Dec 11 2012
06:30 pm
By: R. Neal  shortURL

Culled from (too) many pulp fiction crime novels and dystopian tales from the coming apocalypse, here are some of my favorite (not necessarily "best" book) reads in 2012, in more or less reverse chronological order:

• Flight Behavior, Barbara Kingsolver
• In Cold Blood, Truman Capote
• Back to Blood, Tom Wolfe
• Mayday, Nelson DeMille and Thomas Block
• Bailout, Neil Barofsky
• Trust Me, I'm Lying, Ryan Holiday
• The Back Door Man, Dave Buschi
• The Passage of Power, Robert A. Caro
• The Wrecking Crew, Kent Hartman
• The One, RJ Smith
• Defending Jacob, William Landay
• Terawatt, Des Michaels
• The Litigators, John Grisham

I've started Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, and so far it's pretty great.

One bio that I read and can't recommend is Gregg Allman's "My Cross to Bear." I love the Allman Bros. Band. Probably my all time favorite band. But the time I wasted on this crude, egotistical, misogynistic, drug-addled semi-literate memoir is my cross to bear. He should just shut up and play. Rolling Stone had an excerpt that is pretty much all you need to know, if that. Better yet, read Keith Richards' "Life" instead.

And "Bailout" was OK for an eyewitness account, but "The Big Short" by Michael Lewis remains my top favorite about the financial meltdown. Liked his "Moneyball" too.

What were your favorite reads of 2012? Post them in comments, we're always on the lookout.

(H/T to Josh Flory for the idea.)

Rachel's picture

Off the top of my head, my

Off the top of my head, my favorite reads this year:

Flight Behavior, Barbara Kingsolver
Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides (been out for 10 years, but I just discovered it this year)
The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes (lovely little novel about memory)
Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul: Church, State, and the Birth of Liberty, John Barry (nobody does this kind of thing better than Barry. This one rivals his Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. HIGHLY recommended, both of 'em.)

Rachel's picture

I read The Marriage Plot this

I read The Marriage Plot this year too. It was ok, but not nearly as good as Middlesex.

redmondkr's picture

My Reading List

  • Monitor: The Story of the Legendary Civil War Ironclad - James T. deKay
  • Rottweiler Rescue: a Dianne Brennan Mystery - Ellen O'Connell
  • The Lies of Sarah Palin - Geoffrey Dunn
  • Morgue Drawer Four - Jutta Profijt
  • The Grand Tour: Around the World with the Queen of Mystery - Agatha Christie
  • Narrowboat Dreams: A Journey North by England's Waterways - Steve Haywood
  • Shuffling Along A Ditch - Ian Birks
  • Michael Toliver Lives - Armistead Maupin
  • Mary Ann in Autumn - Armistead Maupin
  • Isaac's Storm - Erik Larson
  • Team of Rivals - Doris Kearns Goodwin
  • The Vast Fields of Ordinary - Nick Burd
  • Victory: The Triumphant Gay Revolution - Linda Hirshman
  • To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee (again)
  • The Widow of the South - Robert Hicks (again)
  • Last Train To Paradise- Les Standiford
  • A Little Death in Dixie - Lisa Turner
  • At Bertram's Hotel - Agatha Christie
  • Stealing the General: The Great Locomotive Chase - Russel Bonds
  • Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil - John Berendt (again)
  • The Rottweiler: Centuries of Service - Linda Michels
  • The Sins of Scripture - Bishop Shelby Spong

I'm hooked on Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City series.

The Lies of Sarah Palin is humorous in many places but it's horrifying to think of her being a 72 year old's heartbeat away from the presidency. I'm on the verge of finishing it now and I can almost hear that fingernails-on-chalkboard voice as she delivers those hate filled 'word salads'.

Just bought the two sequels to Morgue Drawer Four but haven't started them. In the first book a punk steals an expensive Mercedes, finds a body in the trunk, is himself soon murdered, then discovers his spirit can communicate with the ME performing his autopsy. It's a page turner.

