Gayle Forman

Best Books of the Year: My personal Top 20

2012 Juli Frantje-Haus Selfpic.

(After a popular list last year [Link]…)

…here are the 20 very best books I’ve read in 2012:


20: JASON SHIGA, “Bookhunter”, Graphic Novel, 2007.

19: GAYLE FORMAN: “If I stay”, Young Adult Novel, 2009.
If I Stay (If I Stay, #1)

18: DAVID MARKSON: “The Last Novel”, (postmodern) Novel / Lists / Trivia Collection, 2007.
The Last Novel

17: SHARON M. DRAPER: “Out of my Mind”, Young Adult Novel, 2010.
Out of My Mind

16: OCTAVIA BUTLER: “Kindred”, (Fantasy) Novel, 1971.

15: JOHAN HARSTAD: “Buzz Aldrin, what happened to you in all the Confusion?”, Novel (Norway), 2005.
Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion?

14: KRISTEN D. RANDLE: “The only Alien on the Planet”, Young Adult Novel, 1995.
The Only Alien on the Planet

13: DANIELA KRIEN: “Irgendwann werden wir uns alles erzählen”, Novel (German), 2011.
Irgendwann werden wir uns alles erzählen

12: TENNESSEE WILLIAMS: “A Streetcar named Desire”, Play, 1947. […alternative / runner-up: HENRIK IBSEN: “A Doll’s House”, Play (Norway), 1879.]
A Streetcar Named Desire and A Doll's House

11: ARNO GEIGER: “Der alte König in seinem Exil” (Austrian) Alzheimer Memoir, 2011.
Der alte König in seinem Exil

10: SARAH LEAVITT: “Tangles. A Story about Alzheimer’s, my Mother and me”, Graphic Novel, 2010.
Tangles : a story about Alzheimer's, my mother, and me

09: ARNE BELLSTORF: “Baby’s in Black”, Graphic Novel (German), 2010.
Baby's in Black: Astrid Kirchherr, Stuart Sutcliffe, and The Beatles in Hamburg

08: SCOTT SNYDER: “Batman: The Court of Owls”, Graphic Novel (and good start for new “Batman” readers):
Batman, Vol. 1: The Court of Owls

07: STEWART O’NAN: “The Odds. A Love Story”, Novel, 2012.
The Odds: A Love Story

06: JOACHIM HELFER, RASHID al-DAIF: “Die Verschwulung der Welt”, Essay (German / Persian), 2006.
Die Verschwulung der Welt.

05: ALEXIS M. SMITH: “Glaciers”, Novel, 2012.

04: JOE HILL: “Locke & Key” series, Graphic Novels, 2008 to 2013.
Locke and Key, Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft

03: MARLEN HAUSHOFER: “The Wall / Die Wand”, Austian novel, 1962.
Die Wand

02: GERBRAND BAKKER: “The Detour / Der Umweg”, Dutch novel, 2010.
Der Umweg

01: RUTH KLÜGER: “Still alive. A Holocaust Girlhood remembered”, Memoir / Essay, 1992.
Weiter leben. Eine Jugend.


For a complete list of books I’ve read in 2012, please go here [Link].


In comics, I’ve also enjoyed Guy Delisle’s travelogues / non-fiction graphic novels “Burma Chronicles” [Link], “Pyongyang” [Link] and “Jerusalem” [Link], the “New 52” DC comic books featuring “Wonder Woman” [Link], “Green Lantern” [Link], “Swamp Thing” [Link] and the “Birds of Prey” [Link] – and large parts of Naoki Urasawa’s “Pluto” [Link]

…and “Honey & Clover” [Link], a “Scott Pilgrim”-like, bittersweet / comedic coming-of-age manga series about five friends at an art school.

Here’s a collage of my notable graphic novel discoveries in 2012:

Wordpress Graphic Novels Best-of 2012.

Have a good 2013! More to come!


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Books against Sadness […and Loss, and Grief]: Personal Book Recommendations


“I’ve been in an emotionally fragile state for a couple months. I’m looking for some literature that will help me be happy with existing again. What do you recommend?”

Books That Will Help Me Grapple With Existence? [a recent discussion in the “books” section of]


Last night, I wrote a quick list, answering the above question.

