Best Books of 2012: Staff Picks

We love our business books at AMACOM, but we love other types of books too! As the year draws to a close, we wanted to share some our favorite reads of  2012 (most of which were released in 2012).

Jacket image, Beautiful RuinsBeautiful Ruins by Jess Walter (Harper)
I would have loved this novel, even if I hadn’t read it after returning from Cinque Terre—one of the novel’s many settings. What compelled me was a combination of terrific characters—there are people barely on the page who I care about more than many protagonists—and the novel’s asymmetrical structure, i.e. instead of returning right away to resolve a lingering question, you find yourself reading about the Donner Party! I recommend this book to anyone. —Lynsey Major, Rights & International Sales Associate

Jacket image, Wherever I Wind UpWherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball by R.A. Dickey (Blue Rider Press)
I always like reading the success stories of “older” athletes, and I wondered how R.A. Dickey’s back-to-back one hitters for the New York Mets in the 2012 season were going to be crammed into a two-hundred-some-odd page book. And being that’s what I was expecting, I was delightfully surprised to find the author’s entire story here. He really makes you feel him in his writing, and it’s a lot more than just a sports book. The author’s been through a lot in life, and successfully overcame it all, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Even if you’re not a sports fan, this is a great story that many of us can relate to in different ways. —Michael Sivilli, Associate Editor

Jacket image, PinnedPinned by Sharon Flake (Scholastic)
I didn’t read a lot of new books this year, partly because I’m in school. However, I picked up a couple of Young Adult titles at BookExpo America this year. I have a soft spot for Pinned by Sharon Flake. It’s about a high school girl named Autumn who is a champion wrestler but a poor student and her hopeless, unrequited crush on a wheel-chair-bound straight A-student aptly named Adonis. It was very touching. —Erika Spelman, Associate Editor & Copy Manager

Jacket art, Quiet by Susan CainQuiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain (Crown)
I really liked the book because it empowers introverts. In this society, where hype is so important, very often naturally quiet, even shy, people are made to feel a little less developed, as if there’s something slightly wrong with them. They’re supposedly not as good as the A-list talkers. This book not only lists famous, very accomplished people who were introverts, but also highlights latest research showing how there’s nothing wrong with them, that they’re just different than extroverts, and have strengths of their own, strengths that the talkers lack. And it even has implications for business, showing where a healthy mix of quiet and talker types is best for companies.  Andy Ambraziejus, Managing Editor

Jacket image, Gone GirlGone Girl by Gillian Flynn (Crown)
I have a fondness for books that are a bit dark or disturbing, and this one definitely fits the bill. The characters are fascinating and chilling, and the story is full of so many twists, turns, and misdirections that I couldn’t put the book down once I started. —Jenny Wesselmann Schwartz, Director Trade Sales & Marketing

Jacket image, RaylanRaylan by Elmore Leonard (William Morrow)
As a longtime fan of Elmore Leonard, especially his writing style, I’m always glad to see a new book from the 87-year-old master (who at long last received a National Book Award medal for distinguished contribution in 2012.) But Raylan was a real treat because I am also a big fan of the FX series Justified, based on the character, U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens, created by “the Dickens of Detroit.” Rather than one overall novel, the book is actually a series of stories involving some characters who have been in the TV series and others who haven’t. The stories all take place in the Kentucky coal country where Raylan grew up. Some of the plot lines mimic events from the series, but they are presented in a completely different form, sort of turned upside down and pulled inside out. This make the book a quick, fun read for fans of the series as well as readers who have never seen the show (since the gritty realism and strong, sharp dialogue is all Leonard). —Barry Richardson, Senior Development Editor

Jacket image, Deafening Deafening by Frances Itani (Grove Press)
The main character is a deaf girl who grows up in Canada. How she learns and the relationship she has with her family, particularly her grandmother, are beautifully written. In the latter part of the book much of the narrative is by her husband who fights in World War I. Some of the battle scenes can be hard to read, but they are important. This isn’t a new book, it was was my favorite read this year. —Rosemary Carlough, Vice President, Sales & Marketing
Jacket image, The ProphetThe Prophet by Michael Koryta (Little, Brown and Company)
Normally I don’t care for thrillers, and when I picked up a copy at BookExpo America earlier this year, I had someone in mind that I wanted to give the book to as a gift. Somehow, I wound up keeping the book, and I’m glad I did. Yes, like a lot of thrillers it’s a page turner; however the main characters and situations that come up throughout the novel feel realistic – the main characters feel like fleshed-out, real people with regrets, foibles, have made terrible mistakes. They act and talk like real people. Like any good novel should make the reader do, the reader gets invested in the main characters. Of course, at the end, there’s the typical plot twist – you mean the villain is someone you know and trust, no way! – but even how that’s done is pretty impressive. —William Helms, Associate Acquisitions Editor

Jacket image, The Yellow BirdsThe Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers (Little, Brown and Company)
The Yellow Birds is a war story told through the eyes of a poet. It follows two young soldiers, only 18 and 21, bonded together since basic training, and sent into the nightmare of the Iraq War. Kevin Powers, himself a young veteran of this war, writes with such immediacy you feel like you are right there with the soldiers on the battle field, as they struggle to keep those alongside them from being killed. You feel their fatigue in fighting the insurgents, and the mental and emotional exhaustion that comes from being in constant danger. You witness the immeasurable toll it takes not only on the soldiers, but also on their mothers and families back home. Powers writes so beautifully about the unimaginable cost of war that watching the young soldier come home and try to reconnect is every bit as wrenching as the scenes of the actual battles. —Therese Mausser, Director, Rights & International Sales

What books did you enjoy this year? Tell us in the comments.

Related Posts:
Best Books of 2011
Halloween Books
Books for St. Patrick’s Day
Valentine’s Day Books


2 responses to “Best Books of 2012: Staff Picks

  1. I also loved Quiet. The idea that there’s an ideal personality type for publicity is irksome, as I’ve known very effective publicists who are extroverts, and very effective publicists who are introverts. I have to read Gone Girl in the next couple of weeks for my book club, and I’m looking forward to it.

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