Top 10 Most Popular Fiction Books, Spring 2012

Judith Stokes
Electronic Resources/
Serials Librarian and
Associate Professor

Continuing a series that began in 2008, Judith Stokes reviews selected books from Adams Library’s Browsing Collection. In April, she will assess the 10 books of fiction that have been borrowed most frequently (as of spring 2012). In May, she will examine the 10 most popular nonfiction books, and in June, she will review 10 of her favorites.

We hope you enjoy reading these informative descriptions, and perhaps some of these titles will find their way onto your personal reading list.

Top 10 most popular fiction books, spring 2012

1. “Caught” by Harlan Coben was number 7 on this list last year, and it is still going strong. It is a thriller. The protagonist is a mom and a news reporter who has created a TV program, “Caught in the Act,” that has exposed dozens of pedophiles by working with police to set up sting operations. After social worker, Dan Mercer, is caught with incriminating evidence, it seems as though he must be guilty of molesting teenagers and, it seems, murder. If golden girl Haley McWaid was not lured away and killed by Mercer three months ago, what did happen to her?

2. ”Edge of Apocalypse” by Tim LaHaye and Craig Parshall is first in a new series called The End. An action-packed thriller full of nuclear missiles, espionage, murder, torture, hostage taking, corrupt government officials and more, depends on a secret circle of wealthy Christian patriots to vindicate a former military hero-turned-weapons-engineer when his “return to sender” technology saves New York City from a nuclear attack. Interwoven are intimations of God’s will and quotations from the Book of Revelations indicating that the Apocalypse has indeed begun.

3. “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest,” written by Stieg Larsson and translated by Reg Keeland, is a suspense-filled political thriller, the last and the best of Larsson’s mystery trilogy, "The Millennium-Series." Rescued at the end of "The Girl Who Played with Fire," Lisbeth Salander has survived a showdown with her father, the elusive Alexander Zalachenko , but so has he, and he is convalescing in the same hospital ward, right down the hall from her room. Ironically, her room is being guarded by the police, intending to keep her from escaping the charges against her, while Zalachenko is claiming to be the victim of attempted murder. Investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist and security maven Dragan Armansky team up to spy on the spies, in this action packed, complex and satisfying conclusion to the trilogy.

It is the rare page turner that I actually regret finishing so quickly, but Larsson makes his wildly improbable characters develop realistically, so that once you suspend disbelief, they begin to charm you. He weaves his tale of spies gone bad into Swedish political life so that you begin to recall the outrageous arrogance of the CIA. And, translator Keeland has left me chuckling “tunnelbana” every time I use a subway.

4. “Ice Cold” by Tess Gerritsen is eighth in her popular series of thrillers about Boston medical examiner Maura Isles and homicide detective Jane Rizzoli. When Maura does not come home after the pathologists' conference she attended in Wyoming, Jane, her FBI agent husband, and another friend fly out there to investigate. We know Maura set out for a day of skiing with a colleague from the conference, his daughter, and two friends. We know that while driving up a narrow mountain road in a snowstorm, they had an accident and then found shelter in a remote Christian community with no electricity, phone service or modern conveniences and, chillingly, no people in the 12 identical houses. Windows have been left open, dinners on tables, but whole families have vanished!

5. “House Rules” by Jodi Picoult pits Jacob Hunt's mother against the world, not unusual for her, but this time it is not about getting the school and teachers to accommodate Jacob's Asperger's Syndrome, it is the judge and court. Bringing up Jacob and his brother, Emma Hunt has made their home as rule and routine bound as possible, soothing hyper-sensitive Jacob with the predictability he needs in order to function. When Jacob's tutor is reported missing and Jacob must be questioned, Emma worries that his normal autistic demeanor – inappropriate affect, repetitive behaviors, not looking others in the eye – will look like guilty behavior to the police. Adding Jacob's obsession with his hobby – crime fiction and forensic analysis – and a murder mystery, Picoult has woven another page turner with real and timely questions about human communication, normalcy, and disability.

6. “Every Last One” by Anna Quindlen introduces Mary Beth Latham, mother of three teenagers, wife of an ophthalmologist, owner of a small landscaping firm. Mary Beth’s children are the focus of her life and her efforts to make a warm and comfortable home for her family have the usual rewards and frustrations until shocking violence comes to her house. Beset by grief, guilt, and painful hindsight, the challenge of her own recovery, and that of her son Alex, becomes her entire life.

7. “The Confession: A Novel” by John Grisholm presents Kansas minister Keith Schroeder with a unique and dangerous opportunity to try to prevent the execution of an innocent young black man on Texas' death row. His modest courage leads him to join forces with the flamboyant defense attorney Robbie Flak. While the clock ticks down, we witness the indifference of white authorities to claims of innocence, recognize the phrases of an ambitious Texas governor, and hear a familiar defense of Texas style justice. Some characters are too predictable, but the fast-paced action will keep pages turning.

8. “The Scent of Rain and Lightening” by Nancy Pickard follows Jody Linder after the man who was convicted of her parents’ murder 23 years ago is released from prison. Linder’s ranch is the last prosperous concern in the small town of Rose, where Jody has been everyone’s concern since that terrible night when she was 3 years old. If the evidence in the case was faulty and the defense inept, nearly everything she has based her life on is suddenly open to question. Worse, if that mean wife-beating drunk was convicted unjustly, after 23 years in prison, he may well be bent on revenge against her family, making her an obvious target.

9. “Room: A Novel" by Emma Donaghue, which was at the top of our recommended list last spring, swiftly draws the reader into that 11' x 11' room where Jack was born and has lived his entire five years. We soon learn that Ma was abducted at age nineteen, by "Old Nick," but since Jack was born, she has lived a life of caring and love for her child within the four walls of their prison. Jack's voice keeps the reader entranced by his innocence, his courage, and his burning need to rescue his beloved Ma. Once you step into the "Room," you won't want to put it down.

10. “Beatrice and Virgil” by Yann Martel is different – different from his fantastic prize-winning novel, “Life of Pi,” and different from all the Holocaust novels that have come before this one. Like “Life of Pi,” there is a fable within a story, a constant awareness of narrative and its power. Also, there are animals with human sensitivity, but the problem of evil so permeates this work that it offends the senses, at times, disappointing some readers and reviewers.

Our protagonist is a writer, like Martel, with an extraordinarily successful novel in print, all over the world, that continues to occupy him in delightful communication with readers from all walks of life. Buoyed by that success, he spent five years of hard work on a book about the Holocaust, only to be discouraged by his publishers, particularly for attempting an innovative approach. Putting it all aside, he turns to other pursuits, yet when one of his readers asks him for help writing a play, it leads him back to the same issues, in a different context.

"A work of art works because it is true, not because it is real." (p. 10)