My Favorite Reads of 2012

Every January (or as in last year, February), I blog about my favorite books of the year. There was a lot to love this year and I had trouble choosing just ten. I hope you’ll share some of your own favorites in your comments.   (As always, I’m leaving out some of my very favorite books because they’re written by close friends: I just can’t be objective about those novels!)

Listed in no particular order:


Okay, now that I’ve said these are listed in no particular order, I must say that if someone held a gun to my head and forced me to pick my favorite of the year, this is it. That said, I’m not sure if it’s for everyone, but I was personally moved, educated and inspired by this memoir. My sister called it “exhilarating”, so it’s not just me. Will Schwalbe is a middle-aged man who accompanies his mother as she goes through chemotherapy treatments for terminal pancreatic cancer. They’re drawn together as they discuss the books they’ve read. I’d read perhaps thirty percent of those books and that, of course, added to my enjoyment, but it wouldn’t have mattered if I’d read none of them. The story goes so much deeper than that. The most inspiring aspect to me was not the son/mother relationship or the courageous way his mother faced her cancer, but the woman herself and all she’d accomplished in her life for other people. She made me want to do more myself and I hope to hold onto that feeling for the rest of my own life.


I found the setting–Janus Rock, an isolated and immensely lonely island off the coast of Australia–nearly as intriguing as the story. Of course, as most of you know from my own Keeper of the Light trilogy, I’m a sucker for lighthouses. The light keeper and his wife who settle on Janus Rock try unsuccessfully to have a family, suffering loss after loss. When a boat washes ashore carrying a dead man and a live baby, who can blame Tom and Isabel for keeping the child as their own? But the baby has a mother, and that’s where the plot thickens. There are no neat answers to the dilemmas in which the characters find themselves. A very human story.

3. RU by Kim Thuy

I heard Kim Thuy interviewed on NPR and had to read her book. Having worked with some Vietnamese “boat people” when I was a social worker in San Diego, I was curious to hear her story. The book is considered fiction but it’s strongly influenced by Thuy’s own experiences as a Vietnamese emigre’ transported to Canada. (The book is translated from French). The chapters are very short vignettes delivered in non-chronological order, which I found a little off putting at first, but once I gave myself over to the structure, I enjoyed it. Thuy’s writing is exquisite, her tale eye-opening.

4. SHINE, SHINE, SHINE by Lydia Netzer

This book won’t be for everyone. . . well, I could say that about any of the first four on this list. . . but I did love it. I loved it for its uniqueness.   When’s the last time you read about a bald eccentric woman about to go into labor, her astronaut husband  on his way to outer space, and their young autistic son? Yes, these people are up against the wall in a dozen different ways. Their story is tense, intriguing and ultimately touching.


Don’t be put off by the fact that this is considered a Young Adult novel. It will speak to you no matter your age. The basic premise of the book–a boy and girl  with terminal cancer meet at a support group–sounds so lame and depressing, I hesitate to even state it. Hazel and Augustus will make you laugh as well as cry–and they’ll make you think. A lot. I loved this book.


This is not the sort of book I’d usually pick up. It looks funny. It has a funny cover. It is funny. Just like I don’t write funny, I don’t read funny. But my friend Mary Kay Andrews who definitely writes funny stuff suggested I read it, and I’m so glad she did. Bernadette is the beyond-eccentric mom of fifteen-year-old Bee, who aces her report card and requests a trip to Antartica as her reward. Fearful of the trip, Bernadette disappears and Bee and her dad must find her. Okay, it gets ridiculous, but I thought it was a fun and fast read worthy of my top ten list for the sheer speed with which I turned the pages.


I love stories that move back and forth in time. In Blackberry Winter, we visit Seattle in 1933, when a little boy disappears, and in 2010, when a young newspaper writer picks up the old clues of his disappearance. The two women at the heart of story–Vera, the little boy’s mother and Claire, the writer–touched me deeply with their individual plights and I couldn’t wait to find out how their stories intersected.

