Another year of great reading is behind us and I am so excited to share with you my list of the top reads for 2011. My goal this year was to read 80 books and I think I may have thought I would have more time than I did with both my kids in school all day. Even though I did not reach my goal, I am so proud to say that I did read 53 books this year, which is still a pretty awesome feat.
This year I am taking on the challenge of writing my own book on raising a family on a budget which will be a very different experience for me since I am usually the reader and not the writer. With that project on the horizon, I scaled my reading goal back to 60 books this year. Within my goal, I would like to read two literary classics this year. I was one of those kids that seemed to avoid reading classical literature in my youth and now I am trying to find an appreciation for it in my old age.
I document my reading challenge through GoodReads so I can track my progress while I am doing my reading. If you are planning to make a reading goal yourself, be sure to sign up for a reading challengeyou can create your own goal too through GoodReads and track your own progress.
If you are looking for a little inspiration this new year, be sure to check our MomAdvice fan page for a weekly check-in on what everyone is reading each week on our Facebook Fan Page. I hope you will swing by on Fridays and share about the books you are working on or request recommendations with one another. So far it is a huge success and I have gotten a few new ideas for my own stack!
Just as a reminder, I read many more books than are just featured here, but try to feature the ones that are my absolute best picks of the month here. If you want to read more, please feel free to friend me on GoodReads! My username is momadvice and I am always happy to connect with people there too! There is nothing more motivating than seeing what other people are raving about and my to-be-read pile continues to grow with all of my new friends on there! In fact, many of the books featured are ones that I have found through my friends on GoodReads.
Today I wanted to share with you my top ten reads of 2011 that you could add to your book basket this year! As always it is difficult to narrow it down to ten of the best when you read so many wonderful books. Since I am running behind on my reviews for last month, December’s picks will carry over into the best of 2012 reviews.
Without further adieu, here are my favorite reads of the year (in no particular order)!
This book is so haunting, gripping, gritty, and heartbreaking that I have been thinking about it for days since reading it. It is the type of book that you beg your friends to read just so you have someone to talk to about it, and is a tribute to the beautiful storytelling and Jenna Blum, whose writing I have quickly and wholeheartedly fallen in love with.
The author took a great risk by sharing the story of the difficulties that many German people suffered during the Holocaust. As most books take a heartbreaking look at what the Jewish people suffered, this book focused on the survival tactics that many Germans had to employ to survive and stay alive.
The book opens with the funeral of Anna’s husband and the father to Trudy. Following the burial, the ladies rush back to their home to prepare the food for the guests to come and pay their respects, as it is their tradition in their small town. As nightfall comes, they realize that no one is coming to visit them and Trudy’s mother heads to bed without a word. Trudy reflects that the town no longer has to be nice to them and so begins the journey for the reader to discover why they would be shunned by their own community.
The book follows Anna as a youth who is under the thumb of her demanding and unkind father. Anna’s father is a Nazi lawyer who can’t seem to keep anyone on hand to help with the day-to-day maintenance of the home and makes Anna do all of the chores and care for him & his home. When Anna believes her dog to be dying, she heads to a Jewish doctor for help and an unlikely friendship and love blossoms between the two. When the Jewish doctor must go into hiding, Anna keeps him in a hidden place in their home for as long as she is able.
When the doctor is captured, Anna must runaway as she has discovered that she is pregnant. Unfortunately following the birth of her daughter, Anna finds she must go into survival mode and ends up catching the eye of an SS officer who takes advantage of his position and visits her weekly for sexual trysts. When the officer comes, he brings with him gifts for Anna that can help keep herself and her child alive. Anna knows that if she does not give up her body to this officer that she could compromise the safety of both herself and her daughter. She also knows that they would also lose the gifts of food that sustain them. The reader witnesses the spirit of Anna being broken and the effects that this relationship has on her daughter later in her life.
The book alternates between the present and the difficulties that Trudy has with her own identity, believing that she is the love child of Anna & the SS officer and being a professor of German History. Trudy can’t seem to sustain a relationship and has a difficult relationship with her mother. In efforts to reconcile the conflict she feels about her mother, Trudy takes on a video project to document the German perspective on the Holocaust and what happened. You see Trudy becoming sucked into their stories, searching for the evidence she needs to be at peace with her mother’s relationship with the officer.
