Books Read in 2012

2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004

The standard preamble: I can read quite quickly and I tend to read a lot. Since 2004 I’ve made an effort to track my reading, for a sense of scale of the whole enterprise—-although be warned, in 2011/2012 onward, I’ve slowed down quite a bit owing to having a baby (yay!).

Anyway, this list covers only the books I’ve read, and can be sorted by number, year, and title (click the column headings to re-sort). Let’s go!

Click on the table headers to sort!




January 21

Legend by Marie Lu


January 23

Bumped by Megan McCafferty


January 25

The Magicians by Lev Grossman
HOLY WHOA. This was like reading four books at once... four GOOD books. It's like a touch of Harry Potter and a bit of Narnia fused with the reality of moving into adulthood from childhood, and people you know in real life. As well, Lev Grossman's prose and detail just does not quit. Page 500 is as well crafted and detailed as page 2, and nowhere does the plot seem to flag or become distended, as though the story is getting away from the author. His powers of focus must be unreal!


February 2

The Magician King by Lev Grossman
Well. Lev Grossman's follow up to the Magicians is just as good --- possibly even better --- than the original. It's dense, it's full of the magic and honesty and modern wisdom that he's so good at. But this time it shoots straight as an arrow while the first book casually roams. Also, it's pretty devastating emotionally. I finished this about a week ago and I'm still thinking about it. Poor Julia! I might have to reread this just to see if I read her actions any differently, now that I've come to the end.


February 28

New York Fashion by Caroline Rennolds Milbank
Fantastic historical review of American fashion with details on each designer and thorough descriptions on what made each one different and special. And so many gorgeous pictures of the clothes! I never realized how starved other books were of truly great fashion detail photography until I read this book.


March 6

High Style: Masterworks from the Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection by Jan Reeder
Gahhhhhh, this book is a tremendous tour of fashion masterpieces! Most exciting were the Charles James collection (so exquisite), Elizabeth Hawes's dresses, and Schiaparelli's awesome music box belt (of course). The photography is vivid and immensely gorgeous. A total steal at just $30!


March 9

Claire McCardell: Redefining Modernism by Kohle Yohannan
An excellent biography of fashion designer Claire McCardell, and an insightful critique of her work. I have to say I'm enamoured with many of her designs—the philosophy of sensible, comfortable clothing that's still feminine and affordable really strikes the right chord with me.


March 10

Chanel: Collections and Creations by Daniele Bott
I have to admit, I didn't really read much of the text: fashion is really about the pictures, no? But I dunno, I wanted to see a more historical overview than a collection of photographs based around themes. My favourite section was the camellia, anyway, as the way the flower has been worked beautifully into all of Chanel's collections is quite astounding. Also, I think that classic tweed suit only works if you're a size 2: larger ladies with a shape look kind of boxy and big in them. Also: Lagerfeld designs 10 collections a year!?!?!?! I mean, I sorta knew he was prolific, but he really is a genius on an operatic scale. Here's a good New Yorker article about him btw.


March 10

City Fashion Paris by Christine Bierhals
A lovely surprise! This is a nice catalogue of present day Paris designers and where to find them, and cafes and other places to spot along the way. Discovered a number of great French designers I hadn't heard of before.


March 16

How Buildings Learn by Stewart Brand
Loved this. A view of architecture from the user's point of view, asking some really common sense questions and presenting a useful new framework on how architecture might be considered in the future. Also, what a magnificent and varied career Stewart Brand has!


March 17

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Woo! A fun ride!


March 22

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins


March 24

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins


March 24

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green


March 26

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde
Ahahahahhahahahahah. Jasper Fforde writes a YA! It's a bit overcrowded with world-building minutia, but the jokes are still solid and the story is too.


March 29

The Song of the Quarkbeast by Jasper Fforde
Sequel to Jasper Fforde's first YA. Just as (enjoyably) convoluted and hilarious.


April 4

One of Our Thursdays Is Missing by Jasper Fforde
The sixth Tuesday Next book. I have to admit I was confused during several spots in this book, but it didn't make it any less enjoyable. The thing is to just keep going and eventually it will all make sense. Also, witticisms.


April 6

Status Update: Celebrity, Publicity & Self-Branding in Web 2.0 by Alice Marwick
This is actually a PhD dissertation, but given the content and the length (500+ pages) I'm counting it as a significant book for the year. Anyway, this is possibly the best thing I have read on the Internet, social media, its roots in the San Francisco tech scene, and the neoliberal values that it has encouraged in the world at large. I learned a ridiculous amount about the cultural context that brought about these technologies, and the free-market-style activities that confer status on individuals in the social media space. It was hugely comforting to discover someone was thinking about these cultural shifts and exploring them so articulately, and comforting to know that this current social media world is only a certain type of path, and certainly not the only path that could or can develop. Also, so true about the contradictions in commercialization and freedom/openness! Anyway, if you want to read the full dissertation, visit Alice's website here.


