The Top Ten List of Fiction I’ve Read in 2012


This year there were 14 novels I wanted to put in my Top Ten , so I’ve included the other 4 novels in a Very Honorable Mention List.   All 14 of these novels had that depth charge that meant they were to be in in my Top Ten.    

 1. “My Brilliant Friend” by Elena Ferrante (2012) – Even in translation, this book is the most well-written novel I’ve read this year.  Ferrante brings to life almost every member of the seven families who live in this tight little neighborhood in Naples, Italy in the 1950s.  The writing in this novel is colorful, moving, and a joy to read. 

 2. “Matterhorn” by Karl Marlantes (2010) – You are a United States platoon leader in Vietnam.  Your commanding officer orders you to take this hill at any cost.  Your platoon fights.  Three members of the platoon are killed, and two are severely wounded.  Your platoon takes the hill.  The next morning your commanding officer orders your platoon to leave the hill. 

 3. “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” by Rachel Joyce (2012) – The plot of this novel is so good it could be another story line for ‘Love Actually’.  But some people don’t like ‘Love Actually’?  I love ‘Love Actually’, and I love ‘Harold Fry’.   So there.

 4. HHhH” by Laurent Binet (2010) – The true World War II story of two brave heroes Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš in Czechoslovakia told in spectacular fashion.  It demonstrates how historical fiction can be done in the future based on real events. 

 5. “A Hologram for the King” by Dave Eggers (2012) – A humorous satirical novel about Americans doing business in Saudi Arabia.  Who knew Saudis and Americans working together could be so funny? 

 6. Perla” by Carolina de Robertis (2012) – This courageous dramatic novel makes sure that the world and especially South America will never forget what happened in Argentina in the 1970s and the thousands of people who were ‘disappeared’.    

7. “The Forgiven” by Lawrence Osborne (2012) – A novel about Europeans and Americans in Morocco interacting with the Muslims who live there.  This is a fascinating story that will change your view of the Muslim world. 

8. “Gilgamesh” by Joan London (2001) – A teenage woman and her young child take an amazing trip from rural Western Australia to Armenia and back.  This is a blunt novel that deals with life’s tough truths.

 9. “American Boy” by Larry Watson (2011) – a classic small town novel that feels like it was etched in stone rather than written on a computer.  The writing is spare and crystal clear.

10.  “Suddenly a Knock on the Door” by Etgar Keret (2010) – A collection of wildly original outlandish stories that are humorous and emotional at the same time. 

 Very Honorable Mention

 “The Lower River” by Paul Theroux (2012) – A novel that faces the hard truths about Africa today in an honest straightforward manner. 

 “Underground Time” by Delphine de Vigan (2009) – You know you’re the victim of nightmarish office politics when they move you to the office that shares a wall with the men’s bathroom.  This is the most realistic novel I’ve read about the devastating effects of grim office politics.

 “The Successor” by Ismail Kadare (2003) – A novel about the mysterious death of the number two man in the government of Albania in the 1980s.    

 “History of a Pleasure Seeker” by Richard Mason (2011) – a risqué novel about a young man making his way in society in 1907 Amsterdam.


12 responses to this post.

  1. But Tony … there are still three weeks left! You might read something wunderbar during that time and then what are you going to do! Thrilled though to see Gilgamesh there. And I’ve heard good things about the Binet. Love its title.


    • Hi WhisperingGums,
      I know, I know, I’m early. But compared to the newspapers I’m late as most of them had their ‘Best of’ lists during Thanksgiving weekend. I had almost forgotten about Gilgamesh because I read it last January, and when I found it, it had to be on my list. ‘HHhH’ was special and I considered it as part of my ‘Best of’ list all year long.


  2. I love this list. I have few of them, I’m looking forward to reading and discovered the Ferrante thanks to you. I’m just not sure yet whether I’ll read it in the original language (it’s so expensive) or in translation. It seems that the translation works well though.


  3. Hi Caroline,
    I wish I had the choice of reading books in their original language, but only have English. This was a great year for fiction for me, and 5 of the 14 books on the lists are translations. I also notice that only 4 of the 14 are by authors I read before. That includes Elena Ferrante whose ‘The Lost Daughter’ was also impressive.


  4. I love reading other people’s lists. We only have two in common here – Harold Fry and The Lower River. I have rarely seen a book blogger list that doesn’t go to show that they are very refined readers with a wide and eclectic taste – your’s is no exception.


    • Hi Tom,
      For me it doesn’t matter very much what a book is about, it’s the quality of the writing that matters.
      You mention ‘Harold Fry’ – I was tremendously moved by that book, yet a lot of people, especially bloggers, didn’t care for it. However I notice that the waiting list for ‘Harold Fry’ at the library is still much longer than the one for ‘Bringing Up the Bodies’. But the waiting list for ‘Gone Girl’ is about four times longer than that for ‘Harold Fry’, but I have no intention of reading ‘Gone Girl’.


  5. Posted by Kelly S on December 23, 2012 at 5:37 PM

    Thanks for the list! I’m bookmarking so I can hopefully read a few of these in the new year.


  6. Hi Kelly,
    Thanks for stopping by. Who knows, you might get one of these for Christmas this year. Happy Holidays!


  7. Have you seen the piece in The New Yorker from January 21st about Elena Ferrante? I have been thinking of reading My Brilliant Friend given your enthusiasm, and thought you might like to see this. Here’s a link to James Wood’s interesting piece:


    • Hi Charlotte,
      I read the James Woods piece, thank you for sending it. It contains some speculation that Elena Ferrante might be this male writer. After reading ‘The Lost Daughter’, I thought this might be true, but after ‘My Brilliant Friend’ I just can’t imagine this novel could have been written by a man. Whoever is writing these books, they are really written in an elegant simple style and are very moving. I expect I’ll be reading ‘Days of Abandonment’ soon.


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