my favorite books of 2012

I did it!

I reached my goal of reading 55 books this year, a whole 20 books more than last year. Definitely a challenge for this slow reader who sometimes gets distracted by things like the copyright page (not even kidding, I am going to nerd out over that so hardcore when I see it in my book) and the page that describes the history of the book’s typeface. [Is there a name for this page? Please advise.]

Like last year, I have a disclaimer that these aren’t necessarily books published in 2012, but my favorite of the novels I picked up for the first time this year. I’ll also add that I was lucky enough to read several really, really great books being published in 2013, but I won’t be including them on this list. Which is as follows:

THIS IS NOT A TEST by Courtney Summers

tinat

I’m not into zombies. That’s what I first thought when I read the premise of Courtney Summers’ newest book. I mean, I knew I’d read it. I’m clearly a huge and vocal fangirl of her books. But would I love it as much as her last three novels? In a word? YES. It’s not a zombie novel. I mean, it is. There are zombies and blood and some deliciously gory scenes. But it’s mostly a really wonderful character study that skeeved me out in all the best ways and made me stop saying I’m not into zombies. It’s nearly impossible for me to choose my favorite Courtney Summers novel, but this one is definitely in the running.

LEVERAGE by Joshua C. Cohen

leverage

I like books about really tough situations. The more depressing the topic, typically the more interested I am in the book. LEVERAGE is the most honest book I’ve ever read about bullying. It goes where you think it might go and then further than that. Rock bottom. It’s also a sports book and I’m not into sports, but there are some beautifully crafted descriptions of football plays and gymnastics moves that even I appreciated. I really admire books that remind me to be an honest writer, no matter how difficult the subject, and LEVERAGE is at the top of that list for me.

LOVE & LEFTOVERS by Sarah Tregay

love and leftovers

I’m a sucker for a good verse novel, and this is one of my favorites. I love Tregay’s writing and though the book was shorter due to its format, I felt as if I’d read a prose novel when I’d finished. So much depth conveyed in so few words, and the story felt very authentic. It’s one of those books I can’t really explain in detail why I like so much and generally tell people, “Just read it!” I found it really inspiring and it will likely go in my very small pile of books that I reread once a year or so.

HOW TO SAVE A LIFE by Sara Zarr

how to save a life

I mean, it’s Sara Zarr. That should say enough. But really, I didn’t expect the connection that I had to this book. It was the same feeling I had with her book SWEETHEARTS. Her characters are always incredibly real but these are achingly so. I really felt for them. So many emotions for my stone-cold heart. [Also: I know I said I wouldn’t put 2013 books on this list, but I got an early read of THE LUCY VARIATIONS, Sara Zarr’s next book, due out in May 2013, and it is fantastic.]

BLANKETS by Craig Thompson

Okay, this book was published almost a decade ago, but let’s just pretend you all recently discovered it like I did. I read quite a few graphic novels this year and this was the most surprising. I was heartbroken by the sixth page (and this is a memoir, which made some of the scenes even more upsetting), but the story was also funny at times and beautifully told through all 592 pages.

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What are your favorite books of the year? Or feel free to link to a post you’ve made in the comments section!

what i’ve been up to

Oh, guys. GUYS.

It’s obviously been a while, although if you’re on Twitter, you’ve probably seen me hanging out there talking about TV I love and books I love and Cosby-inspired sweaters (which I also love) and I don’t even know.

1. Not a lot of book news to report right now, but what you need to know is that a) As I finish up another round of revisions, I must say the brilliance of my editor, Ari Lewin, cannot be overstated, and b) We will see lots of amazing things like jacket copy and a cover and a release date in the new year and I will be ecstatic to show them to you.

2. I’ve done some fun guest posts over the past few months, including this Q&A from yesterday and a roundtable post with a few of my debut writer pals. It always feels a little strange talking about my writing in a public forum. Two things I’ve learned in the last year is that I’m a pretty private person and that I don’t enjoy talking about my writing process (mostly because there is no real process), but I find interviews really fun. Perhaps because I’ve generally been on the other side of them my whole life, what with the whole journalism thing? Ponder. Discuss.

3a. Back in October, I visited New York for the first time in four years, where I caught up with a few old friends and some new ones, too; got lost a lot (typical); ate delicious food (also typical, but very appreciated); and probably walked more than I have in the past year and a half (blame Los Angeles). I also met my agent, Tina Wexler, for the first time in person and she was, of course, delightful in every way just as she is over email and the telephone. We had lunch with my editor, whom I’d met back in August over a lovely dinner, and stormed the Penguin offices afterward. I wore a cat dress. And you know, even a year and a couple of months after my book deal, this whole author thing is very surreal (the Penguin offices, up close and personal?!).

3b. My trip to New York was two-fold; after three days in the city, I rode up to Woodstock where I embarked on a writing retreat with six other fantastic ladies. I am, admittedly, not much of the nature-y, outdoors-y type (somewhere in Missouri, my mother is cringing) but it was really nice being in such a remote location for five days. I got to see the gorgeous colors of autumn leaves that had turned for the season, breathe smog-free air for the first time in a long time, and see actual stars at night. There were lots of delicious homemade dinners, cheese, wine, book talk, career talk, games, AND some writing. Definitely one of the best trips I’ve ever taken and here is a picture to prove I was IN NATURE:

Photo by Alison Cherry.
From L to R: Alison Cherry, Caroline Carlson, Lindsay Ribar, me, Kristen Kittscher, Corey Haydu, and Liz Whelan.
Photo by Alison Cherry.

4. TV. You thought I was going to end a post without talking about television? SURELY YOU JEST. But, yeah. I’m a hardcore TV junkie to the end, but it turns out that watching whole seasons of TV shows while I’m revising is actually vital to my existence. In the past couple of months, I’ve devoured the entire series (thus far) of Awkward and Downton Abbey, and am steadily working my way through Breaking Bad and Scandal, both of which are absolutely phenomenal. And now I will stop because I can and will talk about television for days (but please know that the second seasons of Shameless and Homeland are on tap during the holidays).

That’s about it. I think. Either way, I’ll be back soon(ish) with a post about my favorite books I’ve read in 2012. So far I’ve read 51 books (only four shy of my goal for the year — can this slow reader do it in the next 11 days?) and there have been some really, really great ones in my stack.

Until then, my friends.