Monday, December 17, 2012

Best of 2012: Day 1

You know you've been waiting for us to add to the zillions of end of the year lists floating around the internet.  We can't disappoint our dozens of loyal readers (plus Gianna hates lists and making her compile them is my delight).  Today and the rest of the week we'll be highlighting our ten favorite books published in 2012.  These aren't in countdown order; we're not playing Sophie's Choice here.  If it's on the list, we loved it.  Ready?


One non-fiction and one fiction

Last Launch by Dan Winters (University of Texas Press, October 2012) 
This book really won me over. I am not a NASA or space geek by any stretch of the imagination, but this book really made me a convert. While Winters is probably best known for his celebrity photographs, the space program is his passion. His knowledge of the subject is inspiring and never ceases to be interesting, but the details of these photographs (from the description of the camera set-ups to the surprising results after a lift off he never thought would happen) is jaw dropping. 

The People of Forever Are Not Afraid by Shani Boianjiu (Random House, September 2012) 
This novel had been sitting in my 'to read' pile for about six months, and I passed it over several times for other books. That was a mistake; this turned out to not only be the best book in that stack, it easily makes my fiction top ten list.  I feel very comfortable comparing this to Tea Obreht's National Book Award finalist,  The Tiger's Wife. It's not only because it's an astonishing debut novel, but because these young women are writing about things that matter (refreshing, no?).  I suppose if I had to categorize this book, I would say it's a coming of age novel because it is about three young Israeli girls, bored with their teenage lives, not unlike teenagers in many places. However, after high school they are conscripted into the army, where their lives change instantly (somewhat inspired by the author's mandatory service).  While it seems as though so many coming of age books published today are frivolous, throw away novels, Boianjiu's book is incredibly thoughtful and serious. It will live with you for years.

Also a non-fiction and a fiction pick.

The Oath by Jeffrey Toobin (Doubleday, September 2012)
Jeffrey Toobin...
Liz is single.  Call me?
It's an epic drama.  Two young men, both ambitious leaders with brains out the wazoo, set on a collision course testing ideologies.  The fate of the nation hangs in the balance.  One is a conservative, one is a liberal seeking radical, unprecedented changes.  The polarized masses watch in anticipation and trepidation.  And it's a battle occurring right now.  If the Supreme Court is my crack addition, Jeffrey Toobin is my crack pipe.  He makes complex legal matters fascinating and never loses sight of the real people who both make these historic decisions and those impacted by them.  At the center of The Oath are Barack Obama, the conservative trying to preserve legal precedent, and John Roberts, the legal liberal pushing for major policy shifts.  With a supporting cast that includes Ruth Bader Ginsberg (my favorite Justice), Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, and Sonia Sotomayor (and the other Justices), here's the legal showdown unrolling every day that the Supreme Court is in session.

Watergate by Thomas Mallon (Pantheon, February 2012)
One of my favorite novels of the year is this historical fiction account of the Watergate scandal.  Thomas Mallon has done his homework--even as a history major I struggled to piece together all of the machinations and players that contributed to Watergate.  Here are all of the major figures, and the book is told from the points of view of seven of them, and here are all of the major moments.  On top of that, Mallon offers motivations and humanity to these people (except for Gordon Liddy, who's generally a weirdo nutball).  Pat Nixon is a bad ass, for example.  What we get is a Paradise Lost for the 20th Century, and Richard Nixon a sympathetic Satan who falls from grace.  I think this novel is fine, first class fiction.

1 comment:

  1. Glad to see Watergate on your list. I also thought it was a great read.