This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz (Penguin/Riverhead) was on nearly every 2012 best books list. Last night, Bill Moyers & Company hosted a live chat with the author, a follow up to Diaz’s appearance on the show on Dec. 28th (video below), in which he offers insights on Moby Dick and Star Wars, and talks about how libraries inspire him.
Librarians have spoken, picking their favorite books of the year (#libfavs2012). Hundreds of librarians from across the country tweeted nearly 700 votes for over 400 titles during the twelve days of the challenge.
While the top two titles (Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars) have appeared on many other Best Books lists, title number 3 was picked by just one of the other sources we’ve been tracking:
Tied at #4 with Karen Thomas Walker’s The Age of Miracles is a title that hasn’t appeared on the other lists so far:
The Rook, Daniel O’Malley, Hachette/Little, Brown – a darkly humorous thriller about a paranormal version of Britain’s MI5; “think X-Men meets Jane Bond” says librarian and PrincessOfTheWorld from Mission, KS.
Thanks, again, to GalleyChat regulars Robin Beerbower, Salem [OR] Library, Stephanie Chase and Linda Johns, both of Seattle Public, for starting and shepherding this project. Thanks to Janet Lockhart, from Wake County P.L. (NC), for tabulating votes into the wee hours.
At this point, we’re finding the unexpected choices more interesting than the consensus titles. LJ is the only source to pick Joe Blair’s memoir By the Iowa Sea(S&S/Scribner). They think so much of it that they make it one of five nonfiction titles in their Top Ten and describe as “startling, bleak, and thoroughly honest.”
We’ve now wrapped up all the lists we are tracking (not as many as the Daily Beast; we’re focused on professional sources plus the most influential consumer sources) and will add Booklist’s picks when they are released in January. You can use the lists for end-of-the year ordering and to discover new readers advisory titles (there’s RA gold in those unique picks).
Two major Top Ten Books lists landed today — People magazine’s (not available yet online) and USA Today’s.
Neither includes E.L. James’s trilogy, but both feature the author (USA Today as “Author of the Year,” People as “Game Changer”). USA Today says, in a version of, “at least they are reading,” that James’s series “has proven that the novel — whether in print or e-book pixels — remains a heavyweight in the boxing ring of popular entertainment.” People calls the series a “soft-porn phenom.”
Circus performer, Luciano Anastasini rescues unwanted dogs and uses their talents in his Big Apple Circus act. The full-color photographs and close-up portraits telegraph the joy of these working partners, as does the following video.
For The Kid Who Is Always Picking Up Stuff At The Beach
Life in the Ocean: the Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle, written and illustrated by Claire A. Nivola, (Macmillan/FSG), ages 6 and up
Nivoli has captured the adventuresome inventiveness of a pioneering scientist in this picture book biography. We discover a mysterious richly populated underwater world as Earle finds new ways to observe and interact with multiple species.
Great for the Whole Family to Share
Unusual Creatures: A Mostly Accurate Account of Some of Earth’s Strangest Animals, by Michael Hearst, Diagrams, artwork and other visuals by Arjen Noordeman, Christie Wright and Jelmer Noordeman, (Chronicle), ages 5 and up
From the platypus entering the first end papers to the moment he swims off the final ones, we are enthralled by the information and sheer artistry in bookmaking of this compendium of odd living things from around the globe. Hearst’s Web site continues the story, with news about new discoveries.
For The Kid Who Has To KNOW And You Don’t Have The Answers
A Black Hole Is Not A Hole, written by Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano, illustrated by Michael Carroll, Charlebridge (Charlesbridge), ages 10 and up
DeCristafano takes a complicated topic and teases it apart, exploring discoveries and theories with a light but not silly humor assisted by Carroll’s diagrams and illustrations. The book tells you everything you wanted to know about black holes but were afraid to ask.
For The Kid Who Picks Up Every Insect And Brings It Home
Citizen Scientists: Be a Part of Scientific Discovery from Your Own Backyard, by Loree Griffin Burns, photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz, (Macmillan/Henry Holt), ages 7 and up
No matter how old we are and no matter where we live we can participate in the community of scientific discovery. As we observe and record information about the world around us, we become part of the grand tradition of everyday people supporting working scientists in their quest for knowledge.
