Best of 2012: Feature Films and Documentaries

Our final list lets you take a break from all that reading. Find out what our DVD selector Kate thinks are the best and brightest from 2012.

Feature Film and Mini-Series

The Raid: Redemption
An astonishing action film – and when I say action, I mean non-stop “how-did-they-think-of –so many ways -to-fight” action – and it was made impressively on a shoestring budget. The story is creative, but it’s the fighting that will keep you watching. Be sure to watch the special features included in the DVD, as well.

Kinyarwanda
A presentation of the 1994 Rwandan genocide told from a personal level in a way that demonstrates the devastatingly simple and direct consequences of our actions. Though I am familiar with this time in Rwandan history, this film made me understand the conflict as if I were “on the ground.”

Titanic
This year marked the 100th anniversary of the Titanic sinking. This is an engaging, award-winning mini-series about that ill-fated voyage.

Mysteries of Lisbon
An adaptation from the book and an epic in the true meaning of the word, this a wonderfully detailed treatment of the unfamiliar world of 19th century Portuguese royalty, a story that stretches across three generations. The acting is superb, with many in the cast speaking three different languages. The cinematography is rich with an incredible number of filming locations. A true work of art!

Documentaries

Woman with the Five Elephants
This amazing Kiev-born woman, Svetlana Geier, has accomplished a 20-year, mind-boggling project of re-translating five Dostoevsky novels that she calls “The Five Elephants.” This film tells the story of her life as a literary translator, giving us insight into her painstaking process and also into her life as Russian exile in Germany.

Corman’s World
A tribute to Roger Corman, a filmmaker you may never heard of but who nevertheless is one of the most influential Hollywood personalities. He’s not only launched many an acting and directorial career (Jack Nicholson, Robert DeNiro, Dennis Hopper, Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, Sylvester Stallone, Ron Howard…), but he has also changed the shape of filmmaking in many, many ways.

Into the Abyss: a Tale of Death, a Tale of Life
In 2001 a young man, his friend, and his mother were murdered, apparently because the killers wanted the red Camaro in the garage. One of the killers is on death row; the other is serving a life sentence. Werner Herzog’s characteristic documentary does an admirable job demonstrating the “anguish and absurdity” of killing, “wanton or sanctioned” without being preachy – it’s “rigorously humane…” (quotes from the 11/10/11 New York Times review).

The War Room
President Clinton’s 1992 election campaign concept, dubbed the “war room,” was innovative and set the standard for campaigns to come. In 1992, the Internet was new and had a profound impact on the way the war room functioned. For some, nothing could be more boring than the thought of a documentary about a political campaign, but this is not only a trip back in time, it conveys the intensity of the campaign process and the thrill of the win.

For a full list of all the 2012 staff picks, click here.

Best of 2012: Found in the Children’s Section

Today’s list includes ninja pigs, Dinotruxs, groovy buttons and crazy concoctions. As you might have guessed, it is our choices for the best in children’s books for 2012.

Picture Books

Revenge of the Dinotrux by Chris Gall
Creatures that are part dinosaur and part truck escape the museum and cause havoc all over town. They create hilarious trouble for adults, and only children can tame them. Great word play and wild illustrations make this story a delight for read-aloud. –Esta

Fancy Nancy and the Mermaid Ballet by Jane O’Connor
Nancy wants a lead part in her ballet school show, but she ends up chosen to be a tree. She struggles with jealousy when her friend, Bree, gets to be a mermaid. Nancy comes up with a great way to add sparkle to her life, and the illustrations add to the playful and sweet feeling of this book. – Esta

The Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz
Three pigs take martial arts training and are ready to match a very tricky wolf. Bold, dramatic illustrations and story give kids many laughs…and an introduction to the discipline of martial arts. –Esta

Rocket Writes a Story by Tad Hills
Rocket the dog loves to read, and he collects words on paper slips that he hopes to piece together into a fantastic story. His friends surprise him, and suddenly he has a superb idea. A comforting, gentle story that praises reading and creativity. –Esta

Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by Eric Litwin
Pete the cat has a cool shirt with multi-colored big buttons, and it makes him so happy that he creates a song. The buttons pop off one by one, but Pete still finds joy and sings his way through it all. Vivid color illustrations in bold paint strokes capture the adventures of this little cat who has an endless sense of humor and fun. –Esta

Mossy by Jan Brett
Mossy the turtle has moss growing on her shell, and soon a whole colorful garden sprouts on her back. She is so special that a biologist takes her to live in a museum, but one little girl can sense how Mossy longs to get back home to Lilypad Pond. Lush, detailed illustrations capture the beauty of the landscape, and the story’s ending packs a sweet surprise. –Esta

Chapter Books

Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz
When Clara vanishes after the puppeteer Grisini and two orphaned assistants were at her birthday party, suspicion of kidnapping chases the trio away from London. The orphans are caught in a trap set by Grisini’s rival with a deadly inheritance to shed. Angie on GoodReads characterized this book as ‘When a Dickensian Hansel and Gretel meet up with Sara Crewe in a Pinocchio story by Stephen King…’ Yep, that covers it. –Andrea

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead
7th-grader Georges adjusts to moving to an apartment, his father’s efforts to start a new business, his mother’s extra shifts as a nurse, being picked on at school, and Safer, a boy who wants his help spying on another resident of their building. Jennifer Hubert from GoodReads says ‘Rebecca Stead’s books are like an onion–as the layers are peeled away and the characters reveal their secrets, the reader is left with a shiny nugget of essential truth.’ I couldn’t describe Stead’s writing any better. –Andrea

A Mutiny in Time by James Dashner
Time has gone wrong, and best friends Dak Smyth and Sera Froste, together with the young Hystorian Riq, must use the infinity ring to travel back to one of the Great Breaks–a mutiny on the Santa María–to correct history and defeat the SQ. History can be difficult the way we currently study it, but what if we could travel in time and change what everyone thinks they know? –Andrea

Nonfiction

Crazy Concoctions: A Mad Scientist’s Guide to Messy Mixtures by Jordan D. Brown.
Swimming raisins, glow-in-the-dark Jell-O, and fake blood are just some of the silly projects and experiments in this introductory chemistry book. Silly illustrations and comments make the scientific explanations of each entry more palatable. The experiments are intriguing to budding scientists and use ingredients commonly found in a kitchen. –Theresa

Stay: The True Story of Ten Dogs by Michaela Muntean.
When Luciano Anastasini fell from the high wire, it seemed that his days as a circus performer were over. Luciano could imagine no other life, so he decided to put together a dog act, not with purebred dogs, but with mutts rescued from the shelter. It is a heartwarming tale of a man who wouldn’t give up on himself or the dogs whose behavior “problems” became assets to his act. The color photographs of Anastasini and his dogs will delight any dog lover or circus fan. –Theresa

National Geographic Kids Ultimate U.S. Road Trip Atlas by Crispin Boyer.
Road trip ahead, or armchair traveling, this atlas won’t disappoint the young geographer. Each state is illustrated by a map showing major roads, towns, and geographic features with colorful pictures highlighting points of interest. Each state’s two-page spread includes a “Boredom Buster,” a suggestion of an activity one could do in the car while passing through. Odd traffic laws, miscellaneous facts, and quirky roadside attractions add special interest and humor for the trip. –Theresa

For a full list of all the 2012 staff picks, click here.

Best of 2012: All Things YA

Today our staff delves into the every popular young adult genre. Since all our staff are adults, well in years at least, clearly there is no shame in checking out these titles if you happen to be a “mature” adult.

Young Adult Fiction

Croak by Gina Damico
A delinquent 16-year-old girl is sent to live with her uncle for the summer, only to learn that he is a Grim Reaper who wants to teach her the family business. I’m becoming fascinated with anything grim reaper-ish, ghostly, psychical, or dealing with the afterlife. This hits all the high notes for me, and is a nice, smooth read. This book will definitely appeal to fans of the TV show Dead Like Me. – Carol

This is Not a Drill by Rebecca (Beck) McDowell
When an angry dad bursts into the classroom where Jake and Emery are tutors, things quickly degenerate. In the absence of the teacher, it is up to the teens to save the younger children from an armed, and increasingly disturbed, ex-soldier with PTSD. The story is told in alternating chapters by Jake and Emery, which gives us both points of view, and a hint of romance. This is a very believable and topical thriller. –Theresa

