ABC Customers’ Favorite Reads of 2012

First of all, a little late, happy 2013! And what a cracking start to the new year we will have, since so many of you have sent in your favorite reads from 2012.  Thank you so much for all this literary inspiration – I hope that whoever looks through this list, and the ABC Staff’s Favorite Reads of 2012, will find plenty of new books to try out in the next twelvemonth.

I’m happy to report that this post is ginormous, so I just want to take this space to highlight all of you who took the time to send in titles: Marjolein Balm, Retno Trimbos, David Swatling, Anne Marie Klaarhamer, Jonathan de Souza, Keefe Cordeiro, Marianne van der Wel, Bryna Hellmann, Jeroen van Trierum, Kiki van Gurp, Giny Backers, Maya Katerberg, Luke Sondelski, Mique Capel and Michelle Meewezen.

Thank you once more for your lists.  We are so lucky to have customers like you!

Marjolein Balm

The Color Of Tea – Hanna Tunnicliffe

Grace Miller moves from England to Macau, China, with her Australian husband Pete, who has got a new job there at an important casino. Grace starts her own job: a nice café and pastry shop called Lillian’s, and the café is quite a hit, as she sells tea and macaroons from her own recipe. She meets a wide cast of colorful people and even has to hire two workers as the café is such a big hit. But then Pete, who is getting more and more absent from Grace’s life, has the feeling she starts to feel more for León, a businessman from France with his own restaurant in the city who helps Grace with new recipes. Could this be the end of their marriage? Luckily she has the support of a great team who become her best friends, each facing their own problems, and all trying to help each other. Even in a very special way in the end.. This is a book that immediately takes you away to the colorful life of Grace in Macau. The cast of characters is just outstanding and makes this book a realistic and adventurous page turner. Highly recommended!!

On the Island – Tracey Garvis Graves

Anna Emerson is a thirty yearold teacher who travels with her student, the seventeen year old T.J.Callahan to his family’s vacation house on a small island in the Maldives. T.J ‘s parents have hired Anna as his personal tutor, as T.J. was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago, and couldn’t finish high school because of this. But Anna and T.J. never reach the family’s vacation rental house. During the travel to the island, the pilot of their small plane gets a fatal heart attack and the plane crashes into the Indian Ocean. Their life jackets keep Anna and T.J. alive, and they land on a small bit of island which exist only of wilderness, with sharks around it. A thrilling read: will they survive? And what happens when love comes lurking around the corner? A book that keeps you on the edge of your chair while reading, I couldn’t put it away.

Monument 14 – Emmy Laybourne

It all happens on just an ordinary day. Dean and his little brother Max are picked up by the school bus which brings them to the high and elementary school. A big thunderstorm complete with massive hail comes up all of a sudden which is so bad that the bus is badly damaged, and a few of the children don’t make it out of the bus alive. They are driven by the bus driver to an abandoned supermarket where they have to wait till it safe again outside, as the thunder and hail were just the start of a series of natural disasters and because of that some toxic clouds from a factory are a new threat outdoors. But what if they never will know when it’s safe to go back? And.. what happened to their parents and family?

The Catastrophic History of You And Me – Jess Rothenberg

Brie has died; she was only sixteen years old. Her heart literally broke in two when her boyfriend Jacob told her this: I don’t love you. Now she is somewhere in between life and death; when she died she was zoomed to Pizza Heaven, a pizza place right on the San Francisco bay where a lady behind the counter is solving crossword puzzles and there are only recently died teens eating pizza and killing their time. With the help of another passed away guy, Patrick, Brie discovers more about why Jacob said he didn’t love her: she sees him now from above frequently with another girl, her best friend Sadie. But because she is some kind of ghost now, she had the ability to sabotage Jacob and Sadie and some other things in between, and to change some things for the better. With Patrick’s help, Brie will have to pass through the five stages of grief before she’s ready to move on… but how do you begin again, when your heart is still in pieces?

A YA book not to miss, fabulous characters and plot, surprising plot twists, and a great ending!!

Pretty Crooked – Elisa Ludwig

Willa is a new student at an exclusive prep school where there is a clear division among the haves and have-nots. And even if Willa was accepted to the fold of the most popular girls n school, she hates that some of her new friends have been ragging on the scholarship girls. That’s when she develops this brilliant plan to be a sort of modern Robin Hood: she’s going to steal from the rich and give to the poor. But at what consequence? Pretty Crooked is the kind of book that makes you laugh out loud! I loved the plot and the main character, Willa; she is so smart and is a little naive in her plan to help out her less fortunate classmates. What was very good was the topic the author mentions in this book: online bullying and how far something like that goes and what the effects can be. And what was going on with Willa’s mother? I really liked that side story, but I was a bit bummed that it wasn’t revealed in this book, so I definitely hope there will be a sequel.. (Blogmistress’s note: Of course there will be a sequel! Out in March: Pretty Sly. :-))

Retno Trimbos

(Blogmistress’s note: Congratulations to Retno for completing his Goodreads Reading Challenge of 2012! And for doing so well on his other challenge: losing weight.)

