Black Heart’s best books of 2012

Okay, so everybody and their mother’s brother’s pal who saw Ferris Bueller pass out at 31 Flavors last night has already released their “Best of 2012″ reading lists, right? HARDLY. 2012 isn’t over until we say it is, and we’ve finally compiled our BEST OF lists, so now you can mark those books and move on to 2013 with a smile on your face, a song in your heart, and a shitload of books to read.

Here’s what we found kick-ass in the previous year.

Founding Editor Laura Roberts’ Best Books

As noted at my blog, I’ve read a lot of indie books this year. I also made a pretty concerted effort to keep tabs on what I was reading (and when I actually finished my books) with the help of GoodReads. Happily – and despite my initial misgivings about making a “Best of 2012″ list – I discovered that there were a lot more books in my “loved it” pile than my “hated it” pile.

Many of the indie books I read this year were quite good. They had compelling plots, odd and interesting characters, and plenty of stylistic pizzazz to keep me hooked. To narrow down my mammoth list, I decided to focus on my specialty: humorous erotica. So, without further ado, here’s my list of the top 5 humorous, erotic indie books I read in 2012:

  1. Fifty Shades of Alice in Wonderland by Melinda DuChamp – A decidedly adult retelling of the classic Alice story, I highly enjoyed DuChamp’s dirty meanderings down the rabbit hole. Bonus points for the erotic mushrooms on the cover, which have me torn between wanting to lick them, fuck them, or trip out on them. There’s a sequel, as well, which I already have on my “to read” pile.
  2. The Pleasure Dial by Jeremy Edwards – Another erotic novel, this one is totally originally and is set during the golden age of radio. A newcomer to the biz learns the ropes in sunny California, where his boss has the writers gather poolside to cook up bon mots and hilarious witticisms for his comedy hour. His adult daughter swimming naked in said pool? Just a cherry on top! Let this one spin your dials.
  3. The Girls’ Guide to Dating Zombies by Lynn Messina – Dating zombies? Ew! But what if dating zombies were your only option, as real men have gone extinct thanks to a zombie plague? Suddenly the idea doesn’t seem quite so repulsive… well, okay, yes, it does. But Lynn Messina makes it all sound logical in her post-apocalyptic novel with a twist. Get ready to think of zombies in new and kinky post-human ways!
  4. Inbox Full of Crazy by Chris-Rachael Oseland – Take one online dater – who’s also a writer – and republish the most hilariously awful responses she receives from a variety of different sites, posting in several different cities. That’s the gist of Inbox Full of Crazy. Whether you’re lovelorn, newly or chronically single, you’ll love these missives from morons. And for the grammar nerds, there’s also a special nod to those people who think spelling just doesn’t matter.
  5. Memories of a Mombasa Gigolo by Krishna Washburn – An unlikely gigolo, Manik Mudigonda is nevertheless an expert seducer of women. The key to his success? Treating them like queens, and administering as much pleasure as possible. What’s not to love? Check out Washburn’s unique take on the “prostitute with a heart of gold” tale in this novel, set in pre-WWI Kenya.

Poetry Editor Gabino Iglesias’ Best Books

I read almost 200 books this year. My choices feel all across the spectrum. From absolutely amazing to painfully mediocre, I came across all of it. [That's what she said! -LR] Not everything I read was published in 2012 and trying to name genres would be a waste of time, so consider my choices the best of what’s out there regardless of silly labeling. Here are, in no particular order, 15 tomes that stuck with me for various wonderful reasons.

The Sky Conducting by Michael J. Seidlinger – Seidlinger managed to make post-apocalyptic fiction seem new and exciting again. As a bonus, he did it in a incredibly clean, economical, and sharp prose.

