My Favorite Books of 2012

Another year is closing, and though this blog is still rather shiny and new, it doesn't mean that I haven't spent the last year reading some incredible books. Granted, this was my last year of college, so I spent more time trying to graduate than reading books for fun. Hopefully, 2013 to will mean more books! Fair warning, most of these choices are pretty feminine.

The first book of 2012 that I read and loved deeply was Swamplandia! by Karen Russell. You might have heard something of it, and if you read it you might not have liked it. A lot of people seem to start off loving it and then want to set the book on fire before they're done. But for a lot of the same reasons they hated this book, I actually really loved it.
To begin with, the story starts off in this surreal, funny setting - a family run alligator wrestling park in the Florida everglades. But before long - a few pages in, really - "reality" begins to shift. By the end of the book, the story is completely grounded in reality. The children who are central to the story are forced to grow up very brutally, very shockingly, and very suddenly. They aren't playing in a magical Neverland anymore - they are very much thrust into the world of adulthood. At this certain climax in the novel (you will know it when you get there) I was left not just trembling, but literally shaking. Books have made me angry, books have made me laugh, and books have made me cry, but never in all the years of being able to read, has a book struck a nerve in me quiet like that.
This is Karen Russel's first full novel, and she handles this, I thought, so very beautifully. A million times better than any of the seasoned novelists I've met through reading. In fact, I've made it my life's purpose to meet this woman. Swamplandia! may not be one of your all time favorite books, but it's definitely one of mine.

Book 2 is another mass disappointment that I really enjoyed. The last book of the Hunger Games, Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. Once again, I can see why so many people weren't satisfied with this ending. But truthfully, it stands on it's own for a very different reason. I'm going to be condescending towards you all who hated it for a minute. I'm going to assume you liked the first two because they were high in drama and very entertaining, whereas Mockingjay was just "weird."
I loved Mockingjay because it had a different message. This entire series had a dystopian message of warning kind of slammed over the heads of it's young readers. Consumerism is evil, Reality TV is evil, etc. But Mockingjay took that a little further and was a little ... scarier because to me it felt less like a highly entertaining, hugely dramatic YA novel. It felt more like a warning.

Book 3 was one of the rare Christian Romance Novels - which I'll be totally up front with you right now, this was the first time I've ever read anything from that genre. Redeeming Love was passed down to me from a friend. I wasn't expecting a whole lot from it, and I was wrong. It's not the cheesy, smarmy, preachy book you're expecting. It was inspirational and uplifting, and for me it was the right book at just the right time.
Redeeming Love is the story of a "fallen woman" (in every sense of the word) who stumbles into a marriage with a farmer. A very, very, very forgiving and Christ-like farmer. Honestly, I learned a lot from this book. If anyone has read any other deep-thinking Christian Romance Novels of this caliber, send me a list.

Book 4 was one I'd read for college. It's a little known novel by the name of The House on Coliseum Street. It's a shame it's so little known, too. It deserves to be up on the shelves next to Steinbeck and Hemingway. It's especially important as literature for women (next to Grau's award winning Keepers of the House) I loved this book, old as it is, because I found myself in a situation much like Joan's a mere month after reading it. I knew at the time that I could relate to the female protagonist (as did all the other girls in my class at the time) but a few weeks after I'd taken my final test on it, my life took a turn that mirrored Joan's in such a way that it was quiet scary. I'm not independently wealthy, as Joan is, but I realize that I have a lot to learn from her in finding that inner strength. As the old adage goes "Well behaved women rarely make history."

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