I'm not the kind of person that can do a "Year's Best" novel list. Years and years of teaching fiction writing leave me with the clear sense that story preference is just that: preference. It's based upon taste and is subjective, as long as the story is well written, of course (a lot aren't--some writers seem to think the idea alone can carry the story, and they leave craft and language control out for the trash burning). I do think--because I love the form--that I'd be confident enough to do "best" list with short stories, but that might be another day . . .
This said, here're some novels I read in 2012 that I reckon are worth recommending. They may or may not be on my mental "best" list. Not all of 'em were published in 2012. They're just some that I read. My main focus in putting this together is to skip the books I read by well-known or best-selling authors (King, McCammon, etc.) and promote some good writers that some of y'all may not have heard of. And, yes, a few of them might be my friends--but they're not on here because of that; they are on here because they did the work, talked the talk, and walked the walk, and produced a book. Specifically, a book that I enjoyed reading. One that might not be making as much money as it should. And, I'm a writer. I have a lot of writer friends.
One final thing before I give you the list. Out of the 35 or so books I read last year (I remember being able to read 90-100 before I was a writing teacher--sigh), about half of them were e-books. I still love my paperbacks and hardbacks and my favorite reading chair, but being able to read books on my phone (or laptop, etc.) on the spur of a moment has given me a little bit more reading time. I like the luxury. But I still like paper books better. I'm hoping and willing to bet that there is room for both of them for a good long while.
So, give these a look, and see what you think. If it sounds good, help these good folks out a little by grabbing a copy or buying the e-book:
Bad Apple, by Kristi Petersen Schoonover. A dark, surreal tale about a teen named Scree and her unusual family circumstances. Psychological horror at its best. The author has a great sense of voice.
This Dark Earth, by John Hornor Jacobs (though John may be on the verge of being well known, if he isn't already--I just guess that some of y'all might not have read him yet). I love zombie novels, and this is one of the best. Character driven, claustrophobic, unique, and to top it off, the author has real style, a wonderful gift with language.
Fear, by Ronald Kelly. Young Jeb has to deal with a dark legend, that of a part-snake and part-demon flesheater in the backwoods of Tennessee. (Kelly was a force to be reckoned with in the horror genre, and now he is up and at it again.)
Blood and Bullets, by James R. Tuck. Deacon Chalk, bounty hunter. This is not your subtle, blossoming-magic urban fantasy. Tough and action packed. Plenty of supernatural and monster carnage.
The Black Death of Babylon, Edward J. McFadden III. Adventure, mystery, horror, and science fiction . . . this book goes everywhere. A lovers' triangle, secret chambers, a disgusting disease, conspiracies . . .
Overkill, Steven Shrewsbury. Gory, darkly funny, philosophical sword and sorcery fiction about Gorias La Gaul, one tough barbarian. The raw and brutal prose fits the story.
Rabbits in the Garden, Jessica McHugh. Psychological suspense. Asylum fiction, as I call it--I love this setting for stories, and this book doesn't disappoint and goes to some dark and crazy places.
Haunting Obsession, by RJ Sullivan. A good ghost story about how being too obsessed with a dead celebrity can have problematic effects on your life. Daryl Beasley collects all things Maxine Marie and learns this the hard way.
I know I might have forgotten some that deserve to be here, too, but without thumbing through my journal where I log my reading, these came to mind. There were lots of great collections, anthologies, and stories, too, but this list is limited to novels. I hope you'll give some of 'em a read.
Books don't read. People with books read. So, get to it.