Books I Enjoyed in 2012 by Lian Dolan

by Lian on December 21, 2012

Books I Enjoyed in 2012

A short list—and probably incomplete—of the books that on my bedside table that stood out to me this year. As I was working on my own novel, you’ll see that my list happens to be all fiction and all written by women.  That happens, as I tend to pick up books in my genre to fully immerse myself in the process,  so in my case, that means a lot of fiction and a lot of fiction written by women.  Also,  when I’m writing, I find I admire books for various reasons that I might not if I were just reading for pleasure. A theme emerged in the book I liked this year: really flawed, or in some cases,  unlikeable main characters that got me rooting for them anyway. That’s really tough to commit to as a writer—and really hard to pull off.

I did read books by men, but some I found very tedious. (Like The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides, a tiresome Ivy League love triangle with a doormat main character. I’m 0 for 2 with that guy, as I didn’t like Middlesex either). Or they were really books from a couple of years ago that I finally got around to ( like The Leftovers by Tom Perotta which I enjoyed because  Tom Perotta is a literary crush and he can do no wrong.)  I’ll admit, I didn’t read too much non-fiction. Okay, none except about Queen Elizabeth, because basically 2012 was enough personal non-fiction for me that I used my reading to escape the many hospital rooms and doctors’ waiting rooms I sat in this year. I know every loved Wild by Cheryl Strayed, but as you all know how much I hate hiking, you’ll forgive me for not reading it. I’ll wait for the Nick Hornby-scripted movie to experience Wild.

I’ve included the Amazon links– but please, visit your local bookstore over the holidays and at least buy a book or two and some fancy cocktail napkins.

And so, without further adieu…

Where’d Your Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

A laugh- out- loud social satire about Seattle, Microsoft and the world of competitive parenting with a very compelling narrative hook.  Memorable characters, edgy one liners and an unexpected ending made this my favorite book of the year.  But maybe that’s because I, too, think Craftsmen homes are dreary and dark and you couldn’t pay me enough to live in one. Plus, I’m for any book where the dad gets all the public acclaim but the mother is the real genius. Semple is a TV writer (Arrested Development, Mad About You) who’s cutting humor shines through her wacky story  Need a wicked laugh and a little heart strings action over the holidays? Pick up Bernadette. Buy Bernadette here.


The After Wife by Gigi Levangie Grazer 

Ah, more social satire but this times the target is Santa Monica, north of Montana Ave. (or NoMo, as Grazer refers to it)  Fans of Satellite Sisters will recognize Montana Ave as our mailing address and as my sister Sheila’s former neighborhood and my sister Liz’s current digs.  Also, the home of Drugtown and Nail Spa Lane- so this book is a must if you want to really get on the inside of this ten-block stretch of privilege, Jennifer Garner sightings and expensive hair salons. For Grazer, this area is ripe with comedy material, like yoga butts and dog rescue fanatics. The pace of this book is breathless, sometimes I had to re-read paragraphs because the language was so rich with laughs. The story revolves around a women recovering from the sudden death of her husband who discovers she has a little supernatural talent.  It’s a fun twist to the usual fare of women’s fiction and the writing is super-sharp. There’s comedy, romance and a very funny Gay Best Friend. It really made me laugh—and that wasn’t easy this year! Buy The After Wife here.

Those We Love the Most  by Lee Woodruff

Lee Woodruff tries her hand at fiction (Yeah!) after writing two best-selling memoirs. She tackles a serious story about the aftermath of the death of child and the toll it takes on the parents and their extended family in Chicago. What I admire is that Woodruff sets up flawed characters in a terrible circumstance and sees them through to the imperfect end of their story—very brave and real. The relationships she draws in the books ( sister to sister; husband and wife; father and daughter) are the highlights. True and well-executed. Way to go, Lee. Buy Those We Love the Most here.


The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro

A page-turning tale that has everything: art history, romance, a fresh Boston setting, a likable, but unethical, main character and an art world mystery. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and now I feel ready to forge a Degas. An imagined ending to the real life Gardner Museum heist, Shapiro successful weaves together fact and fiction, history and present day.  It’s a fun peek inside a world I didn’t really know existed. Perfect for a long weekend get-away! Too lazy to sign up for one of those Art History classes at the local community college but want to review the origins of impressionism? Pick up The Art Forger here.


Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Okay, go ahead and read this one because everyone else has and eventually you’re going to learn the ending at some office holiday party and THAT would really spoil it for you. (And I know because I read this on a Kindle (first and only effort!) and somehow ending up reading the last chapter first! Not ideal for a page-turning thriller!) However outlandish the ending may be, Gone Girl does hold your attention for it’s audacity. It is fresh twist on a love story, it is cleverly plotted, and it is a book with the most unlikeable main characters you’ll ever care about. (Way to go on that one, author!) Be the last person in America to buy Gone Girl here.