April 9

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan


April 21

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler & Maira Kalman
Truly enjoyable!


April 25

The Gossip Industry: Producing and Distributing Star Images, Celebrity Gossip and Entertainment News by Anne Helen Petersen
I'm a huge fan of Anne Helen Petersen's articles at the Hairpin and her own blog: I adore it when anyone takes a critical, rigorous but not humourless view of pop culture topics. In her online musings, AHP constantly alluded to her PhD work, so I sought it out for a longer look at the star industry and its place in history. Turns out that this is a fabulous, eminently readable history of the gossip industry in America from 1910-2010, peppered with fascinating case studies about American celebrity, the expanding definition of stars, and the incestuous, self-perpetuating business of promoting star gossip. I learned all about how stars and their fan audiences have changed over the years, the changing power brokers in Hollywood, and a lot more about how we view our celebrities these days and who's largely responsible for that view (cough cough Bonnie Fuller). You can read it for yourself in PDF format here, and then you can ask yourself "Why hasn't this been published as a book already?" Then, if you find yourself with a bit more time, read her article about Rita Hayworth over at the Hairpin. You can thank me later.


April 26

Queen Bee Moms and Kingpin Dads by Rosalind Wiseman
Thought I'd check in to see what Rosalind Wiseman was up to lately, and discovered she had a book about the travails of modern parenting. Yes please! It's a lot like the original Queen Bees and Wannabes book: the descriptions are intensely realistic and the advice no nonsense and levelheaded. All the sticky scenarios that play out in the back half of the book made my head spin. Is it becoming a basic truth that your entire life is just high school drama replaying itself over and over again?


April 30

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness


May 1

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness


May 2

Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness


May 3

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
A story about violent racing sea horses and the people who love them --- as in horses that emerge from the sea, not tiny curly tailed things darting about in a fish tank. Really compelling actually! A real page turner, once I wrapped my head around the idea of sea horses (it doesn't take that long).


May 7

Divergent by Veronica Roth


May 9

Insurgent by Veronica Roth


May 10

Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl
A warm, enveloping walk through food writer Ruth Reichl's childhood and young adulthood, centred around (what else?) the sumptuous food experiences that have shaped her life. Her writing is strong and clear and just filled with humour and sunlight: food is so central to her being and her life, it seems only natural that it became her professional work in so many forms.


May 14

Comfort Me With Apples by Ruth Reichl
Ruth Reichl's second volume of memoirs, covering her two marriages, her quest for a child, and many meandering things in between. Her voice is so powerful and lyrical, yet still so intimate and familiar: I feel strangely as though I have been part of her journey, and that the dishes she shares have the same special significance for me.


May 17

Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl
The third volume of Ruth Reichl's memoirs, covering her years as restaurant critic of the New York Times. What a bitchy environment it sounded like! But her forays into the city in disguise were such great capers. I can't wait for the next volume: there must be one about her years at Gourmet coming soon!


May 20

The Sherlockian by Graham Moore


May 23

The One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson
Told like a little story, this is a business book that's an remarkably easy read, with a super clear message about how to manage others. Give clear direction with clear success indicators, catch people doing things right, and reprimand fairly as soon as you know something is done wrong.


May 24

Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin


May 27

A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin


June 1

A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin


June 3

A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin


June 5

A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin


June 17

Straphanger by Taras Grescoe
Owing to work I'm very familiar with public transportation issues, so lots of Straphanger was a bit old hat to me. But the remainder was a lot of history and context I'd never known before (especially about Moscow and Toronto), and the prose is vividly written. I'd certainly recommend it.


June 20

Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other by Sherry Turkle
I read and enjoyed Sherry Turkle's Life on the Screen during university, so when I heard she had a new book about the dangers of our dependence on technology, I snapped it up. With a calm, levelheaded manner, she lays out the evidence from many of her research projects that raises alarms for her---that once we encounter the messy, unpredictable realm of human behaviour, we would rather deal with predictable robots who respond with just enough humanness to trick ourselves. And she articulates well her chief fears: that engaging with a robot is not equivalent to engaging with other humans, that we want to rationalize people away when they become difficult, and at heart the machines we build still do not care for us. We need to keep engaging with other humans to keep developing our society and our humanity, and we can't just avoid it because we don't like it.


June 26

The Hedgewitch Queen by Lilith Saintcrow


July 11

The Virtual Self: How Our Digital Lives Are Altering the World Around Us by Nora Young
Nora Young is a CBC Radio host who explores self-tracking and other data tracking that goes on via the internet, and what implications it has for society. Special note: I much enjoyed the reference to the Commonplace Book precursor to journaling---a sort of household book that recorded interesting goings-on of a home. I've started one myself!


