This year, I’m listing my favorite books with some amount of trepidation. It hasn’t been a good year for reading. Normally, I love to read. It’s one of my favorite pastimes. But this year, I found it incredibly difficult to focus on practically any book that I picked up. I think a combination of factors led me to this state. I won’t go into them here. As we speak, I’m trying to get back into the reading groove.
My total for the year came in at an abysmal 24 books. That’s an average of two books per month. However, I finished the vast majority of those books in the first half of the year. Of these 24 books, 14 were fiction; 10 were non-fiction.
None of the ones listed here gripped me, but they were all books that I enjoyed immensely. I should note that I’m currently reading The Lost City of Z by David Grann. I don’t anticipate finishing it before midnight tomorrow, so it will have to go in with my 2013 books. However, if that weren’t the case, it would be my top book of the year.
So, without further hedging, here are my top books of 2012:
5. Nothing Daunted by Dorothy Wickenden
The true story of two young, unmarried society women who, in 1916, traveled to the wilds of Colorado (and they were the wilds back then) to teach in a one-room schoolhouse. The courage, pluck, and resourcefulness of our ancestors never cease to amaze me.
4. The Poisoner’s Handbook by Deborah Blum
A book about all the delightful ways we used to poison each other and ourselves (both unintentionally and not), set against the backdrop of Jazz Age NYC, an era that gave birth to modern forensic science. This one satisfies us morbid folk while also explaining the science of poisons in an easy, accessible manner.
3. Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson
The true story of the September 8, 1900 hurricane that devastated Galveston, Texas. Written in interesting detail & chilling.
2. The Ice Balloon by Alec Wilkinson
I honestly don’t know how anyone wouldn’t want to read this book. In 1897, a Swedish adventurer by the name of S.A. Andree tried to fly a hydrogen balloon to the North Pole. Aren’t you just dying of curiosity to see how that turned out for him? Luckily for you, this book is short, easily readable, and utterly fascinating.
1. Coroner’s Journal by Louis Cataldie
Cataldie served as chief coroner of Baton Rouge for a number of years, including during the mid-1990s, when the city was terrorized by not one, but two serial killers at the same time. During his years of service, Cataldie kept extensive notes in a journal, and this book is the result. I found his writing style very accessible, and I liked the way the book was laid out: crazy accidental deaths in one chapter; suicides in another; child deaths in another, etc. You knew what you were going to get with each chapter. Really interesting stuff. I think I finished this book in two days.