Best Fiction of 2012


Elaine Szewczyk, Editor

The 100 books on this year's fiction list encompass a range of categories. Debuts, story collections, thrillers, mysteries, translations, science fiction, fantasy, romance, historical fiction—there's something for every taste. Among the highlights of 2012: Ben Fountain's superb first novel Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk (read this book, tell your friends!); French author Philippe Claudel's The Investigation, a moody (and funny) tale for Kafka fans; and master artist Chris Ware's Building Stories, a gorgeous book that you'll piece together like a detective. We hope you enjoy them all.

AMERICAN DERVISH by Ayad Akhtar
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Jan. 9, 2012

"Engaging and accessible, thoughtful without being daunting: This may be the novel that brings Muslim-American fiction into the commercial mainstream."
Actor/playwright/filmmaker Akhtar makes a compelling debut with a family drama centered on questions of religious and ethnic identity. Read full book review >
BLASPHEMY by Sherman Alexie
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Oct. 2, 2012

"Whether recent or from his earliest period, these pieces show Alexie at his best: as an interpreter and observer, always funny if sometimes angry, and someone, as a cop says of one of his characters, who doesn't "fit the profile of the neighborhood.""
Sterling collection of short stories by Alexie (Ten Little Indians, 2003, etc.), a master of the form. Read full book review >

HOPE: A TRAGEDY by Shalom Auslander
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Jan. 12, 2012

"Brutal, irreverent and very funny. An honest-to-goodness heir to Portnoy's Complaint."
A family man suffers from money woes, a judgmental spouse and a hectoring mother. But things don't get really funny until he discovers Anne Frank living in his attic. Read full book review >
THE UNDERTOW by Jo Baker
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: May 15, 2012

"Immediate, poignant and rarely predictable, this searchingly observant work captures a huge terrain of personal aspiration against a shifting historical and social background. Impressive. "
The architecture of a family, constructed over decades, through relationships, wars and secrets, is assembled with fine detail and insight in an exceptional 20th-century saga. Read full book review >
KINGDOM COME by J.G. Ballard
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: March 5, 2012

"Ballard writes brilliantly about the nightmarish underside of modern life, and this novel makes us poignantly aware of the loss of his voice. "
Ballard (1930-2009) creates a world reminiscent of A Clockwork Orange and V for Vendetta in this novel of suburban fascism. Read full book review >

THE HYDROGEN SONATA by Iain M. Banks
SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY
Released: Oct. 9, 2012

"Sheer delight."
Addition to Banks' wonderful space-opera series (without the middle initial, he also writes impressive mainstream novels) about the far-future galactic Culture (Surface Detail, 2010, etc.), a liberal-anarchic, multispecies civilization guided and sustained, more or less invisibly, by Minds, artificial intelligences that take such physical forms as spaceships and habitats. Read full book review >
RANGE OF GHOSTS by Elizabeth Bear
SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY
Released: March 27, 2012

"Gripping, perfectly balanced and highly recommended."
Beginning of a new historical-fantasy trilogy, set in the same Mongol Khanate-style universe as the short novel Bone and Jewel Creatures (2010). Read full book review >
LAZARUS IS DEAD by Richard Beard
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Sept. 25, 2012

"Beard's take on Lazarus is nothing less than astonishing—and he respects the reader by taking religion and religious questions seriously.   "
In this alternative theological novel Jesus does more than weep...and Lazarus does more than die. Read full book review >