ABC’s Favorite Reads of 2012, part V

Ready for a new entry in ABC’s Favorite Reads of 2012 series? There will be new titles, old titles, magazines, Dutch books, games, fiction, non fiction, anything and everything we read and liked in 2012. We are as diverse as our individual choices and that is what makes ABC unique!

Part V features Shirley, Simone and Aviva. Shirley is Amsterdam’s buyer for the Children’s Books section, and helps oversee the ABC Treehouse there.  Simone is one of ABC The Hague’s store managers, and buys the books for the Fiction, Cookbooks and stationery sections.  Aviva is Amsterdam’s buyer for the Travel, Erotica and Reference sections.

We would love to hear about your favorite reads of 2012, too. Please mail blog@abc.nl with your choices and a picture of yourself (optional). We will post your list at the beginning of the new year and send you an ABC Gift Certificate (so don’t forget to include your home address with your list!).

Shirley

1. Beware of Boys – Tony Blundell

My all-time favourite tale about a little boy who is too smart for the hungry wolf…

The girl’s edition (Beware of Girls) is very funny, too!

2. The Green Ship – Quentin Blake

Thrilling story about a big green ship in the woods.

3. Maisy’s House and Garden Pop-Up Play Set – Lucy Cousins

Beautifully illustrated Maisy book that pops up as a big house. Stories can be told room by room.

4. Homer, the Library Cat – Reeve Lindbergh

Adventurous story about a cat looking for a quiet spot to rest and sleep. Nice illustrations.

5. The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore – William Joyce

Beautiful story with an even more impressing app, produced by Moonbot. A must-read and must-see!

(Blogmistress’s note: William Joyce is also the man behind The Rise of the Guardians!)

Simone

(Blogmistress’s note: Simone makes the loveliest books and cards and anything else paper-related, at her company De Papier Handel.)

The Age of Miracles – Karen Thompson Walker

This book is a coming-of-age novel about a regular girl who happens to live in changing times.  Due to a cosmic event, the daily cycle of 24 hours has changed, and the cycle now takes 25 hours, soon to be 26, 27, and when will it stop?

This fascinating situation has an effect on eleven year old Julia and her family: the days become longer and longer and it becomes difficult to adjust.  The daily patterns change, the sun shines for much longer, the darkness of the night takes 10 hours, then 12, 15 hours, and the vegetation is damaged by it.

Also, when the days are more than 30 hours long, decisions need to be made by companies and the government. They eventually choose to adjust to the new cycle, but some people want to stick to the 24 hour day. They are now considered rebels, and they ignore sunshine and darkness while sticking to the 24 hour clock.

This book is suitable for Young Adult readers, as well as regular fiction readers. The story is told from Julia’s perspective, as a young girl, not concerned so much with the bigger picture, but much more with her direct surroundings, her parents, her friends at school, and one particularly interesting boy.

I thought it was a great read, and the concept of a changing cycle is absolutely fascinating, and it will keep you thinking about it after finishing the book.

A paperback edition is due out in January!

Flight Behavior – Barbara Kingsolver

The first novel by Kingsolver that I have read was a pleasant surprise. The flow of the story is very well done, and all the information on butterflies, ecology, global warming, natural phenomena are an added bonus.

Lost – Joy Fielding

Earlier this year I read this novel by Joy Fielding, and because I enjoyed it so much, I have read several more during the rest of the year.

The story: Cindy Carver notices one of her teenage daughters hasn’t come home during the night. She panics, even though Julia hasn’t been too dependable during her teenage life. People around her play down the situation, but Cindy is not going to sit back and do nothing. She starts asking around, checking with her ex-husband, Julia’s ex-boyfriend, even going to one of Julia’s yoga appointments in order to meet Julia’s friend and bombard her with questions. The days pass, and Cindy keeps on searching relentlessly, until things change…

An excellent novel, with a great story and a generous dose of suspense.

The Heart Broke In – James Meek

Brother and sister Ritchie and Bec have very different lives. He is a TV producer, and she is a scientist working with malaria. Ritchie has some bad habits concerning women outside of his marriage, and when he is approached by a journalist who blackmails people in order to get good stories in the newspaper, he finds himself with a dilemma. Is he going to give up his own reputation, or alternatively, that of his sister? He can choose between the two.

