|Original Image From Harvest Books|
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Gone Girl will be an ubiquitous entry on the Best Books of 2012 lists. There's a reason. It's a really, really good read. I started it after dinner one night and J woke up at 2am to find me still enthralled with it. Sometimes its nice to read a well-plotted novel full of interesting characters that isn't trying to redefine the genre.
I couldn't help casting it in my head, and it's a shame about Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillipe's divorce because they are MEANT to play the main characters. Add in Sarah Michelle Gellar as Phillipe's sister and we'd have a Cruel Intentions reunion. Which would be nothing short of awesome.
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business explains the psychology of habit. It also delves into how corporations utilize our habits to make us better consumers. The New York Times ran an excerpt explaining how Target can predict which customers are pregnant. Freaky.
Imagine: How Creativity Works demystifies creativity, explaining the historical, cultural, and environmental factors behind individual creativity and creative movements. The good news is that anyone can harvest their own imagination by reconsidering their preconceptions of how creativity works. As a frustrated novelist I found it fascinating, informative, and helpful.
UPDATE: My brilliant friend the Englishist informed me Jonah Lehrer was accused of self-plagiarism and problems with attributions regarding this work and some of his other journalism. I enjoyed the book, but find plagiarism abhorrent (although I find self-plagiarism to be a complex topic, Lehrer's was apparently rather blatant. The issues with attributions are more troubling).
The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb: A Novel's author, Melanie Benjamin also wrote Alice I Have Been about the girl who inspired Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. I loved that book. I equally loved "Mrs. Tom Thumb." Benjamin creates worlds you simply fall into and characters whom seem incredibly real, no matter how strange the circumstances. Plus I find descriptions of circuses and other traveling shows from the 19th and 20th centuries reliably fascinating.
John Irving's In One Person feels like an old-fashioned novel in the best possible sense. There's a rootable if deeply flawed narrator and a character driven plot. The Hotel New Hampshire and The World According to Garp are two of my favorite novels of the post-WWII era. This book is just as good.
Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West is simply amazing. It covers the adventures of two rich young women in 1916 who want more out of life than tea parties, so they volunteer to teach out west. This decision completely changes their lives in amazing ways. Non-fiction, but reads like a great novel. If you ever read These Happy Golden Years and wondered what Laura's first teaching job was really like for her...this helps provide context for an answer.
The House of Velvet and Glass is the follow up to The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane. Just like in "Dane" Howe creates a magical New England full of atmosphere and complicated, well-drawn women dealing with the ties of families and the pull of history.
Next to Love was maybe my favorite book of the year. I just loved it. Feldman creates complicated women who must send their men overseas in WWII and then deal with the fall out after the war ends. Her portrayal of PTSD in returning vets is just amazing, and as the wife of a vet I found it deeply touching. I also love how she realistically weaves in how history effects the fabric of every day life for these women, but in different and surprising ways. I really can't recommend this enough.
The Man Who Changed the Way We Eat: Craig Claiborne and the American Food Renaissance is a lot of fun, and full of interesting information about how Claiborne (amongst others, like Julia Child) changed the food culture in America with the power of his New York Times column and how what he started continues to inform food trends today.
The Age of Miracles is a heart-breaking, mind-twisting what if of a book. The world starts turning more slowly and we experience what that means through an incredibly fleshed out young girl. I kept thinking about her experiences and the vulnerability of existence way after I finished the book.
So. What books did y'all read and love this year?