Carrie / Reading Lists

Best of 2012: Staff Picks

December always brings many “best of” lists. This year, we’ve put together our own. Here are 15 titles published in 2012 that our staff members really enjoyed. What books were your favorites in 2012?

The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken by Tarquin Hall

Mustachioed sleuth Vish Puri tackles his greatest fears in a case involving the poisoning death of the elderly father of a leading Pakistani cricketer, whose demise is linked to the Indian and Pakistani mafias and the violent 1947 partition of India.


Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

Every day we experience the uncertainty, risks, and emotional exposure that define what it means to be vulnerable, or to dare greatly. Whether the arena is a new relationship, an important meeting, our creative process, or a difficult family conversation, we must find the courage to walk into vulnerability and engage with our whole hearts.

In Daring Greatly, Dr. Brown challenges everything we think we know about vulnerability. Based on twelve years of research, she argues that vulnerability is not weakness, but rather our clearest path to courage, engagement, and meaningful connection. The book that Dr. Brown’s many fans have been waiting for, Daring Greatly will spark a new spirit of truth—and trust—in our organizations, families, schools, and communities.

Defending Jacob by William Landay

Andy Barber has been an assistant district attorney in his suburban Massachusetts county for more than twenty years. When a shocking crime shatters their New England town, Andy is blindsided by what happens next: his fourteen-year-old son is charged with the murder of a fellow student. As the crisis reveals how little a father knows about his son, Andy will face a trial of his own– between loyalty and justice, between truth and allegation, between a past he’s tried to bury and a future he cannot conceive.

  

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

On the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick’s wife Amy suddenly disappears. The police immediately suspect Nick. Amy’s friends reveal that she was afraid of him, that she kept secrets from him. He swears it isn’t true. A police examination of his computer shows strange searches. He says they aren’t his. And then there are the persistent calls on his mobile phone. So what really did happen to Nick’s beautiful wife?
  

 

The Influencing Machine: Brooke Gladstone on the Media by Brooke Gladstone

The cohost of NPR’s “On the Media” narrates, in cartoon form, two millennia of history of the influence of the media on the populace, from newspapers in Caesar’s Rome to the penny press of the American Revolution to today.

 

The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man’s Quest to Be a Better Husband by David Finch

At some point in nearly every marriage, a wife finds herself asking, What the… is wrong with my husband?! In the author’s case, this turns out to be an apt question. Five years after he married Kristen, the love of his life, they learn that he has Asperger Syndrome. The diagnosis explains his ever-growing list of quirks and compulsions, his lifelong propensity to quack and otherwise melt down in social exchanges, and his clinical-strength inflexibility. But it doesn’t make him any easier to live with. Determined to change, he sets out to understand Asperger Syndrome and learn to be a better husband, no easy task for a guy whose inability to express himself rivals his two-year-old daughter’s, who thinks his responsibility for laundry extends no further than throwing things in (or at) the hamper, and whose autism-spectrum condition makes seeing his wife’s point of view a near impossibility. Nevertheless, he devotes himself to improving his marriage with an endearing yet hilarious zeal that involves excessive note-taking, performance reviews, and most of all, this book: a collection of hundreds of maxims and hard-won epiphanies that result from self-reflection both comic and painful. They include “Don’t change the radio station when she’s singing along,” “Apologies do not count when you shout them,” and “Be her friend, first and always.” Guided by the journal, he transforms himself over the course of two years from the world’s most trying husband to the husband who tries the hardest, the husband he’d always meant to be. Filled with humor and surprising wisdom, this book is a candid story of ruthless self-improvement, a unique window into living with an autism-spectrum condition, and proof that a true heart can conquer all.

