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Bookish Thoughts

Top Fiction Books of 2012

By December 21, 20122 Comments

My 2012 fiction reading year started off strong. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say that my good reading year of 2011 carried over a bit. For the first 3-4 months I was tearing through books, on track to do better than the 120 books I read last year.

The Beautiful MysteryThe year isn’t over yet, but I’m sad to say that it’s ending with a pathetic kind of whimper. I read someone on Twitter describe having problems with their reading libido, and that’s kind of how I feel. As you’ll see, this was the year I discovered Louise Penny and her Chief Inpsector Gamache mysteries. Having finished #8 in the series (A Beautiful Mystery), and there being no #9 yet, it all kind of went downhill from there. Nothing seemed quite as compelling as reading about Gamache, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, and company.

But there is hope. I hear Book #9 (for now called, How the Light Gets In) will be out next year sometime. And there were some books that were not written by Louise Penny which I also enjoyed this year.  Here they are.

Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline. If your two biggest passions are game playing and the 80s, this is the book for you. I can’t say I’m big on either of these things, and yet I still enjoyed this novel.

The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain.  I’ll confess that I listened to this book, rather than reading it, and this always makes a difference.  But I loved hearing about Hemingway’s life from a different perspective, and I enjoyed the questions this novel raised about gender and the writing life.

Raising Stony Mayhall, by Daryl Gregory.  I haven’t read extensively in the zombie genre, but based on my limited interaction, and my taste for fantasy/supernatural fiction that still tells a very human story, I would put this book right behind The Reapers Are the Angels as best zombie book ever.  This novel raises interesting questions about the mind/body connection, and yes, also, there are zombies.

Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel.  As horrifying as my husband finds this, I read these two out of order.  But if you know the basics of the Henry VIII story, it’s not like there are any real surprises, right?  And yet, there are.  Mantel’s soon-to-be trilogy is proof that even the stories that seem to have had every bit of life squeezed out of them can still be made infinitely new by good writing and a fresh perspective.  I’m normally not a huge fan of historical fiction about British royalty, but these are just so compelling and human.

Gone Girlby Gillian Flynn.  What is so darkly, darkly appealing about this book is the way in which Flynn takes the most intimate of things–a marriage–and makes it so very frightening, while still familiar.  Brilliant.

Still Life, A Fatal Grace, The Cruelest Month, A Rule Against Murder, The Brutal Telling, Bury Your Dead, A Trick of the Light, The Beautiful Mystery, by Louise Penny.  Yes, I read every one of these, and in quick succession.  Penny’s novels are, of course, well written.  They are also full of wisdom that sticks with you long after you’ve finished.  For example, the four most important sentences:  “I was wrong”; “I’m sorry”; “I don’t know”; and “I need help.”

I read Louise Penny say that she wanted to write books that she would like to read filled with people she liked.  This doesn’t sound like much, but it really is.  These novels are exactly that–books you’ll like to read filled with people you’ll like.

The Twelve Rooms of the Nileby Enid Shomer.  It’s hard to compete with 8 other books collectively, but as a stand-alone novel, this was by far the best book I read this year.  It is historical fiction at its very best.  Think A Passage to India, only the main characters are Florence Nightingale and Gustave Flaubert.

What were your favorite books of 2012?


  • Emily says:

    Robyn, I love your revamped website! When did this happen? I was mostly an underground zombie in the month of December due to retail.

    Anyway, good list. Happy new year!

    (p.s. also, i never got any manuscript from you. did you send it?)

    • Robyn Ryle says:

      Emily, I know all about the underground zombie mode…mine due to illness rather than rabid book-buyers. The website upgrade happened early in December. What with grading and illness, I didn’t get around to sending the manuscript, but still have plans to do so.

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