Favorite Books of 2012


I love end of the year lists, and I love lists of end of the year lists. So I thought I’d share a few of the books I read and loved these past twelve months.

Because I started the year at FSG and now work at The Penguin Press, the list leans heavily towards their books. (What can I say? I’m lucky I get to work with great books.)

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

Ten pages in I thought, “Wow, this is well written.” Halfway through I thought, “Well, this is clearly the best book of the year.” Six months after reading it, I’m giving serious thought to quitting my life, going to J-school and  spending decades trying to become one tenth the journalist Boo is.

Zona by Geoff Dyer

You know bookies set odds over Hollywood deadpools and the next Nobel Laureate in Literature, but did you know there’s also a game rigged around what topic Dyer will tackle with his next book? I had $100 on the Canadian Yukon. Somewhere there’s a very happy millionaire who went with Tarkovsky’s Stalker. This book is brilliant and a wholly new genre of nonfiction–in the year of a million TV recaps, he went with a movie recap. Published in hardcover by Random House.

Down the Rabbit Hole by Juan Pablo Villalobos

Just a great bit of zaniness from Spain, where Villalobos is biding his time before becoming the next César Aira. Imagine a Mexican drug lord’s incredibly spoiled 11 year-old wandering around the desert compound, obsessing over hats and pygmy hippos. And it’s a novella! We need more novellas.

The Sugar-Frosted Nutsack by Mark Leyner

Bear with me here. We all know the postmodern novel became too coldly self-aware in the 60s and 70s, where its head eventually disappeared up its own ass. But guess what? Inside that ass, Mark Leyner is screening Buster Keaton films and animated gifs. In terms of literary invention, kitchen-sink omnivorousness, and world-beating wit, Leyner wins hands down.

THREATS by Amelia Gray

Some novels have an atmosphere all their own, a weather that emerges from the page and into your life. You know when you first see William Eggleston’s photographs, and then a couple days later some formica countertop will strike you as 100% Eggleston? Gray’s prose is like that. (Worth reading for the dentist-office love scene alone.)

A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald by Errol Morris

In Cold Blood for the 21st century. I cancelled social plans to keep reading this one.

A Working Theory of Love by Scott Hutchins

Right time, right place. I’m only beginning to understand how terribly awesome/awful my 30s will be, but this debut novel makes for good guide. Everything Hutchins writes about San Francisco could apply to Seattle, Portland, or Brooklyn.

Paris, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down by Rosecrans Baldwin

This is a nice companion piece to Hutchins’s novel, since it’s about coming to terms with one’s youth and youthful dreams. Probably my favorite part of Baldwin’s memoir is when he and his wife decide to leave their storybook Parisian existence for the backwoods of North Carolina.

NW by Zadie Smith

Yes, I love the Felix chapter too. But the rest of the book? It’s far more complicated than first glance, and rewarding of close attention. The guys at Slate put it best in their book club debate: it’s a book meant to be Googled, to be wrestled with.

Books Published Before 2012

I read a lot of older books this year too. A few highlights:

Too Loud a Solitude by Bohumil Hrabal

Woodcutters by Thomas Bernhard

Budapest by Chico Buarque

Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje


1 Comment

Filed under industry, reading, writing

One response to “Favorite Books of 2012

  1. Pingback: Afternoon Bites: Laurie Spiegel, Banks on Beethoven, The Year in YA, and More | Vol. 1 Brooklyn

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s