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Best Books of the Year--Fiction

I hope you enjoyed the list of the best nonfiction books of 2012. As promised, below is a list of fiction titles that received critical acclaim this past year. The Pollard Memorial Library owns all the titles below (our fiction is shelved on our Mezzanine alphabetical by author). Summaries have been quoted from the online catalog.

Novels

  • The Age of Miracles┬áby Karen Walker
    “Imagines the coming-of-age story of young Julia, whose world is thrown into upheaval when it is discovered that the Earth’s rotation has suddenly begun to slow, posing a catastrophic threat to all life.” Click here for a review from Howl in Lowell.
  • Arcadia┬áby Lauren Groff
    ”┬áThe lyrical and haunting story of a great American dream–the progress of a utopian community and its lasting impact on a gifted young man.”
  • Beautiful Ruins┬áby Jess Walter
    “A novel that spans fifty years. The Italian housekeeper and his long-lost American starlet; the producer who once brought them together, and his assistant. A glittering world filled with unforgettable characters.”
  • Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
    “A razor sharp satire set in Texas during America’s war in Iraq that explores the gaping national disconnect between the war at home and the war abroad. Fountain’s debut novel follows the surviving members of the heroic Bravo Squad through one exhausting stop in their media-intensive “Victory Tour” at Texas Stadium, football mecca of the Dallas Cowboys, their fans, promoters, and cheerleaders.”–Publisher’s website.
  • Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel —┬áWinner of the Man Booker Prize
    “Delves into the heart of Tudor history with the downfall of Anne Boleyn. Though he battled for seven years to marry her, Henry is disenchanted with Anne Boleyn. She has failed to give him a son and her sharp intelligence and audacious will alienate his old friends and the noble families of England. When the discarded Katherine dies in exile from the court, Anne stands starkly exposed, the focus of gossip and malice. At a word from Henry, Thomas Cromwell is ready to bring her down. Over three terrifying weeks, Anne is ensnared in a web of conspiracy, while the demure Jane Seymour stands waiting her turn for the poisoned wedding ring. But Anne and her powerful family will not yield without a ferocious struggle.”
  • Canada┬áby Richard Ford
    “After his parents are arrested and imprisoned for robbing a bank, fifteen-year-old Dell Parsons is taken in by Arthur Remlinger who, unbeknownst to Dell, is hiding a dark and violent nature that interferes with Dell’s quest to find grace and peace on the prairie of Saskatchewan.” Click here for a review from Howl in Lowell. 