I can’t say more- it truly is a book worth picking up. This book is a true page turner filled with great twists and bends, with characters that you will truly become attached to. The ending may not satisfy everyone, but it seemed a realistic resolution to a difficult story and followed what one would expect from these characters.
Editor’s Note: This is sexually graphic and violent. As with all books that share about the Holocaust, it is not an easy read, but a memorable angle for discovering the story of survival from the German perspective.
It is rare for me to feel completely transported by a book, but Melanie Benjamin’s latest book swept me off my feet and literally had me searching for corners to read in until I could finish it. Fans of Benjamin’s last book, “Alice I Have Been,” will not be disappointed with this book and the unique perspective that Benjamin adds to sharing the story of Mercy Lavinia “Vinnie Bump.
Vinnie stood at a mere two feet and eight inches tall, but her small stature is the only small element to her big story. Born in the nineteenth century, most families were encouraged to keep children plagued with genetic abnormalities or disorders hidden away from the public eye. Vinnie always wanted to be in the spotlight though and despite her parent’s longing for her to choose a quiet simple life of being home with them, Vinnie became a school teacher in her town. This wasn’t the path she wanted most in her life though and she felt she was destined for bigger things. When a “cousin” decides to start a traveling show, he reaches out to see if Vinnie might be interested in being a part of it. With Vinnie’s eyes always set on the prize of being on stage, she accepts the job to be in the traveling show, despite her parent’s best judgment.
The show isn’t what Vinnie ever had hoped it would be and she finds she is paraded as a freak rather than the life singing and dancing she thought she was going to have. Ever determined to be and make more of her life, she sends a letter to P.T. Barnum that will forever alter the course of her life and create a friendship with a man that she never dreamed she would have in her life.
Benjamin writes the story of Vinnie in such an honest and raw way that, in parts, I found myself a little teary-eyed. She perfectly captures the challenges of being small, the ridicule from others, the admiration when she finds her place in society, and the continual challenges of believing in your destiny no matter what. While Vinnie is not always likeable, she is admirable.
I can’t recommend this book enough, if I tried. Vinnie’s story is captivating as are the other amazing characters in this story. Read this one today!
If you are looking for a psychological thriller that will have you guessing until the very last page what is happening, then I have the book for you. This is the best thriller that I have read this year and can hardly believe that it is the author’s first book.
Every single day Christine wakes up not knowing who she is, where she is, and who her husband is. It is the same scenario every day as she makes her way to the bathroom, where pictures are layered upon the mirror that explain who she is and who her husband is. Each day she must go through the heartbreaking discovery that she has had a terrible accident that has caused her to have permanent amnesia. People she thinks are alive have died. She can’t remember if she is a mother. She doesn’t know why she doesn’t have any friends. Some days she wakes up and she believes she is in her twenties and cannot even recognize the woman who looks at her in the mirror.
When Christine begins meeting with a doctor, he encourages her to begin journaling each day to help jog her memory of what has been happening in her daily life. As each day opens, Christine opens her journal and begins to read and as she reads, she begins to discover that the life that she is leading might not be all that it seems to be. As Christine becomes more and more aware of her story and begins to challenge the information that her husband is feeding to her about what has happened, the reader is left wondering if Christine is obsessing about details because she can’t really recall them or if the stories she is hearing are even real?
If you read one thriller this year, let it be this one. I promise you, it is truly amazing and will leave you stunned when you read the final pages. I can’t wait to read more from this author.
Victoria Jones was a child that has been unloved and unwanted by many. After going from foster care home to foster care home, she finally find someone who loves her whole-heartedly and wants to adopt her as her own. Elizabeth is a dream mother to this wounded child. She spends hours teaching Victoria the Victorian names and meanings for flowers and how to care for them. These lessons t later become the tools that she must employ to share her feelings and find work later in her life. Through a traumatic turn of events though, Elizabeth never adopts Victoria and at eighteen she is declared emancipated with no money, nowhere to go, and no one who loves her.
Victoria makes her home in the local park, sleeping in the grass at night, and even begins to plant her own garden in the park. When a local florist happens upon Victoria and her talent for flower arranging, she is hired on the spot to help with her small floral shop. Word soon gets around about Victoria’s talent for arrangements, carefully chosen & arranged based on their Victorian flower names and what they mean for their recipients.
