Still More Best Books of 2012 Lists

The 10 Best Books of 2012

The venerable New York Times has declared its choices for the year’s 10 (5 fiction, 5 nonfiction) books.

New York Times Best Of 2012: Alternative Reads

But the folks at Huffington Post take issue with the New York Times‘s choices, calling its list “pretty dull” and also, apparently, pretty homogenized:

Three women out of ten. One person of color. Books about the achievements of Great White Men (preferably Kings, presidents or Kennedys.) A book about classical philosophy.

So Huff Post offers its own list of 10.

10 best books of 2012

Newsday has its 10-best list, too.

Christmas gifts 2012: the best crime and thriller books

As selected by Laura Wilson of The [U. K.] Guardian.

Our 50 favorite books of 2012

“So here are 25 fiction and 25 nonfiction titles that reviewers recommend.”

From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Best Books Of 2012: The Complete List

I may have linked to individual lists from NPR before, but this is the master list, the mother lode.

Goodreads Choice Awards

Readers have spoken! See what they’ve picked as the year’s best books in several categories.

Best books: a list of what’s listed

Finally (at least for now), Mary Ann Gwinn, book editor for The Seattle Times, has scoured the major lists of 2012’s best books to find the true winners: the titles that appear on 2-4 major lists.

More Best Books of 2012 Lists

Here’s quite a variety of new lists of the best books of 2012.

The Whatever Holiday Shopping Guide Returns Next Monday

Author John Scalzi will offer a shopping guide to which you can contribute:

So: Starting Monday, December 3rd, the Whatever Holiday Shopping Guide Returns! If you’re a writer or other creator, this will be an excellent time to promote your work on a site which gets up to 50,000 visitors daily, almost all of whom will be interested in stuff for the holidays. If you’re someone looking to give gifts, you’ll see lots of excellent ideas. And you’ll also have a day to suggest stuff to other folks too. Everybody wins!

Check out this post for his schedule.

Christmas gifts 2012: the best science fiction

And speaking of John Scalzi, here’s the illustration from The [U. K.] Guardian‘s science fiction recommendations:

USS Enterprise
Boldly going: John Scalzi’s novel Redshirts stirs up memories of the original Star Trek. Photograph: Ronald Grant Archive

Christmas gifts 2012: the best sport books

And speaking of The Guardian, here’s its list of best sports books. This page also includes links to the newspaper’s recommendations in other categories.

BookPage Best Books of 2012

BookPage offers a top-50 list: “Though reading choices—and rankings!—are intensely personal, we think our top 50 has something for every reader.”

2012 Books: Slate Staff Picks

The editors, designers, and columnists of online magazine Slate offer choices that include both fiction and nonfiction.

Notable Children’s Books of 2012

The New York Times has suggestions for various ages.

The 100 best books of 2012

An extensive list from the Listener of New Zealand.

Whatcom County librarians select best 2012 books for young readers

From Washington State, USA: “several local librarians who specialize in children’s literature were asked to name their favorite books from 2012 for children at a variety of reading levels.”

Books About Older Women

Over on my other blog I wrote recently about the fate of women who are lucky enough to reach older adulthood. Here, in no particular order, are some books that portray older women.


All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville-West
The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence
The Book of Eve by Constance Beresford-Howe
As We Are Now by May Sarton
Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor
“Irina” by Mavis Gallant
Travels with My Aunt by Graham Greene
No! I Don’t Want to Join a Book Club by Virginia Ironside
Half Broken Things by Morag Joss
The Bulgari Connection by Fay Weldon
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
How It All Began by Penelope Lively
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell
Glass by Sam Savage
Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Connell


Going Grey by Anne Kreamer
Balsamroot: A Memoir by Mary Clearman Blew
A Round-Heeled Woman by Jane Juska
I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron
I Love a Broad Margin to My Life by Maxine Hong Kingston


If you have additions to this list, please put them in the comments.

Best Books of 2012: More Lists

Here are a few more entries for this year’s list of lists:

The 10 best books of 2012

From The Washington Post. Presents five selections each in fiction and nonfiction.

There are also links to other lists: best graphic novels of 2012, 50 notable works of fiction, 50 notable works of nonfiction, best audiobooks of 2012.

Books of the year 2012: authors choose their favourites

From The [U. K.] Guardian, recommendations from some well-known authors.

The Globe’s top 29 picks for international fiction of 2012

An extensive list from Canada’s The Globe and Mail. Also includes links for Canadian fiction, and graphic novels and poetry.

Best Books 2012

A list from the Irish Examiner that includes the following categories:

  • biography
  • essays
  • fiction
  • history
  • memoir
  • music
  • science
  • short stories
  • sport

Monday Miscellany

Today’s links.

