I did a terrible job tracking my reading in 2012—after having to play catch up on my 2011 goal, and burying myself in writing, I just didn’t leave nearly enough time for reading, and when I did read, I neglected to tell Goodreads about it—so it’s like it never happened.
However, thanks to Goodreads, I can tell you a little bit about my favorite reads (that I recall…) this year.
Fiction: Young Adult
Again, I know I read more than what I’ve got listed, but as I look over my list, here’s what stands out:
Supernaturally by Kiersten White, #2 in the Paranormalcy trilogy
Spell Bound by Rachel Hawkins, completing the Hex Hall trilogy
Both of these books are fun paranormal stories without really being “creature” paranormal romance. But I’d recommend starting at the beginning of the series for both of them, which makes the next book my top pick of 2012 YA:
The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back by Sariah Wilson
This book is just. plain. fun. It’s about a Mattie, a rebellious teen and closet artist, whose stepsister Ella has absolutely everything Mattie could ever want, right down to the boy Mattie’s loved since she was 9. Mattie strikes back—she takes charge of her life and runs for class president. Against that boy she’s loved since she was 9. Besides, she doesn’t believe in happily ever after.
This is reeeally tough. I read and scanned a bunch of books on espionage and the CIA this year, and frankly, nonfiction is seldom as engaging as fiction. On the other hand, a nonfiction book that’s DRRRRRRRRYYYYYYYYYYYYY but really informative is something of a success, right?
So, my most informative book on espionage probably had to be:
The CIA Manual of Trickery and Deception by H. Keith Melton and Robert Wallace
As you might have guessed from my intro, this book is, well, dry. It’s actually declassified, two long-lost manuals written for the CIA by magician John Mulholland, designed to train CIA operatives on sleight of hand to deliver pills, powders or liquids into a subject’s food or drink (or person!), or to abscond with things. The former was never used (according to the CIA), but the latter methods, if not the manual, doubtlessly were, and may still be.
But perhaps more important than the manual tricks it describes are the principles of “magic” that include misdirection and other techniques that help any spy.
On the other hand, maybe it’s less the book and more the fun of trying out actual spy trickery and sleight of hand routines yourself . I didn’t have time to really delve into another book by the same authors, Spycraft: The Secret History of the CIA’s Spytechs, from Communism to Al-Qaeda, but I still felt cool when I got to decipher the one-time pad in its pages .
I read a whole bunch of CIA memoirs as well, and garnered so much information on the actual training and daily life of real CIA operatives. However, the Most outstanding CIA memoir I read this year was . . .
The Master of Disguise: My Secret Life in the CIA by Antonio J. Mendez
Yep, that’s the dude Ben Affleck played in Argo. Mendez has released a whole book about on the true story of the rescue of the six houseguests (also titled Argo), but I read about that first in Master of Disguise.
Although the beginning of Mendez’s CIA career was a little tedious—forging passports and “chops,” the stamps used at border crossings, opening envelopes indetectably, etc.—some of the most entertaining and thrilling true stories of spy adventures I read this year came from this book. Plus, it was only $2.09 on Kindle! when I looked it up last night—you can bet I bought a copy. (My first read came from the library.
Honorable mention in this category definitely goes to See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA’s War on Terrorism by Robert Baer. Where Mendez was actually technical support (though he frequently had to travel in the field), Baer was a real operative in the field for most of his decades-long career. This book was the best look into what a CIA operative does in the field that I read.
So, what are your top reads of 2012? What areas did you focus your reading time in? Come join the discussion!