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Books 2012

I started 2012 with a goal to read 52 books in the year and I managed to meet that goal. I was probably a teenager the last time I read that much in a year, to be honest. It felt good to reach my goal and I really enjoyed the reading year. I read 35 books that came out this year, which is a pretty good total. I even read 9 books that weren't fiction, which is more than I've read in a year ever. Regardless of genre or publication date, here are the books I liked the most...

1. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn - A dark page-turner built on twist after twist that's wired into how the book is structured and the alternating viewpoints of a couple with a strained marriage. Disturbing and brilliant.

2. The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson - A virtuoso novel set in North Korea about living under the rule of Kim Jong Il and the lengths people will go to in order to stay alive. Complex and crackling with creative energy.

3. Billy Lynn's Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain - This novel started slowly for me but built into a great book thanks to the brilliance of its dialogue and the empathy you have for this group of war heroes thrust into the PR spotlight in front of a nation. Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders, Destiny's Child, and a big-time debut novel.

4. Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon - It feels weird not to give Chabon the top spot but it's enough that he's written his third amazing novel (as well as other really good ones). Chabon builds beautiful sentences and mixes music, gentrification, blaxploitation, the relationship between fathers and sons, midwifery, and much more. Plus, a single sentence that goes on for pages that is from the perspective of a bird.

5. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green - This is a novel about teenagers with cancer and it is not maudlin or schmaltzy, which is a feat in and of itself. Even better is how alive these characters are and this novel is. It's labeled as Young Adult but anyone with a heart should read this - yours may get broken a bit while reading it but that's okay.

6. Redshirts by John Scalzi - I'd never read any Scalzi before this novel but since finishing it I've gone back and read Old Man's War (which I liked a lot) and will read more. Why did this book make me want to read more of his work? It takes a great SF concept - what would happen if all those "redshirts" really did die ala Star Trek - and crafts a funny, heartfelt story out of it. Plus, meta-textual fun.

7. Crackpot Palace by Jeffrey Ford - Ford is another one of my favorite writers and this story collection finds him in top form. Robot generals, dopplegangers, bottle cities, the mystery of The Pine Barrens, and more are explored in these sharp stories.

8. Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan - This novel finds a new way to approach the books about books genre, by melding the old (dusty books, secret societies) with the new (technology and Google employees) and finds a way we can go forward with literature while still having it matter. It's just a fun story.

9. Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway - Speaking of fun stories, this one has a doomsday device, an elderly spy, a love story, and a man trying not be his father but maybe needing to be when its all said and done. Harkaway is two for two and I can't wait for more.

10. The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters - An asteroid is heading for Earth and many people have given up on their jobs. Hank Palace, a new police detective, is not one of them and insists that an apparent suicide is a murder and investigates. While the premise may be SF, the writing is pure character drama and procedural is the best way possible. The novel is also the first of a trilogy and I will most certainly read the rest.

The Next Five in Alphabetical Order By Author
The Yard by Alex Grecian
The Rook by Daniel O'Malley
The Mirage by Matt Ruff
St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised By Wolves by Karen Russell
Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson


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