Le Road Trip: A Traveler’s Journal of Love and France by Vivian Swift

Road trip: those are still the two most inspiring words to vagabonds and couch potatoes alike; after all, the great American spirit was forged by road trippers from the Pilgrims to Lewis and Clark to the Dharma Bums. Le Road Trip combines the appeal of the iconic American quest with France’s irresistible allure, offering readers a totally new perspective of life on the road. Le Road Trip tells the story of one idyllic French honeymoon trip, but it is also a witty handbook of tips and advice on how to thrive as a traveler, a captivating visual record with hundreds of watercolor illustrations, and a chronicle depicting the incomparable charms of being footloose in France.

Office Girl by Joe Meno

Odile is a lovely twenty-three-year-old art-school dropout, a minor vandal, and a hopeless dreamer. Jack is a twenty-five-year-old shirker who’s most happy capturing the endless noises of the city on his out-of-date tape recorder. Together they decide to start their own art movement in defiance of a contemporary culture made dull by both the tedious and the obvious. Set in February 1999, just before the end of one world and the beginning of another, Office girl is the story of two people caught between the uncertainty of their futures and the all-too-brief moments of modern life.
 

Pinkerton’s War by Jay Bonansinga

A heart-pounding historical account of Allan Pinkerton’s role in the Civil War—protector of Abraham Lincoln and mastermind of a controversial network of Union spies.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier by Ree Drummond

I’m Pioneer Woman. And I love to cook. Once upon a time, I fell in love with a cowboy. A strapping, rugged, chaps-wearing cowboy. Then I married him, moved to his ranch, had his babies . . . and wound up loving it. Except the manure. Living in the country for more than fifteen years has taught me a handful of eternal truths: every new day is a blessing, every drop of rain is a gift . . . and “nothing” tastes more delicious than food you cook yourself.

In addition to detailed step-by-step photographs, all the recipes in this book have one other important quality in common: They’re guaranteed to make your kids, sweetheart, dinner guests, in-laws, friends, cousins, or resident cowboys smile, sigh, and beg for seconds.

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian

When Elizabeth Endicott arrives in Syria, she has a diploma from Mount Holyoke College, a crash course in nursing, and only the most basic grasp of the Armenian language. The First World War is spreading across Europe, and she has volunteered on behalf of the Boston-based Friends of Armenia to deliver food and medical aid to refugees of the Armenian genocide. There, Elizabeth becomes friendly with Armen, a young Armenian engineer who has already lost his wife and infant daughter. When Armen leaves Aleppo to join the British Army in Egypt, he begins to write Elizabeth letters, and comes to realize that he has fallen in love with the wealthy, young American woman who is so different from the wife he lost.Flash forward to the present, where we meet Laura Petrosian, a novelist living in suburban New York. Although her grandparents’ ornate Pelham home was affectionately nicknamed the “Ottoman Annex,” Laura has never really given her Armenian heritage much thought. But when an old friend calls, claiming to have seen a newspaper photo of Laura’s grandmother promoting an exhibit at a Boston museum, Laura embarks on a journey back through her family’s history that reveals love, loss—and a wrenching secret that has been buried for generations.  

The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom

After being punished for trying to measure God’s greatest gift, Father Time returns to Earth along with a magical hourglass and a mission: a chance to redeem himself by teaching two earthly people the true meaning of time.

 

 Wild by Cheryl Strayed

A powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an eleven-hundred-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe–and built her back up again. At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State–and to do it alone. She had no experience as a long-distance hiker, and the trail was little more than “an idea, vague and outlandish and full of promise.” But it was a promise of piecing back together a life that had come undone. Strayed faces down rattlesnakes and black bears, intense heat and record snowfalls, and both the beauty and loneliness of the trail. Told with great suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild vividly captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

Ten-year-old Auggie Pullman, who was born with extreme facial abnormalities and was not expected to survive, goes from being home-schooled to entering fifth grade at a private middle school in Manhattan, which entails enduring the taunting and fear of his classmates as he struggles to be seen as just another student.

The Year of the Gadfly by Jennifer Miller

A budding teen journalist and her enigmatic science teacher separately work to locate and infiltrate a secret society that threatens their elite prep school with a shady tragedy from the past, an event that challenges the student’s allegiances.

Carrie

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