My friend Ian sent me some video of narrowboats on the Avon and Kennet Canal that goes through his village. Shuffling Along A Ditch and Narrowboat Dreams satisfied my urge to do such a dumb thing.

In Rottweiler Rescue, Dianne Brennan is delivering a big male rescue Rottie to his new home when she discovers the new owner has been murdered in his kitchen. The trail of the culprit leads to the world of show Rottweiler trainers.

A critic described The Vast Fields of Ordinary as heartbreaking. Dade is a gay high school student who is in love with Pablo, the most popular jock in the class. Pablo is ostensibly a straight homophobe who abuses Dade in public but wants him in private. No good can come of it.

Tennessee Crossroads did a piece on The Widow of the South a couple of years ago. This is a wonderful, haunting read.

Bbeanster's picture

I give my son a book for

I give my son a book for Christmas every year, and this year it's Inman Majors' "Love's Winning Plays."
I started reading it Sunday night and couldn't put it down. I finished it at 4 a.m. It's unputdown-able. Fun, thigh-slappingly funny and full of sly references to the football program at Big State U, an unnamed SEC school. It's also a scathing send-up of boosters, administrators and sportswriters and it is hi-frikking-larious.
Coach Majors told me earlier this year that he'd autograph it for me, and I'm going to call him tomorrow. Cannot wait to discuss this book with him. Coach's late brother Joe is Inman's dad. Joe was the most influential lobbyist in Nashville when I was there, and we got to be great buddies, so I feel a bit of connection to this book.
My son Joey's going to love this book, and you will, too. It's Inman's least serious book, but he's really demonstrated some Dan Jenkins'-like chops

cwg's picture

I really liked this book too.

I really liked this book too. I was totally skeptical going into it, but I thought it was one of the funniest books of the year - a dead-on satire of SEC culture, but with heart. And the two people I've passed it on to since also loved it. Union Ave. had a few (Inman Majors) signed copies as of this afternoon - definitely a great gift for the football lover in your life.

R. Neal's picture

Inman Majors' "Love's Winning

Inman Majors' "Love's Winning Plays."

Thanks for the tip. Read his book based on the Butchers a while back and liked it a lot. Will check this one out.

R. Neal's picture

Add Love's Winning Plays to

Add Love's Winning Plays to my list of 2012 good reads, just under the wire. Like you (BB), read it straight through. Great, funny book, just too short. IM knows how things work around here too well.

Hildegard's picture

You really need to order and

You really need to order and read Griftopia.

R. Neal's picture

Read Griftopia when it first

Read Griftopia when it first came out. Great rant(s) by Matt Taibbi.

jlynn's picture

Haven't spent as much time reading as some...

My only recommendation is Neil Stephenson's Snow Crash... mesmerized me and energized some inner belief thought processes!!

Oh wait... I also read Life of Pi before it was hip (and a movie)... also quite engaging.

michael kaplan's picture

Karl Marx, Capital, Volume 1

Karl Marx, Capital, Volume 1
Karl Marx, Early Writings
Maynard Solomon, Beethoven
John Houseman, Front and Center
Kenneth Silverman, John Cage: Begin Again
Noam Chomsky, Hegemony or Survival
Michael Sorkin, Twenty Minutes in Manhattan
Jane Jacobs, Death and Life of Great American Cities (again)
Robin D.G. Kelley, Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original

Bbeanster's picture

One of my favorite books this

One of my favorite books this year was "Grant's Final Victory" by
Charles Bracelen Flood. It's the story of Ulysses Grant's race against death, literally.

Shorn of his personal wealth by a 19th Century Bernie Madoff, Grant learned that he had esophogeal cancer -- a death sentence in those days. His friend Mark Twain encouraged him to write his memoirs as a way of making some quick money, and he proceeded to write as though his life depended on it.

