Best of 2012: Genre Fiction Favorites

As we draw close to the end of the year, it is time to take stock of all that has happened in 2012. Some may evaluate personal goals, others the political and cultural ramifications of events. Here at the library we like to talk about all the great things we have read and viewed in 2012.

There are lots of “best of” lists at this time of year, but ours is compiled by a dedicated staff who come across thousands of titles in any given year and know how to separate the wheat from the chaff.  Our list is long, but we have divided it up into five sections which we will publish every day this week. So come take a personalized tour of the best and brightest fiction and film of 2012. First up: Genre Fiction

Crime Novels and Mysteries

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Nick and Amy’s marriage is boiling over with repressed anger, fear and manipulation. When Amy suddenly disappears, Nick’s life is torn by the suspicions of his family and the police. But Amy left behind a diary. Is it filled with fabrications or facts?… A masterpiece of psychological fiction, this novel plunges deep into each character’s dark side. As you are caught up in the sharp suspense, this novel also reveals deep truths about human emotions and relationships. –Esta

The Woman Who Died a Lot : a Thursday Next Novel : Now with 50% Added Subplot by Jasper Fford
Thursday Next is back. No longer physically capable of being a field agent, she is appointed head of the Swindon library, a much more dangerous job than one might think. Fforde has created a universe that is just slightly different from ours in quirky ways (i.e., cheese smuggling is a crime). I was sold when she was shown the red button to push in case of emergency, which would summon Nancy (Pearl) from Seattle. –Ron

A Foreign Country by Charles Cumming
Disgraced British agent, Thomas Kell, is brought back into service when the woman scheduled to be the new head of MI6 disappears. Has she defected? Has she been abducted? Kell needs to find out fast. A thriller for those who appreciate good spy craft. Suspense with lots of twists and turns. –Marge

Broken Harbor by Tana French
French’s latest mystery is set in a bleak, half-finished housing development on the cold Irish coast. A family is found murdered and the mother, the only survivor, unable or unwilling to talk. Its compelling setting and strongly drawn characters combine with a plot that’s almost gothic, making for a book that’s hard to put down. –Eileen

Psychological Fiction

In One Person by John Irving
Billy Abbott struggles with his bisexual impulses and bravely searches out experiences and people who will help define his identity. These memorable characters dare to step outside gender and social roles, and make us redefine what is masculine and feminine. A daring and honest novel that confronts how ’we are formed by what we desire. –Esta

The Beginner’s Goodbye by Anne Tyler
Aaron Woolcott’s wife dies in a freak accident, and this novel follows Tyler’s formula of presenting a sad-sack fellow who is vaguely aware that his youthful dreams have eluded him. This is domestic fiction with some supernatural elements and the author’s cleverly casual expression of the ordinary. –Gloria

Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult
After their father, a famous wolf researcher, is left comatose during an accident, siblings Edward and Kara Warren disagree about whether or not to terminate his life. I loved the research about wolf and pack behavior and how a human may have been a part of it. –Gloria

The Map and the Territory by Michel Houellebecq
The artistic process, art world excesses, failed human relationships, and the resilience of the natural world are just some of the themes in this idea-rich page-turner that is part art world exposé, part visceral thriller. Audacious and brutally honest. –Scott

One Last Thing Before I Go by Jonathan Tropper
Middle-aged divorced dad Silver is dying, his estranged teenage daughter is pregnant, and his sudden clarity of insight (and stroke) bring them together. But will they save each other? Funny, insightful, edgy, and unpretentiously smart writing. –Alan

Domestic Fiction

Arcadia by Lauren Groff
The story of the struggles and joys of a hippie commune in the countryside of upstate New York in the 1960’s, told from the point of view of Bit–the first child born who grows to manhood embraced by this alternative lifestyle. With a circus of colorful characters, this novel brilliantly recreates the playful and reckless energy of the 60’s. From the charismatic leader to the youngest child, we can see the sweet irony of how people who seemingly are fools can be visionary as well. –Esta

The Red Book by Deborah Copaken Kogan
Four women in Harvard’s class of ‘89 gather for a 20th-year reunion with some serious soul searching. All four of the women have lied in their stories to each other and have to unravel those lies before they can become whole. Plus I graduated college in 1989 and wondered what a class reunion would be like. –Gloria

Hope: A Tragedy by Shalom Auslander
Kugel’s just moved to an upstate country house, but his nasty tenant, impatient wife, fake Holocaust survivor mom, and the discovery of Anne Frank in his attic combine to ignite the proceedings. Very funny, very smart writing, everything that This American Life featurist writes is solid.  –Alan

Humorous Fiction

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry:  a Novel by Rachel Joyce
Harold Fry is convinced that he must deliver a letter to an old love in order to save her, meeting various characters along the way and reminiscing about the events of his past and people he has known, as he tries to find peace and acceptance.
I just walked over 100 miles in England, and really understood the struggles Harold felt just trying to keep putting one foot in front of the other. –Julie
The story unfolds fluidly and achieves a familiarity that had me rooting for Harold and walking with him. –Liz

Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines
Vampires are killing Porters, members of a secret society who protect humankind, and who can pull objects out of books. Isaac Vainio, librarian and failed field agent, is charged with saving humankind. A world where people can reach into the page of a book and pull out an item from that page is fascinating. Isaac wears a trench coat filled with books from which he pulls fantastical weapons with which to defend himself from vampires and their kind. –Ron

Panorama City by Antoine Wilson
A pitch-perfect story about “slow absorber” Oppen Porter who lies in a hospital bed and records on audio cassette the events and lessons of his life for his unborn son. Jerzy Kosinski’s Being There crossed with Nicholson Baker’s The Mezzanine. A terrific blend of characters, style and story. –Scott

For a full list of all the 2012 staff picks, click here.