July 18

Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth L. Cline
Shopping at H&M has never seemed so unsatisfying after reading this book. It talks about the degradation of fashion quality in the 1990s/2000s owing to cheap labour and cost-efficient production---and the consumer's growing distaste for fashion that costs close to what it takes to produce. A cry to shop carefully and learn to sew!


August 1

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
Lovely! Lyrical, literary, with an edge of science fiction. You're parachuted from one narrative into another almost at random, but the plot and structure sews up everything in the end. Can't wait to see how they might turn this into a movie.


August 3

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn


August 5

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg


August 6

True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society by Farhad Manjoo


August 8

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Wow: this was fantastic. If you haven't heard of this book already, Rebecca Skloot tells the story of Henrietta Lacks, a black woman whose cancer cells have provided the basis for practically 3/4 of cell tissue research since the 1950s, and are responsible for the development of innumerous medical treatments. The catch: Henrietta was a black woman who died in 1951, was never told her cells were used for research, and her descendants live close to the poverty line, unable to afford the treatments her cells helped produce. Rebecca Skloot takes an engrossing, graceful look at the history of cell tissue research, the travels of Henrietta's cells, and the lives of her family later on. Read it, yo!


August 12

The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit by J.J. Lee
Enjoyed this. J.J. Lee tells the story of his challenging relationship with his father, interspersed with his discoveries of fashion and tailoring. What a crazy childhood he had! And the lessons on men's tailoring are second to none, especially his in-depth tales of Modernize Tailors, Vancouver's oldest running tailor shop (my husband had his wedding suit made there!)


August 16

Deluxe: How Luxury Lost its Luster by Dana Thomas
Elizabeth Cline, author of Overdressed, cited Deluxe as a major source for one of her chapters, so out of a twinge of interest I picked it up. And what a smart decision! Deluxe is a clear-eyed, thoroughly well researched look at the luxury goods industry and how increased corporatization has driven down their brand quality while ratcheting up profits, all on the shoulders of the aspirational middle-class consumer. It was so fascinating to peer into the rarefied world of luxury and see exactly what's behind the curtain. Mostly overpriced handbags and accessories, actually!


August 24

Variant by Robison Wells


August 27

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
Verdict: read this. It's really good. I must admit, I was wary at first---I wasn't sure about the world and the characters when I started it up---but man, the book just whirs into action and never stops going. Like James Ellroy, Catherine Fisher really pulls no punches either. No saving up goodies for the next book: it's all here!


August 28

Sapphique by Catherine Fisher
Of course I read the sequel to Incarceron immediately. Totally recommended: it's just as dense and action-filled and twisty as the first book. Dare I say the word "unputdownable"? In reality I did put it down, because I have to do work and raise my child--but in between, I was racing through those pages as fast as I could go.


August 30

Whales on Stilts by M.T. Anderson
SO GOOD! This book aimed at the middle grades is a delightful concoction of absurdist plot, amazing characters, and a hysterical sense of humour. Main character Lily has to save the world from a madman with an army of whales on stilts, and her friends who help her are the stars of two middle-grade book series: Katie Mulligan from Horror Hollow, and steampunk boy genius Jasper Dash. There's a delicious thread through the story that makes fun of writing for children, which made the book even better. I picked this up because I loved MT Anderson's other books, and was so far from disappointed I can't even see it, it's so far away in the distance.


September 4

Sean Griswold’s Head by Lindsay Leavitt


September 5

How To Date a Henchman by Mari Fee
Good! It's a romance novella with an excellent premise that just flies by.


September 9

Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez
Oh, loved this! Totally enthralling YA romance between musical prodigies competing for a prestigious prize. It didn't drag for a moment, and the emotions felt thorough and real.


September 10

Past Perfect by Leila Sales


September 11

Matched by Ally Condie


September 12

The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson


September 15

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky


September 15

Dream Factory by Brad Barkley and Heather Hepler


September 20

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs


September 26

Entwined by Heather Dixon
Loved this! A retelling of the twelve dancing princesses fairytale, and so delightful.


October 4

Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan
Loved this! A girl tries to stop her friend from dating a vampire and hijinks ensue - the book pokes gentle fun at Twilight-esque books but still has its own excellent story to tell.


October 6

Enclave by Ann Aguirre


October 7

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
I felt like I was reading Game of Thrones with this one---solid characters, gripping fantasy world, epic adventures! Elisa is a princess newly married to a king, but she's also the bearer of the Godstone, a powerful religious mark, and not your average YA heroine. You just won't believe where the story goes, or how captivating Rae Carson's book is.


