ABC’s Favorite Reads of 2012, part VI

Ready for a new entry in ABC’s Favorite Reads of 2012 series? There will be new titles, old titles, magazines, Dutch books, games, fiction, non fiction, anything and everything we read and liked in 2012. We are as diverse as our individual choices and that is what makes ABC unique!

Part VI features Tiemen, Joe and Our-Maarten-of-the-No-Lists. Tiemen is Amsterdam’s Science Fiction & Fantasy buyer.  Joe is the original ABC The Hague crew, and now works mainly with the Espresso Book Machine there.  Maarten, as regular Blog readers will know, is not fond of lists, but always shares them anyway.  🙂  Also, he is the buyer of the Business, History (except for North America and Europe), Intelligence, Political Science, Social Science, True Crime, Controversial Knowledge, and Magic & Occult sections in Amsterdam.

We would love to hear about your favorite reads of 2012, too. Please mail with your choices and a picture of yourself (optional). We will post your list at the beginning of the new year and send you an ABC Gift Certificate (so don’t forget to include your home address with your list!).


5. Red Shirts – John Scalzi

It’s rather amazing no one thought of this before, because this is one of those ideas the moment you hear you go ‘yeah, that is one awesome idea for a story’. A homage and parody of the Star Trek Universe that follows the lives of a crew of Red Shirts on the Starship Intrepid and their discovery that wearing a Red Shirt on an away mission is rather risky. A surprisingly touching story about a bunch of side characters whose sole purpose is to die in bizarre ways for dramatic effect.

A paperback edition is due out in January.

4. A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

To be honest, this is the first time I’ve read a Dickens novel. I always thought Dickens was a bit old fashioned and well… dull. Boy was I wrong. A Tale of Two Cities is a riveting and exciting novel with a sometimes morbid and perverse sense of humour. Set during the French Revolution the story has a conclusion that one can spot from a mile, but when you get there you will still be shocked after you read the last line.

3. The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

Tragic like a three-legged puppy that runs down the stairs to greet you the moment you close the door behind you. A gripping tale about the Joad family’s search for a better future across an America ravaged by the Dust Bowl; even though you know that their dreams of a better life are all based on lies and deception you still hope they will finally have a lucky break after the next page. Tragic puppy all the way, but my god what beautiful prose.

2. 2312 – Kim Stanley Robinson

A lot of science-fiction stories revolve around the dreams of people to travel between the stars and leave our rocky planet behind. To boldly go where no one has gone before, so to speak. Although the story of Stanley Robinson’s 2312 takes you from the scorching plains of Mercurius to the icy rings of Saturnus the overall theme is the unbreakable link between humanity and our home planet. We may colonize the solar system and get away from our cramped and polluted home planet, but in the end human life cannot endure if we do not take better care of earth.

A majestic and jaw-dropping depiction of our future in the solar system.

1 . Alif the Unseen – Willow G. Wilson

Best book I’ve read in 2012. An elegant mix between cyberpunk and the stories of  1001 Nights set in an unnamed Middle Eastern country with the Arab Spring as background. Non-western cultures often run the risk of being portrayed merely as exotic, as a stereotype, but Wilson’s Alif the Unseen succeeds in bringing to life the depth and pluralism of Arabian and Islamic culture.

Plus she managed to insert in her story the best reference to Star Wars ever.


1. The Art of Fielding – Chad Harbach

2. Matterhorn – Karl Marlantes

3. The Gone-Away World – Nick Harkaway

4. Shantaram – Gregory David Roberts

5. Waging Heavy Peace – Neil Young


Why only 5? Each year it is a challenge. So, this year, once again, not a list as such, and not 5 titles as such, but favourite books of the year per randomly chosen genre.

Many favourite Dutch writers, like Slauerhoff, Tellegen, Van Kooten, Campert, all belong in such a list, but let’s give W.F. Hermans’ De donkere kamer van Damokles (translated into English  as The Darkroom of Damocles)  the honor of being the best Dutch book I’ve read this year.

For the ‘genre’ non-Dutch writers the big surprise was De beren en andere verhalen by Vsevolod Garsjin (English title: From the Reminiscences of Private Ivanov & Other Stories), really amazing stories. Chekhov also thought he was very good…

‘Classics’: Winnie-the-Pooh, Andersen’s fairy tales, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451? All classic but for different reasons, and all good.

Non-fiction: Moon: A Brief History by Bernd Brunner, looks at the Moon from many different and interesting angles, but all this information leaves the mystery of our silver companion intact.

Fortean non-fiction: Kees Moeliker’s De bilnaad van de teek, and This is Improbable, by Marc Abrahams. For fun facts about weird but true animals and weird but true science, respectively.

To end with a little pearl: Vleesetende verhalen, by Bernard Quiriny, great surreal short stories. (Also check out other titles by the publisher Voetnoot.

Plus, but that almost goes without saying, everybody should read the great magazine Fortean Times, and all the Sherlock Holmes stories!!!