for making me understand just why Terry Pratchett is so cool.

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Scott Lynch – Red Seas Under Red Skies

Red-Seas-Under-Red-Skies

It’s the Gentlemen Bastards, what do you want me to say? The Lies of Locke Lamora was my last great fantasy book crush (after A Song of Ice and Fire many years before) and the only worry I had about its sequel was that it wouldn’t be quite as awesome. However, Scott Lynch outdid himself, giving us more of what we loved in the first book, but offering enough new ideas, characters and truly amazing plot twists to keep us interested. What am I saying? To keep us biting our nails waiting for The Republic of Thieves. Fingers crossed for 2013 (if I say it often enough, maybe it will come true).

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Hugh Howey – Wool (Omnibus)

wool

I have the same prejudices most of us (secretly) have. That self-published books are rarely any good. I’m always happy to be proven wrong, though, and with this 5-volume omnibus, there was not a single boring moment. Hugh Howey knows how to write and I’m extremely happy that he was picked up by publishing houses (the German translation of the Wool stories will be coming out in the next few months). Wool tells the story of an undgerground silo into which what remains of humanity has fled after some big, unnamed catastrophe. There are secrets upon secrets in the levels of that silo and when our characters slowly unravel the truth, we cannot help but gasp at the ideas Howey came up with. I tried to predict the outcome of a lot of things in these books. None of them came true.

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Whew! Now that’s done, tell me your favorite books of the year! Send me a link to your own blog post or youtube video or tell me in the comments below. It’s not that I have too few books to read but these best of the year lists always help me a lot in picking my next book. Code Name Verity is right up there because everyboy loves it and it has totally slipped through my fingers in 2012. Who knows, maybe I’ll even cram it into this next week…

7 thoughts on “Best of the Year – My Favorite Books of 2012

  1. kamo says:

    Told you you’d like Perdido Street Station. It’s not half bad, is it?

    Of the others there, I’ve only read Who Fears Death, and I wasn’t quite as taken as you seem to have been. Admirable, certainly, but Onyesonwu’s voice just came across as too flat for me to like it. I can see why others would, though.

    It’s looking more and more like I might have to give this Lynch fellow a try as well.

    Have a Happy Christmas and keep up the good work in 2013!

    Like

    • Nadine says:

      Thank you. And a Merry Christmas to you.

      Yeah, that Scott Lynch fellow is definitely worth it. I almost didn’t include him in the list because he is so obviously good that I doubt many people will consider this a groundbreaking recommendation. But you gotta give it to him, the guy can write.

      I honestly don’t know why Who Fears Death touched me so much. It wasn’t a perfect book, by all means, but something in it just spoke to me.

      Like

        • Nadine says:

          Yes, it’s the second part. “The Lies of Locke Lamora” is part one.

          Thank’s for the round-up post. I love those. And “Pure” sounds very interesting. I think I came across the cover somewhere and it immediately struck me. Oh boy, I can see my wishlist growing again…

          Like

  2. Redhead says:

    So many books on your list that I want to read! Red Seas Under Red Skies, anything by China Mieville, and anything by Cat Valente is sure to be on my list of favorites (and two Valente’s did make it on my best of the year list!). I’ve heard brilliant things about Genevieve Valentine, and I think I’ve read one or two of her short stories? and of course I’ve got to get with the program and read Nnedi Okorafor and the Hugh Howey stuff.

    my best of the year:
    http://littleredreviewer.wordpress.com/2012/12/12/the-best-books-i-read-this-year/

    Like

    • Nadine says:

      “Faith” was one of those books that I bought but never managed to read. I’ll try and read it right at the beginning of 2013.
      Valente is just wonderful, isn’t she? I’ll read some Tim Powers next year (he made it into a challenge I’m participating in).

      I had a bunch of really bad books this year but these here reminded me why I love to read. They take you away from the real world for a few hours and show you where the magic is.

      Like

      • Redhead says:

        I can’t wait to hear what you think of Love’s Faith, and I know you’ll enjoy Tim Powers, he’s amazing!

        2011 was a year of amazing books for me, but 2012 was more a year of “meh” books. Guess I better be pickier about what I read next year! I couldn’t agree more, the great books are magical, they remind me why I love reading, why I fell in love with opening a book!

        Like

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