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Best Books 2012

by on December 27, 2012

‘Tis the season for reflecting on 2012, and I hope everyone had a year of high circulation, well-attended programs, and other library successes.  It is also the time of year that librarians, journalists, and booksellers look back on the year’s books and determine which were most popular and which books were quality reads but flew under the radar. Many outlets have posted their top book lists for the year.

The New York Times posted a list of the 100 Notable Books of 2012 without popularity rankings. Editors of The New York Times Book Review selected the books. The list is broken down into the general categories of Fiction, Poetry, and Nonfiction.  A sampling of the selected books include, Alison Bechdel’s Are You My Mother? A comic drama, Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter, This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz, and Far From The Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon.

Goodreads issued the Choice Award Winners list as well. This list differs from The New York Times Notable Books list in the sense of “choice” – users of the Goodreads website vote for the books that they believe were the best of 2012. Goodreads broke the list into a variety of categories for the ease of voting, which included Fiction, Mystery &Thriller, Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Paranormal Fantasy, Science Fiction, Romance, Horror, Memoir & Autobiography, History & Biography, Nonfiction, Food & Cookbooks, Humor, Graphic Novels & Comics, Poetry, Goodreads Author, Young Adult Fiction, Young Adult Fantasy, Middle Grade & Children’s, and Picture Books.

Upon looking at the results for both lists, there is a noticeable difference in the books selected.  The New York Times list contains fewer books that library patrons have requested this year. Diaz’s This Is How You Lose Her, mentioned on The New York Times list, made a big splash with readers this year, but E.L. James’s Fifty Shades series has left an irreversible mark on pop culture, which is evident with winning the Goodreads’ Romance category.

One titan that spans both lists is Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up The Bodies. Although not the official “winner” of the Historical Fiction category for Goodreads, Bring Up The Bodies snatched a close 6,516 votes to the 6,918 votes of M.L. Stedman’s The Light Between Oceans. 1.1 million votes were cast in the Goodreads Choice Awards and the top vote earners overall were The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (37,438), Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (27,502), and Insurgent by Veronica Roth (23,827).

Additionally, The Atlantic and The New Yorker posted their best books lists as well. Their lists provide reviewer insight on why the books are the “best.” The Association for Library Services to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association, even threw their hat into the ring of lists and compiled a list of notable children’s books for 2012 sorted by general age level. All three lists are recommended for additional 2012 book reviews.

Year-end review lists can be overwhelming. They can also be excellent tools for readers advisory. Certainly the lists of The New York Times and Goodreads are not exclusive. Perhaps the reader of Cheryl Strayed’s Wild from Goodreads list would also be interested in Kayak Morning by Roger Rosenblatt from The New York Times list. Readers advisory resources are plentiful in the digital era and none should be snubbed based on “standing.” Now, let the 2013 book releases begin.

What were the most popular books of 2012 at your library?

What books are you looking forward to in 2013?


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