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: http://www.amazon.com/Little-Flower-Recipes-Christine-Moore/dp/0983459487
What did you read and love this year?
Embracing my chaos, Lian