Our Favorite Fiction of 2012

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The staffers of Fiction, Movies and Music and Adult Reference read a lot of books in 2012, and we thought we would share our favorites. The list includes a wide variety of books because we all have different reading tastes. If you would like the entire list in booklet form, drop by the Reference Desk to pick up a copy. Because the list is long, I've broken down our choices by genres: fiction, historical fiction, mysteries, young adult, graphic novels and nonfiction. Happy reading!

Now for our favorite fiction titles of 2012:

“The Age of Miracles: a Novel’’ by Karen Thompson Walker
A coming-of-age story about Julia, whose world is thrown into upheaval when it is discovered that the Earth's rotation has suddenly begun to slow, posing a catastrophic threat to all life.
Recommended by Susie

Afterwards: a Novel’’ by Rosamund Lupton
The school is on fire. Her children are inside. Grace runs toward the burning building, desperate to reach them. Learning that the fire was not an accident, Grace embarks on a mission to find the person responsible.

Recommended by Connie

“Beautiful Ruins: A Novel” by Jess Walter
An elderly Italian man shows up on a Hollywood movie studio's back lot, searching for the mysterious American starlet he last saw at his humble inn decades earlier.
Recommended by Jo, Jane, Haley, Susie and Connie

“The Beginner's Goodbye: a Novel’’ by Anne Tyler
When a tree crashes into their house and Dorothy is killed, Aaron is devastated. Only Dorothy's unexpected appearances from the dead help him to live in the moment and to find some peace.
Recommended by Ellen, Jo and Connie

“Calling Invisible Women: a Novel’’ by Jeanne Ray
Feeling unattractive and unappreciated as she enters her fifties, Clover wakes up one morning and discovers that she has actually become invisible, a condition that goes unnoticed by her family.
Recommended by Jane, Connie and Susie

“Canada’’ by Richard Ford
When Dell’s parents are arrested in the 1950s for robbing a bank in Montana, Dell takes off to Canada, and discovers he is not the only one whose past lies on the other side of a border.
Recommended by Connie

“A Dog’s Purpose’’ by W. Bruce Cameron
This is the remarkable story of one endearing dog's search for his purpose over the course of several lives. More than just another charming dog story, this touches on the universal quest for an answer to life's most basic question: Why are we here?
Recommended by Jenny B.

“Flight Behavior: a Novel’’ by Barbara Kingsolver
When an unhappy young woman discovers that Monarch butterflies have roosted in her rural Appalachia instead of Mexico, she becomes involved in confrontations with her family, her church, and her town.
Recommended by Jo, Connie and Haley

“The Forgotten Garden: a Novel’’ by Kate Morton
A novel that takes the reader on an unforgettable journey through generations and across continents as two women try to uncover their family’s secret past.
Recommended by Mary Ann

“Friends Like Us’’ by Lauren Fox
Best friends Willa and Jane enjoy each other's company until an old high school buddy from Willa's past unexpectedly falls in love with Jane.
Recommended by Connie and Jo 

“Gold’’ by Chris Cleave
Cyclists Zoe and Kate are friends and athletic rivals for Olympic gold, while Kate and her husband Jack, also a world-class cyclist, must contend with the recurrence of their young daughter's leukemia.
Recommended by Connie 

“House of Velvet and Glass’’ by Katherine Howe
Shattered by the deaths of her mother and sister on the Titanic, Sibyl attempts to contact her departed loved ones at a medium's table before reconnecting with former flame Ben.
Recommended by Susie

“How It All Began: a Novel” by Penelope Lively
The mugging of a retired schoolteacher on a London street has unexpected repercussions for her friends and neighbors, and inadvertently reveals an illicit love affair, leads to a business partnership, and helps an immigrant reinvent his life.
Recommended by Jo

“I Married You for Happiness’’ by Lily Tuck
The tale unfolds over a single night as Nina sits at the bedside of her husband, whose sudden death is the reason for her lonely vigil. She takes the time to remember defining moments of their long union.
Recommended by Susie

“In One Person’’ by John Irving
A masterfully told story about Billy, a bisexual man who deals with identity, relationships, and the struggle that comes with living a life outside of the mainstream.
Recommended by Jo

“An Irish Country Wedding: a Novel’’ by Patrick Taylor
Resolving to handle his usual round of eccentric patients before marrying his sweetheart, Dr. O'Reilly helps clear the name of a pigeon-hunting cat and encourages a promising student while his assistant, Barry, considers a romance with a politically outspoken teacher.
Recommended by Jane

