MPL Librarians Select Their Favorite Books of 2012

favorite books of 2012

We’ve begun a new year, but those of us here at Marion Public Library are looking back on our favorite books read in 2012. What are the best books you read this past year? Share in the comments section below.

Mary E., Director

gone girlGone Girl by Gillian Flynn

“One of my favorite books from 2012 was Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.  I have always been a fan of suspense novels.  This one really kicks up the ante on suspense with enough twists and turns to make you wonder where it will end.  Nick and Amy are married – seemingly happy.  Then Amy disappears.  Then Nick becomes a suspect.  Then we find that the marriage had some issues.   SOME ISSUES?  Where is Amy?  One of the reviewers says that the reader is manipulated.  That is so true – all the way through the book!   I may have to reread this one.”

Jacket Notes:

Marriage can be a real killer.

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge .

Under mounting pressure from the police and the media-as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents – the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter – but is he really a killer? As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet? With her razor-sharp writing and trademark psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around.

Mary L., Head of Reference

brain on fireBrain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

“An autoimmune disease with schizophrenia-like symptoms disrupts a young reporters life.”

Jacket Notes:

One day in 2009, twenty-four-year-old Susannah Cahalan woke up alone in a strange hospital room, strapped to her bed, under guard, and unable to move or speak. A wristband marked her as a “flight risk,” and her medical records–chronicling a monthlong hospital stay of which she had no memory at all–showed hallucinations, violence, and dangerous instability. Only weeks earlier, Susannah had been on the threshold of a new, adult life: a healthy, ambitious college grad a few months into her first serious relationship and a promising career as a cub reporter at a major New York newspaper. Who was the stranger who had taken over her body? What was happening to her mind? In this swift and breathtaking narrative, Susannah tells the astonishing true story of her inexplicable descent into madness and the brilliant, lifesaving diagnosis that nearly didn’t happen.

A team of doctors would spend a month–and more than a million dollars–trying desperately to pin down a medical explanation for what had gone wrong. Meanwhile, as the days passed and her family, boyfriend, and friends helplessly stood watch by her bed, she began to move inexorably through psychosis into catatonia and, ultimately, toward death. Yet even as this period nearly tore her family apart, it offered an extraordinary testament to their faith in Susannah and their refusal to let her go. Then, at the last minute, celebrated neurologist Souhel Najjar joined her team and, with the help of a lucky, ingenious test, saved her life. He recognized the symptoms of a newly discovered autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks the brain, a disease now thought to be tied to both schizophrenia and autism, and perhaps the root of “demonic possessions” throughout history.

Far more than simply a riveting read and a crackling medical mystery, Brain on Fire is the powerful account of one woman’s struggle to recapture her identity and to rediscover herself among the fragments left behind. Using all her considerable journalistic skills, and building from hospital records and surveillance video, interviews with family and friends, and excerpts from the deeply moving journal her father kept during her illness, Susannah pieces together the story of her “lost month” to write an unforgettable memoir about memory and identity, faith and love. It is an important, profoundly compelling tale of survival and perseverance that is destined to become a classic.

Karen B., Tech Services

treasuresTreasures from the Attic: The Extraordinary Story of Anne Frank’s Family by Mirjam Pressler

“Unbeknownst to most people, Anne Frank’s paternal grandmother as well as two of her uncles and her two cousins lived relatively unscathed lives in Switzerland while World War II sucked the life out of the Otto Frank family. Originally from Germany, the family had migrated to Switzerland, France, England and the Netherlands as the four brothers tried to escape the Nazi influence. The Netherlands proved the worst choice, and Anne, Margot and Edith Frank lost their lives as a result. But, before and after that time, lots of letters were written between these widely scattered relatives.

And those letters that went to Switzerland were bundled up and stored in an attic, where they stayed unmolested for years until the wife of Anne’s first cousin, Buddy, found them and realized their importance. Using those letters and other bits of family history materials, the lives of the Frank family has been reconstructed in this fascinating book which includes lots of pictures. The story basically takes the reader to the present-day. If you like history, you will find this a fascinating read. Highly recommended.”

Shirley M., Inter-Library Loan

killing lincolnKilling Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard

“It reads like a mystery novel; I couldn’t put it down.  I also learned many things about Lincoln and the Civil War.  Too bad school history books aren’t written like this.”

Jacket Notes:

A riveting historical narrative of the heart-stopping events surrounding the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and the first work of history from mega-bestselling author Bill O’Reilly, the anchor of The O’Reilly Factor, recounts one of the most dramatic stories in American history – how one gunshot changed the country forever.

Jennifer H., Reference Librarian

“The year 2012 was a banner year for great books and I couldn’t bear to narrow down my choice to just one book, so I’ve named three.”

raven boysThe Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

“I can’t exactly say what drew me to this book — the intriguing cast of characters, the fascinating plot line revolving around a treasure hunt for a sleeping Welsh king (a la King Arthur), the hint of a forbidden romance (nothing quite puts a damper on love like the potential for death),  or the gorgeous cover art — but this book is something special. I’ve read it at least five times so far and it hasn’t grown stale for me yet.”

Jacket Notes:

“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

seraphinaSeraphina by Rachel Hartman

“I thought I had read every sort of dragon book imaginable during my high school years, but then I came across Seraphina and I knew immediately that I was mistaken. I don’t wish to give anything away, but I think it’s safe to say that you’ll never find another take on dragons quite as unique as this one. Not enough to whet your appetite? How about I throw in a murder mystery that had me guessing until the last pages, political intrigue, and a main character whom I not only liked, but respected.”

Jacket Notes:

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty’s anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high. Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered–in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queens Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

quintanaQuintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta

“This one is kind of cheating, as this book, the third and final addition to the Lumatere Chronicles,* has only been released in Australia (the U.S. release is not until the end of April). However, Melina Marchetta is one of the few authors I have encountered whose books I will buy without question and will stay up all night reading, so I knew I had to include Quintana on this list.

Some fantasy authors focus on the plot to the detriment of their characters, but Marchetta has the unsurpassed ability to make you interested in the story she’s crafted, because you can’t help becoming invested in the flawed, but beautiful characters she has brought to life. She makes them so real for you as a reader that you find yourself rejoicing in their triumphs, crying like a little baby when they suffer, and underlining passages when they say something clever and memorable. Quintana is no exception.” 

Jacket Notes:

Separated from the girl he loves and has sworn to protect, Froi must travel through Charyn to search for Quintana, the mother of Charyn’s unborn king, and protect her against those who will do anything to gain power. But what happens when loyalty to family and country conflict? When the forces marshalled in Charyn’s war gather and threaten to involve the whole of the land, including Lumatere, only Froi can set things right, with the help of those he loves.

*See also Finnikin of the Rock and Froi of the Exiles.

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