Best of 2012: Fiction and non-fiction
The Odds: a Love Story by Stewart O'Nan
A tale for our economic times: jobless (and nearly homeless), a couple on the brink of divorce travel to Niagara Falls to risk it all. Tender, humanist, engaging, insightful, and extremely satisfying: the perfect little book. –Alan
The Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
Three young friends in the 1930s explore speakeasies, sexuality and social class. With richly crafted historical details and emotional drama, this novel reminds us a bit of The Great Gatsby. The lush lives of the wealthy clash with working class aspirations as this tense triangle explodes. –Esta
The Lower River by Paul Theroux
An aging American businessman returns to the village in Africa where he once worked in the Peace Corps to confront challenges and fears. Theroux's own harsh, intimate experiences in Africa give this book intensity. No shortage of adventure here, in a place where local traditions meet violence, disease and shattered dreams. –Esta
The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin
Set in turn-of-the-century Eastern Washington, a solitary fruit grower finds two pregnant teen girls hiding in his orchard. †When he opens his heart to them, his life is shaken by the consequences. A deeply emotional story of abuse and its effects on girls and women, and also a tender story of how one man discovers how to heal, nurture and protect. –Esta
Radio Iris by Anne-Marie Kinney
All is not well at Lormax Inc. as Iris, a twenty-something underachiever, begins to realize that her co-workers are disappearing, her boss can't explain what the company does, and a mysterious man occupies the office suite next door. Kinney creates an eerie sense of dread coupled with an atmosphere of existential malaise to capture the absurdity of the workplace during an extended economic 'downturn.' –Richard
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
In 1962 a Hollywood actress arrives in remote Porto Vergogna, Italy. Her visit to the Hotel Adequate View ends up changing the lives of an aspiring screen writer, a reality show producer, and his assistant in present day Los Angeles. The settings are vivid, the characters charming, and the plot, both historical and present day, fascinating and fun. –Eileen
True Sisters by Sandra Dallas
Four courageous women are forever transformed in this fictional story of the Mormon's 1,300-mile trek on foot from Iowa to Salt Lake City. One of my favorite author's writing pulled me right onto the trail – I could feel the cold. –Margo
You & Me by Padgett Powell
Powell's book consists of nothing more than the daily porch-side yammering of two old guys – and it is hilarious. If you like quirky characters, unhinged dialogue, and wide-ranging commentary, it's You & Me, pal. –Scott
Contents May Have Shifted by Pam Houston
An autobiographical travel-adventure novel, this is a wild ride with a world-traveling woman, who is not afraid to seek out exotic locations, confront danger, and boldly throw herself into intense relationships with men. This is a book for the travel junkie, and the author's adventures never fail to thrill you. Her wry sense of humor about men and women's miscommunication will keep you laughing too. –Esta
Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson
Jenny Lawson realized that the most mortifying moments of our lives-the ones we'd like to pretend never happened-are in fact the ones that define us. †This is a humorous recollection of her bizarre upbringing in rural Texas. This is a funny literary debut from Internet star Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess. –Leslie
Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: the Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis by Timothy Egan
Discover the adventurous life of Edward S. Curtis and how his photographic treasures came to be. A nonfiction page turner from the National Book Award winner of The Worst Hard Time and The Big Burn. The author captures the passionate, driven and sensitive nature of Curtis in a very readable writing style. –Marge
The Mansion of Happiness: A History of Life and Death by Jill Lepore.
A quirky collection of essays that explores the American way of life and death. Lapore illuminates the big ideas by exploring the seemingly insignificant, including board games, breast pumps and cryogenics, in a witty and entertaining way. –Richard
The Comedy Film Nerds Guide to Movies by Graham Elwood and Chris Mancini.
Serious, but funny discussion of movies by filmmakers and comedians. Genres, such as comedy, science fiction, and cult classics are discussed, followed by a list of the 10 best and 10 worst movies in that genre. It is a refreshing change from the dry, witless, snobby discussion that one gets from most movie guides. The writers are serious about their movies, but not too serious. Also, it weighs less than most movie guides. –David
Economix: How and Why Our Economy Works (And Doesn't Work) In Words and Pictures by Michael Goodwin, illustrated by Dan E. Burr.
A history and explanation of economics in comic strip form. It takes a subject that many find sleep inducing and makes it accessible to a wide audience. A witty, entertaining, and informative read. –David
For a full list of all the 2012 staff picks, click here.
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