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Staff Picks: Our Favorite Books from 2012

Browsing Books 1 by nick12  via stock_xchng

Since I'm always looking to add to my "To Read" pile, and I love those ubiquitous,  year-end "Best of" lists, I decided to ask NEA staff which book they read in the past year ended up as their favorite. Here's what they had to say:

Wendy Clark: Just Kids by Patti Smith because it presents the life of an artist so beautifully, and also because it seems that just yesterday, I too was wandering around New York in my twenties.

Ira Silverberg: I’m not sure if it has something to do with turning 50 this year or if has to do with coming from the publishing industry where wide-scale and rapid change has decimated the professional landscape I grew up in, but I keep coming back to Dave Eggers’ A Hologram For The King as the book with which I’ve most identified this year. I suppose this makes it my favorite. I usually look for books as a way to escape, to enter a new world---here I find one so close to home, I claim it as a generational triumph. Eggers' crisp, clean prose, his ability to inhabit his characters’ emotional realm has always been stellar. Here, however, I really felt like he was writing a book for me and my friends---the very tail end of the boomers who have seen vast technological change create hope, havoc, and leaving us wondering: will we ever be employed again?

Adam Kampe: Lost in the City by Edward P. Jones.

Laska Hurley: The Vancouver Island Letters of Edmund Hope Verney (1862-65)….Anything about Vancouver Island really, but this was a particular favorite. Also, The Pioneers by James Fenimore Cooper. (Actually, reading was a bit rough going, but at the same time, it’s amazing how everyone jumps off the pages.)

Steve Kovalik: My favorite book I read this year are all James Patterson's books, but especially Guilty Wives.

vEnessa Y Acham: One of my favorite books for 2012 is The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner. It’s not a travelogue, but you learn about different countries and cultures. It’s not an autobiography, but you learn about the author’s dreams and shortcomings. And moreover, the reason I like Geography of Bliss is the librarian, C.C., at the Lebanon Libraries, New Hampshire, recommended the book!

Georgianna Paul: Ken Follet's Fall of Giants. His first book in a trilogy about the 21st century, it follows the stories and destinies of five families (American, Russian, German, British, Welsh) through WWI. At 960 pages, I was thrilled to lug it around on my Kindle rather than in hard or soft copy. Great Metro delay reading.

Phil McNeal: Wool by Hugh Howey. A self-published science fiction series book about a post-apocalyptic world where people live in a silo underground and the outside world is inhospitable. My favorite science fiction book of 2011/2012. A page-turner!

Amy Stolls: Let me just say Cloud Atlas that I am a total advocate and devoted fan of Cloud Atlas contemporary American literature and that there is really amazing David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas American literature being produced these days that you can see if you just looked at the projects we’ve funded in publishing What, Mitchell’s British? and that, though it would be hard to promote one American title/author/publisher over another I still heart u David Mitchell there are many fine books written and translated by Americans that I hope will be on this blog post.

Sarah Metz: I am not finished yet, so how it ends could change my thinking, but I have been enjoying The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach. Picked it up at the beach this year. It’s one of those l-o-n-g novels with several different characters that all relate to each other in some way and is one of the most enjoyable books I have read in a long time. Hopefully it ends well---have been putting off finishing it because it’s one of those stories you don’t want to stop reading.

Michael Holtmann: I admit my bias outright, the author Patrick Flanery is a dear friend of mine, but his debut novel Absolution was my favorite read in 2012. The book tautly weaves together the stories, real and imagined, of Clare Wald, an eminent South African writer, and her young biographer, Sam Leroux. The narrative unfolds into a provocative meditation on truth, justice, and reconciliation with the past.

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