Kafka on the Shore – Haruki Murakami

I heard others about this author, but had never read his books before. This book is funny, unique and it brings you to other world.

The Help – Kathryn Stockett

This book is INCREDIBLE. It’s so well written, very moving; it swings me to different moods, laughing, smiling, crying and even anger. I wonder if the movie is as good as the book.

Mindfood, bewust eten meer genieten – Pavel G. Somov (Original title: Eating the Moment)

This year my brother got married in my home country in Indonesia and I wanted to lose weight so that I’d look and feel better during this important event. Besides exercising and watching what I ate, I also read some books on losing weight. Some books are such eye openers, including this. It’s a very practical book with a lot of exercises. It teaches you how to distinguish the difference between hunger (when your body really needs food) and appetite. It makes me realize that you can control yourself over food, that you are the boss of your own body, not food or something in your head that tells you to eat whenever you feel bad (emotional eating).

Fast, Fresh, Simple – Donna Hay

The title says it all. This cookbook shows you how to make beautiful and delicious food in the most simple way and with fresh ingredients. Some of them are so simple, you wouldn’t believe it. I have tried some recipes and they are indeed fast and simple.

David Swatling

HHhH – Laurent Binet

This striking debut redefines historical fiction. A gripping, haunting, and personal investigation of the Butcher of Prague and two men recruited to assassinate him. Much more than a World War II story. Far and away the best book I read this year.

The Hollow Man – Oliver Harris

Dark, edgy, urban thriller. Best debut in my favorite genre. Thanks ABC for giving me a copy for You Review.

Cervantes Street – Jaime Manrique

Spain’s Golden Age brought vividly to life by this Columbian author I met in NYC this summer. The section when young Cervantes is sold into slavery in Algiers is unforgettable.

Death in the Afternoon – Ernest Hemingway

Picked this up for a little research and devoured it whole. “Bullfighting is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death.” (Some say that about writing, too.)

Anne Marie Klaarhamer

To the Lighthouse – Virginia Woolf

Oorlog en vrede – Leo Tolstoj (War and Peace)

Life of Pi – Yann Martel

The Innocent – Ian McEwan

Tonio – A.F.Th. van der Heijden

The Casual Vacancy – J.K. Rowling

Het goddelijke monster – Tom Lanoye

A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again – David Foster Wallace

Going Solo – Roald Dahl

A Home at the End of the World – Michael Cunningham

Jonathan de Souza

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – Seth Grahame-Smith

I enjoyed Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but I absolutely loved Abraham Lincoln: Vampire hunter. Grahame-Smith delivers a perfect blend of real history and his own addition of fantasy. The novel, which follows honest Abe from his youth throughout his untimely death, features many historically accurate events which are then woven into the story of vampires controlling the South. The subsequent movie that came out this year does not even come close to being as enjoyable as the movie. Read this one for sure.

Bite Me – Christopher Moore

After Bloodsucking Fiends and You Suck, Christopher Moore once again revisits Jody and Tommy, the two vampire lovers trying to survive the dangers of San Francisco. This time however, they are not the hunted ones, but rather Chet, a fat cat turned into a vampire by accident that is recruiting all the stray cats in the city and turning them. Moore is able to weave hilarity as well as sincerity into almost every page. Several characters from Moore’s previous works have a cameo in this one, which also gives way to insanity. Whether or not you’re sick of the whole vampire fad, I suggest you give this book and its predecessors a try. Moore delivers a unique quirky love story that is equal parts romantic, thrilling, and hilarious.

A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess

I had to read this one for one of my classes and while that usually does not bode well, I thoroughly enjoyed it; so much so, that I went on to use it in my bachelor’s thesis. Burgess depicts a futuristic London where anything can go wrong and it usually does. The novel raises the question of how far something or in this case someone can be pushed before he or she is no longer themselves. Burgess’ futuristic London is a bleak dystopian lifestyle that may serve as a warning for what the future may hold for us and the generations to come.

Dandelion Wine – Ray Bradbury

I read this about two weeks before the end of the summer vacation and felt elated and devastated throughout the entire novel. The story, which is actually several stories, weaved together, starts with the beginning of the 1928 summer vacation in a small Illinois town. Bradbury delivers a feeling of nostalgia, while also reminding the reader that nothing lasts forever. With each story, summer is dwindling down, and the characters change from joyous at the beginning, to lamenting the days gone by at the end. The novel is sad yet wonderful at the same time; the summer teaches the characters and you, the reader, to live in the moment and enjoy the little things.

