Friday, January 4, 2013

Best Little-Known Books of 2012

So I'm going a little wild today... and recommending books published in 2012. What? Since when do I read anything published after 1960?

2012 was a fantastic year for publishing and for women authors in particular. I actually had to seek out male authors to even out the list! (Ladies: looking to publish a book? Now's a great time! If you need a little advice, feel free to ask—I'm no expert but I do work at a publishing house and I can tell you what I know!)

Here's my informal "Best Books of 2012," with a few stories along the way.


My Sisters the Saints by Colleen Carroll Campbell. A lovely memoir about the author's "friendships" with saints long dead and the effect these great women had on her. (Bonus: here's a great interview with her about the book!)

Style, Sex, and Substance edited by Hallie Lord. This book is a compilation of ten Catholic women's stories about living their faith in the modern world. I held a book club party for it, which was a lot of fun! Each story was insightful, relatable, and beautiful.

Letters to Gabriel by Karen Santorum. Originally published in 1998, Ignatius re-released it this year. Warning: have tissues handy, this book will make you cry.

My Brother the Pope by Georg Ratzinger. The pope's brother wrote this memoir about growing up with the pope and their close friendship. It's the closest thing we have to the pope writing his own memoir and offers a lovely portrait of brotherly love and family life.

History/Current Events

Breaking Through: Catholic Women Speak for Themselves edited by Helen Alvare. In the face of a media culture that paints religious people as bigoted or brainwashed, Catholic women are being called to tell their own stories—to explain why their faith brings them not oppression but peace, hope, happiness and joy. This is a book of such stories.

Bad Religion by Ross Douthat. So, I'm kind of biased on this one because Ross is my very favorite writer and I kind of want to be him when I grow up. I've met him and heard him speak, and in this book, he gets American culture and religion spot-on. It's incredible how he sees straight to the heart of an issue (in this case religion) and explains it in flawless prose. *Sigh* I'll try not to swoon...

The Road to Freedom by Arthur Brooks. I didn't used to be interested in economics but this book changed my mind. Brooks makes a great case for free but responsible enterprise and how it helps every one of us. It's a great introduction to economics if you're not familiar but want to learn more.

Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives by Pope Benedict XVI. Pretty much anything the Pope writes is pure gold. This is the third and final volume in his Jesus of Nazareth series and it focuses on Christ's birth and childhood—perfect for this time of year.


The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After by Elizabeth Kantor. Have I talked about this book yet? It was great. I must have said a hundred times while reading it, "I wish someone had given me this book in high school!" It's chock-full of wisdom and I'm buying a copy for every teenage girl I know (seriously—it's an easy Christmas present for Jenna, and I gave one to Caroline already!).

The Temperament God Gave Your Kids by Art and Laraine Bennett. When I recommend this book, I'm actually recommending the whole Temperament God Gave You collection. I learned about the classic "four temperaments" pretty recently and found these books so helpful. The philosophy is fascinating and the temperaments system is a great way to understand other people.


Adam and Eve after the Pill by Mary Eberstadt. In it, the "intimidatingly intelligent" Eberstadt takes on the sexual revolution and lays out what it has done to our society. Again, haven't read it yet (I know... lame...) but I've heard the author and others speak on it and it's high on the to-read list. 

On the Unseriousness Of Human Affairs by Father Schall. I haven't actually read this yet (although I'm looking forward to it) but Father Schall is The Man and his last lecture made me cry. I've heard this is his best work yet.

For the Kids

The Night Santa Got Lost: How NORAD Saved Christmas by Michael Keane. Do you know the NORAD Santa Christmas story? It's absolutely darling. Here's the account on their website:
The tradition began in 1955 after a Colorado Springs-based Sears Roebuck & Co. advertisement misprinted the telephone number for children to call Santa. Instead of reaching Santa, the phone number put kids through to the CONAD Commander-in-Chief's operations "hotline." The Director of Operations at the time, Colonel Harry Shoup, had his staff check the radar for indications of Santa making his way south from the North Pole. Children who called were given updates on his location, and a tradition was born.
Isn't that sweet? I love the origins of that tradition and would love this book for my little siblings. I think it would go over especially well with more science-minded kids.

Land of the Pilgrim's Pride by Callista Gingrich. The second of the Ellis the Elephant series, this book is filled with whimsical illustrations and gentle rhymes that introduce little ones to America's founding colonies. A very sweet book to inspire children with patriotism.

That wraps up my "Best Books of 2012" list! What others would you recommend?

Also, please feel free to join my Christmas decorations link-up... yes, it's way after Christmas... procrastinators unite! ;)

Note: I'm not getting any compensation for recommending these; I just think they're awesome!


  1. Yay - thanks for the recommendations! I've read a few of them (loved Bad Religion and the Temperament series), been meaning to read a few (Sex, Style, and Substance and both of the Pope-related books), and I'm looking forward to checking out the rest!

    1. Awesome, let me know what you think! I still have to read quite a few of the ones on this list myself, a fun project for the new year. :)

  2. These are fantastic! Thanks! I'm passing it along to some of my mother-friends. :)

    1. Ah, Iris! You changed your name and I didn't recognize you at first. :) Please do! I hope they enjoy them!

  3. Fab list, Tess. The Schall book looks awesome. I've only read two of the books listed.

    And I *DO* want to pick your brain about publishing...

    1. Ah, that's good to know you've only read 2 of them, because I feel like it's living up to the "little-known books" title! :)

      Yes, please email me! Like I said, I don't know too much, but I'd be happy to share what I do know!

  4. Aaah, this post makes me so... what? Homesick? Nostalgic? Wistful? Or maybe hopeful. It seems like such a long time since I've read a book. College has effectively kept me from that. I read non-stop, but I hardly ever get to read books just because I want to. Here's to graduation and all the books I can start reading again. But for now Darwin is on my schedule. :(

    God bless you! <3

    1. Aw man, I remember those days! Lots of Euclid and Aristotle and not a fun or easy read in sight. (Not that these are exactly easy reads, but easier and more fun than Darwin!)

      Just one semester left! Start making your reading list now... you'll have so much fun completing it after graduation. I read more than ever since college ended, and I bet you will too. :)

  5. Thanks for the recommendations. The one written by the Pope's brother looks especially interesting.

    I would be very interested to hear what you know about publishing. Maybe you could do a post on it?? : )

    1. Hi Sarah! Let me know if you end up reading any of these—hope you do!

      Hmm, a post on publishing. That's not a bad idea. The thing is, my company mostly just publishes history and non-fiction, which I'm not sure is what most of my readers want to write about. If you have any specific questions feel free to shoot me an email, and in the mean time, I'll think about what I could say in a post about publishing... hopefully that post will be coming up soon!