The Lifeboat: a Novel’’ by Charlotte Rogan
Forced into an overcrowded lifeboat after a mysterious explosion on their trans-Atlantic ocean liner, newly widowed Grace Winter battles the elements and her fellow survivors.
Recommended by Haley

“The Middlesteins’’ by Jami Attenberg
Two siblings with very different personalities attempt to take control of their mother's food obsession and massive weight gain to save her life after their father walks out and leaves her reeling in the Chicago suburbs.
Recommended by Susie

“Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore’’ by Robin Sloan
After a layoff during the Great Recession sidelines his tech career, Clay Jannon takes a job at the titular bookstore in San Francisco, and soon realizes that the establishment is a facade for a strange secret.
Recommended by Andrea and Jo

“Mrs. Queen Takes the Train: a Novel’’ by William Kuhn
The author imagines the kerfuffle that transpires when a bored Queen Elizabeth strolls out of the palace in search of a little fun, leaving behind a desperate team of courtiers who must find the missing Windsor before a national scandal erupts.
Recommended by Andrea

“Newlyweds’’ by Nell Freudenberger
A 24-year-old woman moves from Bangladesh to Rochester, New York, to marry a man after they meet online, in an arranged marriage for the twenty-first century.
Recommended by Haley

“The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared: a Novel’’ by Jonas Jonasson
Confined to a nursing home and about to turn 100, Allan Karlsson climbs out of the window in his slippers and embarks on a hilarious and entirely unexpected adventure.
Recommended by Andrea

“The Red Book’’ by Deborah Copaken Kogan
Centering around Harvard's Red Book, a collection of personal triumphs and failures from graduates, this novel follows a group of roommates as they prepare for their twentieth reunion.
Recommended by Connie

“Seating Arrangements: a Novel’’ by Maggie Shipstead
Winn Van Meter attends the wedding of his eldest daughter, which is marked by the bride's advancing pregnancy, her sister's broken heart, and the seductive machinations of wedding party members.
Recommended by Susie

“Tell the Wolves I’m Home’’ by Carol Rifka Brunt
When 14-year-old June’s world is upended by the death of a beloved artist uncle who was the only
person who understood her, she is mailed a teapot by her uncle's grieving friend, with whom June forges a poignant relationship.
Recommended by Haley

“This Must Be the Place: a Novel” by Kate Racculia
A quirky boarding house is home to Mona Jones and her daughter, Oneida, two loners and self-declared outcasts. But their small, quiet life is upended when Arthur Rook shows up in the middle of a nervous breakdown, devastated by the death of his wife.
Recommended by Connie

“Treasure Island!!!’’ by Sara Levine
When a college graduate reads Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Treasure Island, she redesigns her life according to its core values: boldness, resolution, independence, and horn-blowing.
Recommended by Connie

“The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: a Novel’’ by Rachel Joyce
Harold Fry is convinced that he must deliver a letter to an old love in order to save her, meeting various characters along the way and reminiscing about the events of his past and people he has known.
Recommended by Haley

“The World Without You’’ by Joshua Henkin
The Frankels gather at their summer home to mourn the death of sibling and journalist adventurer Leo and endure shared grief and private challenges that shape their views about family.
Recommended by Andrea

“The Yellow Birds: a Novel’’ by Kevin Powers
In the midst of a bloody battle in the Iraq War, two soldiers, bound together since basic training, do everything to protect each other from both outside enemies and the internal struggles that come from constant danger.
Recommended by Susie and Connie

When it Happens to You: A Novel in Stories’’ by Molly Ringwald
Writing with a deep compassion for human imperfection, Ringwald follows a family and their friends and neighbors while they negotiate the hazardous terrain of everyday life, revealing deceptions, heartbreak, and vulnerability.
Recommended by Sonia

“Where’d You Go, Bernadette: a Novel’’ by Maria Semple
When her notorious, hilarious, volatile, talented, troubled, and agoraphobic mother goes missing, teenage Bee begins a trip that takes her to the ends of the earth to find her.
Recommended by Jo and Jane

Zone One: a Novel by Colson Whitehead
Mark Spitz and his squad of three "sweepers" move through Zone One of lower Manhattan, a walled-off enclave scheduled for resettlement in the aftermath of a zombie plague. It falls to Spitz and his fellows to take care of the handful of undead that remain.

Recommended by Susie

--Jo Hansen, jhansen@cooklib.org


Jo Hansen has been a Readers’ Advisor at Cook Library for several years, after a 20-year career as a newspaper journalist. Libraries rock! She especially enjoys literary and historical fiction as well as mysteries and fantasy. When she doesn’t have her nose in a book, she enjoys playing with her chocolate Labrador Yogi Bear and watching great movies.