Keefe Cordeiro

The Englishman Who Posted Himself and Other Curious Objects – John Tingey

The title alone makes a brilliant introduction to the slightly strange and groundbreaking antics of an eccentric postal service enthusiast.

The Learners – Chip Kidd

A roller coaster of humor, graphic design minutiae and an electrically charged social experiment.

Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us about Being Human – Grant Morrison

A mind-bending, fourth wall-breaking exploration of comic book heroes and their impact on society.

Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll (with artwork by Yayoi Kusama)

It’s amazing how the integration of Kusama‘s art throughout the book brings the already fantastical story to new dimensions.

Sushi (PIE books) – Kazuo Nagayama, Hiroshi Yoda and Kazuhiko Tajima

Wow! Wow! Wow! Amazing photography, mouthwatering descriptions AND full explanations of seasonal availability and cultural connotations. Yum.

Marianne van der Wel

Shades of Grey – Jasper Fforde

Think of Orwell’s 1984 splashed with multiple colours of paint. A both funny and serious story on a dystopian future. This was the first book I finished in 2012 and by far my favourite.

The World House Series (World House and Restoration) – Guy Adams

Insanely funny and imaginative. It is literally impossible to know what’s around the next corner.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Ransom Riggs

A very simple story, but beautifully told.

The Discworld Series (starts with The Colour of Magic) – Terry Pratchett

I’ve read a lot of Discworld novels this year. I tried to pick one, but couldn’t choose. I love imagination and originality in stories and what I love about this series is that Terry Pratchett takes things you know and puts it in a light you never expected. So, at book #24 I’m still enjoying myself immensely and, at times, laughing out loud.

Heart-Shaped Box – Joe Hill

I love ghost-stories. You never know which way they’ll go and I never saw this one coming. Reading this book was almost like watching a movie for me. I was on the edge of my seat, heart pounding and my eyes devoured the words.

Bryna Hellman

Annie Dillard has written one beautiful book after another since Pilgrim at Tinker Creek in 1974. Her latest, The Maytrees, is the best book I read in 2012. It’s a novel, so there are fascinating characters, a surprising plot, a thoughtful theme and all the rest, but it’s also poetic. If that appeals to you, buy it and read it, slowly.

Jeroen van Trierum

The Fault In Our Stars – John Green

Powerful, surprising, uplifting and touching. This Young Adult book is definitely also meant to be read by grown-ups. The characters feel real and that is thanks to the motion and flow of the words. A special story that lingered long after I finished the book.

(Read Oona’s You Review of this title.)

Marvel Comics: The Untold Story – Sean Howe

I was first introduced to Marvel in 1977 through a black-and-white version of ‘Spinneman’. A lifelong obsession began. Over the years I’ve become quite knowledgeable about all of Marvel. Or so I thought… This book is a treasure trove of facts and interesting stories. Written as a well-researched documentary.

Every Day – David Levithan

2013 was the year I got introduced to Young Adult books. As with The Fault In Our Stars, this one is a page-turner. A very original tale of growing up and the true meaning of love.

Days Of Destruction, Days Of Revolt – Chris Hedges & Joe Sacco

Before I read this book I had never heard of sacrifice zones. A new look at the dark side of the American dream. Sometimes hard to read because of the constant flow of information. Powerful because you know this is real.

The Future Of Us – Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler

The last Young Adult book I read. An original take on a fantasy everybody had. What if you could look into the future? Would you change anything? A teen finds a Facebook log-in for the future. Nothing special you think until you realize it is 1996.

The Submission – Amy Waldman

The most insightful book I read post 9-11 about 9-11. The Submission has no heroes or bad guys. It made me rethink my standpoints and beliefs.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank – Nathan Englander

A collection of short stories that makes you laugh and sad at the same time. The most memorable is the first story about two couples and the holocaust. A must read.

Bruce – Peter Ames Carlin

I read a lot of books about Bruce Springsteen. Most of them were written from the point of view of fans. This one is the definitive yet unofficial bio of the Boss.

My Heart Is An Idiot – Davy Rothbart

A funny book about love, lovers and love that is not reciprocated. No matter how tragic it gets, the writer seems to find some humor in it. Part memoir, part road trip.

It Chooses You – Miranda July

The personal stories behind the Los Angeles PennySaver classified ads. Realistic snapshots of ordinary people, all with a special story.

Jeroen van Trierum’s Favorite Graphic Novels

Building Stories – Chris Ware

Is it a book? A graphic novel? Or art? Building Stories is all this and more. Brilliantly original, this box dares the reader to take its own path to experience Building Stories.. Ware composes a tale of separated stories that are all connected. The twist is that there is no specific first story or last.

Journalism – Joe Sacco

This is a collection of short stories about all the things that are wrong in the world. From refugees in Malta to the effect of war on Chechen women, Sacco writes and draws painfully honest tales. Journalism shows that comics/graphic novels are more than superhero tales meant for kids.

