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Staff Favorites of 2012: Adult

What was the County of Los Angeles Public Library reading this year? Here are some suggestions from our staff of the best books we read. Some are newcomers, some are classics, but all are great!

Looking for more suggestions? Try these from the web: NY Times, Publishers Weekly, NPR, Amazon, and Goodreads.

See our Staff Favorites of 2012: Teens and Children. Find even more reading suggestions at Books & More.

>>Jump to Non-Fiction Books

Fiction

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The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman, 2012

Tom and Isabel's decision to keep the baby which washes up on their Australian lighthouse island has far-reaching consequences. Excellently narrated by Noah Taylor, this heart-wrenching exploration of love and loss will linger on in the reader's mind

Genre: General Fiction, Audiobook

Recommended by Shelley from Library Headquarters

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The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, 2012

This retelling of Homer's Iliad is beautifully written and nearly impossible to put down. It received Great Britain's Orange Prize for Fiction 2012, which celebrates excellence, originality and accessibility in women's writing worldwide.

Genre: Historical Fiction

Recommended by Judith from Anthony Quinn Library

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A Winter Dream by Richard Paul Evans, 2012

This holiday story is a modern-day retelling of the biblical story of Joseph and the coat of many colors. Joe is forced out of his family's business by his jealous brothers, but later rises to power in another company and reunites with his family.

Genre: Spirituality & Religion

Recommended by Roberta from South El Monte Library

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Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan, 2012

Follow the clerk of a mysterious little bookshop in San Francisco embark on his adventures when he realizes that the shop isn't at all what it seems. The book encourages a lively discourse on the clash between print and digital technologies.

Genre: Mystery, Popular Culture

Recommended by Iris from La Canada Flintridge Library

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The Empty Family by Colm Toibin, 2011

In these short stories Colm Toibin digs way below the surface of his characters to reveal not only their motivations, but also delves, with much nuance, into their frustrations, needs, and desires with a lean, yet oddly rich, approach to language.

Genre: General Fiction

Recommended by Kurt from West Hollywood Library

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The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan, 2011

It's an easy read told through dictionary entries. Using a word for each letter of the alphabet, the narrator describes his bitter-sweet relationship with a woman. Each "definition" is illustrated through an event that occurred in the relationship.

Genre: General Fiction

Recommended by Jessica from Library Headquarters

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The Orphan Master's Son  by Adam Johnson, 2012

An epic tale of modern-day North Korea, young Pak Jun Do's life is a fantastic series of events that take him from the orphanage of his youth to a new identity--as a military hero and husband to the Dear Leader's favorite actress. A remarkable read.

Genre: Thriller & Suspense

Recommended by Jesse from Diamond Bar Library

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Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, 2012

Two staff members recommend this book. Maryknoll says "The less you know about it, the better is the story. Flynn describes in detail the acute thought processes of the characters, yet no words are wasted, no thrills sacrificed" and Susan says, "Yes, it really lives up to its hype. This tale of a marriage gone horribly wrong is sordid and twisty, and haunted me for weeks afterwards. Here's a tip for the directors when casting the film version - Gwyneth Paltrow is your Amy. You're welcome."

Genre: Thriller & Suspense

Recommended by Susan B & Maryknoll from Central Regional Office & Artesia Library

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Start Shooting by Charlie Newton, 2012

Meeting again years after her sister Colleen was killed, Arleen and cop Bobby Vargas are caught up in Chicago politics, secrets and betrayals as they seek the truth about Colleen's death. Atmospheric, fast-paced, indelible characters, fabulous audio

Genre: Thriller & Suspense

Recommended by Shelley from Library Headquarters

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American Vampire, Vol. 1-4 by Scott Snyder, 2010-2012

America is a new land and has bred a new breed of vampire. None of that shrinking in daylight & hovering around windows like the European variety. The American vampire is vicious & independent. Parallel stories in each volume written by Stephen King.

Genre: Horror

Recommended by Susan B from Library Headquarters

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Broken Harbor by Tana French, 2012

What was going on in the Spain household?...The holes in the walls, the baby monitor cameras, the crazy web postings, the three dead family members in a half-built housing tract in the far exurbs of Dublin...Tana French gets better with each book!

