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.