8. DEFENDING JACOB by William Landay

Another page turner here. A teenager is murdered in a quiet Massachusetts town and the prime suspect is the son of the Assistant District Attorney. It’s a story of family loyalty and guilt, and it’s revealed in a way that keeps the reader in the blissful, enticing dark until the very end.

9. GONE GIRL, by Gillian Flynn

Okay, I honestly feel silly adding this book to my list because it’s so  . . . I don’t know, so commercial. It’s been on the bestseller list forever, just relaxing there with all its engrossing, teasing, taunting, plot points. It has no redeeming depth, no empathetic characters, no heart tugging moments. However, it’s unputdownable, and there’s a lot to be said for that.

10. SNOW CHILD by Eowyn Ivey

This is another one of those “really different” books that I love. In turn-of-the-century Alaska, a childless couple builds a snow child who turns into a real girl. Or does she? I’m not a big fan of magical realism, but it worked for me in this book and the writing easily carried me into the world of Jack and Mabel and their beautiful daughter. Based on a Russian fairytale, the story is moving, wistful and hard to forget.

So how about you? What books did you adore in 2012?









  1. Lynsey McGee on January 6, 2013 at 5:14 am

    In 2012 I read my first Diane Chamberlain book which I loved – The Good Father. I then went on to read Before The Storm and Secrets She Left Behind. In 2013 I will definitely be reading a few more of your books.
    My favourite book of the year though has to be Dorothy Koomson’s The Rose Petal Beach. I feld so involved with the characters that I just couldn’t wait to pick it up everyday too see what was going to happen next. It is a wonderful story about relationships and trust.
    Another book I loved was One Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf. Her books are written in a very similar style to Diane Chamberlains in that every chapter is told by a few different characters. This book is about a gunman in a school and you are guessing throughout who that person could be. I would never have guessed who it ended up being. Wonderfully written with a great twist at the end.
    I also enjoyed Me Before You by Jojo Moyes and absolutely loved the Hunger Games trilogy.

  2. Lauren on January 6, 2013 at 11:50 am

    I was making a similar list a few days ago and “The Fault in Our Stars” was high on my list as well! Several other books in my top ten were some of yours; I just discovered your books for the first time this year and spent the summer reading everything you had available on Kindle. Definitely one of my greatest joys in life – discovering an author I love and then finding that they’ve already written a whole treasure trove of books for me to enjoy!

  3. aida alberto on January 6, 2013 at 11:51 am

    I picked up Vanity Fare, The light between Oceans and The Kitchen House yesterday. Read so many good reviews on The LIght and Kitchen House I had to pick them up even though I thought I wouldn’t like them. Am trying to read all three at once. Am also going to get Beautiful Ruins and The Book Thief. Am going to go back and check out The Fault in Our Stars which I almost bought too but because it’s listed as YA and I don’t read YA I passed on it.

  4. Kristine Dobbie on January 6, 2013 at 11:53 am

    I could not agrew with you more about The Fault in our Stars by John Green. My daughter encouraged me to read it and it was easily one of my favorite reads for 2012. Augustus is one of my top ten favorite fictional characters of all time. I will no longer be turning my nose up to YA fiction!

  5. Jean Brown on January 6, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    1. The End of Your Life Bookclub by Will Schwalbe (my favorite of the year)
    2. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
    3.Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead
    4. Watergate: A Novel by Thomas Mallon
    5. You Are the Love of My Life by Susan Richards Shreve
    6. Triburbia by Karl Greenfeld
    7. Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
    8. The Good House by Ann Leary (ARC)
    9. The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
    10. 1963 by Stephen King

    and two non fiction
    11. Paris: A Love Story by Kati Marton
    12. Most Talkative by Andy Cohen

    I just finished what I know will be a 2013 favorite:
    The Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman..

    BTW Diane I do not read funny either..I must not have realized Where’d You Go Bernadette was *funny* or I would have never read glad I did and yes it did make me laugh but also it was very touching…

  6. Marlene on January 6, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    I have read most of DIanes books and each one was special. But I must say my favorite book was South Of bixby Bridge by Ryan Winfield his first novel, and it was wonderful not for everyone but I have read it twice.

