GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

January 3, 2013

Library picks best books of year

By Times Staff
Gloucester Daily Times

---- — The Sawyer Free Library staff has complied a Best Books of 2012 list for those inveterate readers who enjoy the organization these lists can bring to the task of wading through masses of titles published each year.

The staff said this “unofficial” list is of the year’s most popular titles.

“Admittedly, this list is incomplete as 2012 was a great publishing year. But it does include just a few of what many consider the ‘must-reads’ of 2012 and some of the library’s most popular check-outs,” the staff said.

The list covers five categories, including a short summary of each book as well as its availability for check out from the North of Boston Library Exchange.

FICTION

“The Round House,” by Louise Erdrich. This book won 2012’s National Book Award for fiction. It combines a crime novel with a coming-of-age saga. Availability: 96 holds on 46 copies.

“Canada,” by Richard Ford. Money woes and magical thinking are the dominant notes in Canada, an epic of family dissolution. Set in 1960 in Montana and Saskatchewan, the story is narrated by 15-year-old Dell Parsons, whose parents hatch the idea of robbing a bank to pay bills. Availability: 11 holds on 33 copies.

“The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” by Rachel Joyce. Harold Fry is convinced that he must deliver a letter to an old love in order to save her, meeting various characters along the way and reminiscing about his past as he tries to find peace and acceptance. Availability: 6 of 17 copies available.

“Beautiful Ruins” by Jess Walter. A novel about an almost-love affair that begins on the Italian coast in 1962, and is rekindled in Hollywood 50 years later. Availability: 3 holds on 27 copies.

MYSTERY

“Defending Jacob” by William Landay. A suspenseful, character-driven mystery about an embattled family in crisis. Availability: 8 holds on 82 copies.

“Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn. NPR called this “the thriller of the year.” “Gone Girl”’s toxic mix of sharp-edged wit with deliciously chilling prose creates a nerve-fraying thriller that confounds you at every turn. Availability: 419 holds on 144 copies.

“Eleventh Hour” by James Patterson. Investigating the murder of a millionaire who was killed with a weapon linked to the deaths of four San Francisco criminals, pregnant detective Lindsay Boxer is horrified to realize that the killer could be among her closest friends. Availability: 36 of 79 copies available.

HISTORICAL FICTION

“Bring Up the Bodies” by Hilary Mantel Bring. This won the author her second Man Booker prize. This sequel to “Wolf Hall” continues Mantel’s fascinating depiction of Tudor history, Cromwell and the court of Henry VIII. Availability: 7 of 34 copies available.

“People Who Eat Darkness: The True Story of a Young Woman Who Vanished from the Streets of Tokyo” by Richard Lloyd Parry. This chilling and multilayered account of the murder of Lucie Blackman sheds light on the tragedy of a family, a sexual predator, and Japanese society. Availability: 5 of 12 copies available.

BIOGRAPHY

“Dearie: the Remarkable Life of Julia Child” by Bob Spitz. If Julia Child didn’t exist, not even the most imaginative novelist could have invented her. America’s most famous culinary celebrity started her career working for the Office of Strategic Services (the spy agency before the advent of the CIA) during World War II, before discovering that her true passion was French cuisine. Availability: 9 of 25 copies available.

“Barack Obama: The Story” by David Maraniss. Based on hundreds of interviews and documents, this book chronicles the forces that shaped the first black president of the United States and explains why he thinks and acts as he does. Availability: 17 of 24 copies available.

“Thomas Jefferson” by Jon Meacham. The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist celebrates Jefferson’s skills as a practical politician. Availability: 21 holds on 18 copies.

NONFICTION

“Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, death and hope in a Mumbai undercity” by Katherine Boo. Based on three years of “embedded reporting” in the slum settlement of Annawadi adjacent to the Mumbai airport and its nearby luxury hotels, Boo’s book takes readers deep into the subsistence-level lives of residents such as teenager Abdul, a peddler of recycled plastic; and Manju, a dreamy young woman bent on becoming the settlement’s first college graduate. Availability: 9 holds on 33 copies available.

“Iron Curtain” by Anne Applebaum. A decade ago, Applebaum wrote a magisterial history of the Soviet prison-camp system. Now she shows how the Soviet Union imposed its totalitarian will upon Eastern European nations ravaged by World War II Availability: 4 holds on 19 copies.

“The Barbarous Years: The Peopling of British North America; the Conflict of Civilizations, 1600-1675” by Bernard Bailyn. From an acclaimed historian of early America, a compelling account of the first great transit of people from Britain, Europe, and Africa to the British colonies of North America and their involvements with each other and the indigenous peoples of the eastern seaboard.