Never Eighteen by Megan Bostic
Austin doesn’t have much time to complete his “bucket list.” Terminally ill, he has a list of people to see and events to set into motion before it’s too late. It’s a “sneaky sad story” that starts out sarcastic and full of dark humor. –Emily

The Selection by Kiera Cass
Thirty-five girls from different social castes are randomly selected to compete for the chance to wed their next ruler, Prince Maxon. For most girls, this would be a dream come true. But for one girl, being selected is a nightmare. Unlike many first books of series, this one has some closure at the end. –Emily

Chomp by Carl Hiaasen
Return to form for an author known for his literary, humorous, ecological books — in this one the worlds of a rugged animal wrangler and a faux survivalist TV star collide. Terrific character-driven fiction; it’s hard to be this funny and smart at the same time. –Alan

Young Adult Nonfiction

The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook  by Emily Ansara Baines
The title is the hook, and while it does pay tribute to the world of The Hunger Games by including recipes like “Grilled Tree Rat with Peanut Butter Dipping Sauce”, most of the recipes are simple standards such as French bread and red velvet cake. The recipes are within the abilities of a beginning teen cook, and most use ordinary kitchen ingredients. However, the author is serious about foraging and developing interest in cooking with wild edibles. –Theresa

Seventeen Ultimate Guide to Beauty by Ann Shoket and the editors of Seventeen magazine
This title is divided into sections covering makeup, hair, skin, nails, and finding your own look. Within each section are tips for a variety of “looks” and photographs of trending celebrities as examples. It shows in detail how to use the various makeup products and the photographs represent a wide variety of ethnicities and body types. The style suggestions are realistic for teens: not too time consuming, and not requiring too many beauty products. –Theresa

For a full list of all the 2012 staff picks, click here.

Best of 2012: Fiction and Non-Fiction

Today’s list of the best of 2012, is all about Fiction and Non-Fiction. Some of the stories are true, some are not and others lie somewhere in between.

Fiction


The Odds: a Love Story by Stewart O’Nan
A tale for our economic times: jobless (and nearly homeless), a couple on the brink of divorce travel to Niagara Falls to risk it all. Tender, humanist, engaging, insightful, and extremely satisfying: the perfect little book. –Alan

The Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
Three young friends in the 1930s explore speakeasies, sexuality and social class. With richly crafted historical details and emotional drama, this novel reminds us a bit of The Great Gatsby. The lush lives of the wealthy clash with working class aspirations as this tense triangle explodes. –Esta

The Lower River by Paul Theroux
An aging American businessman returns to the village in Africa where he once worked in the Peace Corps to confront challenges and fears. Theroux’s own harsh, intimate experiences in Africa give this book intensity. No shortage of adventure here, in a place where local traditions meet violence, disease and shattered dreams. –Esta

The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin
Set in turn-of-the-century Eastern Washington, a solitary fruit grower finds two pregnant teen girls hiding in his orchard.  When he opens his heart to them, his life is shaken by the consequences. A deeply emotional story of abuse and its effects on girls and women, and also a tender story of how one man discovers how to heal, nurture and protect. –Esta

Radio Iris by Anne-Marie Kinney
All is not well at Lormax Inc. as Iris, a twenty-something underachiever, begins to realize that her co-workers are disappearing, her boss can’t explain what the company does, and a mysterious man occupies the office suite next door. Kinney creates an eerie sense of dread coupled with an atmosphere of existential malaise to capture the absurdity of the workplace during an extended economic ‘downturn.’ –Richard

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
In 1962 a Hollywood actress arrives in remote Porto Vergogna, Italy. Her visit to the Hotel Adequate View ends up changing the lives of an aspiring screen writer, a reality show producer, and his assistant in present day Los Angeles. The settings are vivid, the characters charming, and the plot, both historical and present day, fascinating and fun. –Eileen

