Friday, December 21, 2012

The Best in Books 2012

With just a few days left to get in your holiday shopping, I thought I'd give you my top picks of the year.  Maybe you'll be inspired to buy them for someone on your list.  Now normally I would list everything I gave five purple armchairs, but that list ended up being lengthy this year, which is good because it means I read a lot of good books.  However, to keep things simple and to stick with the theme of "The Best in 2012," I'm just going to limit it to books published in the U.S. in 2012.  Since all of these received my highest rating, I'm not going to rank them, just list them in the order I read them.

Gathering of Waters by Bernice L. McFadden

I've often said that reading a J. California Cooper book is like sitting on the porch listening to your grandmother tell you a story.  Using lush words and phrases that make you long for those days, McFadden's latest will leave you breathless from start to end. Once you start Gathering of Waters, you won't want to put it down until you've finished it.

Perfect for: Fans of J. California Cooper, Toni Morrison & Tayari Jones
Tags: historical fiction, civil rights

Home by Toni Morrison
160 pp

For the last few years I've told myself and anyone that would listen that I'm just not smart enough to read Toni Morrison.  I watch ToMo stans like Tayari Jones expound on her greatness and all I can think is, it must be over my head.  The last time I read a ToMo book and was able to comprehend it the first time around was pre-Beloved.  I read Song of Solomon, Sula and The Bluest Eye in high school and college and loved them.  Then Beloved came along and I had to read the book, see the movie and read the book again before it finally made sense to me.

After that came Jazz, Paradise, Love and A Mercy. I struggled with the first three and didn't even try with A Mercy.  So when I saw that Morrison was publishing a new book, I was hesitant to request a copy from the publisher.  But they sent it and so I read it.  And I loved it!  I feel like the ToMo that wrote Song of Solomon is back.  Or maybe she never left. Maybe I've just come full circle.

Perfect for: Fans of Bernice McFadden, Alice Walker & Gloria Naylor
Tags: women, South, coming of age, PTSD

My Name is Butterfly by Bernice L. McFadden
Only available as an ebook

Never one to shy away from sensitive topics, Bernice McFadden takes readers into the world of the Trokosi.  In simple terms, Trokosi are girls given by their family to a deity as a sacrifice in exchange for better luck, fortune or things along those terms.  Adebe Tsikata is such a girl, but she's also a survivor.

Perfect for: Fans of reading about different cultures, Chika Unigwe, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Tags: Ghana, family secrets, deception

Tell A Thousand Lies by Rasana Atreya
352 pp

In 1986 India, four of the most important determinants of a woman's future were the tone of her skin, her caste, her home village and her family's wealth.  Based on these things, Pullamma, at the age of 16,  has resigned herself to living with her grandmother forever.  As one of three orphaned sisters, Pullamma is the darkest and most unattractive.

I loved this book because Atreya kept me on my toes while reading it.  At no point did I ever really know how the story was going to end.  And a sure sign that a book has pulled me in, I found myself talking out loud to the characters, knowing good and well they couldn't hear me.  If you love learning about new cultures and love a good story, do yourself a favor and give Tell A Thousand Lies a read.

Perfect for: Fans of Anjali Banerjee, Shilpi Somaya Gowda & Shobhan Bantwal
Tags: India, women, colorism

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

A while back on Twitter I began describing certain books as #facepunchlit. They’re the type of books that are so surprisingly good that it feels like you’ve been punched in the face after reading them. You're in sort of a punch drunk haze where nothing seems clear and everything you previously understood to be right about the world is a bit askew. After reading Flynn’s Gone Girl, I had a similar feeling.

Perfect for: Fans of face punch lit
Tags: thriller, suspense, surprise ending

The Healing by Jonathon Odell

Who is Polly Shine, you ask? She's the healer and giver of sight to those around her.  Things on the Satterfield plantation surely changed for the better the day Polly Shine arrived.  Prior to her arrival, Granada, the teller of The Healing, only thought she knew who she was.

Perfect for: Fans of Bernice McFadden, Kathleen Grissom & Leonard Pitts, Jr.
Tags: historical fiction, post-slavery, family secrets, women

Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women's Literary Society by Amy Hill Hearth

If someone were to ask me to summarize Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women's Literary Society, I'd have to say that it's a cross between Fanny Flagg's Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe and the movie To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Love Julie Newmar.

For those thinking that Hearth's name sounds familiar, you'll remember her as the coauthor of Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years.  This is her first foray into fiction and she does an amazing job.  As Camille O. Cosby says of her, she "Honors and humanizes people and their wonderful diversities."

Perfect for: Fans of Fanny Flagg
Tags: civil rights, women, empowerment

The Cleaner by Paul Cleave

Joe is nuttier than a fruitcake, but he truly believes that he's doing the world a favor by killing some of his victims.  But Joe gets too comfortable and lazy.  So confident is he that he never sees Melissa coming for him.  If you've watched BBC's Luther, you're already familiar with the character of Alice.  Well, Melissa is The Cleaner's Alice.  If it's possible, she's an even bigger psychopath than Joe and now, she's running things.

Perfect for: Fans of Gillian Flynn, The Usual Suspects & Neil Cross
Tags: deception, thriller, ruthless

Now hit up your local indie bookstore!  And if you didn't see the perfect book for the reader in your life, feel free to ask for recommendations below or ask me on Facebook or Twitter.

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