The Most Dysfunctional Families in Literature

 Cover: The MiddlesteinsNeuroses run rampant across three generations of the Middlestein family in Jami Attenberg’s sublime new novel, The Middlesteins.

See why Attenberg includes the families from the following books on her list:

  • The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
  • We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
  • A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
  • Townie by Andre Dubus, III
  • Arcadia by Lauren Groff’
  • The Godfather by Mario Puzo
  • Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
  • Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

The Medical Problems of 4 Great Writers

Cover: Shakespeare's Tremor and Orwell's CoughJohn J. Ross’s Shakespeare’s Tremor and Orwell’s Cough: The Medical Lives of Great Writers is everything you need to know about the afflictions of history’s greatest writers. Ross (a doctor and writer) outlines a few of the maladies of the authors we love.



  • The Brontës
  • William Butler Yeats
  • James Joyce
  • George Orwell

How to believe in yourself—even if you sometimes don’t

Cover: MiddlesexJeffrey Eugenides’s 2007 novel Middlesex won the Pulitizer Prize and was a favorite read at my book group. But Eugenides says that the writing of the novel did not always go smoothly. In 1999 he moved to Berlin with his wife and daughter, and his unfinished manuscript. The change of scenery helped for a while, but then the anxiety symptoms—chest constriction, irritability, paranoia—returned.

And then one night he had a dream:

All that happened in the dream was that an owl, descended out of nowhere, seized me in its talons and blew into my mouth a single breath tasting of blood. That’s it. The dream lasted no more than four or five seconds. But it was one of those dreams that seems somehow more real than a typical dream, as if it were playing out at a level just below my conscious mind, or as if it originated not from my mind at all but from a source outside of me.

The owl, by the way, was gigantic. And not particularly realistic. In fact, the bird was stylized in the manner of a Klimt, with lozenges of color running up and down its wings and over its breast, and a large helmeted ceremonial head. Its eyes were fierce, omnipotent, bright yellow. It fixed these eyes on mine. When the owl lowered its beak to my lips, I opened my mouth. And then the owl exhaled one long forceful breath. With a whooshing sound, my lungs inflated. This inspiration had a taste: the mineral, meaty flavor of a predatory diet.

I awoke from this dream feeling that a message had been delivered to me. The great Owl in the Sky had taken a personal interest in me and my book. The owl had come to give me the power to write it.

Ten years later, having moved back to New Jersey, Eugenides was struggling to finish the manuscript of his recent novel The Marriage Plot. And then one night, outside his window, he heard—you guessed it, an owl. The owl continued to return until Eugenides had finished the manuscript, then vanished.

What matters is that the experience—both of my dream owl and the living one outside my window—arrived at the point I needed it, and helped me persevere.

In the midst of my skeptical, cynical, often pessimistic nature exists a slender capacity to believe, if only temporarily, in a guiding, unseen power, and whenever this happens, I go with it. That’s what inspiration is. You don’t get it from the gods. You make it. The owl at my window was just a bird, after all, trying to get through the winter. The owl in my dream was my own creation. It was me, breathing into myself, in order to breathe out again in a flow of words.

Eowyn Ivey’s Top 50 Books

What is it about lists of books that are so enticing? Can you list your top 50 favorites? Hans Weyandt, of Micawber’s Books in St. Paul, MN, challenged indie booksellers from all over the country to list theirs and posted them to the store’s blog, Mr. Micawber Enters The Internets (read his inaugural list and introduction to the project here). The series has gotten a lot of attention, and Weyandt recently compiled the lists and had them published in Read This!: Handpicked Favorites from America’s Indie Bookstores, with an introduction by Ann Patchett.

Given here is the list submitted by Eowyn Ivey, owner of Fireside Books in Palmer, Alaska, and author of the novel The Snow Child.

I’ve never even tried to compile a list of my 50 all-time favorite books. The closest I’ve come is my annual list of best books read that year.

How about you? Do you have a list of all-time favorites? Let us know in the comments what’s on—or would be on—your list. If we all start now, we might finish before the new year.

Younger Americans’ Reading and Library Habits

Pew Internet and American Life Project reports some good news on the status of reading by young people between the ages of 16 and 29:

More than eight in ten Americans between the ages of 16 and 29 read a book in the past year, and six in ten used their local public library. At the youngest end of the spectrum, high schoolers in their late teens (ages 16-17) and college-aged young adults (ages 18-24) are especially likely to have read a book or used the library in the past 12 months. And although their library usage patterns may often be influenced by the requirements of school assignments, their interest in the possibilities of mobile technology may also point the way toward opportunities of further engagement with libraries later in life.


According to our December 2011 national survey, Americans under age 30 are more likely than older adults to do reading of any sort (including books, magazines, journals, newspapers, and online content) for work or school, or to satisfy their own curiosity on a topic. About eight in ten say they read for these professional or educational reasons, more than older age groups. And about three-quarters of younger Americans say they read for pleasure or to keep up with current events.

