Some books to remember from 2012

Every year, it seems like every publication puts out its own best of the year list. This year was no exception, and we saw a lot of the same titles on the lists: "Gone Girl," "Bring Up the Bodies," "Wild" and "The Power of Habit."

But the lists do go deeper than that top five or 10 that everyone's already heard about. I'd like to introduce you to some titles that still made the list (of thousands of titles released each year) and might be just the right book for you.

— "Little Sinners" by Karen Brown is a volume of short stories. While reading them, it became apparent that all featured some sort of reflection on life's events. Haunting and evocative stories bring to life some of the hidden desires and insecurities of 20th-century women in the United Stories.

The writing style is lyrical, and the characters are finely drawn. Some of the stories were impossible to put down until done.

— Award-winning novelist Pat Barker has given us another exemplary piece of fiction in "Toby's Room." Downton Abbey fans might enjoy this story of a complicated British family in the early 1900s torn apart by the beginnings of the Great War.

Inserted with cameo appearances by historical figures (Virginia Woolf, Henry Tonks and others), this novel is a beautifully written exploration of the impacts of war, women's roles in the 1910s and love during world upheaval. This one can be emotionally intense, gripping and ultimately satisfying.

— Looking for something a little more quirky and inventive? The essays by Davy Rothbart in "My Heart Is An Idiot" might hit the mark. A frequent contributor to NPR's "This American Life," this Midwest-born author has a knack for describing life's ups and downs with hilarious accuracy.

Rothbart is a born storyteller, and all of these stories feature enough humor and honesty to think of the author as both a friend and a role model for giving it all up in the search for love and the carefree life.

The last two books mentioned here are abrupt changes in theme:

— The dark fantasy "Bad Glass" by Richard E. Gropp is a maze of government secrets, mysterious creatures and a town gone mad — much like some of the novels by Dean Koontz.

Apparently, Spokane, Wash., has been taken over by the government, and if you're to believe the Internet rumors, there are some crazy things happening behind the city walls. Something is definitely wrong in Spokane.

— Last, it is the summer of 1974 in "By Blood" by Ellen Ullman. The news is overpowered by Patty Hearst, Vietnam veterans, the Zodiac Killer and free love. A defrocked professor takes up space in an old office building and overhears conversations from the psychiatrist's office next door. This begins an obsession to research the origins of the patient's difficulties. When he's successfully unearthed important information, he doesn't know how to get the message to the patient without revealing his eavesdropping.

A series of notes and letters begins an odd and intense relationship between the professor, the psychiatrist and the patient. This one is an immensely intelligent dialogue-heavy novel full of depth and psychological thrills.

No matter what your reading preferences are, the sometimes exhaustive lists of 2012 favorites are sure to include the right book for you.

Kelly Strom is the collection manager at the Champaign Public Library. She orders books, magazines, newspapers, audiobooks and CDs.

Topics (1):Books

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