In an entry a couple of days prior to this, I summed up all fifty-five books I have read for 2012, and I stated quite pessimistically that this year has been quite ho-hum, if not mediocre. It’s an OKAY year at the very least, taking into account that I’ve read mostly old stuff from overrated authors this year, but I also encountered some terrific finds and a handful of delightful surprises along the way, as well as several good stuff from authors whose works I have loved in the past, so all is well. I would even dare say that some of the books I’ve read this year will join the list of all-time favorites, so it’s still a pretty fantastic year. After all, every year spent in earnest reading would always be fabulous and fulfilling.
So as earlier promised, here’s the monster year-ender post dedicated for my best twelve books for 2012. (Disclaimer: They’re in no particular order, by the way. Ranking them by merit versus how good they are versus how much I’ve enjoyed them will take me ages to complete this post, so I just listed them by genre, okay?)
If you’ll ever ask me what my year’s highlight was when it comes to reading, I’d tell you that my renewed love for short stories is a runaway winner. I don’t know if this is because 2012 has been such a stressful year at work and that I’ve been plenty busy for most months that I barely had time to read, but there’s just something about short story collections that charmed me all year-round. I’ve had my first taste of Alice Munro’s collection, Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage earlier this year and boy, what an introduction! Same is true for Alan Bennett’s Lady in the Van + The Clothes They Stood Up In compilation which is just as quirky and powerful. However, what really took the cake were short story collections by various writers. OMG, there are no words to describe how much I’ve come to love these sweet snippets of life from authors all across the world. And for that, these two books are hands-down winners.
I don’t care whether you’ll judge me about this or whatever, but I’m a certified YA girl through and through. It is my genre, friends, and there’s nothin’ ya can do about it. I guess it’s pretty obvious by now that I’m always a sucker for bittersweet coming-of-age novels and the best YA books I’ve ever read are the ones that hits closest to home. So I hope you’ll understand when I say that choosing my YA favorites of the year is a life-and-death matter for me. We tend to be picky about the things we love, don’t we? I’m super hyped that 2012 gave me the chance to read two masterpieces from two brilliant YA authors—one I’ve always loved and idolized ever since high school, and one I just read for the first time and will now have a major crush on for all the remaining days of my life. Daniel Handler is one of my Literary Rockstars, okay, and his book ‘Why we broke up’ only elevated him as one of my favorite authors of all-time. That book just about killed me with literary envy. Why can’t I write like him? Why?!! And John Green’s ‘The Fault in our Stars’! It’s love at first sight of the title, yo. I’ve eyed that book for weeks and saved up for it like mad and then leafed through it like crazy. Towards the end, I’ve been laughing and crying from one page to another, sanity bordering on zero. Let me just say that I never knew it’s possible to fall so deeply in love with a literary character until I’ve read of Augustus Waters. Dear Lord, why does he have to be fictional?
Another genre to beat in my heart of hearts. The memory of having read Christopher Castellani’s ‘A Kiss from Maddalena’ as my last book for 2011 is still vivid to me till now, and I guess that’s why my standards for historical fiction went above the roof. Hence, I had a harder time during the first few months in finding the next historical fiction that will satiate my yearnings for some good ole’ fashioned literature. 2012 did not disappoint—I’m so blessed to have read so many good historical fiction this year! Among noteworthy runner-ups are Benita Brown’s ‘The Captain’s Daughters’ set in 1880 Northumberland, Ann Turnbull’s religious romance set in the year 1660 about Quakers Persecution, entitled ‘No Shame, No Fear’, and a post-world war novel about three friends in Southern Carolina by Nicole Seitz, ‘The Inheritance of Beauty’. Gah, such a fantastic year for historical fiction! But then in the long run, these three titles stood out among the rest with their stunning imagery and heartbreaking realism. You may recall Emma Donoghue’s ‘Slammerkin’ book design cover in one of my Style Saturdays post, but let me tell you that it’s so much more than meets the eye—this book had me reeling in shock and broke my heart at the end. Lisa See’s ‘Snow Flower and the Secret Fan’ is something I’ve always wanted to read for a long time, and it sure lived up to its promise. It’s atmospheric and very detailed about women’s upbringing in ancient Chinese society, and the friendship between the two girl characters throughout their lives is something that will stay with me forever. The Calligrapher’s Daughter is the last book I’ve read for this year but it is by no account the least. Running along the similar vein of Lisa See’s book, author Eugenia Kim triumphantly captures a portrait of nineteenth century Korea during the Japanese occupation. Just as vivid, Just as memorable and so much more—it gave me a whole new perspective on the culture of family ties and societal ties in Korea like never before.
It’s also a good year for Classics, and I’m saying this because I rarely read ‘em in the last couple of years. I don’t know—I seem to have been on a hiatus with classics ever since I graduated college, for some reason. I bought an armful of Classics novels this year as part of a resolution to reunite with the genre, but life got in the way, and I only was able to finish a few. My absolute favorite is Jane Austen’s ‘Emma’, whose main protagonist became somewhat of a mirror of my own self. It’s disconcerting to see your traits and qualities on a character written centuries before you were ever born, but I guess that’s why classics are eternal—they just live on for as long as there are readers.
I’m grateful to know that reading is still all the rage in my motherland, and I’ve personally committed myself to supporting Filipino literature and Local authors this year. I couldn’t be prouder to see before my very eyes that a lot of Filipinos are still in love with reading and would still go beyond their means to buy books. I always considered myself a Bob Ong fan, and I personally believed he got his groove back with his latest bestseller, ‘Lumayo ka nga sa Akin’, but this year belonged to Ricky Lee’s ‘Si Amapola sa 65 na Kabanata’, which not only proved to be witty, fresh and relevant—it is, more than anything, masterly written and superbly conceptualized.
I’m embarrassed to say that I haven’t read much poetry books this year, but the few I picked up have proven to be gems. Stephanie Hemphill’s ‘Your Own, Sylvia’ in particular, which presents itself as a verse portrait of the life of Sylvia Plath, sets itself apart as a unique form of poetry collection in guise of biographical storytelling. The idea is brilliant and is executed rightly so. I’m making a mental note and a promise to read more poetry next year!
The strongest books this year are the ones that earned high acclaim from readers and critics alike, and I could only nod my head in affirmation. These two special books are powerful because they are in every sense, empowering. Marilynne Robinson’s ‘Gilead’, won the Pulitzer Prize and it’s easy to understand why: the novel is luminescent and stunning in its sheer simplicity and quietness. It’s about fathers and faith and forgiveness—triple combination of themes that just about rendered me awestruck and speechless from the beginning till the end. I stayed up reading this novel and cried in that silent, broken way that comes along after the realization that I will never see the world the same way ever again. Lisa Glatt’s ‘A Girl Becomes a Comma Like That’ enchanted me with the beauty and poetry of its language—the way Glatt weaves the story with her words makes me aspire to be someone like her—sure, surreal, sensitive, sullen. It’s perfection, and will definitely find its way straight through my list of all-time faves.
Wow, so there’s my 2012 in a nutshell for you. What an incredible year nonetheless. If you’ve read some of them, do you somehow agree with me or did I get it all wrong? Let me know! I’m also excited to see your lists about this year’s greatest reads.