Publisher’s Weekly’s Top 10 for 2012


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This is the time of year that we all reflect back on the year that is ending.  This holds true in the publishing industry in the form of lists of best books of the year.  Below you will find two lists from prestigious sources, Publisher’s Weekly and The New York Times.  Some books have made both lists.


Happiness is a Chemical in the Brain: stories / Lucia Perillo

A collection of short stories that takes place in the Pacific Northwest includes odd characters like an addict who becomes obsessed with vacuum cleaners and a suburban housewife who commits armed robberies.

Bring up the Bodies: a novel / Hilary Mantel

Though he battled for seven years to marry her, Henry VIII is disenchanted with the audacious Anne Boleyn. She has failed to give him a son and her sharp intelligence and strong will have alienated his old friends and the noble families of England. To defeat the Boleyn’s, Cromwell must ally himself with his enemies. What price will he pay for Anne’s head?

The Round House / Louise Erdrich

When his mother, a tribal enrollment specialist living on a reservation in North Dakota, slips into an abyss of depression after being brutally attacked, 14-year-old Joe Coutz sets out with his three friends to find the person that destroyed his family.

The Devil in Silver: a novel / Victor LaValle

Landing in a budget-strapped mental institution after being accused of a crime he does not remember, Pepper is assaulted by a monstrous creature that has been attacking patients but that the hospital staff does not believe exists.

Building Stories / Chris Ware

Everything you need to read the new graphic novel Building Stories: 14 distinctively discrete Books, Booklets, Magazines, Newspapers, and Pamphlets. In Chris’s own words: Building Stories follows the inhabitants of a three-flat Chicago apartment house: a 30-year-old woman who has yet to find someone with whom to spend the rest of her life; a couple (possibly married) who wonder if they can bear each other’s company for another minute; and finally, an elderly woman who never married and is the building’s landlady who only begins to explain it. The scope, the ambition, the artistry and emotional heft of this project are beyond anything we have yet seen from this artist or in this medium.

People Who Eat Darkness: the true story of a young woman who vanished from the streets of Tokyo– and the evil that swallowed her up / Richard Lloyd Parry

Richard Lloyd Parry, an award-winning foreign correspondent, chronicles the 2000 disappearance, massive search, long investigation, and the even longer murder trial behind the gruesome murder case of Lucie Blackman in Japan.

All We Know: three lives / Lisa Cohen>

Chronicles the lives of New York intellectual Esther Murphy, celebrity ephemera collector Mercedes de Acosta, and British Vogue editor Madge Garland and their lifestyles, influence on fashion, and celebrity friendships.

The Barbarous Years: the peopling of British North America: the conflict of civilizations, 1600-1675 / Bernard Bailyn

Presents an account of the first great transit of people from Britain, Europe, and Africa to the North American British colonies, evaluating its diversity, the survival struggles of immigrants, and their relationships with the indigenous populations of the Eastern seaboard.

Detroit City is the Place to be: the afterlife of an American metropolis / Mark Binelli

Once America’s capitalist dream town, Detroit is our country’s greatest urban failure, having fallen the longest and the farthest. But the city’s worst crisis yet (and that’s saying something) has managed to do the unthinkable: turn the end of days into a laboratory for the future. Urban planners, land speculators, neo-pastoral agriculturalists, and utopian environmentalists all have been drawn to Detroit’s baroquely decaying, nothing-left-to-lose frontier.

Iron Curtain: the Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956 / Anne Applebaum

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Anne Applebaum describes how the Communist regimes of Eastern Europe were created and what daily life was like once they were complete.

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New York Times Top 10 for 2012

Bring up the Bodies: a novel / Hilary Mantel

Though he battled for seven years to marry her, Henry VIII is disenchanted with the audacious Anne Boleyn. She has failed to give him a son and her sharp intelligence and strong will have alienated his old friends and the noble families of England. To defeat the Boleyn’s, Cromwell must ally himself with his enemies. What price will he pay for Anne’s head? 

Building Stories / Chris Ware

Everything you need to read the new graphic novel Building Stories: 14 distinctively discrete Books, Booklets, Magazines, Newspapers, and Pamphlets. In Chris’s own words: Building Stories follows the inhabitants of a three-flat Chicago apartment house: a 30-year-old woman who has yet to find someone with whom to spend the rest of her life; a couple (possibly married) who wonder if they can bear each other’s company for another minute; and finally, an elderly woman who never married and is the building’s landlady who only begins to explain it. The scope, the ambition, the artistry and emotional heft of this project are beyond anything we have yet seen from this artist or in this medium.

A Hologram for the King: a novel / Dave Eggers

In a rising Saudi Arabian city, far from weary, recession-scarred America, a struggling businessman pursues a last-ditch attempt to stave off foreclosure, pay his daughter’s college tuition and finally do something great.

NW / Zadie Smith

Growing up in the same 1970’s urban planning development in Northwest London, four young people pursue independent and reasonably successful lives until one of them is abruptly drawn out of her isolation by a stranger who is seeking her help.

The Yellow Birds: a novel / Kevin Powers

In the midst of a bloody battle in the Iraq War, two soldiers, bound together since basic training, do everything to protect each other from both outside enemies and the internal struggles that come from constant danger.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: [life, death, and hope in a Mumbai under city] / Katherine Boo>

Profiles everyday life in the settlement of Annawadi as experienced by a Muslim teen, an ambitious rural mother, and a young scrap metal thief, illuminating how their efforts to build better lives are challenged by religious, caste, and economic tensions.

Far from the Tree: parents, children and the search for identity / Andrew Solomon

Solomon explores the consequences of extreme personal differences between parents and children, describing his own experiences as a gay child of straight parents while evaluating the circumstances of people affected by physical, developmental, or cultural factors that divide families.

The Years of Lyndon Johnson / Robert Caro

Examines Lyndon Johnson’s volatile relationships with John and Robert Kennedy, describes JFK’s assassination from Johnson’s viewpoint, and recounts his accomplishments as president before they were overshadowed by the Vietnam War.

The Patriarch: the remarkable life and turbulent times of Joseph P. Kennedy / David Nasaw

Historian David Nasaw brings to life the story of Joseph Patrick Kennedy, in this, the first and only biography based on unrestricted and exclusive access to the Joseph P. Kennedy papers.

Why Does the World Exist? An existential detective story / Jim Holt

As he takes on the role of cosmological detective, the brilliant yet slyly humorous Holt contends that we might have been too narrow in limiting our suspects to God vs. the Big Bang. Whether interviewing a cranky Oxford philosopher, a Physics Nobel Laureate, or a French Buddhist monk, Holt pursues unexplored and often bizarre angles to this cosmic puzzle. The result is a brilliant synthesis of cosmology, mathematics, and physics—one that propels his own work to the level of philosophy itself.

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