Your Favorite Book of the Year?

Elizabeth Bluemle - August 30, 2012

If you were going to choose your absolute favorite book of 2012, what would it be? How about your favorite 125, across all ages and genres?
Every November, we create a colorful book review newsletter filled with our favorite releases from the current year. This turns out to be 125 to 150 books, give or take, each reviewed by one of our booksellers, Josie, or me.
I design the catalog, and we’ve used just two different printers for the finished product since 1996, when our newsletter was four pages in one color, and printed on a traditional press. Now it’s sixteen pages, full-color, printed digitally on partially recycled paper with gorgeous soy inks. The end result is something we’re proud of: it looks beautiful, uniquely represents our store and its booksellers, and is filled with treasures. With a mailing list of around 5,000, it’s an expensive piece to print, and we use it all year long as a selling and promotion tool, so you can imagine how carefully we weigh each book that goes into it.
It’s not an easy task to whittle down a year’s worth of titles, fiction and non, to just 125 goodies for all ages, from babies to adults. There’s always the risk of forgetting to include a book one loved passionately in January or April, whose memory has been buried by months of subsequent releases. There’s also the chance that something extraordinary has come out that we just didn’t happen to read. There are difficult decisions that must be made: we can highlight just 8-12 titles for each age group, and that small group will ideally represent a balanced mix of genres (realistic fiction, fantasy, nonfiction, poetry, sports, humor, etc.). This means that if we love five MG friendship stories, we may only be able to choose one or two.
We also like to feature unusual titles, wonderful books by small presses, and midlist titles that deserve a “lead-title” readership, so sometimes a well-known, starred-review book won’t make the newsletter because we know it will still get all the sales it deserves through successful national promotion.
This means that some of our loved titles just won’t make the newsletter. We’ll still handsell them, of course, but the newsletter is prime real estate for our store—and many authors and artists are alert to that. This creates a little added pressure. The children’s book field especially is a small and close one; it can be awkward to run into someone whose book we loved but didn’t put into the newsletter for one of the reasons above. Once, several years ago, I saw a local author at a book conference, and he let me know how hurt he’d been that, the prior year, his book hadn’t been included. We hadn’t even known his book had come out; the publisher didn’t have a sales force in Vermont, and the author hadn’t sent it to us himself, so it wasn’t anywhere on our radar. It was eye-opening and distressing that he’d carried around a sense of rejection and hurt feelings for a whole year about a book we’d never even seen.
The best part of choosing books for Pig-Tales is reading them. We sort through the stacks of ARCs all year long; each staff member keeps an eye out for potential newsletter books. This really ramps up in July, as we round the second half of the year and I start keeping a spreadsheet of titles we’ve all been loving. We comb reviews, compare notes with fellow booksellers, and try not to have too much overlap with the NEIBA and ABC catalogs, which we also offer to customers.
So now is our critical juncture: Flying Pig booksellers have been sending me their lists of books they love and think would be perfect for the newsletter, and Josie and I are compiling our lists.
What would make YOUR newsletter, dear readers? What are your 2012 can’t-miss must-reads? (No fair nominating your own book!)

18 thoughts on “Your Favorite Book of the Year?

  1. Mary Quattlebaum

    Wow, what a request! So far, I’d have to say “Code Name Verity,” “Wonder,” and “The Raven Boys.” For biographies, I love Cathy Reef’s new “The Bronte Sisters.” And Jackie Jules’s latest Freddie Ramos for chapter books and Dempsey’s “Surfer Chick” and McDonnell’s “The Monsters’ Monster” for picture books. So much to choose from!

  2. Lori

    Abundance by Peter Diamandis – hope and solutions for a better future
    Bunch Of Amateurs – Jack Hitt – why the American DIY culture will save us

  3. Ellie Miller

    One of the joys/perks of retirement is time to read, and so I do…A LOT…179 books to date this year. Old favorites revisted…new discoveries…and my tastes are fairly eclectic, although I do tend to prefer F/SF and mysteries coupled with some non-genric fiction either by authors whom I enjoy or books which attract my attention for one reason or another. Intertwining all these categories is the one book which I’ve read this year that literally blew me away: Jo Walton’s “Among Others”. So far it’s either won or been short-listed for every major prize (including this year’s Hugo) in the SF category, but part of its huge appeal for me is that it’s also a believably-realistic coming-of-age novel with a bibliophilic heroine who should resonate with every reader (old or young) who’s ever been saved from loneliness or despair by the solace to be found in the comfort and wonder of good books.

  4. Steven McLain

    I recently finished “Those Across the River,” and thoroughly loved it. I was heartened to find it, since so many of the books I read this year simply felt underwhelming. I’d heartily recommend it as a can’t-miss of 2012.

  5. Mike Jung

    The Broken Lands by Kate Milford; This Is Not a Test by Courtney Summers; The Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda; The Cabinet of Earths by Anne Nesbet; oh dude, there are a lot of books I liked this year…

  6. Jenn

    Hands down, “The Song of Achilles” by Madeline Miller. It hit all the things I want in a great story: fantasy, tragedy, war, and unfathomable love. It was achingly good. I’m not ashamed to admit I cried.

  7. Sue Jackson

    For middle-grade books, I just finished Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt on audio and was blown away! In teen/YA books, I devoured Dead To You by Lisa McMann – a haunting novel about an abducted boy returned home 9 years later with no memory of his family.
    As for grown-up books, I LOVED Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One (or was that a 2011 book?) and SJ Watson’s Before I Go To Sleep.
    Great Books for Kids and Teens
    Book By Book

  8. Vicki Kouchnerkavich

    For teens “172 hours on the Moon” by John Harstad, for tweens “The One and Only Ivan” by Katherine Applegate, and picture book “Pete the Cat and his Four Groovy Buttons” by Eric Litwin.

  9. Bobbie Pyron

    Such a great year for books! I loved WONDER, by R.J. Palacio, KINDRED SOULS, by Patricia Maclachlan, THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN, by K. Applegate, and DEVINE INTERVENTION, by Martha Brockenbrough!

  10. Kathy Hudson

    It has to be COD NAME VERITY, and after that FAULT IN OUR STARS, and then LAST DRAGONSLAYER, RAVEN BOYS, and UNSPOKEN, not necessarily in that order.

  11. sue carita

    It’s hard to pin down a few top favorites for 2012! I couldn’t put down Long Lankin by Barraclough for it’s haunting sense of place (pun intended!). Seraphina by Hartman is another top notch teen-level favorite for its totally realized locale. After reading Kindred Souls by Laclachlan, I couldn’t stop singing its praises for ages. One Year In Coal Harbor by Horvath is another totally delightful read. Ask me my favorites in a month and there will be others. It was a pretty good year for kids’ books! Sue

  12. Diana

    Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
    Every Day – David Levithan
    Prisoner of Heaven – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
    The Fault in our Stars – John Green
    Between the Lines – Jodi Picoult & Samantha Van Leer
    🙂 All Excellent!!!


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