  • The Devil in Silver┬áby Victor LaValle
    “Pepper is a rambunctious big man, and, suddenly, the surprised inmate of a budget-strapped mental institution in Queens, New York. He’s not mentally ill, but that doesn’t seem to matter. On his first night, he’s visited by a terrifying creature who nearly kills him before being hustled away by the hospital staff. It’s no delusion: The other patients confirm that a hungry devil roams the hallways when the sun goes down. Pepper rallies three other inmates in a plot to fight back: Dorry, an octogenarian schizophrenic; Coffee, an African immigrant with severe OCD; and Loochie, a bipolar teenage girl. Battling the pill-pushing staff, one another, and their own minds, they try to kill the monster that’s stalking them. But can the Devil die?”
  • Flight Behavior┬áby Barbara Kingsolver
    “Set in the present day in the rural community of Feathertown, Tennessee, Flight Behavior tells the story of Dellarobia Turnbow… Now, after more than a decade of tending to small children on a failing farm, oppressed by poverty, isolation and her husband’s antagonistic family, she has mitigated her boredom by surrendering to an obsessive flirtation with a handsome younger man. In the opening scene, Dellarobia is headed for a secluded mountain cabin to meet this man and initiate what she expects will be a self-destructive affair. But the tryst never happens. Instead, she walks into something on the mountainside she cannot explain or understand: a forested valley filled with silent red fire that appears to her a miracle. After years lived entirely in the confines of one small house, Dellarobia finds her path suddenly opening out, chapter by chapter, into blunt and confrontational engagement with her family, her church, her town, her continent, and finally the world at large.–publisher.”
  • Gone Girl┬áby Gillian Flynn
    “On the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick’s wife Amy suddenly disappears. The police immediately suspect Nick. Amy’s friends reveal that she was afraid of him, that she kept secrets from him. He swears it isn’t true. A police examination of his computer shows strange searches. He says they aren’t his. And then there are the persistent calls on his mobile phone. So what really did happen to Nick’s beautiful wife?”
  • Live by Night┬áby Dennis Lehane
    “In 1926, during the Prohibition, Joe Coughlin defies his strict law-and-order upbringing by climbing a ladder of organized crime that takes him from Boston to Cuba where he encounters a dangerous cast of characters who are all fighting for their piece of the American dream.” Click here to see photos from the 2012 The Pollard Library Foundaiton Author Night featuring Dennis Lehane.
  • NW┬áby Zadie Smith
    “Four Londoners – Leah, Natalie, Felix, and Nathan – try to make adult lives outside of Caldwell, the council estate of their childhood. From private houses to public parks, at work and at play, their London is a complicated place, as beautiful as it is brutal, where the thoroughfares hide the back alleys and taking the high road can sometimes lead you to a dead end.”–From publisher’s information.
  • The Orchardist┬áby Amanda Coplin
    “At the turn of the 20th century in a rural stretch of the Pacific Northwest, a gentle solitary orchardist, Talmadge, tends to apples and apricots. Then two feral, pregnant girls and armed gunmen set Talmadge on an irrevocable course not only to save and protect but to reconcile the ghosts of his own troubled past.”
  • The Orphan Master’s Son┬áby Adam Johnson
    “Johnson’s novel accomplishes the seemingly impossible: an American writer has masterfully rendered the mysterious world of North Korea with the soul and savvy of a native… The book traces the journey of Jun Do, who for years lives according to the violent dictates of the state, as a tunnel expert who can fight in the dark, a kidnapper, radio operator, tenuous hero, and foreign dignitary before eventually taking his fate into his own hands. In one of the book’s most poignant moments, a government interrogator, who tortures innocent citizens on a daily basis, remembers his own childhood and the way in which his father explained the inexplicable: ‘…we must act alone on the outside, while on the inside, we would be holding hands.’ In this moment and a thousand others like it, Johnson (Parasites Like Us) juxtaposes the vicious atrocities of the regime with the tenderness of beauty, love, and hope.” -excerpted from Publishers Weekly
  • Phantom┬áby Jo Nesbo
    “Determined to prove the innocence of a young man he helped raise, disgraced former cop Harry Hole embarks on an increasingly dangerous investigation linked to Oslo’s most virulent street drug.”
  • The Round House┬áby Louise Erdrich —┬áWinner of the National Book Award
    “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 Sandcastle Girls┬áby Chris Bohjalian
    “Parallel stories of a woman who falls in love with an Armenian soldier during the Armenian Genocide and a modern-day New Yorker prompted to rediscover her Armenian past”– Provided by publisher.
  • Shine Shine Shine┬áby Lydia Netzer
    “When fabricated aspects of their picture-perfect world are embarrassingly exposed by a car accident, Sunny Mann, a woman longing for an ideal life, and Maxon, her savant astronaut husband, struggle through blame and fear before confronting realities about their deep bond.”
  • The Snow Child┬áby Eowyn Ivey
    Alaska in the 1920s is a difficult place for Jack and Mabel. Drifting apart, the childless couple discover Faina, a young girl living alone in the wilderness. Soon, Jack and Mabel come to love Faina as their own. But when they learn a surprising truth about the girl, their lives change in profound ways.
  • The Song of Achilles┬áby Madeline Miller
    “Patroclus, an awkward young prince, follows Achilles into war, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they have learned, everything they hold dear. And that, before he is ready, he will be forced to surrender his friend to the hands of Fate. Set during the Trojan War.”
  • Telegraph Avenue┬áby Michael Chabon
    “In this novel the author takes us to Telegraph Avenue. It is a story that explores the profoundly intertwined lives of two Oakland, California families, one black and one white. Here he creates a world grounded in pop culture: Kung Fu, 1970s Blaxploitation films, vinyl LPs, jazz and soul music, and an epic of friendship, race, and secret histories.”
  • Watergate┬áby Thomas Mallon
    “A retelling of the Watergate scandal, as seen through a kaleidoscope of its colorful perpetrators and investigators.”
  • The Yellow Birds by 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.”

 

Short Stories

  • Dear Life: Stories by Alice Munro
    This collection of stories illuminates moments that shape a life, from a dream or a sexual act to simple twists of fate that turn a person out of his or her accustomed path and into another way of being. Set in the countryside and towns of Lake Huron, these stories about departures and beginnings, accidents, dangers, and homecomings both virtual and real, paint a portrait of how strange, dangerous, and extraordinary the ordinary life can be.
  • I Am an Executioner: Love Stories by Rajesh Parameswaran
    “An explosive fiction debut from an astonishing new voice: darkly funny, wildly original stories about the power of love, and the love of power–two urgent human desires that inevitably, and often calamitously, intertwine. The unforgettable opener, “The Infamous Bengal Ming,” is narrated by a misunderstood tiger whose affection for his keeper goes horribly awry. In “Demons,” a woman tries to celebrate Thanksgiving after the sudden death of her husband, even though his corpse is still sprawled on their living-room floor. In “The Strange Career of Dr. Raju Gopalarajan,” an ex-CompUSA employee sets up a medical practice in a suburban strip mall armed only with textbooks from the local library and fake business cards. The heroes–and anti-heroes–of I Am An Executioner include a railroad manager in a turn-of-the-century Indian village, the newlywed executioner of the title, and an elephant writing her autobiography–the creations of a riotous, singular imagination that promises to dazzle the universe of American fiction”– Provided by publisher.
  • This is How You Lose Her┬áby Junot Diaz
    “A collection of stories, by turns hilarious and devastating, raucous and tender, that lay bare the infinite longing and inevitable weaknesses of our all-too-human hearts.”
  • What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander
    “The title story…is a comic classic, a provocative portrait of two marriages in which the holocaust is played out as a devastating parlor game. ‘Camp Sundown’ is an outlandishly dark story of vigilante justice undertaken by a troop of geriatric campers in a bucolic summer enclave who recognize a fellow vacationer as a former Nazi guard. ‘Free Fruit for Young Widows’ is a small, sharp study in evil. ‘Sister Hills’ chronicles the history of the Israeli settlements from the eve of the Yom Kippur war through the present, a political story constructed around the tale of two mothers who strike a terrible bargain to save a child. A great leap forward from one of our most audacious and important writers, and a sensational literary event”– Provided by publisher.