True Sisters by Sandra Dallas
Four courageous women are forever transformed in this fictional story of the Mormon’s 1,300-mile trek on foot from Iowa to Salt Lake City. One of my favorite author’s writing pulled me right onto the trail – I could feel the cold. –Margo

You & Me by Padgett Powell
Powell’s book consists of nothing more than the daily porch-side yammering of two old guys – and it is hilarious. If you like quirky characters, unhinged dialogue, and wide-ranging commentary, it’s You & Me, pal. –Scott

Contents May Have Shifted by Pam Houston
An autobiographical travel-adventure novel, this is a wild ride with a world-traveling woman, who is not afraid to seek out exotic locations, confront danger, and boldly throw herself into intense relationships with men. This is a book for the travel junkie, and the author’s adventures never fail to thrill you. Her wry sense of humor about men and women’s miscommunication will keep you laughing too. –Esta

Nonfiction

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson
Jenny Lawson realized that the most mortifying moments of our lives-the ones we’d like to pretend never happened-are in fact the ones that define us.  This is a humorous recollection of her bizarre upbringing in rural Texas. This is a funny literary debut from Internet star Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess. –Leslie

Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: the Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis by Timothy Egan
Discover the adventurous life of Edward S. Curtis and how his photographic treasures came to be. A nonfiction page turner from the National Book Award winner of The Worst Hard Time and The Big Burn. The author captures the passionate, driven and sensitive nature of Curtis in a very readable writing style. –Marge

The Mansion of Happiness: A History of Life and Death by Jill Lepore.
A quirky collection of essays that explores the American way of life and death. Lapore illuminates the big ideas by exploring the seemingly insignificant, including board games, breast pumps and cryogenics, in a witty and entertaining way. –Richard

The Comedy Film Nerds Guide to Movies by Graham Elwood and Chris Mancini.
Serious, but funny discussion of movies by filmmakers and comedians. Genres, such as comedy, science fiction, and cult classics are discussed, followed by a list of the 10 best and 10 worst movies in that genre. It is a refreshing change from the dry, witless, snobby discussion that one gets from most movie guides. The writers are serious about their movies, but not too serious. Also, it weighs less than most movie guides. –David

Economix: How and Why Our Economy Works (And Doesn’t Work) In Words and Pictures by Michael Goodwin, illustrated by Dan E. Burr.
A history and explanation of economics in comic strip form. It takes a subject that many find sleep inducing and makes it accessible to a wide audience. A witty, entertaining, and informative read. –David

For a full list of all the 2012 staff picks, click here.

Best of 2012: Genre Fiction Favorites

As we draw close to the end of the year, it is time to take stock of all that has happened in 2012. Some may evaluate personal goals, others the political and cultural ramifications of events. Here at the library we like to talk about all the great things we have read and viewed in 2012.

There are lots of “best of” lists at this time of year, but ours is compiled by a dedicated staff who come across thousands of titles in any given year and know how to separate the wheat from the chaff.  Our list is long, but we have divided it up into five sections which we will publish every day this week. So come take a personalized tour of the best and brightest fiction and film of 2012. First up: Genre Fiction

Crime Novels and Mysteries

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Nick and Amy’s marriage is boiling over with repressed anger, fear and manipulation. When Amy suddenly disappears, Nick’s life is torn by the suspicions of his family and the police. But Amy left behind a diary. Is it filled with fabrications or facts?… A masterpiece of psychological fiction, this novel plunges deep into each character’s dark side. As you are caught up in the sharp suspense, this novel also reveals deep truths about human emotions and relationships. –Esta

The Woman Who Died a Lot : a Thursday Next Novel : Now with 50% Added Subplot by Jasper Fford
Thursday Next is back. No longer physically capable of being a field agent, she is appointed head of the Swindon library, a much more dangerous job than one might think. Fforde has created a universe that is just slightly different from ours in quirky ways (i.e., cheese smuggling is a crime). I was sold when she was shown the red button to push in case of emergency, which would summon Nancy (Pearl) from Seattle. –Ron

A Foreign Country by Charles Cumming
Disgraced British agent, Thomas Kell, is brought back into service when the woman scheduled to be the new head of MI6 disappears. Has she defected? Has she been abducted? Kell needs to find out fast. A thriller for those who appreciate good spy craft. Suspense with lots of twists and turns. –Marge

