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Abby Gross’s top books of 2012

By Abby Gross

I read science and social science manuscripts for work, so in my off time I like to read other genres, from fiction and fantasy to cookbooks. Here were some of my favorite reads of the year.

I hadn’t read a young adult novel in years, and the jacket description of this book was enough to send me running in the opposite direction. But ignore the copy about the teenager struggling with cancer and her friend whom she meets in a support group. John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars is a magnificent and hilarious book about two young people who game the make-a-wish foundation to pursue a meeting with their favorite author, only to find out he is a crazy drunk.

After finishing the works of MFK Fisher, the godmother of writing about cooking, I was despondent — until I found Tamar Adler, whose new book, An Everlasting Meal, channels Fisher’s practical, no-nonsense style and wisdom. If you are like me, and you prefer to cook freestyle, without intricate recipes, this book will surprise you with ideas for using up the last bits of whatever you have on hand. More importantly, it teaches the reader — Adler is a natural instructor — about how to weave cooking into life without assuming that you have tons of cash or free time.

I wish I could go back in time to my 18-year-old self, bored in Biology 101, and hand over a copy of Homo Mysterious: Evolutionary Puzzles of Human Nature, by David Barash. (Disclosure: I helped OUP publish this book.) Barash addresses brow-furrowing questions like “why do humans create religion?” and “why do women menstruate?” He swiftly reasons through the possible arguments (with jokes, which helps non-scientists through the science) eventually leaving the questions unanswered, but the reader equipped to think more intelligently about why we are what we are and why we do what we do.

Abby Gross is a psychology editor at Oxford University Press.

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