The pointers suggest many good reads:
Holiday book buying list, The Read on WNC
Also see Best Books 2012, of Part 2
Daily Beast Top 10 (Lucas Wittmann)
The Yellow Birds By Kevin Powers
From the breathtaking opening paragraphs, you know you are in for a novel of exquisite and careful writing about the most horrible things. After 11 years of war, we finally have a fiction that dodges Heller’s shadow and goes right to the heart, our hearts.
The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson
I like books that take risks on being topical (see above), and I was in awe of what Stanford English professor Adam Johnson is able to do in his funny, terrifying novel about an orphan’s picaresque life in North Korea (from fighting in tunnels to listening to Japanese broadcasts on a fishing boat to being remade as a heroic general). From one short visit Johnson creates a world where only fiction is true.
Dear Life By Alice Munro
She just gets better and better. Her leanest writing yet, so quiet and subtle you’ll miss lines that devastate her characters and then you. Her most autobiographical collection too, with a series of linked stories around a young girl finding her way in a rural, complicated world.
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
As I said, I like topical. If Powers dodged Heller’s shadow, then Ben Fountain has taken it on his shoulders and can justifiably claim the mantle of the great satirist of the Iraq War. But he keeps his eyes firmly on the home front as the boys of Bravo Company, minted war heroes by YouTube, return to ogle cheerleaders, get patted on the back by millionaires, and entertain the crowd at a Dallas Cowboys halftime show.
Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
Should really be called “Power and How to Use It.” The most compelling study of political power since The Prince. OK, that’s hyperbole, but Mantel’s brilliant portrayal of the dark master of Henry VIII’s as he moves inexorably toward Anne Boleyn’s execution is profound. Pair this with Caro’s latest LBJ volume, and you’re on your way to world domination.
Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie
So Rushdie’s memoir has gotten a bit (a lot) of flak this year, like most years for the author, and some of it was deserved. To start, it’s too long by half, but that first half, say those initial 270 pages, give one of the most compelling accounts of a life on the run I’ve read, and a deeply important testament to one of the great political and moral questions of our time: Can a man or woman speak without facing death?
The Barbarous Years by Bernard Bailyn
I didn’t think they wrote history like this anymore, but here comes Bernard Bailyn, at the age of 90, to wow us with a work so elegant, assured, and masterful that you need to read no other book to understand America between 1600 and 1675. To put it simply, life was nasty, brutish, and short, as great civilizations (the Dutch, the Powhatens, the Iroquis, the Swedes) crashed and burned, and what was left was what became this country.
Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story by D.T. Max
I’m a little biased here, because I edited an excerpt from this book (and the author’s wife is a colleague), but the imposing writer of this generation, David Foster Wallace, was all legend until Max started peeling. What he reveals, at times devastating and wrenching, but always fascinating and judicious, is that heroic figures come from somewhere, and it doesn’t make them any less monumental to know where that is.
Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
So much has been written about this wondrous book that I have little to add, except that 10 months after reading it I still have no idea how she did it.
Far from the Tree by Andrew Solomon
The biggest-hearted book of the year, and the book that every parent, wannabe parent, used-to-be parent should read. Solomon sets out to find out the love and tears and joy of what happens when your kids are deaf, autistic, prodigies, dwarves, and so on.
Slate Top Ten of 2012
New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2012
National Book Awards
Robert A. Caro, The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volume 4 (Knopf)
Anthony Shadid, House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Alan Shapiro, Night of the Republic (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Susan Wheeler, Meme (University of Iowa Press)
Laura Kasischke, Dana Levin, Maurice Manning, Patrick Rosal, Tracy K. Smith
Young People's lLiterature
William Alexander, Goblin Secrets
(Margaret K. McElderry Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing)
Carrie Arcos, Out of Reach (Simon Pulse, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing)
Patricia McCormick, Never Fall Down (Balzer+Bray, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers)
Eliot Schrefer, Endangered (Scholastic)
Steve Sheinkin, Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World's Most Dangerous Weapon
(Flash Point, an imprint of Roaring Brook Press)
Behind The Beautiful Forevers, Katherine Boo
House of Stone, Anthony Shadid
Iron Curtain, Anne Applebaum
Marigold: The Lost Chance for Peace in Vietnam, James G. Hershberg
Why Nations Fail, Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson
Arcadia, Lauren Groff
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, Ben Fountain
Bring Up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel
Broken Harbor, Tana French
Canada, Richard Ford