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The Top Ten Books I Read This Year (2012)

on January 3, 2013

The Top Ten Books I Read This Year (2012)

Since it’s the beginning of the new year, I wanted to look back at some of the good books I had read last year.  I figured that the best way to do this is through a count-down. People like countdowns, right?

Right.  Keep in mind that not every book I read this year also came out this year, and because of that, not every book on this list came out this year (in fact only one of them did). I’ve always found that books are more timeless than other forms of media, so I feel comfortable making a list of the best book I read this year, with the emphasis on I.

10. lake of souls  Cirque du Freak: The Lake of Souls

A huge part of what I reviewed this year was Darren Shan’s twelve-book long Cirque du Freak series.  Because of that, I felt like it wasn’t far to completely ignore the series when making this list.

Though I felt that most of the books in the series were ok or really not that great, The Lake of Souls was the exception.  Compared to others in the series, this book was a breath of fresh air and broke from the melodrama that was bogging down the series. The momentary genre change may have helped.

As for the rest of the series, I do recommend them.  They’re like pretty good B movies, fun enough to entertain, but they still have they cringe-worthy moments, such as the main villains being purple-skinned “vampaneze”.  I also recommend reading this one even if you don’t want to read through these others.

9. tithe Tithe: A Modern Tale of Faerie by Holly Black

My first encounter with Holly Black was The Spiderwick Chronicles, which she co-wrote with Tony DiTerlizzi.  I wasn’t crazy about it, but I recognized her as a cool gothic writer.  So, when I was scoping through Barnes and Noble trying to find a new cool teen book (that didn’t involve vampires), I saw her name on the cover under the super-cool faerie wings and figured it be worth a shot.

Man, was I in for a treat.  This book was a breath of dark spooky air that was much needed in a world full of melodramatic paranormal romance novels, it’s nice to see one that’s so refreshingly real (while still being in the realm of fantasy).

All of the characters here are fantastically flawed, and the story was unique and twisted at every turn and had an overall nice gothic feel.  I completely recommend this book to most people.  It was fun to read and I’m glad I picked it up.

8. the-hobbit-cover The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

In preparation for the movie (and also because I’ve been meaning to reread this one for a while now) I read The Hobbit. I’d forgotten how fun this book was.  Where The Lord of the Rings was all dark and depressing, The Hobbit was a lot more light, and is meant to sound more like a fable than a novel.

I’d forgotten that Tolkien made commentary on the story, so it was really interesting to have this omniscient character that acts as a storyteller.  I honestly can’t think of another book that I’ve read (recently, at least) that did something like this.

Also, the story is just really good, and the characters are just really likable. And let’s be real here, most of us would react to going on an adventure the same way Bilbo did, lots of grumbling and complaining at first, and eventually going along with it and realizing that this was everything you ever wanted.

All in all, this was a blast to read, and a must for my fellow geeks out there. Oh, and the movie was really good too. 😉

7. heart of darkness Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

I have to be honest for a moment: I didn’t exactly like this book. To be honest, it’s actually an unpleasant read.  See, Heart of Darkness portrays the worst of humanity, and because of that, it can be hard to get through.

That being said, I have to put it on this list. There’s a reason this book is taught in schools, it’s a powerful work that needs to be read.  Like most good art, it presents the worst of humanity and forces us to accept it. I do recommend it to people, but with caution, because it’s just depressing.

6. a game of thrones A Song of Ice and Fire: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

Ok, so I’ve pretty much spent  my entire life immersed in geek culture, due to being born in a family of giant nerds.  Because of that, my love of fantasy literature started early, with me picking children’s books such as The Magic Tree House series and The Secret of Droon series, and eventually Harry Potter.  If there was some element of magic or fantasy or whatever, I read it.

So at this point, I’ve read a whole ton of fantasy literature, and I can now recognize all the tropes: there’s the heroic night, the girl who wants to be a night, there’s the happy, fun-loving oaf of a king, who usually has a conniving queen that runs everything behind his back. So that’s what I expected in A Game of Thrones.

Yeah, that wasn’t what happened. Saying anything that happens in this book is a spoiler, but I will say the interesting thing about it is that you have absolutely no clue what’s happening at any time (and that goes for the rest of the series, which I also read this year), but you’re still interested in what’s going on. And pretty much any predictions you can make are proven wrong pretty early in the next book. Like The Hobbit, I think this is a must read of any nerd out there, but be prepared, they’re pretty lengthy.