No Crystal Stair, by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, artwork by R. Gregory Christie, (Lerner/LAB), YA and adult crossover
Although classified as fiction, the author used archival materials, extensive bibliographic resources and interviews to create a “documentary novel of the life and work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem bookseller.” She describes the impact that one man had on an entire community as “just a book bookstore owner.” Christie’s paintings evoke a time, a place and a people. A splendid volume to give adults as well as teens.
The Today Show asked two best selling authors to talk about their favorite books for holiday gifts this morning. David Baldacci and Gillian Flynn managed to mention eight of the twenty titles on their full lists,
Continuing my series of BEST BOOKS TO GIVE KIDS YOU DON’T KNOW VERY WELL, which began with my picks of books to give younger kids and continued with easy-to-read titles, here are my picks for older kids and young adults.
Fiction Ages 9 and up
Wonder, R.J. Palacio, (RH/ Knopf Young Readers; Brilliance Audio), ages 9 and up
This stunning debut novel about a home-schooled boy with a facial disfigurement who attends school for the first time has hit the bestsellers lists. I suspect it is grownups, teachers and librarians that are making that happen. I am hoping that this book with its multiple points-of-view finds itself in the hands of middle-school children who desperately need permission to make mistakes, make amends, and begin again.
Almost Home, by Joan Bauer, (Penguin/Viking), ages 9 and up
For the kid that has read all of Katherine Paterson, Patricia Reilly Giff, and loved Because of Winn Dixie.
Full disclosure – I will read anything Joan Bauer writes. She had me at Rules of the Road. Each novel is a gem. If there is a theme to her books it is resilience, defined as the process of learning to cope with stress and adversity. Bauer’s storytelling gift is her ability to paint her fictional world in the spectrum of colors, the good and the bad, the surprising and the disappointing. Sugar Mae Cole copes with an unpredictably absentee father, a mother with mental health issues and the stress, sadness, discomfort of homelessness. This isn’t a sad book (although there a weepy bits), it is one that makes the reader cheer when Sugar is discovering moments of joy and putting together a stack of “best days.”
The False Prince, by Jennifer Nielson, (Scholastic; Scholastic Audio), ages 11 and up
Looking for a few quiet moments during the holidays? After handing this page-turner to a kid, it is a good bet that we won’t hear from them for hours. This is a book for readers who ate up Harry Potter, tore through Rick Riordan, and are just discovering the entire backlist of Diana Wynne Jones. The story begins predictably enough, Sage is surviving in an orphanage, wretched and unloved when his life takes an unexpected and dangerous turn. He is to be presented to the court as the missing heir of the King. Fast-paced plotting, plenty of twists make this a worthy gift to the Rowling/Riordan fans. The second title in this projected trilogy, The Runaway King, is scheduled for release in March.
Marsh’s stunning debut The Night Tourist featuring Greek mythology set in New York City’s Grand Central Station captured the 8th graders who had aged out of Riordan’s Lightning Thief series. Here she presents a meaty read for historic fiction readers. Set in 16th century Europe, we follow the coming of age journey of Jepp, a dwarf who becomes a court jester, a transformative story of compassion and forgiveness, immersed in a world of faith, fate and scientific discovery.
In a new twist to the “dead girl genre” (Thirteen Reasons Why, The Lovely Bones, If I Stay) we have the dead boy teen. Imagine that a barely literate stoner dude, who dies in an incredibly stupid accident, is appointed a guardian angel to help a living soul. Only he doesn’t read much of the manual or comprehend what little he does read. Laugh out-loud funny.
Cinder, by Marissa Meyer, (Macmillan/Feiwel & Friends), ages 12 and up
That middle school speculative fiction fan who has read everything may have overlooked this not-really fairytale retelling of Cinderella set in a dystopic future of indentured servitude, class warfare and overt prejudice, subjugation and persecution of economic and geographic classes. A resourceful independent heroine compels the readers’ empathy and cheers as she battles forces beyond her (and our) understanding. The second in the series, Scarlet, which plays on the Red Riding Hood story, arrives in February.
