Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Few Good Books I Read in 2012

Below, in no particular order, is a list of a few good books I read in 2012. Some were published last year, others are much older. I'm not mentioning any books written by blogger friends in this list. 

Nightwoods, by the author of Cold Mountain, is written by a true storyteller. Mr. Frazier can paint a landscape with his words in a way few writers can. The heroine of the book had been satisfied with her life as a loner, living in an out of reach place, when her sister is murdered and she becomes responsible for her sister's very young and deeply disturbed twins. This book is about her growth as a human being as she tries to reach the disturbed children with the help of a man she meets. 

In this, the last book in Peter Hessler's trilogy about an American writer living in China, he is, as the title suggests, traveling by car in China. This in itself is an adventure and his description of the government exam questions for a Chinese driver's license is hilarious. In the first part of the book, Peter Hessler follows the Great Wall of China to Mongolia. In the second part, he describes life in a Chinese village, where he rents a house and meets up with the most adorable young boy. In the final part, he describes one of the modern, industrial cities and the lives of its factory workers. All three of Peter Hessler's books about China are priceless as far as I'm concerned. A strong recommend.

I loved this book about two families torn apart over their children's suicide pact. Or was it? A huge recommend from me.

The story of a 5-year old boy, Jack, kept in a room with his mother who was abducted by a twisted man and held in this room for years. The story of how Jack's mother makes his life interesting within the confines of one room is remarkable. By the author of Slammerkin, another good novel.

After a woman suffers a terrible tragedy, she leaves for Canada to begin a totally new life. The thought of going somewhere else, somewhere you've never been before, to find yourself again is very appealing to me. Perhaps I have done that myself. Douglas Kennedy writes page-turning novels about women. Some like his books, others don't. This one I really liked.

A book about a woman dealing with a debilitating illness, who gets a wild snail from a friend. And how the snail helps her through her illness. I know, it doesn't sound like a whole lot to write a book about, but it is absolutely fascinating. 

Here's another man who writes from a woman's point of view and does it really well. This book is about a widow, older, but I don't remember how old, who lives in Pittsburgh, alone with her dog. The book is just about her everyday life, but it's so well written, you feel like you know her well and wish you could just drop by for a cup of coffee. I don't know how a younger person would feel, but if you are over 60 and a woman, I think you will enjoy this book.

A book about twin brothers, born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a British surgeon at a mission hospital in Addis Ababa. Their mother dies in childbirth and their father disappears early on. The story of the twins childhood and teenage years takes place while Ethiopia is on the brink of revolution. They share an interest in medicine and fall in love with the same woman, which tears them apart. One twin leaves for New York and there the story comes to a head. This is one of those books about life and death, love and betrayal, that I don't really know how to describe. One thing I can say for sure, you will not forget this book, should you decide to read it.

Anyone who has seen Slumdog Millionare, will not easily forget the look of a Mumbai slum. And neither could I as I read this well-written and researched non-fiction book about life in Annawadi, a settlement in the shadow of the luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport. As the inhabitants dream of reaching a middle-class life, one enterprising teenager finds a way to make money sorting and selling recyclable garbage, another becomes a scrap-metal thief, while a woman uses the route of political corruption as a way out of poverty. This is a stunning and insightful book about the kind of life few of us could even begin to imagine.

The daughter of renowned literary critic Anatole Broyard finds out a few months before her father's death that he is black. Born in New Orleans in 1920, her father moved to Brooklyn with his parents, who had to resort to "passing" to obtain decent work. Anatole Broyard continued this throughout his life, as he raised his family in wealthy Fairfied County, Connecticut. In this book, his daughter examines her father's choices, researches the history of Creoles of color, and of her own family, and considers the impact her father's choice has had on her own life. A lot of research went into this well-written and very interesting book about race in America and how we are all affected by it.

