I love getting books as gifts, but giving books is another story.
I give them with trepidation and a boatload of qualifiers. It usually goes something like, "I hope you love this book as much as I did, but no big deal if you don't." Or maybe, "Not sure if it's your cup of tea, but I thought it was great. You can just toss this in the closet if you don't like it. No biggie."
Enter the yearend "best of" lists. They're a handy resource if you, like me, aren't sure what to buy. No list can truly include all the best books, because there are far too many. And who's to say what qualifies as a great read?
Books are viewed subjectively. You'll inevitably hear someone mutter, "Says who? I hated that book," after it won a prestigious award. Nevertheless, "best of" lists can help narrow things down if you're on the fence, or offer new ideas altogether.
I culled the top 2012 choices from The New York Times, The Huffington Post, NPR, and Goodreads. This list is by no means definitive nor authoritative. In no particular order, here's what they suggest:
"NW" by Zadie Smith
"Home" by Toni Morrison
"Swimming Home" by Deborah Levy
"Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn
"A Hologram for the King" by Dave Eggers
"Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore" by Robin Sloan
"Bring Up the Bodies" by Hilary Mantel
"This is How You Lose Her" by Junot Diaz
"The Casual Vacancy" by J.K. Rowling
"The Fault in Our Stars" by John Green
"The Light Between Oceans" by M.L. Stedman
"Building Stories" by Chris Ware
"The Long Earth" by Terry Pratchett
"The Yellow Birds" by Kevin Powers
"Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail" by Cheryl Strayed
"Behind the Beautiful Forevers" by Katherine Boo
"Brothers" by George Howe Colt
"Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking" by Susan Cain
"The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson" by Robert A. Caro
"Mortality" by Christopher Hitchens
"When I Was a Child I Read Books" by Marilynne Robinson
"Far From the Tree" by Andrew Solomon
"Ninety Days: A Memoir of Recovery" by Bill Clegg
"The Patriarch" by David Nasaw
"Why Does the World Exist" by Jim Holt
Are you nodding in agreement, or shaking your head? Either way, tell me what you read this year that you loved
—the kind of love that made you want to clutch your book, run to a rooftop, and scream, "This is the best book ever!"