Friday, December 28, 2012

My Top Five Books of 2012

I've read about 25 books this year, from cover to cover. Some longer, some shorter. Most are fiction but there's several non-fiction works in there. This does not count the 50+ books I skimmed through while finishing up my master's degree in History last spring. (It's one reason I'm not sure if I want to get a PhD, yes, you read a lot, but you often don't read a book cover to cover. Just lots and lots of skimming). Overall, in 2012 I read about a book every two weeks, which is good enough for me.

Here are my top 5 recommendations. What are your top five?

1. The 50th Law, by 50 Cent and Robert Greene.

Nihil Timendum Est --"Nothing must be feared."/"Fear nothing."

This is the first book I read in 2012, and I've felt its impact through out the whole year. I remembered its lessons going into my thesis defense and later while standing on the edge of a mountain cliff. Robert Greene compares 50 Cent to other historical figures andhow they overcame their fears and prospered. While many of us will never experience the harsh streets 50 Cent did, the lessons in this book are priceless. This is more than just a biography.

If we let them, our fears can become generalized anxieties that we try to avoid. Yet by avoiding them, we become imprisoned by them or, worse, we resort to quick fixes which end up making the problem worse. First, we need to face reality as it is, in all its ugliness and beauty.

2. The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield
This book actually ties for first place. It gave me the kick in the ass to finish the first draft of my novel, Anne Greyhawk and the Valkyrie's Vow. Anybody who wants to create something--artists, entrepreneur, people who want to lose weight--must read this book.

Fear is a manifestation of Resistance and Resistance keeps you from living the life you want. Resistance gives you every logical reason why you shouldn't start exercising, paint that masterpiece, write that novel, or start that business.

If you want to beat Resistance, your fear, then go pro.

A lot of self-help books are filled with pie-in-the-sky, transcendental B.S. This one isn't, and neither is The 50th Law.

3. The Golden Compass, by Phillip Pullman

I'm really including Pullman's entire "His Dark Materials" trilogy which includes the Subtle Knife and the Amber Spyglass. Amid all the armored bears, the cowboy aeronaut, and little Lyra and her daemon getting manipulated by her parents, there is a great moral to this series. I won't ruin it for you.

I'm still not sure why this was classified as a children's book. Yes, it has children in it, but it deals with far reaching philosophical concepts that might be above most children's heads. It is, more or less, a sequel/retelling of John Milton's Paradise Lost. Early on one character mentions Zoroastrianism.

Then again, maybe the children in England can hande such things. At least the grown-ups can anyway, when compared to the numerous attempts to ban this series on this side of the pond.

Although long-winded at times, His Dark Materials trilogy is an epic adventure that makes for an exciting and enlightening read.

4. Hornet Flight, by Ken Follet

Mix in Nazis, spy-rings, a boy reaching maturity, a law official bent on enforcing the law no matter what, a couple of beautiful women, and a desperate escape across the English Channel you've got the essence of Hornet Flight. 

It takes place during the darkest part of the war, 1941, when England had to hold its own. Our hero emerges in Denmark to try and stop the Nazis from using a secret weapon against England's bombers.

Follet is a great storyteller, and this book delivers the goods. As an aspiring novelist, I could do worse than to emulate him. He knows how to do character development, pacing, plotting and all the other ingredients to just tell a great story.

5. This Present Darkness, by Frank E. Peretti

I've never read Christian fiction until I read this book. And I managed to make it all the way through. Peretti weaves a great tale of supernatural events surrounding a small college down as demons from Hell try to take it over. Only a small group of mortals and angels stand in their way.

The book can be preachy at times, but if you look beyond that it can make for a good story.

Others, I'm sure, might be bothered by all the roads that lead to damnation that Peretti describes: colleges and professors, Eastern religions, meditation, world-wide corporations, foreign businessmen, etc.

Overall, though, a good book.

Honorable mentions include:
The Mote in God's Eye, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
7-Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey
48 Laws of Power, by Robert Greene


  1. I love "The War of Art" it's a great one.
    "What the hell are we gonna do Largo?"


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