5. cloud atlas  Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Usually, it takes me about two to three weeks to read a book, because I have things in my daily life that unfortunately make it so I really don’t have a whole lot of time to read books. Needless to say, this depresses me to no end. That being said, I think I read this one in less than a week.

Like A Game of Thrones, this is another one in which I wasn’t sure what happening most of the time, but was still very interested in what was happening. I’m planning on doing a full-length review of this book, so I don’t want to say too much about it.

However, I will say that the only reason this book isn’t higher on this list is because I just have a problem with books that use first-person in a very heavy dialect and  a good 6th of the Cloud Atlas is. I just could not get through that portion of the book. However, since I saw the movie and now know how the language is supposed to sound, I think I’ll do better the second time around. If you plan on reading the book and have the same problems I do with heavy dialect, then I recommend watching the movie first. If not, then I recommend reading the book first, because the book was always better.

4. Killing Mr. Griffin Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan

This book was a departure from the usual books I read. Like I said earlier, I mostly read fantasy or the occasional sci-fi. In all honesty, I think this one was a gift someone gave me a while ago.

This was another one that surprised me a great deal.  It was interesting that most of the book was told from the point of the view of the group of murderers, and the lengths they went to cover it up. I also liked how each person in the group had their own distinct motive for killing, and all reacted to it the murder in a different way.

I did a full review of this book a while ago, so I won’t talk about it too much, but trust me, it’s worth a read.

3. looking for alaska Looking for Alaska by John Green

For those of you who aren’t familiar with this book, it’s split into two parts, called “Before” and “After”. “Before” was a fun read with interesting characters who just seemed to be there to live life to the fullest and just have a good time. “After” was hands down one of the most heart wrenching things I have ever read.

Usually, I’m a big fan of concrete endings, ones where you know exactly how the characters went about their lives when the book ends. Looking for Alaska is the exception. I liked how you never found out what truly happened. I think the book was much stronger that way.

I also liked how its implied that our narrator may have been unreliable, as if he may not have remembered the events in the book the way they went down. It adds to the drama in the second half of the book.

This is the first book I’ve read by John Green, but I can guarantee it won’t be the last.  This is a great book for a rainy day, but don’t forget the tissues.

2. the extrodinary adventures of alfred kropp The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp by Rick Yancey

This book was absolutely tons of fun.  I enjoyed literally every minute of reading this book. It was that good.

Sure, it’s not as influential as A Song of Ice and Fire or The Hobbit, or as important of a book as Heart of Darkness or Cloud Atlas, but on an enjoyment level, this beats them cold. It reminds me of an a really good action movie, it had knights and car chases, fair maidens, and a lovably-depressed hero.

Sometimes what you want is to really enjoy what you read, same as sometimes you really want to watch a brainless action movie. I feel that this is the perfect book for that occasion.  Maybe I shouldn’t put this piece of fluff this high up the list, but hey, it’s my list, so I do what I want.

1. a storm of swords A Song of Ice and Fire: A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin

You’re probably wondering why I’m putting A Storm of Swords higher up the list than I did A Game of Thrones. See, A Game of Thrones changed the fantasy literature playing field in a lot of ways: by overturning tropes, doing the unconventional, and doing everything it could to be different.

A Storm of Swords does the same thing, except for the series.  Like I said earlier, whatever people predict what’s going to happen in the series is usually out the window pretty fast, but you still kind of figured what happened at the end of the series.

The events in this book made sure that was impossible. Important characters you thought Martin couldn’t kill off, got killed off, and pretty much everything in the series changed. This was also the only entry on the list in which the book gave me honest-to-God goose bumps (for those of you who read it, it’s the wedding scene).

 

So, that’s my list of the Top Ten books I’ve read this year. I hope you all have had a good year in reading, and I hope that next year will be just as good.

 

good omens Honorable Mention: Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchet

I really, really wanted to put this on the list. The only problem was that I technically finished it December 2011. So close.

Anyway, this was another one that was tons of fun.   I love Neil Gaiman, and I’m a big fan of Coraline and American Gods, and I have heard good things about Terry Prachet’s Discworld series. Good Omens is a cool and creative take on the end of the world, with everything not quite going the way everyone planned.

This is another book I’m planning on doing a more in-depth review on, so I won’t go on about it.  But I will say that this book is fantastic, and everyone should read it.

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