 Little Flower: Recipes from the Cafe by Christine Moore

Christine is a friend, a wonderful cook and shop owner and one of the nicest people in the world. Her food is out-of-this-world yummy. Comfort food for the new millennium. Her lovely little cookbook is a best-seller on Amazon and , of course, here in Pasadena, home to her wonderful shop Little Flower. And her sea-salt caramels have captured the attention of the rest of the world, named by those in the know as the best anywhere. The recipes in here are do-able and lovely. The photography is gorgeous. And if you could capture just a small percentage of the warmth that Christine brings to everything she does, you’d be a top chef at home. Buy here:


What did you read and love this year?

Embracing my chaos, Lian


Related posts:


Best Beach Bag Books

Holiday Book List 2011

And to order Helen of Pasadena for your sister-in-law’s new Kindle!



William J. December 22, 2012 at 10:47 AM

I read a lot, mostly mysteries but for this post I will stick with women authors and books the crew might like.




Ma Schmidt December 21, 2012 at 8:35 PM

I loved “Tell the Wolves” and “State of Wonder” too – now currently LOVING Barbara Kingsolver’s new book “Flight Behavior” (on audio as I commute) and “Beautiful Ruins” by the bed. Also loved this year: “Yes, Chef” by Marcus Samuellson….

Beth December 21, 2012 at 8:28 PM

I read lots of good books this year. Especially liked Round House, by National Book Award winner (and Minnesotan), Louise Erdrich.

Courtney Dunevant December 21, 2012 at 2:25 PM

I also enjoyed Gone Girl. My list would also include the Steve Jobs bio (though I feel like I read it a hundred years ago indeed of 12 months ago), The Age of Miracles, and Wild.

On an aside: one book away from my reading goal for the year!

Natalie December 21, 2012 at 12:08 PM

My favorite fiction book this year was “Tell the Wolves I’m Home.” The writing was so lyrical & poetic, and the images were vivid. But there were also parts that were so harsh & real. It evoked so many emotions, thoughts, memories and longings. I loved it.

My favorite non-fiction book this year was “Sybil Exposed-The Extraordinary Story behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case” by Debbie Nathan. It was fascinating! Especially because I vividly remember the movie and book, and the McMartin hysteria.

Happy Holidays Lian. I know they will be hard (I’m having ups & downs) but we’ll get thru them!

Michele Salgado December 21, 2012 at 11:51 AM

I think my favorite read of 2012 was “Rules of Civility” by Amor Towels. Any book with New York as the setting captures my interest immediately. Throw in the fact that this story takes place in the 1930′s and I’m hooked. Also enjoyed “The Light Between Oceans” by M.L. Stedman. Lighthouses are another weakness of mine. This is one of those can’t put it done novels. I also enjoyed “Life of Pi” by Yann Martel, and figured that it was about time I read it with all the hoopla about the movie. Have to admit that it was a bit of a “Moby Dick” experience for me, but I definitely had to find out what happened to the tiger. I love your list, Lian, because I haven’t read any of them yet:-)

Colleen December 21, 2012 at 10:58 AM

Great list. I adored Where’d You Go, Bernadette, and I’m adding The Art Forger to my list. A favorite of mine this year was State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. Beautiful writing and a compelling story.

Cloud Mom December 21, 2012 at 10:41 AM

Thank you for the book list! I to have enjoyed the great ride of Gone Girl. This fall also enjoyed reading about the amazing life of Catherine the Great. You really understand how difficult and challenging her life was as a woman on the throne in Russia. (I think Liz or Monica recommended Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie earlier is year.)

Lian December 21, 2012 at 10:09 AM

Cathy– thank you for picking up Helen. ( blush…) and Ludie, great to hear from you. Lian

Cathy Hatfield December 21, 2012 at 9:59 AM

Whoops, forgot to tell you what I read and liked this year, which was Kati Marton’s “Paris, A Love Story”. A great read, and an easy one, feel like you are having lunch and catching up with a friend.

Cathy Hatfield December 21, 2012 at 9:53 AM

Thanks for the tips Lian, I was able to nail 3 Christmas gifts off your list, actually 4 if you count a copy of Helen of Pasadena ! I think because we feel we know you a little, its easier to know what the reviews actually are saying, and which friends can garner what from each book.

Ludie Driscoll December 21, 2012 at 9:26 AM

Hi Lian!

Had to let you know how much I loved “Tell the Wolves I’m Home”……It is such a tender book….i think you would enjoy it!

Merry Christmas!

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