These are my favorite books that I read this year. Many of them did not come out in 2012, but I read them in 2012.
1. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie and illustrated by Ellen Forney (2009) - Everything about this book is smart - the illustrations and the text. A great read for teens and adults alike.
2. Among Others by Jo Walton (2012) - This book is probably a little too inside baseball for a lot of readers, but I appreciated the reverence with which Walton referred back to the greats of fantasy and science fiction in this ode to discovering the literature that will save you and immerse you in fantastical settings and new best friends. Also, the dreamy, lyrical quality of Walton's prose is beautiful to behold.
3. The Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock (2007) - I wanted to find contemporary young adult books with strong female leads and Murdock really came through with me in this book and the sequel The Off Season. Also, the Kristin Cashore novels Graceling and Fire were also noteworthy in this category.
4. The Leftovers by Tom Perotta (2011) - Thought provoking and well paced.
5. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (2009) - Kvothe's world of magic, school, and obstacles is so well realized that you'll forgive Rothfuss for the 650 pages you have to heft around.
6. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (2012) - I can't even describe this book to you because it defies description and genre placement. I don't envy the librarians deciding where to shelve it - fantasy, science fiction, dystopian, even the distinction between young adult and adult is somehow blurry here - but I do envy anyone who hasn't read it yet and gets to read it for the first time.
7. The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen (2012) - I thought this book was going to be preachy and self-indulgent (premise: girl loses leg in an accident and thinks her life is over), but it was authentic and honest and brilliant. Jessica is perfectly written. And the aunt in me that has a niece with cerebral palsy loves Rosa even more than Jessica.
8. Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card (1986) - The Ender Wiggins series is not new to anyone on this planet but me, but I adored this book.
9. Split by Swati Avasthi (2010) - A great look at domestic violence from the perspective of two young men fleeing from an abusive past. It's nuanced and so raw it hurts at times.
10. Wonder by R.J. Palacio (2012) - This has similar themes to The Running Dream (teen dealing with a physical disability), but is beautiful. Simply beautiful.