2012's Best Books

Local lit we gave our stamp of approval to this year.

By Portland Monthly Staff December 20, 2012

In case you missed them while guiltily reading Fifty Shades of Grey (hey, we're not saints, either), we flip back through PoMo's reviews of some less trashy--excellent, actually--books Portland's authors released in 2012. 

Crazy Enough, Storm Large
What we said:
"The 261-page memoir is graphic, tragic, and at times downright disgusting. But Large has built her brand by sacrificing charm on the altar of authenticity. With cleverness and honesty, she transforms a story that in most hands would be maudlin into yet another funny, passionate, and irreverently jarring adventure." Read the rest.  

Blue Thread, Ruth Tenzer Feldman
What we said: "In our age of progressive politics, it’s easy to forget that Oregon was the last state on the West Coast to give women the right to vote. Ruth Tenzer Feldman’s young-adult novel Blue Thread unflinchingly resurrects a very different Portland, when suffragists were mounting their sixth and final campaign in 1912. Equal parts historical and fantastical, Feldman’s tale brings Stumptown of yore sparkling back to life." Read the rest. 

Wild, Cheryl Strayed
What we said: "
The Portland author and essayist...takes a raw, heartbreaking, humorous, and occasionally infuriating turn down the Pacific Crest Trail, recounting her 1995 attempt to hike it—alone." Read the rest. 

Glamour in Glass, Mary Robinette Kowal
What we said: "
A sequel to her widely acclaimed Shades of Milk and Honey, this historical fantasy from Portland author Mary Robinette Kowal—winner of science fiction’s John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2008—continues her loving homage to [Jane] Austen while carrying the story into more adventurous territory." Read the rest. 

The Listeners, Leni Zumas
What we said: "
Disorientation. That’s what I felt when I started The Listeners, the debut novel by Portland author Leni Zumas that sets her up to be a formidable, idiosyncratic new voice in American fiction." Read the rest. 

Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco
What we said:
"Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt is a homecoming for its decorated authors. Portland-based cartoonist Joe Sacco has won numerous awards reporting the stories of war-torn people, from Palestinians to Bosnians, as graphic novels, while war correspondent Chris Hedges spent nearly 20 years in the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans, earning a Pulitzer for his work at the New York Times. But with this unique collaboration of Sacco’s pen and Hedges’s keyboard, the two turn their gaze to the plight of four very different American towns whose citizens’ lives have been destroyed by the unchecked depredations of big business" Read the rest. 

Kill You Twice, Chelsea Cain
What we said:
"Cain’s talent for gory detail, wry humor, and expertly braiding together plotlines into a fine mesh is a fresh spark of life. Kill You Twice is a taut thriller that will delight and rattle fans and newcomers alike." Read the rest.

Dora: A Headcase, Lidia Yuknavitch
What we said:
"From Heathers to Mean Girls to Gossip Girl, the scary teenage girl is a well-worn pop culture character—flippant, stubborn, and obnoxious. But in Oregon author Lidia Yuknavitch’s novel Dora: A Headcase, that familiar archetype becomes a razor-edged scalpel for dissecting what it means to be categorized, typed, and diagnosed." Read the rest.

Ironskin, Tina Connolly
What we said: "
Connolly includes all the romance, mystery, and horror that a good gothic story needs, without the florid prose. Her writing is clean and fresh, but she gives us just enough bygone language to show she knows exactly what kind of story she’s telling, even as she shakes it up." Read the rest.

Eight Girls Taking PicturesWhitney Otto
What we said: "Blending Otto’s saturated yet accessible prose with her talent for stitching together stories of multiple characters with a steady, glittering needle,  the novel pays homage to a number of 20th-century photographers whose lives inspired its eight interwoven tales, including Imogen Cunningham, Madame Yevonde, Tina Modotti, Lee Miller, Grete Stern, and Ruth Orkin." Read the rest.

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