Friends:

You waited all year and now, the time has come, for me to reveal my Top 10 books of 2012. Before we get to the list, a few notes: Last year my goal was to read 50 books and I met the goal. This year, my goal was to improve on the previous goal by 10%; safe to say that I shattered that goal with 68 books read. Coupled with that was a goal to read more classics of literature and I feel some measure of success by having read 14 of them. Also, a genre in which I typically avoid, I read 4 short stories this year. According to “goodreads.com”, a total of 24,465 pages were read.

On the whole, I would have to say that I was fairly satisfied with the books I read this year. Not only did I read the authors of whom I am familiar, but I also read quite a few authors who are new to me and have found some new favorites as a result. To provide you with my “Best Of” list, I have broken them down into the Top 10 contemporary fiction and the Top 5 of the classics.

So without further ado, I present the Top 10 contemporary fiction of 2012, in reverse order:

10) Gone Tomorrow by Lee Child. Of the books I read this year, I read the most books by Lee Child in the Jack Reacher series. Noteworthy now as the film starring Tom Cruise, Jack Reacher is a character I began reading at the end of 2011 and caught up with in 2012, reading a total of 10 Reacher books. This one is the first of two on the list. This one had it all; a really scary and sadistic bad guy, a good thinking-man’s plot, and classic Reacher action and attitude. Reacher is an action lover’s Sherlock Holmes and he definitely delivered in this installment.

9) The Blood Detective by Dan Waddell. Murders are being committed in modern day London and the only person who can find the killer is a genealogist? A fantastic first book of which there has been one other so far. A scary killer with a motive based hundreds of years in the past. Is he trying to correct a travesty of justice from years ago? A wonderful premise and perfect execution.

8) The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern. A fantasy of a novel about a travelling circus that only appears at night and the love affair between two magicians who have been pitted in a game of wits against each other unknowingly. Wonderful eye candy, with terrific descriptions of the circus and its characters. The best word I can use to describe it is whimsical.

7) Taken by Robert Crais. The books of Elvis Cole and Joe Pike are among my favorites and this one delivers. Two lovers are kidnapped outside of Palm Springs by… who? Only Elvis and Joe can figure it out. And the only way to do so may just be for Elvis to be taken. A great mystery and classic Elvis and Joe action.

6) Winter of the World by Ken Follett. The second installment in his Century Trilogy, the events of World War II are chronicled through the eyes of our main characters, the offspring of the characters who experienced the beginning of the 20th century. As a history major and lover of historical fiction, this massive book delivered with non-stop excitement and tragedy.

5) The Last Child by John Hart. A thirteen year old boy’s twin sister goes missing after school one day and never returns. Is she dead or kidnapped? After a year everyone seems to have given up except for the boy, determined to learn the truth about his sister. As a twin myself I was drawn to this book, to experience the lengths one twin would go to learn the truth about his sister. A constant hum of foreboding permeated this one until the last pages when the mystery was revealed in heart-wrenching fashion.

4) The Black Box by Michael Connelly. No “Best Of” list would be complete without an entry from my all-time favorite Michael Connelly and Harry Bosch. This time Harry is investigating a murder committed 20 years ago during the LA riots, but the brass wants him to back off. How would it look if the murder of a white woman is solved 20 years later, when so many murders of African-Americans go unsolved? This one had it all, politics and intrigue and international ramifications. Classic Harry Bosch.

3) The Yard by Alex Grecian. Probably the book I most looked forward to this year. In the aftermath of the Jack the Ripper killings, Scotland Yard creates a new division to deal with the new onslaught of murders. A terrific use of the time and locale to create an enthralling mystery. Cannot wait for the next book.

2) Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes. This one was on many “Best Of” lists a few years ago and now I know why. A portrayal of Vietnam told from the viewpoint of the people who were there. It does for the Vietnam War what “The Naked and the Dead” by Norman Mailer did for World War II. Harrowing and terrifying and yet human and passionate. At the end of the book you are left with a new perspective on the horrors our troops experienced while fighting for a cause they didn’t understand. Absolutely terrific.

Matterhorn would have been my number 1 except for:

1) The Incendiary’s Trail by James McCreet. It is early Victorian England and a killer is on the loose. How do I know this was my favorite book of 2012? Because from the opening lines until its last words, a smile was on my face a mile wide. If I were to write a book, I would want it to be this one. First, the story is told to us by a narrator who does not factor into the story, however he treats the reader as if we are a fly on the wall in every scene, bringing us into the fold as a co-conspirator, setting foot in places we should not be. Add to that the killing of conjoined-twins from a circus freak show as the first murder, spice in detectives who are competing to find the killer, a nasty deformed villain, and other assorted colorful characters and you have perfection. After this one, I devoured the other 3 in the series and wait with baited breath for the next one.

Now for the classics:

5) Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens. A massive book, measuring 800 pages in length, it was Dickens’ last book and possibly his best. The events all surround an inheritance, with a cavalcade of classic Dickens characters and perfect prose to create a full and complete novel. Some of the passages are so beautiful, you wonder if anyone will ever be able to write like that again.

4) The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. The first detective novel written by a close friend of Dickens, The Moonstone involves a cursed diamond that goes missing and uses multiple narrators to piece together mystery of The Moonstone. A little too long but a terrific use of many voices to piece together one story. Which one is telling the truth? Want to talk about an unreliable narrator? One of the voices is of the culprit himself/herself. Can you figure it out?

3) Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. Astounding that a book written in the 1950s could predict the future so well. Intriguing and thought-provoking. The only downside was the ending; a little too neat and tidy, but a good read nonetheless.

2) Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. Classic Goth novel. You could feel the darkness surrounding the character, the mystery of Dr. Jekyll and his experiments. And who is it that is lurking in the shadows at night? The only drawback is that it wasn’t longer.

And finally—

1) Animal Farm by George Orwell. Why, oh why, did I not read this book sooner? Want to talk about having a smile on your face when reading a book? This was it. I read it in one seating and it was enthralling and comedic and entertaining and, most of all, though-provoking. A perfect novel and a strong example of why pigs are the worst species to be in charge. I loved this book!

So those are my Top 10 and Top 5 of 2012. What were yours?

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