When Victoria runs into a floral vendor who happens to be someone from her & Elizabeth’s past, she must decide if she can ever move forward from the secret that she is harboring in her heart and if she can ever feel and find love again.
The story switches from Victoria’s childhood to her time now as an adult. It never is confusing, but outlines the heartbreaking story of a difficult childhood and why Victoria would have such difficulties as an adult.
It is so surprising that this is Diffenbaugh’s first novel as she writes with experience and description that you rarely find in a debut novel. I have no doubt you will love this book as much as I did!
In anticipation of the movie release, I decided to finally dig into Water for Elephants . I actually have no idea why I waited this long to read it, but I think I really just wanted to savor this book and read it right before the movie was released so I would be able to remember all of the characters. This book did not disappoint and was one of the best books that I have read this year!
The book opens with Jacob Janowski who is ninety (or ninety-three, a fact he can’t remember) and now living in a nursing home. His days are now spent being shuffled from his room to the dining area, suffering from the everyday minutiae of life in a nursing home. Of course, his life wasn’t always like this, in fact, Jacob’s life was spent with a traveling circus after the untimely death of his parents. Circus life was a hard life for Jacob and one that he jumped to unknowingly when he boarded a train to escape after his parent’s death.
Gruen’s writing is as vivid as a movie screen as the reader is swept away into the hard and difficult life of being a part of the traveling circus during the Great Depression. When Jacob is appointed to veterinarian, he has a difficult role under August, a paranoid schizophrenic, who acts as the animal trainer of the circus. The reader is swept into the sad life of the animals and the repeated abuse that August inflicts on the animals.
The only sparkle of light in Jacob’s life is Marlena, a beautiful performer in the circus, who Jacob cannot stop thinking about. Sadly, it is August’s wife that he has fallen in love with, and the reader will sit on the edge of their seat as Jacob risks it all to free Marlena from the abusive life that she has been leading with August.
More than a love story, it is an unbelievably well-researched look into the life of the circus at this time, and a love story of how Jacob & Marlena fall in love with an elephant named Rosie who makes a reader’s heart melt in her beauty. Equally impressive is how Gruen is able to capture the life of the elderly as Jacob reminisces and longs for his youth. The ending is perhaps a little too neatly woven, but is a satisfying conclusion to it all as a reader!
Vivid, descriptive, cinematic, raw, chilling… I felt as though I was on a roller coaster just reading this one! Definitely give this one a read before hitting the movie theater! Let’s hope the movie is half as good as this book!
Mudbound by Hillary Jordan
Mudbound is storytelling at its very best and offers a beautifully rendered portrayal of race and politics in the South during the forties. This book is told from alternating points of view and shares the story of a Memphis-bred Laura McAllan who is struggling to adjust to being a farmer’s wife and living the idyllic dream that her husband Henry has for them to live off their own land. When Henry makes an error by trusting a handshake rather than a contract on the home they are renting, they find themselves living in less than ideal conditions in a shack that Henry had hoped to turn into his dream house. Laura not only must deal with the difficulties of living in this shack, but she has to do it with her racist father-in-law constantly judging and spewing hate at her.
As Laura struggles with this, the real story unfolds when Henry’s brother Jamie returns home from the war. Always the favored one, Jamie comes home as a raging alcoholic, struggling with nightmares and post-traumatic stress from the war he left. Ronsel, a son of the sharecroppers who have been hired to work on Henry & Laura’s land, also struggles with leaving the war after being a hero in fighting for his country, he is now seen as just a black boy and treated with only racism and hatred.
When a horrible crime is comitted, the four lives of these main characters are woven into one and the reader is taken along on the journey every harrowing step of the way. Twist after twist creates a plot that illustrates racism in a very unique way.
This book is a fast-paced read, that will shock and grip you until the final pages. Not for the faint of heart- a great debut novel from Hillary Jordan worthy of the 2006 Bellwether Prize that she won for this. I look forward to reading more from this author!
There are few authors that deliver consistently good books with amazing plotlines, but Diane Chamberlain is one of those authors for me.
Noelle, Tara, and Emerson have been best friends since college. When Noelle unexpectedly commits suicide, Tara and Emerson are left with trying to figure out the puzzle pieces as to why she would do something like this to herself especially when she loved her job as a midwife so much. Noelle never seemed depressed and it was the last thing that her two best friends would ever expect her to do.