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, (Random House; Listening Library)
Turning the trope of a fantasy novel with sentient dragons on its ear, Hartman’s debut features a race of dragons who are alien beings capable of transforming to “fit in” yet not quite being able to grasp the norms of social graces. Seraphina discovers that all that she was sure of in life is not true, yet she has been graced with love and loyalty. The second in this two-part series is planned for fall 2013.
Move over vampires, werewolves and zombies, there is a new original fantasy genre, assassin nuns. What if there was a society where young women were educated in a convent-like atmosphere and trained to murder for a “higher-cause”? With all of the intrigue of The Thief, this is a compelling read that I couldn’t put down. The sequel, Dark Triumph, arrives in April.
Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein, (Disney/Hyperion; Brilliance Audio), ages 14 and up
Did you know that the Royal Air Force employed women as pilots and couriers to serve in occupied France during World War II? This historic novel weaves the stories of young women who risked their lives to save others during the darkest days of the war. Wein begins this heart-wrenching story with the memoir-like writings of a captured British spy. This is more than a “war story,” It is a tale of friendship and love, of courage and endurance. So suspenseful, I could barely catch my breath to turn the page.
Continuing my series of BEST BOOKS TO GIVE KIDS YOU DON’T KNOW VERY WELL, which began with my picks of books to give younger kids…
Is there a four or five-year-old in the house that you are visiting? You cannot go wrong by bringing along some easy-to-read books. Series books are the key for this group. As kids get more fluent, they tear through books with favorite characters like popcorn. You may want to bring an entire series (we’ve given you links to information on each of them).
This newest installment of a series about two best friends – one tall, neat and reserved, one petite, rambunctious with a thatch of spiky blonde hair – take us to the exciting, sometimes overwhelming experiences of the State Fair.
The daily reviewers go their own way. Of the total 30 picks, 8 have not appeared on other Best Books lists we’ve been tracking (we don’t track all of them, focusing on the most influential consumer lists and those from library publications).
Critic Michiko Kakutani breaks ground by being the first to choose a self-published title as a best book, The Revolution Was Televised by hitflix.com’s TV criticAlan Sepinwall.
Cookbooks are the heaviest-circulating category in nonfiction, so we’ve put together an Excel file of the picks of 2012 — Best Cookbooks. We’ve also posted the covers on our Pinterest Board (feel free to copy it for your own virtual cookbook display).
Deb Perelman, author of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, (RH/Knopf), one of two titles with the most picks (tied with the “bible of Latin American cuisine,” Gran Cocina Latina, W.W. Norton), is described by People magazine as “living the food-blogger’s dream.” She was able to quit her day job to focus on her blog and write a book. She’s now living an author’s dream, with features on radio and in newspapers, including NPR’s Morning Edition and the New York Times, a spot in the top five on the NYT Hardcover Advice & Misc. best seller list for the last six weeks and heavy holds in libraries.
After the jump, links to the major best 2012 cookbook lists to date: (more…)
Also notable is the fact that a graphic novel, Building Stories by Chris Ware (RH/Pantheon) is on many lists. Publishers Weekly made it their #1 title, The New York Times put it in their top ten, and so did Time magazine. It is also listed in Kirkus‘s top 100, even though, as a book with multiple parts, it’s problematic for library collections.
Despite the amount of talk about ebook originals, only one appeared on any of the lists; the Kindle single, The Playground, was picked by the Washington Post as one of the 50 best nonfiction titles (the Amazon editors published their own picks of the Best kindle Singles; it did not include The Playground).
We hope you find our compiled lists (see the links under Best Books at the right for the latest) useful for end-of-the-year buying as well as book displays, whether actual or virtual (such as the Augusta County Library’s Pinterest Board).
Welcome to part one of my sixth annual answer to the burning question: “How do I choose a book as a gift for a kid I don’t know very well?” [Links to the previous five years answers are available here].
Books may seem under threat these days, but we know that readers still have a competitive edge over non-readers and that children who hear a wide range of vocabulary at home do better in school than kids who don’t. Who wouldn’t want to give this priceless gift?
