Each December, our reviewers choose their top books; today's list is by Ron Hogan, founder of Beatrice.com.
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (Knopf)
Yes, Murakami's prose has some difficult patches, but there are also some fantastic passages. His Philip K. Dick fandom has never been more overt than in this massively strange and unsettling novel.
Among Others by Jo Walton (Tor)
Is it fantasy or mainstream fiction? Is it for adults or YA readers? Either way, it's an absolutely brilliant story about a teenage girl who turns to books for the emotional solace her family life sorely lacks.
The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick edited by Pamela Jackson and Jonathan Lethem (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Philip K. Dick spent the last seven years of his life trying to understand a series of potentially mystical experiences, and filled thousands of pages with his theories, at turns baroque, paranoid, and incisive. Jackson and Lethem have sifted through to select some of the most compelling of all that material.
The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie (Orbit)
If maverick film director Sam Fuller had ever made a fantasy sword epic, it would have looked a lot like this. Abercrombie's got no time for the glories of war; his novel about a three-day battle between two rival kingdoms is filled with grim pragmatism and even grimmer mortality.
Ganymede by Cherie Priest (Tor)
The third novel in a series set in a steampunk 19th-century America, and possibly the most exciting yet (although I'm a big fan of Dreadnought, its immediate predecessor). This is a rollicking adventure, but Priest also takes the time to give all her major characters, and many of her minor ones, depth and personality.
Moondogs by Alexander Yates (Doubleday)
This debut novel is constantly shifting between realistic emotional drama and zany magic realism, but it never knocks you out of the story. The quirks in Moondogs won't be to everyone's tastes, but readers who are willing to accept Yates's world on its own terms will find much to appreciate.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (Doubleday)
I didn't review this novel; I just really love it. I thought I'd never care about another circus story after The Circus of Dr. Lao, but Morgenstern hooked me with her sumptuously magic sensibility.
Rule 34 by Charles Stross (Ace)
A high-tech thriller set in near-future Scotland, and if you're not a science fiction fan, don't worry. Underneath all the futuristic gadgets, Stross has a solid footing in the police procedural, too.
Reamde by Neal Stephenson (Morrow)
Bracket out a long weekend for yourself; once you get started on Reamde, you'll want to see it all the way through. I don't have anywhere near the space to go into detail; let's just say it's the biggest, smartest action movie of a novel you'll read all year.
Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward (Bloomsbury)
I know, I'm going out on a real limb, recommending the National Book Award winner, right? But Jesmyn Ward really does have an amazing literary voice, and there's an emotional power to this story that will stay with you long after you're done reading.