A great novel about family, relationships and dilemmas.

Valediction – Robert B. Parker

One of the classic Spenser novels, and an important one, since this is the novel describing his separation from his girl Susan, who is essential to Spenser’s life , and how it affects the private detective.

A dancer is seemingly kidnapped and Spenser is hired to pursue the matter. His investigations lead to a religious sect, and he receives death threats, but without Susan, will he be able to do his job?

Aviva

1984 – George Orwell

Somehow I managed to get through high school and college literature classes without ever having read this classic of dystopian fiction. This year I decided to fill this gap in my literary education, and I’m so glad that I did. I thought I knew this story, and because it’s such a part of our cultural history, of course, I sort of did, yet I was still thoroughly taken by Orwell’s clean prose and his frightening prescience. What continued to shock me throughout my reading was my own reaction; I shifted between being reminded of the descriptions I’ve read of the Kim family’s totalitarian grip on North Korea, and feeling a chill run down my spine as I recognized parallels in Western society. Truly a classic for the ages.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot

Without her or her family’s knowledge or permission, scientists at Johns Hopkins Medical Center took cells from Henrietta Lacks’s cancerous cervix in the 1950s. The cell line that grew from them is one of the most important and prolific cell lines in the history of medicine. Rebecca Skloot tells the story of Henrietta and her family, how the cells were taken and how her family finally found out about it and dealt with the aftermath decades later. Interwoven with this family history is the story of the science behind cell culturing, and the complex web of ethical and legal question exemplified by Henrietta’s story. Sounds ambitious, and it is, but Skloot pulls off an accomplished work of scientific journalism that is both epic and highly personal in scope.

Bad Science – Ben Goldacre

Part primer on the scientific method, part debunking of pseudoscience, and part indictment of the way science stories (particularly health-related stories) are reported in the mainstream media, this book is a must-read for anyone who’s ever wondered who to believe when it comes to health claims. Goldacre – an epidemiologist and the writer of the Bad Science column in the Guardian – turns his sights on a myriad of topics, from alternative medicine to the pharmaceutical industry, from the anti-vaccine movement to AIDS deniers. Sprinkled liberally with his trademark wit, this is a hugely informative book that helps the reader to understand not only the topics he covers, but also how to view science reporting and claims with a critical eye.

Freedom – Jonathan Franzen

I have to admit that at the time of writing, I haven’t finished this book. I’ve still got about a hundred pages to go. So I may end up retracting this review if the end of the book disappoints, but if not, this has been one of the most entertaining works of fiction I’ve read in a long time. Franzen’s way with words is clever and cynical. His characters are dysfunctional enough to make the reader cringe from time to time, and yet human and recognizable enough to make you want to keep reading. I honestly have no idea where Franzen is taking me for the next hundred pages, but he’s such a good storyteller, I’d follow him anywhere.

Vegan Diner – Julie Hasson

You know that cookbook that you bought two years ago and never used? The one that you bought because of the amazing pictures but then you got intimidated by the recipes? Vegan Diner was that cookbook for me. I wanted to make all of those amazing recipes, but they looked like they were beyond my meager cooking abilities. If I was honest with myself, I bought the book because it was full of recipes I wished someone else would make for me. Fast forward two years, and as part of a challenge to make at least three recipes per week from my under-utilized cookbooks, I finally braved this beautiful cookbook. What on earth had I been waiting for?! Not only are the recipes in this not nearly as scary as I once thought, but every single one I’ve tried has been an absolute winner. Julie Hasson has a knack for recreating vegan versions of American diner standards and childhood comfort foods. And for making foolproof recipes that even a relative novice can follow. Highlights are the Herbed Breakfast Sausage Patties, My Big Fat Greek Scramble, the Great Smokey Mountain Cheeze (spelled with a “z” to differentiate it from dairy cheese), the Old-Fashioned Tomato Soup, Smoky Seitan Roast, Veggies and Dumplings, and the Blueberry Nutmeg Muffins. A great addition to any cookbook collection, whether you’re vegan, trying to cut down on meat and/or dairy, or just looking for more healthful ways to approach comfort food.