The finished product is considered the finest of its genre by aficionados of military memoirs, and he got it done just days before he died. The public display of grief at his funeral, which was attended by his old comrades-in arms (even those who went with the Confederacy) rivaled that seen at Lincoln's.

redmondkr's picture

The Personal Memoirs of U. S.

The Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant is available free at Project Gutenberg. I downloaded a copy some time ago but have yet to read it.

I just noticed as I was preparing this comment that PG now has links whereby ebook files can be sent directly to the user's Dropbox. How clever!

Bbeanster's picture

Wow. Thanks, Kenny. I've been

Wow. Thanks, Kenny. I've been skimming through the memoirs, and in the conclusion found a couple of lines that are, at least to me, extremely moving.

"I feel that we are on the eve of a new era, when there is to be great harmony between the Federal and Confederate. I cannot stay to be a living witness to the correctness of this prophecy; but I feel it within me that it is to be so. The universally kind feeling expressed for me at a time when it was supposed that each day would prove my last, seemed to me the beginning of the answer to "Let us have peace."

Josh Flory's picture

Thanks for the shout-out,

Thanks for the shout-out, Randy. Here's a handful of titles from my own 2012 list:

Peter Hessler, “Country Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory”
C.S. Forester, “Commodore Hornblower”
Steve Coll, “Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power”
Ross Douthat, “Bad Religion: How we became a nation of heretics”

Russ's picture

Take The Cannoli

My favorite read this year has been Take The Cannoli: Stories From The New World by Sarah Vowell. I know it's over 10 years old, but I was just introduced to it this year.

Joe P.'s picture

since you listed some older

since you listed some older crime stuff, i wanted to mention that i dug deep into Raymond Chandler this summer and was most impressed. i had read most of his novels, but decided to read them chronologically, leading up to The Long Goodbye which i had not read before - and it is truly a magnum opus of American crime and culture and a savage critique of capitalism.

also, enjoyed Neal Stephenson's "Reamde", which was fine stuff, linking computer games, 'ransom software' and global crime syndicates and much more. really like all his books, especially "Snowcrash".

redmondkr's picture

I love the older crime stuff.

I love the older crime stuff. I have nine books by Raymond Chandler and five by Dashiell Hammett, even eight of the Charlie Chan series by Earl Derr Biggers.

And we got yer Poirot, too.

Rachel's picture

I reread Hammett every couple

I reread Hammett every couple of years. My favorite is The Dain Curse.

michael kaplan's picture


There are some interesting anecdotes about Hammett in Lillian Hellman's Scoundrel Time.

And, of course, there's Wim Wenders' film Hammett.

redmondkr's picture

Just got an email from

Just got an email from Amazon.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, destined to be one of your favorite books too, is on sale right now for $2.99.

I bought another book this afternoon, A Train in Winter by Caroline Moorehead.

In January, 1943, a train left Paris with 227 women who were accused of being members of the French Resistance. They were bound for the death camps. Ms. Moorehead interviewed survivors and family members in 2008 to write the book. I'm only 3% into it but it's promising - especially at today's price of only $2.99.

R. Neal's picture

Read The Art of Racing in the

Read The Art of Racing in the Rain a while back. Great book.

bizgrrl's picture

After reading A Dog's Purpose

After reading A Dog's Purpose and Marley and Me, I wasn't sure I could handle another sad dog story. Maybe I'll give The Art of Racing in the Rain a try.

redmondkr's picture

Gracie could tell you that

Gracie could tell you that you will love the book since you love dogs.

Bbeanster's picture

I happened across a blurb on

I happened across a blurb on Moxley's Blue Streak about J Majors and his wife dancing to Die Fliedermaus at an Opera Guild function, and it made me think of Coach Woody from Loves Winning Plays. He loved opera and country music, drank too much at times and was prone to speak his mind.
And that Pigskin Cavalcade sounds exactly like the Big Orange Caravan, where as I recall, Coach Majors got himself into hot water by speaking a bit too frankly to some boosters that fateful year.
I'm thinking there's a lot of Inman's Uncle John in Coach Woody.

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