Broken Harbor by Tana French
French’s latest mystery is set in a bleak, half-finished housing development on the cold Irish coast. A family is found murdered and the mother, the only survivor, unable or unwilling to talk. Its compelling setting and strongly drawn characters combine with a plot that’s almost gothic, making for a book that’s hard to put down. –Eileen

Psychological Fiction

In One Person by John Irving
Billy Abbott struggles with his bisexual impulses and bravely searches out experiences and people who will help define his identity. These memorable characters dare to step outside gender and social roles, and make us redefine what is masculine and feminine. A daring and honest novel that confronts how ’we are formed by what we desire. –Esta

The Beginner’s Goodbye by Anne Tyler
Aaron Woolcott’s wife dies in a freak accident, and this novel follows Tyler’s formula of presenting a sad-sack fellow who is vaguely aware that his youthful dreams have eluded him. This is domestic fiction with some supernatural elements and the author’s cleverly casual expression of the ordinary. –Gloria

Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult
After their father, a famous wolf researcher, is left comatose during an accident, siblings Edward and Kara Warren disagree about whether or not to terminate his life. I loved the research about wolf and pack behavior and how a human may have been a part of it. –Gloria

The Map and the Territory by Michel Houellebecq
The artistic process, art world excesses, failed human relationships, and the resilience of the natural world are just some of the themes in this idea-rich page-turner that is part art world exposé, part visceral thriller. Audacious and brutally honest. –Scott

One Last Thing Before I Go by Jonathan Tropper
Middle-aged divorced dad Silver is dying, his estranged teenage daughter is pregnant, and his sudden clarity of insight (and stroke) bring them together. But will they save each other? Funny, insightful, edgy, and unpretentiously smart writing. –Alan

Domestic Fiction

Arcadia by Lauren Groff
The story of the struggles and joys of a hippie commune in the countryside of upstate New York in the 1960′s, told from the point of view of Bit–the first child born who grows to manhood embraced by this alternative lifestyle. With a circus of colorful characters, this novel brilliantly recreates the playful and reckless energy of the 60′s. From the charismatic leader to the youngest child, we can see the sweet irony of how people who seemingly are fools can be visionary as well. –Esta

The Red Book by Deborah Copaken Kogan
Four women in Harvard’s class of ‘89 gather for a 20th-year reunion with some serious soul searching. All four of the women have lied in their stories to each other and have to unravel those lies before they can become whole. Plus I graduated college in 1989 and wondered what a class reunion would be like. –Gloria

Hope: A Tragedy by Shalom Auslander
Kugel’s just moved to an upstate country house, but his nasty tenant, impatient wife, fake Holocaust survivor mom, and the discovery of Anne Frank in his attic combine to ignite the proceedings. Very funny, very smart writing, everything that This American Life featurist writes is solid.  –Alan

Humorous Fiction

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry:  a Novel by Rachel Joyce
Harold Fry is convinced that he must deliver a letter to an old love in order to save her, meeting various characters along the way and reminiscing about the events of his past and people he has known, as he tries to find peace and acceptance.
I just walked over 100 miles in England, and really understood the struggles Harold felt just trying to keep putting one foot in front of the other. –Julie
The story unfolds fluidly and achieves a familiarity that had me rooting for Harold and walking with him. –Liz

Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines
Vampires are killing Porters, members of a secret society who protect humankind, and who can pull objects out of books. Isaac Vainio, librarian and failed field agent, is charged with saving humankind. A world where people can reach into the page of a book and pull out an item from that page is fascinating. Isaac wears a trench coat filled with books from which he pulls fantastical weapons with which to defend himself from vampires and their kind. –Ron

Panorama City by Antoine Wilson
A pitch-perfect story about “slow absorber” Oppen Porter who lies in a hospital bed and records on audio cassette the events and lessons of his life for his unborn son. Jerzy Kosinski’s Being There crossed with Nicholson Baker’s The Mezzanine. A terrific blend of characters, style and story. –Scott

For a full list of all the 2012 staff picks, click here.