A great example of the benefits of a lifetime of book sharing is Will Schwalbe’s The End of Your Life Book Club (RH/Knopf; BOT Audio; RH Audio), a book I will be giving to all the memoir junkies on my list this year. Schwalbe, who also co-wrote my favorite gift for new grads and recent hires, SEND: Why People Email So Badly and How to Do It Better, creates a portrait of his mother, Mary Anne Schwalbe within the framework of the books that they loved and shared while she endured treatment for pancreatic cancer. For bibliophiles and fans of Ex Libris by Ann Fadiman, the book discussions are like a scrapbook of “Oh, yes, I loved that book, too” and “I never did get around to that one, it’s around the house somewhere” and “I need to get that one right away.” Through this memoir about family and spirituality we grow to love, admire and respect Mary Anne Schwalbe not only as a person, but also as a parent who raised an empathetic, compassionate, and well-read son.
Your gift may spark a similar lifetime of reading. So, how do we select a book for a child we don’t know very well or see very often?
For young children, we want picture books with writing that sings, outstanding art that expands on the words, and stories or information that are developmentally appropriate. Below are this year’s picks from your librarian, for the family with the new baby, the grandchildren who live across the country, the godchildren who have arrived for the weekend and to amaze your nieces and nephews with your superior intuitive abilities, chosen from the thousands of children’s books published this year — sorted by age group, and with some notes to help you spot just the right book for that young reader. Since kids are likely to already know the latest Rick Riordan, James Patterson or Ivy and Bean book, the ones I have selected are mostly sleepers.
This series of board books are are the perfect introduction to language for the very young. Sharp photographs paired with a just-right text are a delightful first read-aloud.
Sniff! Matthew Van Fleet (S&S/Paula Wiseman), ages 6 months and up
Matthew Van Fleet has invented a way to delight toddlers with a sturdy board book containing interactive parts, building on the success of his earlier Tails (HMH, 2003), Sniff! is an exploration of noses and smell. We can touch the bear’s squishy tactile shiny embedded nose, feel the twitchy whiskers attached to the mouse’s nose and move the elephant’s trunk up and down.
Two- and Three-Year-Olds
Two of the best read-alouds for this group have bold graphic illustrations:
Mice by Rose Fyleman illustrated by Lois Ehlert, (S&S/ Beach Lane Books), ages 3 and up
Lois Ehlert explores Mice the classic poem by Rose Fyleman, (which begins, “I think mice are rather nice”) often found in children’s poetry collections. Ehlert (Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Growing Vegetable Soupand others) has created charming rodents from geometric shapes with cut paper collage.
The title most likely to reap the shout, “read it again!” is Robot Zombie Frankenstein! Here, Annette Simon crosses the outrageousness of Shark Vs Train with the sly humor of Mo Willem’s Pigeon series. Shapes play a significant role in the digitally rendered, sharp-edged, boldly colored graphic illustrations. Simon layers the shapes to create mashed up transformations from fairly benign robot antagonist to frighteningly fun disguises.
When preparing preschoolers for school, there are certain concepts parents need to teach their children. Most early childhood concepts are obvious; colors, numbers, and recognizing the alphabet.
Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger, (Macmillan/Roaring Brook) ages 3 and up
Laura Vaccarro Seeger demonstrates that she is one of the most inventive picture book artists of our time with Green, exploring the varieties of shades with acrylic paint, from lush brushstrokes of forest green to delicate dots of the glowing tails of fireflies. The simple rhyming text lulls the reader as the pages with their cut-outs for new colors foreshadow the next surprising twist:
Ages 4 and up
Z is for Mooseby Kelley Bingham illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky (HarperCollins/Greenwillow), ages 4 and up
Just when a reviewer may sigh, “Oh no, not ANOTHER alphabet book” arrives Kelly Bingham’s Z is for Moose illustrated by Caldecott winner Paul O. Zelinsky. The premise is that all of the objects and animals are lining up to present an alphabet play. Zebra is directing the action that begins quite orderly until Moose busts into the action impatient to have his turn. Zelinsky’s renderings of Moose’s wide-ranging emotions perfectly capture a young child’s big feelings when anxious and angry, exploding off the page in an uncontrollable tantrum.
