The final count is in: I read 20 books in 2012. This is a very pleasing number to my OCD, as it is so easily divisible by 2, 5, and 10. I’m listing all 20 books and brief summaries of each for you below. I pretty much recommend all of them, as these are only the books that I finished, and I don’t finish books that aren’t good. Feel free to contact me if you’d like a more specific recommendation. And please let me know if you have any recommendations for me. Happy reading!
Without a Map by Meredith Hall
Beautiful, haunting, tragic, memoir by a woman who was outcasted by her church, family, and community for getting pregnant as a teenager. I was shocked and moved by her ability to tell such a difficult story so well, as well as her maturity in being able to say she is grateful for her life experiences despite the extreme unfairness of her suffering.
Bossypants by Tina Fey
I always have to follow a sad book with a funny one. This was hilarious. It’s Tina Fey’s memoir. I think that speaks for itself.
My Year with Eleanor by Noelle Hancock
Noelle was 29 when she lost her job and was forced to examine her life choices. She realized that, despite a successful career, she’d been paralyzed by fear and had been avoiding her actual life for a long time. So she decided to turn her unemployment into year-long quest to follow Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous advice to “Do one thing every day that scares you.” The things she ended up accomplishing through this were truly amazing and inspirational. I think about this book now whenever there is something I’m afraid to do, so it has encouraged me to take some very worthwhile risks. I highly recommend this to anyone who has fallen into a funk or just wishes to shake things up in their life.
MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche
This book came out at a perfect time for me. Rachel is a twenty-something who moved to Chicago from the east coast to be with her husband. After years of not making any close friends there (especially none that came close to her best friendships from childhood), she embarked upon a year-long quest to find a new BFF, going on one friend-date per week. I love how this book has started a long-overdue discussion on just how hard it is to make new friends as an adult. So relatable and hopeful. Also gives some very practical ideas on how to actually go about making new friends. She keeps a blog on the same thing, so check that out too!
Why I’m Like This: True Stories by Cynthia Kaplan
I was really drawn in by the opener of this book, but it ended up being one of the least-memorable books I read in 2012. But it’s a fun, quick read by a quirky writer who is both humorous and endearing.
Five Men Who Broke my Heart by Susan Shapiro
This was a beautiful, honest reflection of the writer’s five failed relationships leading up to her marriage. Not only does she thoroughly reflect on all these relationships, she also contacts all the men and talks with them about what exactly went wrong. I think it was so bold of her to both undertake a project like this, as well as to publish it. Very validating for anyone who spends a lot of time reflecting on past relationships.
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
This book is pretty well-known right now. It’s definitely worth the read, or at least a skim of the sections that are most relevant to you. Very practical research and advice for how to become a happier person, some steps being as easy as clearing the old clothes out of your closet.
The Fates will Find Their Way by Hannah Pittard
One of only two fiction books I read this year, which I picked up after seeing the writer give a wonderful reading of the book at my local bookstore. This is quick, enchanting read of a girl who goes missing in high school and how that single event goes on to affect her circle of childhood friends throughout the rest of their lives.
My Boyfriend Wrote a Book About Me by Hilary Winston
Definitely one of the best reads of 2012. She literally wrote this in response to her boyfriend writing a book about her. (Don’t read her boyfriend’s book. I started to read it but it was so awful I had to put it down after three pages. He’s gross and his book is gross. Hilary definitely wins this one). Such a real and hilarious exploration of life and relationships. My only quip is that it is evident Hilary is still in love with her ex (and does not realize how much his book sucks), which is really disappointing because she is so awesome and he is such a skeez. I think this could be a very different book if she wrote it once she was truly over him. But this fact does not get in the way of her book being awesome and hilarious and worth the read x 1000. I think she writes for Community and My Name is Earl.
How to Sleep Alone in a King-Size Bed: A Memoir of Starting Over by Theo Pauline Nestor
Why do I love divorce memoirs so much? I don’t know. But I do. This was a good one- a very vulnerable look at all the small tragedies of divorce. I wish it had a happier ending, but that’s life.
Click: The Forces Behind How We Fully Engage with People, Work, and Everything We Do by Ron and Ori Brafman
This is a quick read and is filled with easy-to-understand research about what makes us feel the most engaged with “people, work, and everything we do.” What draws us to certain friends over others, what conditions make us most successful at work, etc. What makes us just more likely just to CLICK with certain situations. It’s amazing how much depends on the quality of our relationships, and how such simple factors can set us up for the highest quality relationships. This book will help you make more sense of yourself and your environment.
A memoir by an Iowa City writer about his struggle to accept the reality of his life vs. the youthful dreams of his past. The backdrop to this story is the Iowa flood of 2008, which he skillfully uses as a very powerful metaphor. He is brutally honest about some very difficult subjects such as infidelity, and raising a mentally handicapped child, but comes off as very likable. I got to see him do a reading and it was amazing. Check out his blog, too.
A Field Guide for Immersion Writing: Memoir, Journalism, and Travel by Robin Hemley
I also saw this author do a reading–he’s the director of the non-fiction writing program I want to apply to. The title of this book pretty much sums it up, and has allowed me to think outside the box about types of writing projects I would like to undertake in the future.
