Instead of calling my 2012 reading roundup a “best of” list or a “top 10” I decided to focus on what this list REALLY is—the names of the books I frequently recommended whenever a friend texted: “I need a good book.”

The books below are the ones I wanted to read instead of picking up my laptop and iPhone, and that’s saying a lot as Twitter is sometimes the most interesting read for me. (Don’t judge. I read almost 50 books this year and around the same amount in 2011.)

Also, a major caveat: I’m choosing from the books I read in 2012, which were not necessarily released in 2012.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

My favorite reads have  a grab-you-by-the first-paragraph first-person voice. The Fault in Our Stars has that voice with Hazel, the narrator. I loved Augustus, too, though I have to warn you that this book is a tear-jerker. One of my favorites of the year. I won’t say more for fear of giving too much away. It won a bazillion awards, not that awards mean that much to me. But in this case all the award people got it right.


The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

For some strange reason that I probably should have figured out in Psych 101, I’m slow to read the “big” books, the ones everyone is talking about. Maybe it’s because I’m often disappointed–especially with the literary picks. I wasn’t crazy about The Memory Keeper’s Daughter a few years back, for example, or more recently, Freedom. I can think of more examples, but I like to keep things positive around here.

Back to The Language of Flowers. I decided to give this novel a chance despite what I already explained above, and despite the fact that I like neither flowery language nor long descriptions of nature, flowers included. This book does not suffer  from any of the overly poetic traps the title might otherwise suggest. I LOVED the highly original story and stayed up until about 3:00AM two nights in a row to finish.

Bossypants by Tiny Fey

This memoir is not only funny, it’s full of wisdom for women. It IS, however, really really really funny. Good, smart humor. I recommended Bossypants all year.


The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

I’m at least a decade behind on getting to this book. I loved everything about it, and it’s completely deserving of all the hype. A quick, heartfelt, and wonderful read. The movie was excellent, too.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Yes, I complained to everyone I know about the ending, but I have to tell you—a book that has me talking about it for a good chunk of the year deserves a place on this list. It was clever, suspenseful, and full of interesting social commentary. (I loved Amy’s “cool girl” discussion, for example.)


The Age of Miracles by Karen Walker Thompson

This one reads a bit slower than some of the others on my list, but I find myself thinking about it several times a week. It’s haunting me, I guess. That’s saying a lot considering the number of books I read this year.

The Innocents by Francesca Segal

Fans of The Age of Innocence will absolutely devour Segal’s modern take on Wharton’s classic story, which follows Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocense faithfully (like 80% faithfully). In the place of late 19th New York high society, you get current high society in London. And you get Jews.

Son by Lois Lowry

If you’ve read The Giver then you must read Son, which is essentially the direct sequel even though it’s the fourth book in her “quartet” which also includes Gathering Blue (loved) and Messenger (have not read yet). Lowry’s characters stay with you and the situations and worlds she invents for them absolutely haunt me.


The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

What can I say? I’m a total sucker for self-improvement projects. This one is full of good research, which Rubin weaves into her personal experiments in interesting ways. I adore Rubin’s writing voice and I’m insanely jealous of her blog and her books. She’s a clear thinker and a clear writer. Her book inspired this blog post from me about how giving up on music led to some added happiness for me. This is a good book for the beginning of 2013 and resolution time.

I’m trying to decide if the “read 50 books in a year” model is something I want to do for the third year in a row. I think I probably will as it keeps me on a good reading pace. I certainly can’t handle more than 50!

My 47 pithy book reviews from 2012 are here.

I wrote 32 pithy movie reviews here.

What books have you recommended over and over this year?

And, did you try to read a certain number of books this year? Did it work?




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Nina Badzin is a freelance writer, an advice columnist at The HerStories Project, and a co-founder of The Twin Cities Writing Studio. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and four children.