Dinosaur Thunder by Marian Dane Bauer, illustrated by Margaret Chodos-Irvine (Scholastic), ages 4 and up
Learning to handle big feelings like fear are essential for a child’s development. Marian Dane Bauer, hits one out of the park with Dinosaur Thunder, illustrated by Margaret Chodos-Irvine. Brannon is afraid of thunder and runs for safety as the sound booms from above. The adults try to help with familiar tropes like “It’s just angels bowling” or “It’s just a big cat purring.” But it’s only when his big brother likens the sound to dinosaurs roaring that Brannon’s imagination overcomes his fear.
Aren’t we always looking for the perfect bedtime book? They don’t get any better than this one. The action centers on Henry and his new puppy. The setting is predictable; what happens on that first evening? It is Henry’s empathy that engages the reader as he repeatedly reassures Charley, “Don’t cry, don’t cry … I showed him my room again and my bed. I showed him my mother and father asleep in their bed, and I held Charley close in my strong arms” Oxenbury’s watercolor paintings perfectly capture the gentle relationship of a boy and his dog.
Spike is an axolotl (pronounced Ack-suh-Lah-tul), a special kind of salamander that lives in Mexico. This little reptile has been having trouble scaring the other species that live near him. Cook Prize winner (Balloons over Broadway), Sweet has created a biologically accurate environment as Spike ventures out swooshing his tail, shaking his spikes and baring his sharp pointy teeth.
Ganesha, the elephant-headed god has a weakness for sweets and a magical mouse companion. Patel and Hanes have created an easily accessible picture book based on one of the most popular legends in Hindi mythology. Clean lines, bold graphics with contrasting colors of hot pink and navy blue, cream and teal animate the story. The wordless two-page spreads retelling the ancient epic Sanskrit poem, Mahabharata is a masterpiece.
Oh, No!by Candace Fleming and Eric Rohman, (RH/Schwartz and Wade), ages 4 and up
A ferocious tiger is chasing the animals of the jungle. Kids who got a kick out of I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen will be enthralled with the limited language of the rhyming couplets in this suspenseful tale. Fair warning…the ending is not “nice.”
This lusciously illustrated retelling of Aesop’s fable of two mice who find that there really is no place like home is set in 1930′s New York on Christmas Eve. It is a perfect read aloud for the Christmas holiday.
The winners of the 2012 Goodreads Choice Awards were just announced. Since this is basically a people’s choice award, the titles tend to reflect best seller lists and offer few surprises (with the possible exception of the Best History & Biography award which went to Elizabeth the Queen by Sally Bedell Smith, RH; a somewhat surprising choice, given the rich outpouring of titles in that category this year. But then, it was the subject’s Jubilee Year).
Do we really need another World War II novel? This jaded reader sure did, because David Gillham’s City of Women is great. Set in Berlin in 1943, it’s about Sigrid, a bored German housewife who starts an affair with a Jewish man she meets in a movie theater, then quickly finds herself helping her lover smuggle his wife and children out of the country. The writing is a great mix of the literary and commercial, page-turning and suspenseful, with a morally complex, intelligent heroine at its center. If you’re a fan of well-written historical novels in the vein of Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto, this one is for you.
When Nancy Pearl talks books, buyers listen. On NPR’s Morning Edition yesterday, she presented four of her “Under the Radar” picks (the full list of seven, along with a link to the audio, are on the NPR site). Two of the titles received dramatic bumps on Amazon’s sales rankings.
America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation, David Goldfield, (Macmillan/Bloomsbury). Rose to #189 from #102,066)
Nancy says this book that claims the Civil War could have been avoided, made her “look back and reassess my knowledge and beliefs” about the war and its aftermath. Code Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein, (Hyperion). Rose to #216 from #5,238)
This one is not “below the radar” among YA readers. It’s on both the Publishers Weekly and the Amazon Best Books lists. However, as Nancy says, adults will also enjoy this “story of deep friendship, incredible bravery and the difficult choices that life sometimes forces on us.”