Here are my recommendations [Link]:


Let’s split this up in… books that deal with dark/depressing themes, but show lots of hope and will be uplifting BY THE END (…but not neccessarily right from the beginning):

  • Gabriel Bà: Daytripper [mortality; life is short]
  • Evan S. Connell: Mrs. Bridge [everyday life is depressing; make your own decisions)
  • Cormac McCarthy: The Road [life can be hell; love prevails]
  • Stewart O’Nan: A Prayer for the Dying [everyone is mortal; you can overcome any loss]
  • Joan Didion: The Year of Magical Thinking [it’s not the end that counts; it’s the memories you make]
  • David Mazzucchelli: Asterios Polyp [everyone’s an island, but the happy, accidental connections between people make life worth living]
  • Randy Pausch: The Last Lecture [you might die tomorrow; strife harder TODAY!!]
  • Jean-Paul Sartre: No Exit [hell is other people; avoid the ones that belittle you]
  • Bryan Lee O’Malley: Lost at Sea [it’s okay to feel adrift once in a while]
  • Rob Sheffield: Love is a Mixe Tape [you will lose love – but you’re stronger than you think!]
  • Gayle Forman: If I stay [even with horrendous loss, there’s lots to live for!]
  • Brad Kessler: Birds in Fall [grief is complex and frightening, but consolation can be found in the weirdest moments]
  • Miriam Toews: Swing Low [if a parent decides to die, it does not mean that he didn’t love you]

I also very, very much would like to recommend the anime series “Neon Genesis Evangelion”. It has a fragile, nervous, deeply unhappy soul-searching main character who has an existential struggle with questions like “Why should I care? What can I do? Who should I fight for?”. The answers are complex, and not sugar-coated at all.


Then, there’s a second, different category: feel-good books, with lots of joy, energy and a life-affirming atmosphere. If you want to feel… happy, warm and consoled, pick the follwing books:

  • Kyohiko Azuma: Yotsuba&! [everyday life is an adventure]
  • Jiro Taniguchi: A distant Neighborhood [when youth is gone… your sense of wonder should remain!]
  • Tove Janson: A Summer Book [life is like the weather. the harsh moments are as much a part of life as the lush ones.]
  • Harper Lee: To kill a Mockingbird [stand up for your beliefs, and reach out to the people around you]
  • Banana Yoshimoto: Kitchen [find your family. they don’t have to be the people you were born with.]
  • Haruki Murakami: Kafka on the Shore [life is rich, magical, paradox, scary and unpredictable. and that’s a good thing!]
  • Joyce Maynard: The Usual Rules [kids are growing. and you are, too.]
  • Kurt Busiek: Superman: Secret Identity [every step of growing up is scary. there’s a fuller picture. don’t get clouded by fear and alienation.]
  • Julie Orringer: The Invisible Bridge [every moment counts. celebrate reality. tell people you love them. make a difference.]


That’s all for today: a couple of quick book recommendations for anyone who felt sad or needed consolation. Enjoy!


Related Links:

Underdog Literature, April 2012: 15 fresh or urgent, off-the-wall titles


Here are 15 books that caught my interest lately.

Fresh, off-beat, quirky or curious titles that might deserve more attention:


01: ADAM LEVIN, “Hot Pink”, 207 pages, 2012. [Short Stories]

02: ELLEN ULLMAN, “By Blood”, 384 pages, 2012.

03: DOROTHY CANFIELD-FISHER, “The Home-Maker”, 320 pages, 1924.

04: C.D. PAYNE, “Youth in Revolt”, 499 pages, 1995. [Young Adult]

05: JOHAN HARSTAD, “Buzz Aldrin, what happened to you in all the Confusion?”, 478 pages, 2005. [Young Adult, Norway]

06: DENNIS COOPER, “The Sluts”, 304 pages, 2004.

07: AMBER DERMONT, “The Starboard Sea”, 320 pages, 2012.

08: CATHERINE CHUNG, “Forgotten Country”, 304 pages, 2012.

09: LAN SAMANTHA CHANG, “All is forgotten, nothing is lost”, 208 pages, 2010.

10: KAUI HART HEMMINGS, “The Descendants”, 283 pages, 2007.

11: STEVE YARBROUGH, “Safe from the Neighbors”, 272 pages, 2010.

12: BARBARA WRIGHT, “Crow”, 320 pages, 2012. [Young Adult]

13: REBECCA BROWN, “Excerpts from a Family Medical Dictionary”, 128 pages, 2001.

14: CHARLOTTE ROGAN, “The Lifeboat”, 275 pages, 2012.

15: EDMUND WHITE, “Jack Holmes and his Friend”, 392 pages, 2012.


Here are five books that made me curious enough to buy them:

01: SLOAN WILSON, “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit”, 288 pages, 1954.

02: BRAD KESSLER, “Birds in Fall”, 256 pages, 2006.

03: WILLIAM MAXWELL, “The Folded Leaf”, 289 pages, 1945.

04: GRAHAM RAWLE, “Woman’s World”, 450 pages, 2005.

05: ANN-MARIE MacDONALD, “The Way the Crow flies”, 848 pages, 2003.


…and finally, here are three books that I read – and that were really good:

1: 4 of 5 stars: GAYLE FORMAN, “If I stay”, 199 pages, 2009. [Young Adult]

2: 4 of 5 stars: KENNY FRIES, “Body, remember”, 256 pages, 1997. [Memoir]

3: 4 of 5 stars: GREGORY CREWDSON, “In a lonely Place”, 160 pages, 2011. [Photography]


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