Pub Scrawl: The Eight Best (Actual) Literary Bars

Here’s a list by Scotland’s own Edd McCracken:

  • The Eagle and Child – Oxford, England
  • Vesuvio – San Francisco, USA
  • Cerveceria Alemana – Madrid, Spain
  • The Oxford Bar – Edinburgh, Scotland
  • La Closerie des Lilas – Paris, France
  • Toners – Dublin, Ireland
  • The White Horse Tavern – New York City, USA
  • Newman Arms – London, England

Be sure to check out McCracken’s notes on each, as well as the photos.

Two for Halloween

Finally, here are two entries to get you into the Halloween spirit:

Otto Penzler puts the ‘boo’! in ‘Big Book of Ghost Stories’

Seattle Times book editor Mary Ann Gwinn interviews Otto Penzler about his 833-page collection of 79 creepy, unsettling and suspenseful supernatural tales, The Big Book of Ghost Stories (Vintage, $25).

Truly SINISTER – The Ten Best True Crime Books

A list by Meredith Borders over on LitReactor.

I’ve actually read six of these, with a seventh near the top of my to-be-read-next stack of books. How many have you read?

Monday Miscellany: Lists Edition

Top 7 Literary Cities in Europe

Edinburgh, Scotland explores “the top seven European cities for literary tourists”:

  1. Edinburgh, Scotland
  2. Dublin, Ireland
  3. London, England
  4. Paris, France
  5. St. Petersburg, Russia
  6. Stockholm, Sweden
  7. Norwich, England

A List of the Greatest Lists in Literature

Speaking of lists, The Atlantic offers this one: “our favorite lists in literature, from short to impossibly long, from lists that catalogue items to those that follow the train of imagination. Check out the literary lists we think are the funniest, most revealing, most interesting, or flat-out strangest” from the following works:

  • The White Album, Joan Didion
  • I Remember, Joe Brainard
  • Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace
  • Ulysses, James Joyce
  • The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller, Italo Calvino
  • Bridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding
  • The Hundred Brothers, Donald Antrim
  • “Project for a Trip to China,” from I, etcetera, Susan Sontag
  • “Descriptions of Literature,” Gertrude Stein
  • Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, James Agee
  • Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
  • Bleak House, Charles Dickens
  • Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
  • “The Glass Mountain,” from Sixty Stories, Donald Barthelme

Listing Explanations for the List of Literary Lists

Inspired by The Atlantic‘s list, Elizabeth Freudenthal, self-described “Thinker for Hire,” asks:

Did you notice that most of the lists are from 20th century works? (Except Dickens: the exception to every rule. Amiright?)

What is it about the 20th/21st centuries that compel writers to use so many dang lists?

Read the five reasons she offers for why 20th- and 21th-century writers resort to listing in their writing.

A History of Sisters in Fiction, From ‘Little Women’ to ‘Sweet Valley High’

And here’s a final list, again courtesy of The Atlantic: “The March brood, the Wakefield sisters, and eight other examples of sometimes-sweet, sometimes-squabbling literary siblings

  • The Dashwood sisters from Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  • Beezus and Ramona from the Ramona series, Beverly Cleary
  • The Wakefield sisters from the Sweet Valley series by Francine Pascal
  • The Marsh sisters from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  • The Bennet sisters from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Cinderella and wicked stepsisters
  • Elly and Iphy Binewski from Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
  • The Chance sisters from Wise Children by Angela Carter
  • The Blackwood sisters from We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
  • The Chase sisters in The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

5 Most Popular Books on Books

5 Most Popular Books on Books

Do you have irresistible desire for books? Do you feel passionate about reading or has the book changed your life? If yes then read about some interesting plots that revolve around books or book connoisseurs resembling you. Here goes a list of top 5 well-received titles that celebrate books as the main theme, and that can best demonstrate to the readers what difference books can make in one’s life.

I’ve read the first four books on this list. How about you? And what other titles would you add to the list? Post in the comments below.

Monday Miscellany

Forgotten Chapters of Boston’s Literary History

Boston Literary HistoryPeople may know about Longfellow and Poe, but do they know about the ongoing literary feud between these two sons of New England? They will after perusing this marvelous digital exhibit from the Boston Public Library and the Massachusetts Historical Society, which explores some of the “forgotten chapters” of the Hub’s literary history. Designed to complement an in situ exhibit, this collection contains six thematic sections, along with an audio introduction and an interactive map of said literary history. The sections include “The Poet Buried on Boston Common,” “Buried Treasure and Turkeys,” and “The First Seasons of the Federal Street Theatre.” The “Poet” area is quite a find, as it profiles the work of Charles Sprague, a Boston poet of the 19th century who is little-remembered today. The “Buried Treasure” area features rediscovered literary pieces (and some that should have stayed hidden) from the literary magazines published in Boston between 1790 and 1860. One the unearthed gems is “A Winter Walk,” which was originally published under the nom de plume Anonymous, but which was later revealed to have been penned by Henry David Thoreau. Lastly, the section titled “Longfellow’s Serenity and Poe’s Prediction” takes on the literary brouhaha that existed between Longfellow and Poe in the 1830s and 1840s.