Los Angeles Ink Stains – Jim Mahfood

This books combines the first autobiographical webcomics from Mahfood. The artist lets the reader take a peek into his life which contains things like music, drugs, alcohol, women, work and art. Los Angeles Ink Stains is funny and a bit schizophrenic (but in a good way).

Mind The Gap Vol. 1: Intimate Stragers – McCann, Esquejo & Oback

The spirit from Elle Peterssen is detached from her comatose body. In this form she looks for clues about the identity and motive of the one who attacked her and put Elle into a coma.

Mind The Gap is a paranormal thriller with luscious art and an intriguing story about life and death.

Two Generals  – Scott Chantler

A graphic memoir from the perspective of two young men who fought in the Allied invasion of Normandy. The realistic story is drawn in a cartoony style, which is strangely fitting. Two Generals is a very special Second World War story. A story where battle, love and friendship are the main ingredients.

Jerusalem: Chronicles From The Holy City – Guy Delisle

After Pyongyang, Burma and Shenzhen, Delisle takes his readers to Jerusalem. As a stranger in a strange land, the cartoonist’s new travelogue lets us look at Jerusalem. Delisle does not shy away from the hard story of the conflict and tries to be honest and direct. It is a book about religion and the dividing line. Funny and poignant at the same time.

My Friend Dahmer – Derf Backderf

Jeffery Dahmer was an American serial killer. He was also in high school with political cartoonist Derf Backderf. In this personal book Derf sketches a powerful yet sympathetic portrait of Dahmer’s teen life. My Friend Dahmer shows how Dahmer transforms from a shy, nerdish kid to a cold blooded killer.

The Underwater Welder – Jeff Lemire

If there are any future plans to adapt The Twilight Zone into comic form please let Jeff Lemire be one of the lead writer/artist on it. The Underwater Welder is the most brilliant Twilight Zone episode never filmed. This is science fiction with a heart and soul.

Message To Adolf Part 1 – Osama Tezuka

I have never been a big fan of manga, but this book is breathtaking. If Tezuka had written Message To Adolf as a novel this one would be renowned worldwide. The story combines one of the most original tales of the Second World War through the eyes of three people named Adolf.

Avengers vs X-Men – Various

Every top 10 graphic novel list must have a true superhero book, right? This one is the ultimate collection of the epic clash AvsX. 568 pages of strong art and a nice way to tell the story that has been told a thousand times. Avengers vs X-Men is readable if you’re a newcomer, and long-time Marvel-fans will also get the benefit of the backstory.

Kiki van Gurp

Open City – Teju Cole

How to Paint a Dead Man – Sarah Hall

In the Forest – Edna O’Brien

The Master and Margarita – Mikhail Bulgakov

Giny Backers

Dirt – David Vann

Bring Up the Bodies – Hilary Mantel

Sweeth Tooth – Ian McEwan

Winter Journal – Paul Auster

The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot – Robert MacFarlane

NW – Zadie Smith

Maya Katerberg

Nineteen Minutes – Jodi Picoult

Told with a minimum of false sentiment and a maximum of impact. A mustread for every parent, teenager or (young) adult who is wrestling with the theme of (school) bullying.

Life of Pi – Yann Martel

Read it before seeing the movie. It is unbelievably touching!

Nation – Terry Pratchett

Not one of his Discworld series, yet still not quite taking place here on our own earth. The struggles of a young man and a young woman, both from different civilisations, to overcome the tragic results of a tsunami that hit a tiny island in some vast ocean. Told with typical Pratchett humor interspersed with such accurate observations on humanity, it takes your breath away.

Luke Sondelski

(See what he did with his picture there?  A for effort! :-D)

A Farewell to Arms – Ernest Hemingway

In the Garden of Beasts – Erik Larson

The Sisters Brothers – Patrick DeWitt

(See Sophie’s Staff Review here.)

The Walking Dead, Compendium 1 – Robert Kirkman

A Separate Peace – John Knowles

Steve Jobs – Walter Isaacson

I Suck at Girls – Justin Halpern

The Wind Through the Keyhole – Stephen King

The Pillars of the Earth – Ken Follett

Seven Types of Ambiguity – Elliot Perlman

Mique Capel

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag, A Red Herring Without Mustard and I Am Half-Sick of Shadows – Alan Bradley

Delicate, captivating, a totally different “Lolita”, hahaha!

Michelle Meewezen

The most inspirational book for me was Joe Dispenza’s Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself. I am still re(reading) it and listen to his MP3 downloads on a daily basis. However as I am sure others will also mention this book, I would also like to recommend Anita Moorjani’s Dying to Be Me. Fascinating, inspiring and reassuring. This book was recommend by Wayne Dyer whose books I would also truly recommend.

(See Femke’s interview with Dr. Joe Dispenza here.)

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