When they discover an unfinished letter written to a woman named Anna apologizing to her, they are left wondering just how well they knew their friend Noelle and have to begin pulling together the clues to the secrets that Noelle had been hiding for so long from everyone that she loved. Everything from Noelle’s past to her career to her true relationship with the other characters in the book comes into play as the women learn more about Noelle’s secrets. Tara and Emerson discover that Noelle had more secrets than they could ever imagine… secrets that could threaten the very core of their lives and the lives of others.
This book is a fabulous mystery with a great family drama woven throughout and each chapter is told from alternating viewpoints from the women themselves and Tara & Emerson’s daughters, who are dealing with their own emotions surrounding the death of Noelle.
The ending will take you by surprise and I guarantee that this is a book that you will not be able to put down until the final pages.
Faith by Jennifer Haigh
Faith is a masterpiece of literature that I thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish. The novel does have a slow build as it shares a bit about the history and the scandal of 2002 when many Boston priests were accused of molestation in the Catholic Church, but the story is worth the plot set up and is a book that you will want to share and discuss with your friends.
Art is the apple of his mother’s eye and is wholly committed to dedicating his life to God from the time he is a child and on. He lovingly serves his church and feels great satisfaction in his work as a priest. When suddenly he is thrust into the spotlight and is accused of molesting a child that he has grown close to through his work in the church, he is devastated as his life is under scrutiny by the media, by other church members, by other priests, and by his family.
While some in his family side with him, others do not. When shocking discoveries are made into his past and the relationship that he has had with the little boy, the reader must examine which side they might be on and see both sides of the coin as his family comes to terms with these accusations. How would you feel if your son, your brother, or the person you trusted in your church was accused of such an act? Could you stand beside them or would you shun them even if they told you they would never do such a thing?
Haigh’s writing is exquisitely rich and the story is told through a fresh set of eyes from the scandal that we witnessed in the media. Haigh brings in an angle that led me to believe that there truly are two sides to every story.
This book would lend itself well to any book club discussions you might be having and was truly one of the best books that I read this summer!
How lucky am I that I have a friend that works at Barnes & Noble who can help recommend books to me? My girlfriend, Tara, recommended this book to me because she knew that it would be a book right up my alley and she is so great to let me know when she reads something I would love.
On a hot day in August in 1954, Jubie leaves her town of Charlotte, North Carolina to head to Florida on a vacation with her mother, three siblings, and their African American maid named Mary. For all of Jubie’s life, Mary has been essential to their family and their household. Mary has been there when her alcoholic father and neglectful mother have not been and Jubie knows that Mary will always be around to love and care for her.
As the family heads further south on their trip to Florida, they see many signs of intolerance and signs of anti-integration along the way. Jubie’s mother finds it difficult to even find a place for Mary to go to the restroom, or eat, or sleep for the night, while Jubie wonders if Mary is sensing the hatred and shift towards intolerance as all signs begin to point towards racism. In a twist that no one could have anticipated a tragic string of events turn their lives upside down and Jubie is forced to fully realize the shortcomings of her parents, their marriage, and the essential role that Mary played in her life.
This is a surprisingly moving and beautifully narrated story as a debut novel from by Mayhew, but was is even more surprising is that this first novel came at the age of seventy-one. I can only hope that there will be many more novels in the future from her as this book is a truly amazing first piece of work that, Mayhew says, was eighteen years in the making.
If ever there is a book that truly makes me appreciate the food that is on my dinner table, then it is this book on an unlikely relationship between a farmer and a city girl who take on the daring task of building their own organic cooperative farm together.
This book documents the true life story of Kristin Kimball, a typical city girl who loves her shoes, fashion, and a good bubble bath, as she goes out to interview a man for a piece about farming. A city girl through and through, she becomes captivated not only with the farm life, but with the farmer that she interviews. Although she knows nothing about growing vegetables or how to care for farm animals, she decides to move to 500 acres of land and start a cooperative farm with her farmer, whom she quickly falls in love with.
