Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week, they post a topic and encourage fellow bloggers to list their own top ten answers. This week’s Top Ten Tuesday asks us to post the top ten books we read in 2012! I’ve already been thinking about this, and having Goodreads makes it much easier for me to scroll back through my year in reading to determine what books really shone.
1. Hyperion, by Dan Simmons
As I’ve said to my friends, I almost wish I hadn’t read this book so that I could read it again for the first time. It’s science fiction, but its characters are powerfully human, and the histories and values and battles each one of them carries on their pilgrimage to a deadly creature called the Shrike are completely engrossing. The first pilgrim’s story (the Priest’s) is, by itself, one of the greatest science fiction short stories I’ve ever read. I want everyone I know to read this book!
2. Bring up the Bodies, by Hilary Mantel
My original review is here, and you can see how effusive I was in my praise for this sequel to Wolf Hall. Mantel is a master of characterization, turning Cromwell’s previous portrayals on their head and making him a smart, loyal, and sympathetic man. It won the Man Booker Prize for good reason!
3. On Beauty, by Zadie Smith
This was my first Zadie Smith novel, and it immediately set her place on my list of favorite authors. Smith’s impeccable characterizations felt so realistic that the reader becomes incredibly invested in their lives and troubles, because they read like your neighbors and friends and teachers. A truly great novel.
4. The Brides of Rollrock Island, by Margo Langan
Atmospheric, heart-rendering, and original, The Brides of Rollrock Island has a wonderful fairy tale feel to it as it winds a generational story of betrayal, family, and magical seal-women. The shifting POVs and the absence of any fully “good” character make this a nuanced and valuble read. I thought it was wonderfully dark and honest. (My original review can be found here.)
5. Sabriel, by Garth Nix
Sabriel reminds me of the best of fantasy writing: a strong, relatable heroine, a fierce family bond, a unique magic system, wonderful world-building, and a believable love story (no insta-love to be found). Ostensibly YA, I was actually glad to be enjoying it as an older reader, surrounding by a glut of paranormal romance and poorly-sketched dystopias. Sabriel made me nostalgia for the fantasy reads of my youth.
6. The Killer of Little Shepherds, by Douglas Starr
An excellent nonfiction book about a French serial killer and the rise of criminal forensic science. Despite the gruesome subject matter, it’s a fascinating read, and is definitely my favorite “true crime” read of this year.
7. A Brief History of Neoliberalism, by David Harvey
The title sounds scary, I know, but this is actually extremely readable. I learned so much from its mere 200 pages, and I would love for everyone to read this, to better understand how neoliberalism has so deeply influenced the American economy and political system–and to be incited to action.
8. And Then We Came to the End, by Joshua Ferris
I just thought this was so cleverly and authentically written! If you have ever worked in an office, the characters and their petty rivalries, weird quirks, and mysteries are going to feel very, very familiar. I also liked the little twist ending, where normally those sorts of things make me roll my eyes. I definitely plan on reading whatever Ferris comes up with next.
9. The Devil All the Time, by Donald Ray Pollock
I read this around Halloween, which was a good choice–Pollock’s tale of Appalachian poverty and murder is a psychological Ferris wheel. The sparse, unflinching style reminded me a lot of Cormac McCarthy, though the plot and the changing POVs were unique. Not for the squeamish!
10. The Fall of Hyperion, by Dan Simmons
I started with Hyperion and I’ll end with The Fall of Hyperion. While, for me, it wasn’t quite as tightly-plotted or compulsively readable as its prequel, it still provides us with interesting philosophical dilemmas, mediation on art and love, and the question of what it means to be a human (or a god) writ on the largest scale of all: the galaxy. (Simmons’ description of future technologies is also creepily prescient.)
What were your favorite reads of 2012?