Best Reads of 2012

2012 was really an awesome reading year for me. I have managed to finish 61 books (including graphic novels) which means I exceeded the number of books required for my Goodreads’ 2012 Reading Challenge. All in all, it was a very great reading year. But, of course, some books are better than others and this list will enumerate the books that have affected me and have stayed with me long after I read them. Here are my 12 best reads of the year 2012, in order of the date that I read them from the first to the last (not all of the books in the list have perfect ratings):

1. No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy – A very intense and violent read that explores the darkest corners of humanity’s heart and man’s moral decay. The conflict is almost Biblical in proportion with a battle between good and evil for the life of a morally ambiguous man.

No Country for Old Men

2. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut – The story of a man that travels back and forth through time and thus he experiences his life in a non-linear fashion. Sci-fi at first glance but it is really a book that denounces the horrors of war and the unstoppable nature of human destruction. 
Slaughterhouse-Five3. Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro – This book blindsided me. I though it was about the relationship of a butler with his master who is a Nazi-sympathizer. Turns out that the main story is about the butler’s relationship with the housekeeper and the narrative is told through diary entries. It explores the perniciousness of memory  and the moral and societal implications of the setting (the years between the world wars). 
The Remains of the Day

4. History of Love by Nicole Krauss – A very special book that introduced memorable characters and moments that are equal parts heart wrenching and life affirming. It has the most memorable narrator in the guise of Leo Gursky and it also has one of the most profound endings that I have ever read in a book.

The History of Love

5. Man in the Dark by Paul Auster – My best read of the year, bar none. I really didn’t expect to like this book so much since I just read this out of the blue. It has one of the most beautiful passages I’ve ever read that describes the execution of a man.

Man in the Dark: A Novel

6. Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco – Another surprise read of the year. The only book above 300 pages that I’ve read in the span of two days.  A novel about the Philippines, its tragedies, and how it affects all of us from a macro POV to a micro POV.


7. The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon  A novel that is equal parts detective, alternative history, and literary. Paints a picture of the Jewish experience through the eyes of a Jewish detective who lost his faith and who is investigating the death of the supposed Messiah of the Jewish people.

The Yiddish Policemen's Union

8. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides – A chimera of a novel being a coming-of-age novel and a family saga that explores myriad of issues including gender identity, social pressures, and pursuit of happiness. It has one of the most compelling protagonists that I have ever read in my life.


9. A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood – Short but very memorable. It tugs the heart in all the right ways while being funny and endearing without taking away the tragic beauty of Isherwood’s prose. There’s also the fact that I keep hearing Colin Firth’s voice in my head while reading.

10. Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids by Kenzaburo Oe – A harsh tale about loss of innocence in children and the cruelty that they suffered from the unfair treatment they receive from the adults who are supposed to take care of them and, subsequently, from the force of abandonment that they experienced when the adults left them.

Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids

11. Death in the Andes by Mario Vargas Llosa – The story of the search for three missing men in a village in the heart of the mountains interposed with a story of love and a story about the revolution of the Peruvian people. I liked it because of how it explored the moral ambiguity of revolutions, the dangers of superstition, and the sometimes one-sided  nature of love.

Death In The Andes

12. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell – I don’t even know how to concisely describe how much I love this book. Six interconnected stories that can stand on their own as novellas but, through the very capable hands of Mitchell, is transformed into one novel about the persistence of the human soul and the tragedies and the love that we impart upon each other.

Cloud Atlas

Honorable Mentions: Chess by Stefan Zweig; Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon; Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell; A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan; Reportage on Lovers by Nick Joaquin; Wit by Margaret Edson; Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck; In Cold Blood by Truman Capote; Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk Leaf Storm and Other Stories, Autumn of the Patriarch, Clandestine in Chile all by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

There you have it, dear reader. Those are the 12 best reads of 2012 and I am looking forward for the books that the coming year has in store for me. Bring it on!

8 Responses to “Best Reads of 2012”
  1. Peter S. says:

    Ilustrado! Woot woot! It was also one of my favorite reads back in 2011. (My goodness, has that been 2 years ago?!)

    I’ve never read an Auster and a Vonnegut, but the book club I’m part of is discussing The Sirens of Titan, so that will be my first exposure to this much-lauded author.

    Happy 2013, Bennard!

    • Ilustrado is a really good novel, no?:)

      If you have the time, I highly recommend Man in the Dark and Slaughterhouse Five. They’re both good writers and I think you’ll like them.:)

      Happy 2013, Peter!:)

  2. I’m reading Oe this year and if it turns out to be a good one for me, I hope to borrow Nip, Shoot? 😀

    And yes, I’ll get the first Man in the Dark copy that I’ll in my Book Sale tours. I feel that Auster is underrated, an opinion underscored by my surprise for picking it as your 2012 favorite.

    • Sure. I’ll gladly lend it to you.:)

      I really recommend Man in the Dark since I think you like tragic stories and I agree that Auster is underrated. I wouldn’t even have read him if not for me finding a copy of Man in the Dark at last year’s Fullybooked sale.

  3. Monique says:

    Three of my favorites are here: Ishiguro, Mitchell, Eugenides. Bennard, your taste is impeccable. 😀

  4. I liked Slaughterhouse Five when I read it few years back. I found Death in the Andes engrossing though I didn’t agree with much of it. I can’t say the same thing for Ilustrado, which surprisingly didn’t amaze it at all. Hope to come across some of the titles you have listed here, particularly Reportage on Lovers and Clandestine in Chile. Happy New Year. 🙂

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