The story shares the transformation of Kristin as she finds herself transformed by the land, the animals, the fresh air, and a love like she has never known. She shares the daily quips and struggles of farm life with humor, but in gritty (at times a little too gritty for my taste) details about the circle of life and how the food must arrive to one’s table on the farm. There is a true honesty and warmth in Kristin’s stories whether it be about her family’s struggle with her leaving it all for a dirty life on a farm, the story as they pull together a wedding in the middle of a busy farming season, the animals as they try to escape , and even the difficulties with just keeping up with the menial tasks that are such a part of the grueling farm life.
Coming from a lineage of farmers on my mother’s side, I always knew that I would never be cut out for the farm life. This sealed the deal for me that I don’t think I would have the willpower and stamina to keep up with the daily chores of living on a farm, but made me admire the strength of farming families and all they endure to provide food for our tables. Refreshing and written with a splash of humor and a lot of grit, I would highly recommend this book as a fun diversion from your normal reading schedule!
Honorable Mentions for 2011
Here are just a few other great reads that almost made the cut for the top ten reads of the year. Go ahead and add these to your library list and I promise they won’t disappoint!
High-school sweethearts Julie & Michael have left behind their small town and are in pursuit of living a life better than their modest upbringings and achieving the American dream. When Michael decides to start a sports drink company, neither of them could ever expect how quickly his business would takeoff or what it would be like to be millionaires. As money is introduced into their life, their marriage begins to crumble as Michael is increasingly unavailable due to the success of his company and the separation that exists as a couple begins to grow apart.
The book opens as Michael has a near-death experience and Julie, a successful party planner, is called to the hospital to be with her husband. Michael begins acting strangely and tells Julia that he has made the decision to give all of his money and company away. Julie is stunned, as she has begun the process of filing for a divorce from her husband, and will lose half of the estate and money if he gives everything away. Michael pleads for Julie to give him just one chance.
This book then delves into the complex relationship that they share and how their marriage began to fail as they began to rediscover one another again once their fortune is taken out of the equation.
I went into it expecting a simple piece of chick lit, and it developed into one beautiful story! Perhaps it is not life-altering, but sometimes a girl just needs a good love story that renews her feelings about love and what is important in life. It offered everything I love in a book: great characters, a beautiful love story, a fabulous friendship between two women, and great humor interjected throughout the story. It really was so much more than I could have hoped for!
With advance praise like, “Tina Fey is an ugly, pear-shaped, overrated troll- The Internet” on the back of the book, you know that you are going to be in for a big laugh over Tina Fey’s book, “Bossypants.” I found myself laughing until tears streamed down my face while reading this one. I also admit that I read almost the entire book aloud (thanks to my uncontrollable laughing) to my husband who also loved it as much as I did. I have been a longtime fan of Tina Fey and this book was such a treat to read and a fun light read that really made me giggle.
Part memoir, part comedy routine, part story-telling, the book is a little messy and a whole lot of fun. As a mom, you will really relate to the juggling routine that Tina endures while working on 30 Rock and her obligations as a mom. More relatable than that are Tina’s stories of teenage angst and some of the hilarious self-depreciating humor that Tina seems to do so well. Tina also weaves in truths and life lessons from trying to break into the male-dominated sketch comedy world.
This book isn’t for everyone, but if you loved her comedy routines on SNL or are a big fan of the show, “30 Rock,” then you will really appreciate the humor in this book.
Editor’s Note- This book contains adult language and adult humor.
Being a huge fan of Lisa Genova’s, “Still Alice,” I could not wait to dive into her latest novel. The novel chronicles the lives of Sarah & Bob Nickerson a couple that truly seems like they have everything. Sarah and Bob both have fabulous careers, their children seem to want for nothing, and they lead the lives of a typical busy family.
Sarah’s life is always filled with multitasking and balancing her career and family. As a mother, you can relate to Sarah’s difficulties balancing all of it in her life. Sarah is moving at the speed of light and is so busy multitasking that she awakes eight days after crashing her car on the way to work, and finds that her entire world has changed. Diagnosed with a condition called, “left neglect,” Sarah discovers that the impact of this car crash is more than she could ever imagine. Left neglect is a lesser known condition where the brain cannot process anything on the left side of the brain, including awareness of what is happening to the left of her own body.
Sarah struggles with physical therapy, desiring more than anything to get back to her fast-paced career and continuing to provide financially for her family. When her condition does not improve, her mother moves in to assist Sarah, a mother whose relationship that Sarah has lacked her entire life. Suddenly, Sarah is dependent on the help of her mother and others, when she has lived a life that is fiercely independent and is forced to put her career on hold until she can get better.
