Publisher’s Weekly magazine has announced its selections for the “Best of 2012.” The following books along with their PW reviews are the Top Ten titles that can be found at the Ottawa Library or requested through the NExpress System.
• “Bring Up the Bodies” by Hilary Mantel
Though the novel that recently won Mantel her second Man Booker prize is a sequel to the novel that won Mantel her first Man Booker prize, it’s a startlingly different book. Where Wolf Hall was lush and expansive, this is focused and verbose, with Mantel eschewing descriptive prose for dialogue. Thomas Cromwell is older now, with more titles and power, but he nonetheless finds himself again having to wrestle the king out of another heirless marriage, this time to Anne Boleyn.
• “The Round House” by Louise Erdrich
This dark and entertaining National Book Award nominee sets a Native American boy’s coming of age against the brutal backdrop of racism and violence in North Dakota. When 13-year-old Joe becomes frustrated with the investigation into the attack that left his mother too traumatized to speak, he looks into the crime himself.
• “Happiness Is a Chemical in the Brain” by Lucia Perillo
The 14 stories of this Pulitzer Prize in poetry finalist’s (for Inseminating the Elephant) debut collection, set in the Pacific Northwest, display the poet’s emotional economy alongside raw honesty, haunting understatement, and a sharp wit. Women, damaged and vulnerable, make bad choices again and again, pursue fruitless obsessions, and somehow often come out on top.
• “All We Know: Three Lives” by Lisa Cohen (920.72 Coh)
Erudite and exquisitely written, Wesleyan professor Cohen’s first book, a triptych biography of three early-20th-century women—Esther Murphy, Mercedes de Acosta, and Madge Garland—successfully renders both these memorable and surprising personalities and the era in which they struggled with questions and expectations regarding career, marriage, and sexuality. Suitably dishy and remarkably humane, the book leaves readers wondering who these women would have become in a more progressive society.
• “People Who Eat Darkness: The True Story of a Young Woman Who Vanished from the Streets of Tokyo” Richard Lloyd Parry (364.152 Par)
This chilling and multilayered account of the murder of Lucie Blackman in Tokyo sheds light on the tragedy of a family, a sexual predator, and Japanese society.
Available through the NExpress system:
• “The Devil in Silver” by Victor LaValle
LaValle’s third novel is poised on the intersection of psychological suspense and supernatural horror, leavened with dashes of wry humor. A menacing figure stalks the airless halls of a psychiatric ward; corrupt cops, bored staff, and drugged and deranged patients all think they know what’s going on, but no one truly has a handle on reality. LaValle (whose Big Machine was a PW Best Books pick in 2009) balances the tension with moving and surprisingly intimate portraits of people caught in the gears of a malfunctioning mental health system.
• “Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1945–1956” by Anne Applebaum (947 App)
This non-fiction book is a searing narrative and analysis of a historical watershed—the USSR’s brutal takeover of Eastern Europe during and after WWII.
Not in the NExpress System:
• “Building Stories” by Chris Ware, “Detroit City” by Mark Binelli, and “The Barbarous Years” by Bernard Bailyn
The entire list is online at http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/best-books/2012
Rosemary Honn is a librarian in the circulation department at the Ottawa Library.