  7. Hailey on January 6, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    When it comes to choosing my favorite books, it’s hard because I’ve read and fallen in love with so many different books. The feeling I get when I read a delicious story is like to someone else when it comes to eating their favorite foods. I can’t explain why I love these favorite books of 2012 but I will write them out. I thoroughly enjoyed When in Doubt, Add Butter by Beth Harbison, One Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf (Lynsey McGee, I was just as equally surprised about finding out who the gunman was). I started it in 2012 but finished it on Friday. Those We Love Most by Lee Woodruff. It was so good, I recommended it to my mom. I didn’t cry but she’s been bawling her eyes out. I took out The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and I’m going to take out Defending Jacob by William Landay and Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio. I ordered Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn through Barnes and Noble, I’m anticipating the arrival and can’t wait to read it.

  8. Becky Boulo on January 6, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    Diane I always make a top 10 List too. I had some of the same books as you and some of the books you listed are on my 2013 read list. I also had Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, Secret Lives by my favorite all time author DIANE CHAMBERLAIN!, Kitchen House by Kathleen Grisson, Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton, How to eat a Cupcake by Meg Donohue and of course the Good Father by Miss Diane Chamberlain!,and Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman. I am so excited to read your new book! I’m sure that will be on 2013 booklist.

  9. Francine Orlando on January 6, 2013 at 2:45 pm

    I have been keeping a list of all the books I read every year since 1993. I read 24 books in 2012. One of my favorites is Secret Lives by Diane Chamberlain. A couple more favorites are The Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan, The Long Way Home by Karen McQuestion . I also read Defending Jacob in 2 days while on vacation this past summer. I don’t usually read Stephen King books but I read 11/22/63. There were things I liked about that book and things I didn’t like. Not a favorite but worth reading. I have more Diane Chamberlain books waiting for me to read that I bought while on vacation in October.( It took me a while to read the Stephen King book.) I look forward to some good reads in 2013.

  10. Tanya on January 6, 2013 at 2:51 pm

    Snow Child and Gone Girl were two of my favorites. The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar and Divergent (aYA dystopian by Veronica Roth) and The Book Thief by Markus Zukas round out my favorites not written by you. But this was the year I learned about your books and you quickly became me favorite author. Midwife’s Confession was my favorite, but I also loved The Good Father, The Lies we Told, The Shadow Wife, The Secret life of CeeCee Wilkes, the bay at midnight and the Before the Storm series. I had One Breath Away downloaded right before the Newton shooting and didn’t think I could bring myself to read it after. Maybe I should give it another chance. All the ones on your list look great, gonna have to add some to my goodreads lists!

  11. Diane Lamprey on January 6, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    Hi Diane,
    There were so many good books out this year, I have eight of my favorites with the number one being:
    1. “The Good Father” by Diane Chamberlain and in no particular order are the other 7… “ties that bind” a cobbled court quilts novel by Marie Bostwick, “Let The Devil Sleep” by John Verdon, ” Catch Me”by Lisa Gardner, “home front” by Kristin Hannah, “Pulse” by John Lutz, “Stay Close” by Harlan Coben, and “The Road to Grace” (The Walk) by Richard Paul Evans. In beween the newer books I have, or should I say my wonderful daughter, has bought me some of your earlier books….I am so in love with each and everyone of them….I have a few more left then I believe I have them all but I will research to make sure. One of your earlier one, “Brass Ring” was exceptional….I look forward to more exciting books in 2013.
    Happy New Year all!

  12. Diane W. on January 6, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    Oh, I liked so many. Let’s see, The Snow Child, South Of Superior (Ellen Airgood), and The Shoemaker’s Wife (Adriana Trigiani) are three. I admire you, Diane, that you weere able to narrow your list to 10 favorites!

    • Diane Chamberlain on January 6, 2013 at 4:59 pm

      It wasn’t easy, Diane W. !

  13. Renee on January 6, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    One of my favorite books of the year, though not published this year, was The Midwife’s Confession. I have given this book to many friends and family to read this year, and they have all asked to keep it longer so they can pass it on to someone else. That book served me well for hosting book club too. It was our most attended meeting because everyone loved the book so much! I also enjoyed Gone Girl and Defending Jacob. I always love any new Harlan Coben book that comes out as well!