Genre: Mystery

Recommended by Amy from San Dimas Library

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Red Country by Joe Abercrombie, 2012

Fans of George R.R. Martin will love Abercrombie. Red Country chronicles the journey of Shy South and her sort-of-father Lamb on a journey to recover her kidnapped siblings. Dark and bitterly comical, my favorite fantasy book of the year!

Genre: Fantasy

Recommended by Josh from Library Headquarters

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1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, 2011

Murakami specializes in creating mysteries with no answers. 1Q84 is not perfect--it's very long and at the end nearly everything is still unresolved. But it is constantly fascinating. Its flaws are in fact what makes it work so beautifully.

Genre: General Fiction

Recommended by Matt from Castaic Library

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Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, 2011

This book from 2011 was selected by two staff members. Jennifer says "This is a fun, futuristic yet retro novel that is certain to invoke eighties nostalgia - and fear. Wade Watts is on a mission to find Halliday's virtual million dollar egg, but never imagines how his life will change when he locates the first clue." Sarah says, "An epic quest through a virtual reality 80's world. I loved it but I hope we never see that future."

Genre: Sci Fi, Romance

Recommended by Jennifer & Sarah from Gardena Mayme Dear Library & A C Bilbrew Library

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This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz, 2012

"The half-life of love is forever." Junot Diaz' collection of short stories is vivid, funny, heart-wrenching and full of truth. He is not bound by any conventional dictionary, either, and this is an amazingly good thing....

Genre: General Fiction

Recommended by Amy from San Dimas Library

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Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, 2004

Megan from Manhattan Beach Library recommends this mystery novel where the victim is forgotten books. When Daniel discovers a rare novel by the author Julian Carfax, it fuels his desire to read more by Carfax. Unfortunately, the novels are being mysteriously destroyed. Leticia from Sorensen Library also says "This book was so enthralling and engrossing I could not put it down."

Genre: Mystery

Recommended by Leticia & Megan from Sorensen Library & Manhattan Beach Library

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The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi, 2009

The complex plot and equally complex characters are among the best sci fi has to offer. Even the most sympathetic people have darker sides and it is difficult to determine which character or faction should triumph.

Genre: Sci Fi, Audiobook

Recommended by Richard from Rosemead Library

Non-Fiction

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Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson, 2012

The author entertains you with her stories growing up in West Texas with her interesting family. Her father is a taxidermist. Hilarity ensues. Pick up this book if you literally want to laugh out loud.

Genre: Biography

Recommended by Leticia from Sorensen Library

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Bringing Up BéBé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman, 2012

This isn't your usual parenting book exclaiming how one technique is better than another. It's a story about an American mom finding wisdom in how the French raise their children, and adapting it into her own life. A truly fascinating read!

Genre: Audiobook

Recommended by Hilda from Chet Holifield Library

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Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb  by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm, 2012

Trinity is a fascinating blend of the history, science, and art. Fetter-Vorm is able to explain nuclear fission as well as how the US was able to build the first Atomic Bomb.

Genre: Graphic Novel, History & Current Events

Recommended by Victoria from Quartz Hill Library

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The Truth About Style by Stacy London, 2012

Stacy London from TLC's What Not To Wear encourages us ladies to take a cold, hard look at our wardrobe. True story: I read it on a Sunday morning, and by that night I had 5 trash bags of clothes to donate to Goodwill.

Genre: Fashion, self-help

Recommended by Susan B from Central Regional Office

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The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success by Kevin Dutton, 2012

How are Ted Bundy and Saint Paul alike? According to the author, they are both psychopaths. Mr. Dutton informs and dispels myths about personality disorders by summarizing the latest neurological research. You will be surprised by what you learn.

Genre: Non-fiction Neoroscience Research - Psychopaths

Recommended by Alida from Bell Library

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Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Fashion by Elizabeth Cline, 2012

Cline eloquently explains why we became addicted to throwaway clothing and the social and environmental costs involved. She also investigates retail stores in Los Angeles that are bucking this trend.