October 8

Crown of Embers by Rae Carson
Good Lord: this one leaves you utterly breathless. Elisa is as fierce as ever, and her adventures go to places you would never believe. Can't wait for the third!


October 10

A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee
The first book in Y.S. Lee's Victorian ladies' detective agency series is a lot of fun, but it really sings in its relationship between lead Mary Quinn and dashing engineer James Easton. Just delightful.


October 11

The Body at the Tower by Y.S. Lee
Second book in the Mary Quinn Victorian mystery series. The mystery plods, but my stars, the romance! Lots of hot carriage action going on.


October 12

The Traitor and the Tunnel by Y.S. Lee
Third book in the Mary Quinn Victorian mystery series, and it's a humdinger. Set in Buckingham Palace, the mystery works well enough, and the James and Mary action is gripping as always.


October 19

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare


October 23

Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan
Oh, adored this! Kami is a part-Japanese girl in a picturesque English town, dealing with the return of the spooky aristocratic Lynburn family to town, the deaths that keep happening... and the fact that the secret voice in her head might actually be real. You'd be surprised at how light in tone this is and how bubbly the characters.


October 27

Chime by Franny Billingsley


October 28

Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier
MY GOD, this book was so good, I'm already rereading it! Gwyneth is an ordinary London schoolgirl whose family has a mysterious propensity to time-travel... needless to say, she goes on a fantastic adventure with the help of her no-nonsense mom, her quirky best friend, a secret society, and a darkly handsome boy. I can't wait to read the next two books in the series (originally published in German, they've already been out for some years now --- I've never been more upset I can't read German than right now).


October 30

Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier
Pre-ordered via Kindle and read immediately upon download! And Sapphire Blue didn't disappoint. It's still like the Time Traveler's Wife turned into a YA romance adventure, and there's a score of delightful new characters and plot developments. I can't wait until the third book is released next year!


November 4

The House at Riverton by Kate Morton


November 7

Summerland by Elin Hilderbrand


November 8

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green


November 8

Looking for Alaska by John Green
Thought I'd get caught up with the John Green canon. This was a decent read. I do like his characters but sometimes I'm not sure I'm enamoured of their endeavours all the time (last words? drinking in the woods? I'm so old). And Alaska herself was quite a rollercoaster.


November 9

Penelope by Rebecca Harrington
So I liked this. But I think the marketing is all wrong. The cover leads you to expect a chick lit/YA novel about a plucky heroine finding love and growing up at Harvard --- in reality, it's more like a detached pre-WWI British novel about class and manners, a la EM Forster or something. Penelope herself is not the point of the novel or even a "heroine" in particular: the true subject of the story is the Harvard culture and observing its absurdities and realities, and also taking apart the notion of American books that idealize college as a transformative time. Which means that I think a lot of people are going to be disappointed when they buy this book and it's not the Bridget Jones at Harvard adventure they're expecting. If the cover was more of a green fabric hardback with Penelope embossed into it in all caps gold leaf, kind of like Ann Veronica by H.G. Wells, that would probably have been a better sales pitch for the contents.


November 11

Call The Midwife by Jennifer Worth
This was good. Genuinely gripping for the most part and totally nuts to learn about midwifery and the rough life in the 1950s East End of London.


November 13

The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson
Loved this! Possibly my favourite Maureen Johnson book ever. Goes to many YA places that a YA novel never usually visits.


November 15

Girl at Sea by Maureen Johnson
Oh, adored this. Clio gets to go on a mad Italian yacht vacation with her unreliable father: hijinks, friendship, and romance ensue.


November 18

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
Ah! Loved this so much I stayed up all night to finish it. It's a sci-fi retelling of Jane Austen's Persuasion: that means it's a book where the romance is about pride and yearning and misunderstandings before it all gets tied up nicely. Also, there's sci-fi elements! Woo!


December 5

Heist Society by Ally Carter
Sort of like Oceans Eleven lite.


December 6

Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Oh, quite enjoyed this. A retelling of Cinderella with a cyborg named Cinder in a futuristic New Beijing. Can't wait to see what happens in the next book!


December 8

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
Enjoyed this!


December 10

Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter


December 23

The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith
Effing effervescent. The eternally delightful story of two dalmatians who lose their puppies and how they get them back. Dodie Smith, you genius!


December 25

Dear Dodie: The Life of Dodie Smith by Valerie Grove
Reread I Capture the Castle and felt like I wanted to know more about Dodie Smith. This biography is thorough and totally readable and it felt a privilege to know Dodie by the end.


December 26

The Diviners by Libba Bray
A supernatural scary YA set in jazzy 1920s New York! It's got plenty of fizz and pop and enough content to spin off about 5 books. Looking forward to the next one!