Undress me in the Temple of Heaven by Susan Jane Gilman
Sooooooo good. I spent most of a vacation reading this despite having very limited time in a very beautiful place. So hard to put down. A memoir about a girl and her friend who decided to go backpacking through China in 1986, right after graduating college. If I say too much, I risk giving it away. Just know that this gets off to a bit of a slow start, but has a VERY FASCINATING twist. You will not be disappointed.
Possibly the only book I have ever read in one day. There just was no putting it down. In this memoir, Darin shares his experience of killing his classmate in a car/bike accident when he was a teenager. (First line: “Half my life ago, I killed a girl). Such a tragic premise, and such a fascinating exploration of guilt, suffering, and self-forgiveness (even though the accident was determined to not be his fault).
Committed: A Love Story by Elizabeth Gilbert
Interesting research and anecdotes presented by Elizabeth Gilbert pertaining to the significance, history, culture, and personal meaning attached to the institution of marriage. A bit slow at times, but I learned a lot.
The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch
The writing in this memoir was so lyrical and amazing, as well as profoundly sad. I had to put this book down many times so that I wouldn’t become too depressed. But studying her writing style was so useful to me as a writer- I pretty much had to read all of her lines two or three times to make sure I wasn’t missing any of the meaning packed so tightly into every magical phrase.
Is Everyone Hanging out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
This was another case of having to follow a really sad book with a really funny one. This was the perfect choice. Memoir by Mindy Kaling, writer and actress from The Office. Many laugh-out-loud moments, and definitely one of my favorite reads from this year.
Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life From Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed
Cheryl Strayed was once the anonymous advice columnist for an advice column called Dear Sugar on The Rumpus. She has since revealed her identity and published some of her letters and responses in this book. Her advice will change you. I want her to be my therapist. I want to be her. She has such a compassionate and nuanced look on life. This book will be a comfort to you no matter what you are going through.
All is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost by Lan Samantha Chang
My second and last fiction piece this year, written by the director of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. It was a bit slow at times, but overall it told a powerful story that allowed me to reflect upon the struggles of a life devoted to art, as well as how profoundly we can be transformed by friendships and relationships that only lasted a very short time.
Have any of you read any of these books? Do you plan to? Do you have any recommendations for me in 2013? I love to talk about books- let me know!
I haven’t read any of these, but if I did I would probably read ‘Without a Map’ by Meredith Hall. I will have to make a list of recommendations for 2013 and get back to you.
That’s a good one- be prepared to follow it with a funny one though 🙂 Excited for recommendations!
Have you read Wild by Cheryl Strayed? Very, very good.
No! I started to but had to put it down because it talked so much about her mom’s death and I have trouble reading about parents dying. But I want to return to it, because I was able to get through Tiny Beautiful Things and that talked about her mom’s death a lot too. She is such a wonderful writer. I got to see her do a reading here- amazing!
The sure fire way to turn a helpful disscsuion into an uncomfortable argument is taking things personal. But, that’s human nature.I can not help but wonder if even well educated people cannot stay on the topic at hand for the learning experience, then I can’t have much hope for any stimulating and useful disscsuion.Just a thought.
Go figure. Not a single book by Ann Coulter 😉
Maybe next year…
Thanks for the suggestions! I’ve read mindy and tina and now I wanna read that one about the girl whose boyfriend wrote a book about her.. could you imagine if that happened??
I’m actually writing a book that talks a lot about my ex-boyfriends, so I was interested to read “My Boyfriend Wrote a Book About me” to see what reading my book might be like from their perspective. She actually doesn’t write very much about the fact that he wrote a book about her, but it’s still very interesting!
Thanks for this list. I’ve added a couple to my list. Happy New Year.
Glad to hear it! Happy New Year to you too!
I read The Happiness Project, which made me feel very inadequate and, therefore, unhappy. I bought my partner Bossypants for Christmas because I really want to read it. Is that wrong? I have a thing for memoirs, too. Probably the best book I read in 2012 was Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jennifer Lawson. Hilarious.
I always buy my boyfriend things I want for myself 🙂
Right now I’m reading Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. It’s my first book of 2013!
Thanks for another mnfiignceat article. Where else may anybody get that kind of information in such an ideal approach of writing? I’ve a presentation next week, and I am on the search for such information.
That’s the perfect insight in a thread like this.
I found your blog through Freshly Pressed, and I’m glad I scrolled down after reading that entry. I can’t tell you how many of these books I’ve looked at and thought, “I wonder if this is any good.” So thank you, though I’m a bit bitter that my to-read list KEEPS growing.
Also, both fiction but both amazing. Don’t let the “young adult” fiction label run you off. The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.
I’m reading The Fault in Our Stars right now and I LOVE IT! I will have to check out the Book Thief- thanks for the rec! 🙂
TFiOS is definitely my favorite John Green book. I’m glad you’re enjoying it.
New to your blog, but loving everything I’ve read so far! I’ve read about half of this list in 2012 as well (MWF Seeking BFF, Bossy Pants, The Happiness Project etc.) You’ve given me some great recommendations! Looking forward to following 🙂
So cool that we are living parallel book lives! Do you have any good recommendations for me? I’m between books right now 🙂
I live in Fairfield , CA. that is the Northren part. I live in Northren CA inland area with some ocean incnuelfe, summer days are hot between 90 to 103F & winter days between 40 to 50 F.After reading where you are all from I’m not sure I picked the right color. Does any of that sound like wear any of you live?