Genre: History & Current Events

Recommended by Susan A from West Hollywood Library

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The Story of America by Jill Lepore, 2012

History is not just what happened, but the product of how we think and write about what happened... In these essays Lepore writes about how literature (high and low) has been used to shape conceptions of American political identity. Cool!

Genre: History & Current Events

Recommended by Amy from San Dimas Library

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Zoobiquity: What Animals Can Teach Us About Health and the Science of Healing by Barbara Natterson-Horowitz, 2012

Do animals develop eating disorders? Become juvenile delinquents? Suffer from depression? This fascinating book explains that they do.

Genre: Nature and Science

Recommended by Susan A from West Hollywood Library

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The Midwife of Hope River by Patricia Harman, 2012

Lyrically written, we enter Patience Murphy's world in the hallows of coal mining West Virigina on the eve of the stock market crash that heralded the Great Depression. Courage and compassion will see Patience and the babies she delivers through.

Genre: History & Current Events

Recommended by Marta from La Crescenta Library

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Magic Hours: Essays on Creators and Creation by Tom Bissell, 2012

These well-written, wide-ranging essays pick apart the creative process and its rewards or lack thereof, from the initial failure of Moby Dick to the cult success of the film The Room to the bomb-throwing stunts of the Underground Literary Alliance.

Genre: Popular Culture

Recommended by Susan A from West Hollywood Library

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I Could Pee On This: And Oher Poems by Cats  by Francesco Marciuliano, 2012

If you live with cats and puzzle over their behavior, these humorous poems will explain quite a bit. Who knew cats could write poetry! The book is pocket size and will be enjoyed by the whole family and includes cute color photos of house cats.

Genre: Popular Culture

Recommended by Cathy from Library Headquarters

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Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World's Most Wanted Hacker  by Kevin Mitnick, 2011

The rollicking adventure of the world's most wanted hacker on the run from the FBI. This book goes from young Mitnick's entertaining feats to his showdown with the FBI, who finally close in and catch him using their own brand of shrewd ethics.

Genre: Thriller & Suspense, Biography, Audiobook

Recommended by Oleg from West Hollywood Library

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The Unconquered: In Search of the Amazon's Last Uncontacted Tribes by Scott Wallace, 2011

Fascinating account of an expedition into the Amazon undertaken to locate and protect some of the last uncontacted tribes on the planet. Hairy spiders, carpenter ants, and dangerous, near-fatal slips and falls add to the fun.

Genre: Armchair Travel

Recommended by Susan A from West Hollywood Library

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America's Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, and the Compromise that Preserved the Union by Fergus Bordewich, 2012

Bordewich writes a compelling account of the Compromise of 1850. Startlingly relevant in this age of political divide, he shows how Henry Clay, Stephen Douglas and a host of others combined to pass the Compromise and delay the Civil War for a decade.

Genre: History & Current Events

Recommended by Josh from Library Headquarters

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Most Talkative: Stories From the Front Lines of Pop Culture by Andy Cohen, 2012

This memoir of the man behind Top Chef and The Real Housewives is funny and frank, especially when Cohen describes coming out to his friends and family. Includes photos of Cohen as a long-haired Deadhead!

Genre: Biography

Recommended by Susan A from West Hollywood Library

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The Gentry Man: A Guide for the Civilized Male by Hal Rubenstein, 2012

If "The World's Most Interesting Man" published a magazine, it would've looked a lot like Gentry. Published between 1951-57, it was the guide for men of style and renown. The book has the best of the magazine's content, valid even for today's man.

Genre: Popular Culture

Recommended by David from Library Headquarters

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Death by China: Confronting the Dragon--A Global Call to Action by Peter Navarro, 2011

Articulating important current issues, this is a thorough description of the methods used by the Chinese communist government to undermine Western economies, from counterfeit products to theft of intellectual property to industrial spying to intolerable working conditions.

Genre: History & Current Events

Recommended by Scott from Hawthorne Library

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Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton, 2011

Sly humor and a unique perspective on history and literature make this book of cartoons a delight. My favorite? Dude Watchin' with The Brontës ("So brooding!")

Genre: History & Current Events

Recommended by Susan B from Library Headquarters