2012 Favorites: Books

Well, here we are rushing towards the end of another year. For me, it was another good year for books and reading, though alas, I think I am going to fall a couple of books short of my Goodreads challenge of reading 45. Close though — and I still have this weekend! (Not gonna happen).

Anyway — I wanted to look back and think about a few of my favorite books of the past year. And I always say favorite, because “best” suggests that I’ve sampled way more books than I have and am rating their literary value. Favorites are the ones that I want everyone else to read because I think they’re wonderful.

Unaccustomed Earth, by Jhumpa Lahiri

Unaccustomed Earth, by Jhumpa Lahiri

Using those criteria as a guide, my favorite book this year was the short-story collection Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri. I reviewed it earlier this year, and I think this set of stories, mostly about the Indian immigrant experience in America (and the West), is a beautiful and moving exploration of family, duty, love, and culture. A rare 5-star for me.

11/22/63 by Stephen King

11/22/63 by Stephen King

I also really enjoyed the Stephen King time-travel/alternate universe novel 11/22/63. I have been fairly skeptical of his larger books, preferring his short stories and novellas, but I thought this book was terrific — well-realized characters, an amazing sense of place, and great pacing for a long book that leads to a exciting climax. This is a great book for those usually put off by King. 4-stars.

You Came Back, by Christopher Coake

You Came Back, by Christopher Coake

I think the one book that’s stayed in my mind this year that I haven’t reviewed already is the debut novel Christopher Coake, You Came Back. In it, Mark Fife is a man that is finally putting his life back together years after his marriage disintegrated in the wake of his young son’s accidental death. Mark’s current life is rocked when a woman appears and tells him that she and her son, who now live in his former house, have seen the ghost of his deceased son. Mark thinks the woman is crazy. Mark’s former wife, Chloe, wants to find out if it could be true.

You Came Back is and is not a ghost story. It is mostly a story of relationships — and they are presented in very realistic-feeling manner. It’s also a story of the sorts of things we tell ourselves in lonely dark hours. It’s a story of hope against reason and whether love and sorrow and forgiveness really can conquer all. I think one of my favorite things about this story is the multi-layered implication of the title. Initially, the title seems to clearly refer to their son coming back to Mark and Chloe, but it could just as well be about Chloe coming back to Mark, or in end, Mark coming back to himself after tragedy. Super book. 4 solid stars.

I could go on and on, but I think three that really stuck with me is a pretty good place to stop. How about you? What were some of your favorite reads this year?

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12 thoughts on “2012 Favorites: Books

  1. I always enjoy your book reviews–largely because reading is so difficult for me. But this year I actually read one of your picks (Steve’s my go-to author!). Thanks and the best 2013.

    • You Came Back was one of those books that I wasn’t sure about when it first came across my radar. I’m really glad that I read it. I also think it would make a great great film in the right hands.

  2. Steve, I wanted to thank you for the excellent recommendations of books over this past year. I haven’t had time to pick up all of them, but there wasn’t a single one that I read that was a clinker.

    I still don’t about the King novel, however. I wasted a lot of time on his bloated bestsellers back in the 80s, though I noticed that he’s sharpened his style recently. Maybe, if opportunity presents itself (namely, it shows up on the library shelves), I’ll give it a go.

    • HG — thanks so much! I enjoy writing them — and want to carve out a little more time to do so in 2013. I also really disliked the big, bloated King books of the 1980s. The one that got me back was The Green Mile a few years ago — I think he’s left the booze and drugs behind and is writing some really good things now.

  3. These look like great reads! Like some of the other commenters here, I have a love/hate (maybe too strong, maybe more like/dislike) thing going on with King. But I think I might try him again. I really like the looks of You Came Back too.

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