My top 10 books of 2012

Here’s the list of the ten best books I got my hands onto this year.

1. The Family Corleone, Ed Falco

I’ll blog about this separately. It probably was the last book I read this year, and I’m absolutely astonished. Didn’t expect this, considering Mario Puzo is dead, God rest his soul. Also, the first ever book I read on Kindle.

2. The Downing Street Years, Margaret Thatcher

An excellent account of Margaret Thatcher’s years as Prime Minister. I’ve always loved her, I think she was the best peace-time Prime Minister the United Kingdom has ever had.

3. Deception: Spies, Lies and How Russia Dupes the West, Edward Lucas

A brilliant book by Edward Lucas, a British estophile who sees right through Russia, even if the West doesn’t. I’m hoping he opened many eyes, but I fear he didn’t. He knows Russia is still dangerous, he sees the Russian regime for what it is, and he’s trying to warn us that we need to be on our toes if we don’t want the history to repeat itself.

4. The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, John Le Carré

One of the best spook novels I’ve read. And the first Le Carré I’ve ever read. Bought it for 20p at a flea market in Shaftesbury in Dorset, it triggered a book buying and reading spree I didn’t expect. I love Le Carré, but I still love Ian Fleming as well. For me, they don’t contradict each other, they complete each other.

5. An American Life, Ronald Reagan

A memoir of my all-time favourite politician and head of state. One of the best political friends of aforementioned Margaret Thatcher, his memoir accounted for his entire magnificent life from the small town of Dixon where he grew up to Washington DC, where he changed the world.

6. Smiley’s People, John Le Carré

As I said, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold triggered reading spree that ended in me buying and reading quite a shitload of Le Carré books. And while I read Tinker Taylor first of the Karla trilogy, I think this was the one I enjoyed the most. This book, in my opinion, defined George Smiley.

7. Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy, John Le Carré

And the next comes Tinker Taylor. While I watched the movie a few years ago—when it came out—I didn’t understand much. I think the film was meant for people who had read the book in order for them to understand it, so after reading it, I watched the movie again. Made a lot more sense. And I loved both.

8. Total Recall, Arnold Schwarzenegger

I love Arnold. And his life has been too incredible not to write about it. So it’s a good thing he did (albeit with the help of a ghost—which he admitted!). Coming from a small village in Austria, this guy worked extremely hard to become the best bodybuilder in the world, and then became the best action movie star in the world. But that wasn’t all—he also became Governor of California, the fifth largest economy of the world. This is the American Dream, and while I don’t always agree with his views (he is quite a bit to the left of me), he’s the man who made all his dreams true by persistence, hard work and dedication.

9. The Honourable Schoolboy, John Le Carré

The second of the Karla trilogy, set in Hong Kong and South-East Asia, it was enjoyable reading, but I liked the first and the last better. Although, Le Carré did describe the surroundings in excellent detail, and the book provided quite a learning material of both the South-East Asian life and the British espionage during the Cold War.

10. Call for the Dead, John Le Carré

The book that introduced George Smiley explained quite a lot how he became the man he was in the later books. And while I know Le Carré based the later Smiley on Alec Guinness’s portrayal of George Smiley on the BBC’s Karla trilogy miniseries, Call for the Dead shows how Smiley came to be the deliberating analytical mind that puts intelligence first and action second.

Yes, the books I read this year were dominated by John Le Carré, all because I found one of his books at a flea market and I absolutely enjoyed it. I especially liked his earlier works—I also read The Tailor of Panama and while it was a nice reading, it made me miss of something. Be it the Cold War or George Smiley, it seems to me that espionage isn’t as cool today as it was in the past.

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