A Hollywood starlet from 1962, a teenaged Iraqi War soldier, a murderous wife, a record store owner in Oakland: 2012's new books introduced us to an unforgettable cast of characters. This year, bookworms were thrilled to see new works from critical darlings like Dave Eggers and Michael Chabon, while relatively new talents such as Ben Fountain and Gillian Flynn burst onto the scene with all the energy and promise of a budding career. Needless to say, it was a dang good year for us library lovin' folk.
To put together our list of the Top 10 Books of 2012, each member of Hollywood.com's Editorial staff submitted their must-read of the year. The result is a veritable cornucopia of literary goodness: we have picks to please the history buff, YA enthusiast, book snob, and thrill-seeker alike.
And, because no list is complete without including the drudge left at the bottom of the barrel, we've also included five books that make us mourn for the English language. Click below to launch our Best Books of 2012 gallery. Get thee to a library!
The 10 Best Books of 2012 (And 5 Almost Worth Burning)
Follow Abbey Stone on Twitter @abbeystone
[Photo Credit: Harper Collins Publishers]
Staff Picks: The 14 Best Songs of 2012 (And 5 We'd Like to Forget)
Forbidden Fashion: 13 Terrible Trends We Want to Banish Before 2013
Does J.K. Rowling's 'The Casual Vacancy' Really Need to Be Banned?
Moneyball is a movie about baseball...but it's not a sports movie.
Grouping the latest film from star Brad Pitt with heartwarming Americana it-all-comes-down-to-the-big-game films doesn't quite make sense—no matter how much Pitt looks like Kevin Costner or Robert Redford. Moneyball is an underdog tale of a different kind one that questions the enchantment of the game rather than embraces it. While a film driven by sports statistics and business may sound drab Moneyball manages to discover its own unique sentimentality thanks to strong performances and a restrained style.
We pick up with Billy Beane (Pitt) GM for the Oakland A's after yet another disastrous season. Surrounded by aging scouts convinced of their ability to hone in on a player's intangible skills the keen manager grapples with the loss of his best players a recruiting budget dwarfed by his competitors and no solution in sight. After all baseball is a game of the coin—buy the talent buy the wins buy the championship. Wheeling and dealing across the country Beane realizes the A's need a new strategy or they'll be forever at the bottom. He finds that innovation in Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) a statistics wiz who introduces Beane to the baseball equivalent of counting cards: the theory of sabermetrics.
Thankfully watching and enjoying Moneyball doesn't require an extensive background in math as Beane allows the stuffy subdued Brand do the number-crunching. Much like writer Aaron Sorkin's Oscar-winning The Social Network the script (co-written with Schindler's List and Girl with the Dragon Tattoo writer Steve Zallian) pulls back the curtain on a complicated process but makes it easily digestible and more importantly emotional. Beane puts his job and reputation on the line for Brand's theory which boils down to the idea that all you need to win a baseball game is runs. Who needs star players when MLB rejects can make it to home base?
Pitt's depiction of the real life Beane isn't a showy star performance—but it's one of his best to date. The character is reserved and hushed; he explodes when the gravity of his situation hits a boiling point but quickly pulls himself back into professional mode. In order for Beane to enact Brand's plan he has to de-romanticize a game that means everything to him. Beane goes to great lengths to remind himself that baseball can't be fun—he doesn't watch the games he commands his team to hear the sorrow-filled silence of a loss and he emphasizes that no matter how many games he wins the only one that matters is the last. Beane keeps this light and cool with his co-workers but underneath—where Pitt shines—he struggles.
While Moneyball is Pitt's show his ensemble of co-stars deliver equally impressive work. Hill plays against type keeping his usual fast-talking humor in his back pocket and letting the larger-than-life Pitt properly wow him. Philip Seymour Hoffman appears briefly as the A's manager Art Howe who butts heads with Beane over the direction of the team. What could have been a surface-level villainous role is elevated by Hoffman who makes the old school way of thinking sound perfectly reasonable.
The film directed by the Oscar-nominated Bennett Miller (Capote) is slow and methodical paving the way for exhilarating moments between Pitt and Hill as they juggle phone calls fire off statistics educate their players and compile the misfit team. Miller intertwines flashbacks of Beane's early career and real life footage into the main narrative capitalizing on a variety of filmmaking techniques that organically stem from Beane's perspectives. This isn't squeaky clean Hollywood filmmaking but it's slick. Mychael Danna's score stands out as a thrilling companion to the visuals ethereal tunes that add a touch of humanity to a bookish drama.
Moneyball isn't this year's Field of Dreams or The Natural or Little Big League but it is great drama. Compelling and sweet the film takes a relatively unknown aspect of a well-known sport and turns it into something grand. Baseball's always made for a great life metaphor but Moneyball shows us one we've never seen before.