  14. Amelia Felci on January 6, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    I loved Blackberry Winter. Want to read her other two books but am having trouble finding them. My top book/books for 2012 is actually a series. – The Mustard Seed Series by Nancy Mosher.
    Since I read hundreds of books during the year, it would be easier to list the one’s I didn’t like as there weren’t very many. However, I’ll keep to the positive.

  15. Debbie Hearne on January 6, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    I loved The Good Father, Snow Child, Blackberry Winter, Ghost on Black Mountain by Ann Hite, Rain Song by Alice J Wisler and One Mountain Away by Emile Richards! Also an old book, Drowing Ruth ( cannot recall authors name). I’m looking forward to reading more books that othered have shared.

  16. Liz on January 7, 2013 at 1:53 am

    I cannot choose 10 books – if I have to list favourites the list would be way to long. However, and I am not trying to suck up or anything, but if I did have a list my number one book in 2012 would have to be The Good Father. If you remember I messaged you to tell you I started reading it in bed at 9 pm and finished at 6 am the following morning – I just could not put it down. I am not really happy about your list – unfortunately I have not read any of the books on the list, and I am a sucker for a good review. So now my poor credit card is going to have to see some action yet again, while I purchase the whole lot! Grrr.

  17. Gigi Ann on January 7, 2013 at 6:48 pm

    The books are in no particular order, just ten I gave 5 stars, however, I read 144 books in 2012, and so many of them were very good reads. Although, I hated “Gone Girl” I just didn’t get it. On to the ten I selected….

    1. On The Island, by Tracey Garvis Graves.
    2. Blackberry Winter, by Sarah Jio.
    3. Doggone, by D. M. Buckley.
    4. Dewey’s Nine Lives, by Vicki Myron.
    5. Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, by Beth Huffman.
    6. Pick Your Poison, by Leann Sweeney.
    7. The Good Father, by Diane Chamberlain.
    8. The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, by Julie Klassen.
    9. Dick Van Dyke, My Lucky Life, by Dick Van Dyke.
    10. This Time Together, by Carol Burnett.

  18. Ann on January 8, 2013 at 9:09 pm

    Some of the best books I read in 2012
    The Good Father by Diane Chamberlain
    The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons
    The Red Book by Deborah C. Kagan
    Beach House Memories by Mary Alice Monroe
    Only Time Will Tell and Sins of tbe Father by Jeffrey Archer [the first 2 books in The Clifton Chronicle series]
    Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks [one of the most creative books I have ever read – I loved it]
    The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

  19. Rita Wray on January 9, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    I can’t list them all because I have read so many but here are some.
    Three Gifts by Mary Flinn
    The Silent Touch of Shadows by Christina Courtenay
    Killing Lincoln by Bill O’Reilly
    Killing Kennedy by Bill O’Reilly
    Sweet Enemy by Heather Snow
    Cypress Point by Diane Chamberlain
    The Inn at Rose Harbor by Debbie Macomber
    44 Charles Street by Danielle Steel
    Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
    Redwood Bend by Robyn Carr

  20. YVONNE RAHN on January 14, 2013 at 10:55 am

    Wow, in 2012 I read a lot of books. I just got my kindle and I am totally addicted to it reading all kinds of different books that I wouldn’t normally pick out from a book store. But, some of my favourites are the Lighthouse seriers from Diane Chamberlain. I tend to love books that are bound together by the same characters. I read one and love it and then want to read more and more. I also loved James Patterson’s Alex Cross seriers. Quick fast reads. On the Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves, great book. Riversong by Tess Hardwick, What the Dead Know Laura Lippman. HomeFront by Kristin Hannah was awesome. And all the Hunger Games books were phenomenal. Most of these books I would never have read or heard of if it weren’t for my kindle and the daily specials and recommendations etc. I was always an advid reader but, now I’ve been introduced to a whole new world of reading and am so much happier for it.

Leave a Comment