After a difficult medical journey, she discovers that there is more to life than her career and the importance of learning to slow down. I loved that particular message and it served as a wonderful reminder that sometimes moving at the speed of light and the ability to multitask can take us away from the things we should most treasure.
Lisa See is one of my favorite all-time authors and, “Shanghai Girls,” was one of my favorite books by her. If you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend reading it and then following it with this fantastic sequel. I wish I would have waited to have read the first one so it was all still fresh in my mind because I had a hard time jumping into the second one after having read so many books in between. Once I got into this one, I couldn’t put it down, although I must warn you that See brings with it a lot of heartbreaking honesty about the lives that were lost and the difficulties that were faced during China’s Great Leap Forward.
In Shanghai Girls, Joy finds out that May is her true mother, despite believing that Pearl had been her mother her whole life. Joy is very angry at both her mother and her aunt and decides to head to China to find her birth father and pursue a new life in China.
When Joy finds her birth father, it is a dream come true. He is an artist and seems very influential in the community. What she doesn’t know is that her father, Z.G., is actually falling out favor with the government and is sent to the country to help with Mao’s Great Leap Forward and to teach painting classes. Joy blindly follows her father, unaware of the danger she may be in, and finds herself falling in love with one of these boys… a mistake that is riddled with many consequences of which it appears she may never recover.
Her aunt, who she had always believe was her mother, is determined to get Joy back to safety and sacrifices everything in her life to try to get to China to save her. A woman who has went from modeling to cleaning the streets, has sacrificed everything for her daughter. What Pearl doesn’t know is that Joy is in grave danger.
The book is a heart-wrenching rollercoaster, particularly the letters that Joy is so desperately trying to send to Pearl to let her know the famine and demise that is happening where she is. Death and heartbreak are everywhere and the book will leave you hanging and praying that these two will be reunited.
Annabel by Kathleen Winter
I happened upon this book in an Oprah book list and couldn’t wait to pick this one up at our library. Fans of Middlesex will really and truly love this debut novel by Kathleen Winter about the difficulties of gender identification and the beauty that can bring the genders together in this lovingly crafted finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize.
In 1968, in a remote seaside town in Eastern Canada, a child is born in a typical home birth with a midwife present. When the midwife, Thomasina, presents the baby to the parents she notices that the child is neither fully formed as a boy or as a girl. Jacinta and Treadway are disturbed by the news and must make the difficult decision to decide if their child will be a boy or a girl. The mother wishes to identify the child as a girl or to not identify the child, letting the child choose his/her own gender. Despite Jacinta’s wishes, they live in a traditional home where the man is the one in charge and Treadway makes the decision that the child will be a boy. The surgery is performed and hormones are given to the child, whom they name Wayne, and Treadway makes every effort for Wayne to identify with the masculine side of himself.
Meanwhile, in secret, Jacinta is quietly nurturing the female side of Wayne and allowing him to indulge in the things that make him happy, as long as Treadway is not privy to what is happening. Wayne has never been told that he was born a hermaphrodite and does not understand why he cannot seem to identify with the masculine side of himself, but finds himself drawn more to the female side.
When the shocking secret is discovered after a terrible twist of events, Wayne finally comes to the realization of why he has always felt like two different people. Inspired by the postcards he receives from Thomasina, the midwife who delivered him, from other countries, Wayne decides to leave his small town and see if he can figure out who he is on his own.
The story is beautifully woven together as the reader struggles with what they might do as parents and hoping that Wayne can find an identity and a world that will be accepting of him…or her.
This is a book that would make a fabulous book club book and would lend itself to really great discussion!
Not enough great reads for you? Check out our Books section of our site for monthly recommendations and ideas for making reading a priority again in your busy mom life! Be sure to also visit our Top Ten Books of 2010 for even more great recommendations!
Disclosure: All of the links above are affiliate links and are provided so you can locate the books quickly and easily. Feel free to order a book, but we encourage utilizing the library system and buying me a latte instead. Then we both would be really happy and we could have our own little book club together! Wouldn’t that just be so much more lovely? Happy Reading!
What were your favorite reads this year? How many books did you read this year? How many do you hope to read in 2012? Feel free to share your book recommendations or feedback on any of the books that have been mentioned above!