The Sleeping Doll, by Jeffery Deaver: I don't know why I keep reading Deaver's mysteries. They're terrible, his characters are flat, and the criminals are all the same kind of crappy serial killer cliches. But whenever I go on vacation, I wind up reading a Deaver book or two. (I didn't even buy this one; it was on the free shelf at a hotel in Cuzco and I had run out of books.) The Sleeping Doll is a Charles Manson riff, and it's dumb as dirt, packed with stupid twists and lame characters. Maybe next time I go on vacation, I'll manage to avoid the Deaver trap.
The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich: I never say things like this, but if you saw The Social Network, you don't really need to read this book. Fincher's movie included all the pertinent information about the founding of Facebook, and he told the story more artfully than Mezrich, who doesn't really rise above a bland narrative, here.
The Last Policeman, by Ben Winters has to be the best genre novel I read all month. In a world where the apocalypse has a firm date—an asteroid is hurtling toward Earth—an earnest young detective tries to solve a murder that looks like a suicide. But nobody else gives a shit. It's a funny, sad, and clever story told by an unforgettable narrator.
The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2012, edited by Dave Eggers: I'm always a big fan of the Nonrequired Reading series. Each volume is like a very thick general-interest magazine. And the 2012 edition is just as interesting as all the others, although the series seems to have lost its sense of humor along the way. I used to laugh a lot reading Nonrequired Reading. This year, I only found one or two amusing bits.
Tattoo Machine, by Jeff Johnson: This tell-all by the co-owner of a Portland tattoo shop is interesting, but it's trying a little too hard to be a macho Kitchen Confidential riff. Johnson's voice is preening, self-satisfied, and trying way too hard to be gonzo.
After the Golden Age, by Carrie Vaughn, is a kind of generic superhero story that's maybe struggling to be a Behind the Music episode about The Incredibles. But it does get better as it goes along, especially when a weird choice for a love interest makes things a little uncomfortable for all the characters.
My Uncle Oswald, by Roald Dahl: This reissue of one of Dahl's ribald novels for adults is a quick and dirty read. It's mostly about a scheme to steal the sperm of geniuses, and it's very funny, although it gets a little monotonous. At least Dahl forces the narrator to acknowledge when the plot starts flagging, and he ends the book soon after. I still prefer Switch Bitch, Dahl's short story collection that includes two shorter Oswald stories.