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Book Kvetch’s Favorite Books of 2012

Posted by Rebecca G. Aguilar, M.Ed. on December 21, 2012

Book Kvetch remembers 2012 as an abundant year for nonfiction. Publishers released a host of good reads in science, history and biography. The university presses and children’s imprints also published quite a few marvelous books. Deciding what to read was challenging enough. Hoping to do justice to a trim, but perceptive list as I choose my favorite books of 2012.

Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher by Timothy Egan (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). Chronicles the life of Edward Curtis and his intrepid work capturing the remnants of American Indian culture in photographs.

Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm by Philip Pullman (Viking). An expert and engrossing retelling of Grimms to commemorate the bicentennial of the celebrated collection of folklore.

Consider the Fork by Bee Wilson (Basic Books). A concise, but accessible history with fascinating sidebars on how we cook and eat.

The Black Count by Tom Reiss (Crown). The amazing true story of General Alex Dumas, inspiration for the heroic characters created by his son Alexandre Dumas in The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers.

The Violinist’s Thumb by Sam Kean (Little, Brown and Company). Unravels the secrets of DNA from an idiosyncratic perspective of history, science and culture.

Dearie by Bob Spitz (Knopf). A real contender for definitive status as a biography of French cooking icon Julia Child.

Eat the City by Robin Shulman (Crown). A colorful history of the resourceful urban food growers, who discovered ways to drink and eat and share New York City.

The Plant Hunters by Anita Silvey (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). The compelling stories of plant hunters, past and present, moved by the excitement of travel, love of the natural world, a desire to make a profit or the need to devote themselves to the study of plants.

Compassion, Inc. by Mara Einstein (University of California Press). Research, case studies and interviews along with prescriptive examples for authentic sustainability and social justice initiatives at companies—not all about the brand, the celebrity or corporate self-interest.

The Battle for the Arab Spring by Lin Noueihed and Alex Warren (Yale University Press). A clear analysis of the discontent that fed the popular uprisings and what the aftermath might bring to the Arab world.

Bon Appétit! by Jessie Hartland (Schwartz & Wade) A wonderfully illustrated biography for children with copy as fresh as the artwork—good research from soup to nuts—to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Julia Child’s birthday in August 2012.

To Marry an English Lord by Gail MacColl and Carol Wallace (Workman Publishing). A re-released history about the remarkable influence of the American heiress in the court of Edward VII. Lord Julian Fellowes read the book as inspiration for the hit PBS series, Downton Abbey.

Change Comes to Dinner by Katherine Gustafson (St. Martin’s Press). Quality journalism to motivate the most apathetic of us to buy local, organic and seasonal.

Juliette Gordon Low by Stacy A. Cordery (Viking). Chronicles the life of the unconventional and progressive founder of the Girl Scouts known for “meeting royalty, hunting tigers, flying in airplanes, climbing the Pyramid, nursing soldiers, living on two continents and traveling to Africa and India.”

A Difficult Woman by Alice Kessler-Harris (Bloomsbury Press). A well-researched and compelling biography that might draw readers to seek out the memoirs of this storied playwright, Lillian Hellman.

A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor (Penguin). A beautifully illustrated, authoritative history based on the world’s most compelling relics and antiquities.

Category: Nonfiction, Favorite Books, 2012

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