Two orphaned kids Andi (Emma Roberts) and her mechanical whiz of a younger brother Bruce (Jake T. Austin) live in a foster home with a couple of aging wannabe rock stars (Lisa Kudrow Kevin Dillon) who are vehemently anti-pet. Running out of ways to keep their stray pooch Friday hidden in plain sight they stumble on to an abandoned hotel that turns out to be the perfect shelter for Friday – and transform the place into luxury accommodations for all sorts of unwanted pets they spring from the local pound and the streets. But can they stay one step ahead of the law while keeping this United Nations of dogs in line? Human actors don’t have a chance against the gifted assortment of canines. With dogs of every breed from a border collie who loves to herd sheep (don’t ask) to an English bulldog obsessed with chewing stuff the trainers deliver a cast that flawlessly pulls off every dog trick in the book. Fortunately Roberts (Nancy Drew) and Austin are winning and likeable as the two main kids who share a need for family with their four-legged counterparts. Kudrow and Dillon don’t get a whole lot to do in strictly stereotyped roles but Don Cheadle as the kids’ social worker adds a nice touch of dignity and warmth to the story. For his first American feature German director Thor Freudenthal got the supreme challenge: working with kids and animals. Getting this furry menagerie to act on cue could not have been easy but Freundenthal and his talented trainers make it look so. Particularly amusing are the various gadgets and elaborate contraptions Bruce builds to keep the doggies occupied and quiet -- including simulated car windows they can stick their heads out of portable toilets complicated feeding machines and on and on. Just like the current hit Marley & Me it’s a funny and heartwarming family comedy.
Britney Spears' empire is expanding. The pop diva is opening a fancy restaurant in midtown Manhattan's tony Dylan Hotel. The new eatery will be called Nyla, after the two-letter postal abbreviations for New York (Spears' current home) and Louisiana (Spears' birthplace).
Recent Oscar winner Jennifer Connelly will be joining former Oscar winner Ben Kingsley in the cast of The House of Sand and Fog. Based on the popular novel by Andre Dubus III, Connelly will play the ex-owner of a house who will do anything to get back the domicile she lost at a foreclosure auction.
After figuratively swimming with sharks on HBO's The Sopranos, James Gandolfini will now voice a "real" shark in DreamWorks' upcoming animated feature Sharkslayer. Set for a 2004 release, Gandolfini's talents will blend with the already signed Will Smith, Angelina Jolie and Renee Zellweger.
American Pie's Eugene Levy has signed to Disney's In The Houze as Steve Martin's crony, who pushes the wild and crazy guy to do even crazier stunts. Rapper/actress Queen Latifah also stars.
Sci Fi Channel has signed Oscar winner Susan Sarandon (Dead Man Walking) to its ensemble cast of Children of Dune. Children is the six-hour miniseries sequel of Sci Fi's Frank Herbert's Dune, which holds Sci Fi's record for largest viewing audience.
Can Geraldo's return be far behind? In this week's sign that the apocalypse is upon us, MSNBC is wooing Phil Donahue, a talk-show pioneer, to host a primetime hour-long show on the topics of the day, the Associated Press reports.
In more retro news, Baywatch's long-awaited reunion show will go on, the AP reports. David Hasselhoff reportedly has convinced 20 former members of the Baywatch and Baywatch: Hawaii series to reconvene for a two-hour special, which is scheduled to air this November on Fox.
Move over, Regis. Step aside, Anne. The granddaddy of all game shows, The Price is Right, and its septuagenarian host, Bob Barker, are coming to primetime. Buoyed by how well the 30th anniversary special performed in the ratings, CBS has ordered six more primetime episodes of the classic game show.
Paul McCartney kicked off his latest tour with a two-and-a-half-hour concert in Oakland, Calif., last night. The crowd certainly seemed pleased with Sir Paul's efforts, demanding two encores from the former Beatle, who played many of the group's greatest hits.
Who knew that they even listened to hip-hop in France? Grammy-winning rapper Eminem is being sued by French jazz fusion composer Jacques Loussier for lifting parts of his song "Pulsion" for sampling in Eminem's rap song "Kill You," the AP reports. At press time, the AP wasn't able to get a comment from Eminem's label, Interscope Records, regarding this matter.
Rising R&B star Ketara "KeKe" Wyatt was indicted by a Shelby County, Ky., grand jury on one count of second-degree assault for stabbing her husband with a steak knife on Christmas Day last year, the AP reports. The singer, whose latest hit is "Nothing in this World," could receive a sentence of 10 to 20 years if convicted.
Television lost one of its favorite grandmas, as Rosetta LeNoire passed away on March 17, at the age of 90. LeNoire, best known for playing Nell Carter's mom on NBC's Gimme A Break and Mother Winslow on ABC's Family Matters, had worked in show business and theater since the 1930s with such diverse luminaries as Orson Welles, Sammy Davis Jr. and Richard Pryor. A son, a brother, a sister, two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren survive LeNoire.