I hadn't read this Pulitzer Prize winner when it first came out, but I'm so glad I did this past year. Definitely one of the best books I read in 2012, The Road describes a devastated America after a disaster that left few survivors and a burned land. A father and his son walk alone through this landscape, hoping to reach the coast. The book is about what happens to them on their journey, but, most of all, it is about the love shared between a father and a son. A sad, sad book, yet so very good. A book I will never forget and that I strongly recommend.

Saving the best for last, this is a book I wish everyone would read. The author hires an Australian guide, an Indiana Jones character, and sets out to follow the trail of Hiram Bingham, III, the American credited with discovering Machu Picchu and many other incredible sites, built by the Incas. It's a very well-written book: A history lesson of Inca rulers, princesses, and common folk; of Spanish conquistadors and the harm they caused; and of the United States at the beginning of the 20th century. It's also an important story of archaeology, of ruins found, of mysteries discovered, of the brilliance of the Inca architects and builders, and of course of Machu Picchu itself. But most of all, this is a story of a grand adventure, a story of mountains, of mists, of rivers, and of the people of Peru who live in the Andes of today. I think it's a fabulous book and my favorite of 2012.


  1. I have already read (& ENJOYED) most of these books, thanks to your suggestions. My kids gave me an Amazon gift card for Christmas, so I'm going to check out the rest!!

  2. I am ashamed of myself - I have not read a one. I am proud of you.

  3. Oh, dear - haven't read any of these, though I did read a lot last year, stacks actually.

    There is nothing like a good book to 'take you places'!

  4. Your comment on my blog had me intrigued with Nightwoods, already. That is on my list to read and now, Turn Right at Machu Picchu has me fascinated as well.

  5. Hi there, the January edition of Books You Loved is open for entries. Here is the link Books You Loved January Edition Please do pop by and link in a post about a book/s you loved. Maybe this post? Cheers and Happy New Year!

  6. I have read just two of these The Road and Cutting for Stone and loved them both. I just finished Peace Like a River by Leif Enger I highly recommend this if you have not read it.

  7. I've read The Road, and found it very stark, but it's the first of Cormack's books that I've read. It sure paints a dismal scene.

    Good for you, reading so much! I've just finished Tender is the Night and will be reviewing it soon.

  8. What a terrific bunch of books! I LOVE anything written by Picoult. Gee, I was gonna say that maybe next year, you'd be showing MY book, but you said you aren't showing any blogger buddy books. (sniff) Oh well. I'd rather stay your blogger buddy than have you add my book to your list.

  9. It's always just amazing to me how many wonderful books there are to read. I read plenty...and haven't read these. Thanks for the great synopses. I just added them to the book list I always keep handy! :-)

  10. Du är duktig på att läsa böcker. Läser du inte svenska böcker. Vi har ju bra författare :-)

  11. Im bookmarking this post - you are a prolific reader and a good one to chose books - im going to have to get reading now ;) !

  12. have you read any books on your kindle or nook yet?

  13. I have read a few of those books (The Room and The Road) both of which I thoroughly enjoyed! Thanks for the suggestions of the other books. Have you ever joined Goodreads?

  14. I do almost all my reading on Kindle and financially choose the free indie authors. However you have peaked my interest on a few of those and will see what my library has to offer. Hopefully Country Driving and Room will be on the shelves Thanks so much. Always looking for a good read.

  15. Quite a few of your picks I haven't read yet.
    Thanks for the suggestions!

  16. These sound good. I love "Thirteen Moons" by Charles Frazier.


  17. Thanks so much for these recommendations! I wish I had time to read often, but I only get 1 to 2 books read each year. I will definitely put these on my list for the days when the girls are grown and Becca and I have time to enjoy good stories! ~Jeff

  18. Hi Inger ... what a wonderful list of reads - I've never heard of any of them ... so I will definitely keep the blog-post handy as a reference tool and hope to get to read them all at some stage ..

    Thanks so much for listing them out for us (and you!) ... delighted to have your recommendations ..

    Cheers Hilary

  19. Great collection and thoughts, Inger. I'm reading more this year, so I'll have to check some of them out. Thank you. :)

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Thanks for leaving a comment.. ~~ Inger


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