>From The Scout Report, Copyright Internet Scout Project 1994-2012.

8 Areas of Culture ‘Moby-Dick’ Influenced

George Cotkin’s book Dive Deeper: Journeys with Moby-Dick explains how Herman Melville’s hefty novel has influenced many areas of cultural life in the United States:

Cover: Dive Deeper

  • music
  • humor
  • philosophical reflection
  • artistic creation
  • literature
  • film
  • terror
  • academic studies
  • metaphor

Great Story Objects: J.K. Rowling’s hand-written plot spreadsheet for “The Order Of The Phoenix”

If you’ve ever wondered how authors keep track of all the details in a huge book, you’ll want to take a look at this photo.

Dark memories of harbour inspired an award-winner

A NOVEL that eulogises Sydney harbour has won the Kibble Award for life writing by women authors. Gail Jones was inspired to write Five Bells when she was travelling home by ferry one night after moving to Sydney from Perth four years ago.

The dark water reminded her of Kenneth Slessor’s poem Five Bells, which mourns his friend Joe Lynch, who drowned in the harbour after jumping off a ferry. She abandoned a part-written novel set in Melbourne for her story about four troubled adults and a lost child who converge on Circular Quay one Saturday.

In addition, the Dobbie Award for a first book went to Favel Parrett for Past the Shallows, her poetic story of the tensions between a father and his sons.

The Kibble and Dobbie Awards were established in 1994 by Nita Dobbie in memory of her aunt, Nita Bernice Kibble, a librarian from New South Wales, Australia: “The Kibble Literary Award recognises the work of an established Australian female writer while the Dobbie Literary Award recognises a first published work from an Australian female writer.”

10 of the Most Beloved Dogs in Literature

 As July threatens to turn into August, and our hair seems irrevocably plastered to our foreheads, we’re feel like we’re squarely in that special time of year that our mothers used to call the “dog days of summer.” And dogged they are, but in truth, the phrase comes from the ancient Greek and Roman belief that Sirius, also known as the Dog Star for its prominence in Canis Major, controlled the hot weather. The Romans would sacrifice a brown dog at the beginning of summer to appease the sultry rage of Sirius, but our offering is a little more whimsical (and less bloody) — a list of a few of the most beloved pups in literature. Because after all, if sacrifices to stars don’t work, who better to help you actually enjoy the sweltering summer than man’s best friend?

Here’s the list from Flavorwire:

  • Argos, The Odyssey
  • Snowy, The Adventures of Tintin
  • Toto, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
  • Buck, The Call of the Wild
  • Tock, The Phantom Tollbooth
  • Lassie, Lassie Come-Home
  • Old Yeller, Old Yetter
  • Ghost, A Song of Fire and Ice
  • Fang, Harry Potter
  • Jip, David Copperfield
Old Yeller
Old Yeller

Books That “Play Ball!”

Tonight is Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game here in the U. S. Why not celebrate by reading a book about the national pastime? Here are some suggestions, both fiction and nonfiction.


FictionCover: The Art of Fielding

  • Bang the Drum Slowly by Mark Harris
  • The Natural by Bernard Malamud
  • The Brothers K by David James Duncan
  • The Great American Novel by Philip Roth
  • You Know Me Al by Ring Lardner
  • The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
  • The Celebrant by Eric Rolfe Greenberg
  • The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Robert Coover
  • Underworld by Don DeLillo


NonfictionCover: The Summer Game

  • The Summer Game by Roger Angell
  • October 1964 by David Halberstam
  • Imperfect: An Improbable Life by Jim Abbott and Tim Brown
  • Ball Four by Jim Bouton
  • Moneyball by Michael Lewis
  • Ted Williams by Leigh Montville
  • Joe DiMaggio by Richard Ben Cramer
  • Willie Mays by James S. Hirsch
  • Luckiest Man by Jonathan Eig
  • Sandy Koufax by Jane Leavy
  • Eight Men Out: The Black Sox And The 1919 World Series by Eliot Asinof
  • Babe by Robert Creamer
  • Cobb by Al Stump
  • Juiced by Jose Canseco


What’s missing? Please post about your favorite baseball book, either fiction or nonfiction, in the comments.

Celebrate the 4th of July with Books

Image by bayasaa at

Happy July 4th to everyone in the U. S. Although the record heat and drought have nixed most of the fireworks displays here in the midwest, you can still celebrate with an all-American book.

Here are a couple of lists to choose from: