Books I Read in 2012

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I adore perusing everyone’s reading lists from the previous year, so I thought I’d share mine as well. Though, I warn you, it’s not at all impressive! An infant that woke several times a night for the first half of the year, and the terrible morning sickness accompanying a new pregnancy during the second half of the year meant that any brain cells left for reading were in short supply. But without further ado…

Spiritual Writings:

1. Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton: If you haven’t read this one, please, please do yourself a favor and put it on your reading list. It is a splendid must read.

2. Praying with Icons by Jim Forest: A lovely gift from Daniel. I learned so much about Eastern Orthodoxy and the beauty of the Christian artistic tradition.

3. Through the Year with Mary by Karen Edmisten: A wonderful collection of quotes about Our Lady, one for each day of the year.

4. Familiaris Consortio (The Role of Christian Family in the Modern World) by Blessed Pope John Paul II: Beautiful and true.


5. Helena by Evelyn Waugh: A hagiography of St. Helena of the True Cross in novel form by the author of my all-time favorite book: Brideshead Revisited. Perhaps it fits better in the spiritual writings category, because it’s not exactly fiction. It is perfectly wonderful and I will read be reading it again.

6. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell: A college professor, mentor, and friend passed away last year. She studied and loved Gaskell’s works and I want to read all of Gaskell’s novels in her honor. Next up: North and South and Wives and Daughters. There is also a delightful (but not very faithful) film adaption of Cranford starring Dame Judi Dench, if you’re interested.

7-8. The Penderwicks, and The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall: Get thee to a bookstore and read The Penderwicks! I can’t remember the last time I was so delighted by a book. I didn’t know books like this were still being written. They are “children’s books” in the tradition of Anne of Green Gables. When reading the adventures of these four motherless daughters and their loving, absent-minded father, there was something on every page that made me giggle out loud and get teary-eyed. They are lovely, charming, wonderful books and I sleep better knowing they exist.

9. Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James: I am always skeptical of any book that tries to use characters from great works of literature; however, I must confess that I enjoyed this murder mystery starring the characters from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It was very strange to read inner monologues of Mr. Darcy, though. That really shouldn’t be allowed.

10-12. Men at Arms, Officers and Gentlemen, and Unconditional Surrender (The Sword of Honour Trilogy) by Evelyn Waugh: Probably the finest work I read this year. It’s very long, very subtle, and very Catholic. The payoff at the end is amazing. Waugh always astounds me in the last few chapters. These characters will live with me forever.

13-15. The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins: Couldn’t put these down. I actually stayed up until 2am to read them. They are instant gratification page turners, but not entirely without merit.

16-18. Arthur, Pendragon, and Grail by Stephen Lawhead: Admittedly, these weren’t amazing. But I adored the first book in the series, Taliesin, and couldn’t bear not to finish it out. For Arthurian fantasy books, they could be more embarrassing? Maybe shouldn’t make confessions like this on the internet…

19. Re-read: Anne’s House of Dreams by Lucy Maud Montgomery: I am incapable of going a year without returning to the world of Anne. I won’t tell you how many times I cried while re-reading this, so don’t ask.

I’m almost done with A Return to Modesty by Wendy Shalit and I’m partway through The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte and a re-read of Wuthering Heights (before I let myself watch the new film adaption.) On my must-reads for the year are North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell and The Brothers Karamazov.

My favorite reads of the year? Orthodoxy, The Penderwicks, and Sword of Honour.

What was on your reading list for 2012? What was your favorite read? What are you planning to read this year? I love hearing about what you’re reading, so humor me!

(Linking up with The Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Twitterature)

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  1. says

    I’m glad to hear you love Brideshead Revisited; I’m listening to it now on audiobook! This year I didn’t get a lot of reading done, but I did read The Hobbit for the first time and thoroughly enjoyed it. I also read The Red Tent (meh) and re-read North and South. We have very similar taste in books!

    • Haley says

      Oh, Makenzie! It’s my favorite, favorite, favorite! To avert possible disaster DO NOT watch the recent film adaption by Andrew Davies starring Emma Thompson and Matthew Good. IT IS THE WORST THING I’VE EVER SEEN. Davies’ screenplay completely misses every point of the book. Oh my. I just writhe in agony thinking about it! But, if you want a treat after you finish, the miniseries starring Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews is usually streaming on netflix and it is as close to perfect as it comes. We watch it once a year. It’s as good as the other adaption is bad. I love The Hobbit! We listened to it as an audiobook on a trip last year but I don’t think Benjamin was old enough to really get it. Hoping we can do a read aloud next year at bedtime! And now I’m really excited about reading North and South 🙂

      • says

        I’m loving Brideshead! Jeremy Irons is reading the audiobook too, what a voice! I would love to discuss it with you after I’m done. There’s nothing like hearing someone talk about their favorite book.

  2. Kristee says

    My reading goals for the last two years have included reading Gaskell’s works. But I completely struck out at our library. They had nothing, so I re-read my copy of “Wives and Daughters” (which is beyond wonderful). “Anne’s House of Dreams” is my favorite Anne book, though I also like “Rainbow Valley”. I just think “House of Dreams” is so well written and it has a continuous plot, rather than being more episodic like most of the books. (And poor Leslie….)

    • Haley says

      It might be my favorite Anne book, too. Leslie is so wonderful. There is so much heartbreak in it, but it’s also so sweet and hopeful. A close second for me is Anne of the Island. It just sounds like so much fun to live at Patty’s Place!

  3. says

    My list is long, so if I get it up on my blog, I’ll come back and post a link. One of my favorites this year, though, was Avalon by Stephen Lawhead. I highly recommend it. It is sometimes listed as the last in the Pendragon cycle, but it’s not directly connected to those other than being Arthurian. I LOVE the Penderwicks. And Hunger Games. I would also recommend looking into the Gregor the Overlander series by Suzanne Collins. They’re middle grade, not YA, and she wrote them before the Hunger Games. I really enjoyed the first one and am looking forward to diving into the rest of the series. I’ll have to add Waugh and Gaskell to my reading list.

    • Haley says

      Ooo, do post a link if you get a chance. I might have to try Avalon. I haven’t loved any Lawhead as much as Taliesin but I’m usually pretty pleased with his depiction of the legends. And I’ll check out Gregor. Pretty please start with Brideshead!

      • says

        This isn’t a list, but it’s the collection on Goodreads with cover pictures and titles. 🙂 I read a lot. Probably to the detriment of my family. I will definitely read Brideshead soon! I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed at the moment with book club and a manuscript I agreed to critique and library books with deadlines, but this year for sure.

  4. Megan says

    My dad, brother, and husband are all reading The Brothers Karamazov together right now and the snippets Jonathan shares with me are amazing!

  5. says

    I loved Little Britches by Ralph Moody and I enjoyed North and South by Gaskell, but often felt she had trouble deciding if she wanted to be Dickens or Austen. My guilty pleasure was Shadow of Night – but it had time travel into Shakespearean times and that’s so hard to resist! Barnheart was good and Folks, This Ain’t Normal was worth the read, but felt like a long blog post.

    A lot of my reading seemed to come from audiobooks this year – I reread a few classics this was and the hubs and I have been making our way (slowly) thru a few Harry Dresden books too.

    I have a stack of started books that I really need to finish (I’ve had a return to modesty on my bookshelf unread for years!), but just picked up Kristin Lavransdatter.

      • says

        Little Britches is part of a series of books based on the authors life – pretty much autobiographical – about growing up in various places from the early 1900’s until around the depression. LB starts the series when the family moves to Colorado to start a farm and their trials and tribulations. It’s pretty much “Little House on the Prarie” for grownups and/or boys – definitely a little more real and not so many happy endings… I believe the next book is called “Man of the Family” if that gives a clue about how the authors life changes between “Little Britches” and the next book.

        Ralph Moody’s father has some amazing advice that he gives his young son near the end of the book – definitely something I’ll be rereading with my son.

  6. says

    I am reading Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo [unabridged and complete]. This is the one book of great literature you must read before your life on earth is changed into life eternal. Is that high enough praise? I’m in a weekly book discussion group, on FaceBook, which really motivates to read 50 pages per week.

  7. says

    Thanks to you I think one of my favorites that I read in 2012 was the Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy. =) I also read and enjoyed both The Penderwicks (all 3 books) and Death Comes to Pemberly.
    Chesterton’s Orthodoxy is on my list for this year! I hope to keep reading a priority throughout the year, opening myself up to actually completing a fair amount of my “to read” list. Thanks for sharing your list – I think I shall add a few more to my list.

    • Haley says

      I’m so glad you loved Kristin Lavransdatter. I think it’s one of those books I will be re-reading for the rest of my life. Post your “to read” list, pretty please! I’m still compiling mine and need some more inspiration 🙂

  8. says

    I’ve returned to reading after cutting internet and TV time to a minimum. My husband has been telling me I needed to read The Lord of the Rings Trilogy forever now. I read The Hobbit while pregnant with my daughter and adored it. However – at every turn I had friends saying how much they didn’t like LOTR’s, that they couldn’t get through it, that you had to learn another language to read it (still baffled by that one)…So I dragged my feet. Technically speaking – I just finished it in 2013, but The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers were finished in 2012. Best. Epic. Trilogy. Ever. I could not put it down. It was unbelievable. I was at once speechless upon its completion. Then I proceeded to relive the best parts with my husband for hours. He had the biggest “told you so” grin on his face too, haha. I also read The Domestic Church by Donna Marie Cooper-O’Boyle. I really liked that one as well.

    • Haley says

      Isn’t it so good? I read it in high school for the first time and then again in college. My husband reads it once a year. I’m adding The Domestic Church to my 2013 reading list!

  9. says

    Hunger Games Trilogy in a couple of days and most of the time I have no time to read between working and a crazy toddler.
    And Redeeming Love for the 5th time because I can’t help myself. And that’s about it.

  10. says

    Oh my goodness, we are long-lost book sisters 🙂 I’ve read about 75% of what’s on your list, so I’ll make bold to recommend “The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making”. How could you not run right to the library to read a book with a title like that?? My daughter (10 years old) and I just finished reading it together over the Christmas break and it’s wonderful!

  11. says

    Hi there! Long time lurker & first time commenting (I think!), I had to though, book posts are my favorite!! 🙂 You have a great selection here, I think the only one I’ve read is “Orthodoxy”. The two that are going on my list for this year are: “Praying with Icons” & “Through the Year with Mary”. I’ve been wanting to read both of them but tend to forget them when I’m looking for a new book. :/

    I made a similar post (only without the descriptions) on my blog on New Years Eve. My favorite of the year was “Consoling the Heart of Jesus” by Fr. Michael Gaitley. Right now I’m reading “The Memory Palace” by Mira Bartok & just started Fr. Gaitley’s new book, “The ‘One Thing’ is Three”.

    • Haley says

      I’m so glad you linked to your 2012 reads! I just love seeing them. I will add Consoling the Heart of Jesus to my 2013 list.

  12. says

    Michael O’Brien’s “The Island of the World” was my top fiction read of 2012. Epic, heart-wrenching, beautiful and redemptive. Just about perfect!

      • says

        Ha! Yes, it is super long. But don’t let that deter you! I read it last year, and my husband read it right after I did. It isn’t super rare that I would cry during a book, but I wept at the end of this one. I think my husband didn’t think it would affect him like it did me, but it got him, too. It traces the life/faith of a man from Croatia from 1930s to present day.

  13. says

    Thanks so much for the list, Hayley! I read a lot last year, but it was mostly free or really cheap Kindle books because we were in Germany and I didn’t have English books to get at the library or buy 🙂 I did read some good ones though and found some in an ex-pat book club I joined:

    War Brides: Cheap on the Kindle and what a find! SUCH a good book. It was so emotional and captivating and a really good book to help Americans understand what WWII really was for Europe. It was really helpful for me living in Europe because Americans simply don’t understand how WWII really affected Europe and still does. (Great for a book club–let me know if you read it because I would LOVE to discuss!)

    The Sense of an Ending: Really thought-provoking and extremely well-written. If you only like happy books, it’s not for you, but if you can read about some sadder themes with an intellectual mindset it’s really good. This was from book club.

    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime: Written from the perspective of a boy with Asperger’s and great for understanding Asperger’s and Autism. This was also from book club.

    St. Anne’s Day: First Catholic chick-lit book I’ve found! It’s not the greatest, but I think it’s a good one for Catholic women to read to see the beginning of a potential new genre.

    There’s a lot more to list, but I keep a list usually on my blog with an * next to books I recommend. Some of them are linked to reviews, but I’m behind on reviews. Here’s the page:

  14. says

    I love reading people’s reading lists. I posted my 2012 reading list the other day. Last January I decided to cut down on TV and internet time and read more. I’ve enjoyed it so much! I am on book #2 of 2013.

    • Haley says

      I hopped over to your blog to check out your list! How did you like Anna Karenina? I might make myself read it before I allow myself to watch the new film adaption (it looks gorgeous from the trailer.)

  15. LMM says

    Lovely timing, I was on the hunt for some new material. Off to dive into Sword of Honor and a cup of a pregnancy tea now – thanks!

    • Haley says

      I warn you that parts of it are tedious but I think it’s very intentional and there are enough gems in it that make it so worthwhile. I convinced my dad to read it and he told me today that it completely changed his understanding of Christian marriage. I hope you love it!

  16. Neika Seibold says

    Thanks for the post. We popped in to the library after school today and picked up the Penderwicks, and I read chapter 1 with my girls tonight. Then we had to debate on which character we liked most so far. 🙂 I also grabbed a book for myself which is the Moonstone (Collins). I’m not too far into it, but loving it so far. My oldest son (9) has a book goal of fifty this year. Can’t let my nine year old beat me! P.S. I have Orthodoxy on order at my library….

    • Haley says

      I started the third Penderwicks last night. I’m always trying to decide who my favorite sister is. They’re all so wonderful.

  17. Lois says

    I think you may enjoy North & South more than Cranford. Thinking about re-reading Wives & Daughters at some point soon.

    Read Villette at the end of 2012 and thought it may be the best Bronte I’ve read yet. Really quite good. More difficult to read than Jane Eyre (because a bit more cynical), but actually better, I think. Not as dark and melodramatic as Wuthering Heights (maybe I need to re-read that too, though…read it at 14, I think.) Also read and enjoyed Tenant, though Anne can be a bit too preachy, no?

    Currently reading Kristin Lavransdattar, thanks to you– and to my sister, who gave me the kindle version of the newer translation for Christmas! (Did you read the old or new translation?)

    • Haley says

      I think I will. I’m excited about jumping into it this year. And I’ll add Villette to my list! I’ve always meant to read it.

      I read the new translation right when it came out. Oh my, it’s so good. How far are you into it?

  18. says

    Thanks for posting this list! I’ll have to check some of these out.

    I’m planning to read North and South this year too. I’d never heard of it until I saw the BBC mini-series last spring. Others on my ‘to read soon’ list are Wuthering Heights, Northanger Abbey, and Jane Eyre. I feel like it’s about time for a Harry Potter re-read soon as well.

  19. Abbey says

    What did you think of Wendy Shalit’s book? I read it about ten years ago…it happened to be at the house where we were housesitting and I picked it up. I would like to read it again now that I’m a grownup.

    • Haley says

      I’m still trying to sort out my thoughts about it. I did like it. But I thought certain sections were much stronger than others. I think she spent too much time at the beginning talking about herself, and it had a few too many, “I know this one girl who…” anecdotes, but I thought the second half was very thought-provoking. I’d like a friend to discuss it with!

  20. says

    I adore Brideshead (definitely in the running for Most Favorite Book Ever) but I was disappointed with Waugh’s other works I’ve read. The tone seemed altogether different. But I’ve never even heard of Helena! I’ll definitely have to check that one out.

    • Haley says

      I think you’ll love Helena. I really loved Sword of Honour but it is different from Brideshead. And I loved A Handful of Dust but found it incredibly depressing. I literally climbed into bed and took a four hour nap when I finished the last page because I just couldn’t face it. Which other Waugh did you read? Loved your link up, by the way! 🙂

  21. says

    Haley, I just have to tell you that, as Anne Shirley would say, I think we are bosom friends. 🙂 You and I are one person when it comes to literature! I just discovered your site via Pinterest (and your ‘why your daughter can’t read twilight’ article), and I am now a huge fan. Also, I am about to read Lillith, per you recommendation. Never heard of it but I’m excited to start it! BTW, have you ever read the Patrick O’brien books (the aubrey/maturin series) Full of nautical lingo you’ll never understand fully, but so well written. I love them.

    • Haley says

      Ooo, Leah! I hope you love Lilith. Some people aren’t crazy about MacDonald’s style, which I can understand, but the story is great and it says so much about the nature of evil. I really like MacDonald’s children’s books, too, like The Princess and the Goblin. I haven’t ever read or even heard of the Patrick O’Brien books but I will have to check them out. Thanks for the recommendation 🙂


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