Saturday, December 29, 2012

2012 Books of the Year

2012 was my most productive reading year since I started Battle Hymns...I chalk that up to my two hours of bus commuting each day.  On top of that, 2012 was my most adventurous year of reading yet as well.  I definitely made more of an effort this year to go out of my reading comfort zone and try new authors and try new reads.  I tried to reflect those efforts in this year end list.

Of all my 2012 year end lists, this one was the hardest to put together.  The top two were clear-cut but the three, four and five spots were tough to decide on.  I should mention that this is not a list of my favorite 2012 books.  Rather, it is a list of my favorite books that I read during the 2012 year.  The publication date of these books was not taken into consideration.  Without further ado....

#5. Among Others: This was one of those books that just barely missed being incredible.  If not for what I saw as a bit of a let-down at the end, Among Others could have easily topped this list. As much as this book is a magical work of fantasy, it's also a love letter to the fantasy and sci-fi genres themselves which I found quite amazing.

There were other books I read this year that I graded higher, and some of those didn't make this list. Among Others deserves a nod though as it is wholly responsible for kindling my interest in older works of fantasy and science fiction. If not for this book, there'd be no "Kicking it Old School" feature on this blog, and I would have missed out on some great reads in the process.  Among Others is one of those books that I started reading slower the closer I got to the end because I didn't want the experience to be over. It's truly a book that I treasured.  

#4. Scourge of the Betrayer: Scourge was a fantasy debut that not only lived up to my expectations, but actually surpassed them, all while coming off as something different and fresh.  Those qualities lead to a sure-fire winner in my book.

Scourge of the Betrayer is a book with sharp writing and deep character exploration.  Braylar is one of the more compelling fantasy characters I've read, and I found it impossible to not want to read more once I'd turned the final page of this novel. As much as I want to see where this story will go, I'm equally as interested in discovering what has come before with the characters and this world.  For my money, this was the best mainstream fantasy I read in 2012.

#3. Leviathan Wakes: I don't often fancy myself much of a science fiction reader, and I certainly haven't had much success with the space operas I've tried to read in the past. However, I'm a huge fan of Leviathan Wakes.  The writing duo of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, who form like Voltron to make James S.A. Corey, seemed to have folks like me in mind when they created this space opera series that is pared down, and accessible, all while providing a fantastic read.

With limited POVs and a scope that is within our own solar system, this story was right up my alley.  I enjoyed the story, the characters, and the politics of the worlds and civilizations that are depicted in this novel.  This was one of the more engaging reads of the year for me, and it was nice to experience sf that pushed all the right buttons for me. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing what else this series has in store.

#2. Kafka on the Shore: As great as those books mentioned before on this list are, Kafka on the Shore stands out as a completely amazing novel.

I'd never read a Haruki Murakami novel before this, and Kafka on the Shore served as a revelation as to what I'd been missing out on. The writing here is just a cut above what I normally see in my other reads.  I've rarely seen such incredible character development, and the visuals Murakami evokes are wonderful.  A great read on all levels, and book that I can't recommend more strongly.

#1. The Islanders: Speaking of books that stand out as singularly amazing, The Islanders is definitely one such book.  This jigsaw puzzle of a novel had me spellbound with its mystery and myth.  Christopher Priest takes a wholly unique approach to telling his story of murder, art, islands, and the folks who inhabit them. I loved every page of this book.

I love that I had to work for the results I got from the reading experience, and I love that I look forward to reading The Islanders again some day to see what I notice on a second read through that I missed on my first go-round.  Simply one of the most wonderful books I've read.

Hey, I should point out that this is two in a row for Mr. Priest, as he took the number one spot last year for The Prestige. If you aren't reading this guy yet...

Most Honorable Mention:

Bitter Seeds: Definitely one of the sharper reads of the year for me.  Mad Science, Nazis, and entertaining combo for sure! Also, I can't get Gretel, the pre-cognitive who seems to be pulling all the strings, out of my head.

Theft of Swords: Heroic bro fantasy at it's finest.  Sullivan manages to make each installment stand on it's own, yet each story works in many over-arching plot threads that deal with a more epic story.  I'm anxious to read further on in this series.  Great stuff.

Well, there you go.  My top five reads from the 2012 year.  What'd I miss out on? What, I ask you, Battle Hymns readers, were your favorite reads of the year?


Jeff Salyards said...

I'm honored to make the cut, Ryan. Great way to finish up 2012!

redhead said...

I've only read a couple books that made your list, but I LOVED Leviathan Wakes! and now I've got 7-8 more books to add to my TBR list!

Ryan said...

Jeff- It was completely deserving! I can't wait for book two!

Redhead- I hope you enjoy them! I'm eager to check out Caliban's War.