Letters to Kurt by Eric Erlandson – This book, which I reviewed here at Black Heart, brought together poetry, friendship, music, death, pain, love, and everything else that matters in a few letters to a dead friend.

growing-up-dead-in-texasStephen Graham Jones – Yes, I know Stephen Graham Jones is not a book, but picking just one tome was impossible, so I went with the name. I read three SGJ books in 2012. Zombie Bake-Off was a wild, fun, and bizarre deconstruction of the zombie genre. Growing Up Dead in Texas was the best “memnoir” I’ve ever read and a must-read for anyone who thinks the past has an impact on the present. The Last Final Girl, to put it mildly, was a tour de force in which Jones invented a unique narrative style, played with a classic horror film trope and slashed his way into a few bets of the year lists. You need to keep an eye on this guy in 2013.

SuiPsalms by John Edward Lawson – Bizarro/horror poetry is one thing; bizarro/horror poetry that defies both genres is something else, and that’s what Lawson does. Without having to lower my voice in doubtful fear, I say this: John Edward Lawson is one of the most innovative and ridiculously creative voices in contemporary poetry.

Opium Fiend by Steven Martin – I usually steer clear of memoirs simply because there are too many of them out there that are just not that interesting. This was, however, kept me glued to its pages. Martin is a solid writer and his story starts out as a knowledgeable collector of opium paraphernalia and spirals into a crippling addiction that had him smoking 30 pipes a day.

Fill the Grand Canyon and Live Forever by Andersen Prunty – Bizarro satire becomes a thing of beauty in Prunty’s capable hands. This book is what happens when you mix hilarity, sex, social media, and social critique.

Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner – A fantastic mix of poetry and philosophy filtered through a story about a graduate student in exile. Maybe it was the sheer beauty with which Lerner writes or the fact that I saw myself in his very flawed main character, but this one was a blast to read.

how-to-avoid-sexHow to Avoid Sex by Matthew Revert – Revert is one of the funniest guy in literature. However, this book is here for different reasons. Namely, that Revert is also a very smart writer with a knack for turning the uncanny and surreal into candy for your brain and that he writes so beautifully that a guy having sex with a chair somehow becomes an awe-inspiring thing.

Feast of Oblivion by Josh Myers – Every year there is an author that’s new to me but that with only one book places his or herself in the realm of I Have to Read Anything and Everything He/She Ever Publishes. In 2012, Meyers was that author. Feast of Oblivion defies categorization and definition. It’s simply a superb story that you need to read/experience in all its weird, flatfish-infused glory.

No One Can Do Anything Worse To You Than You Can by Sam Pink – It’s simple: you’ve either read Sam Pink or you haven’t. If you have, you know why this is here. If you haven’t I suggest you change that with this creepy, funny, unique, brutal, short tome.

A Blind Eye to the Rearview by Eric A. Jackson – Neo-noir meets the paranormal at some invisible point, and that’s where Jackson’s prose comes from. This novella is emotionally gritty, dark, and very interesting.

Every Shallow Cut by Tom Piccirilli – This is one of those books that punch you in the face. No one writes like Piccirilli and this is a condensed version of everything that he brings to the table on his longer novels.

a-pretty-mouth

Fractal Despondency by Trent Zelazny – In a nutshell, this is a novella about two people meeting and spending some time together. However, it’s much, much more. Literate and dark, this is a study of human emotions, a gloomy trip through the nuances of intimacy, and a celebration of effective use of language.

No Strings by Mark SaFranko – It takes a literary maestro to pull cutthroat noir out f the gutter and place it on a golf course while maintaining it grittiness, power, and ring of truth. SaFranko pulls it off while also delivering death, lies, insane doses of tension, and a look at the bleak world of a married men who are deeply unsatisfied.

A Pretty Mouth by Molly Tanzer – Fun, unique, sexy, Lovecratian literature of the highest caliber. I wanted to paint my walls with some of the lines in this book. It’s simultaneously classic and new and the prose is undeniably authoritative. This is the kind of book that weak writers read and decide to stop writing because they’ll never be this damn good.

There you have them! There were a lot more books I enjoyed, but these were at the top of my list. If you have the time, share some of your favorites in the comments. Happy reading!