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.

THE INVESTIGATION by Philippe Claudel
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: July 10, 2012

"A technocratic Kafka nightmare—heavy on surreal diagnosis of the world's ills, light on the traditional rewards of storytelling—crossed with Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and a hint of Buster Keaton."
A spare, dystopian fable that examines how closely contemporary life has caught up to Kafka since the publication of The Castle. Read full book review >
THE ORCHARDIST by Amanda Coplin
Released: Aug. 21, 2012

"Superb work from an abundantly gifted young writer."
Set in early-20th-century Washington state, Coplin's majestic debut follows a makeshift family through two tragic decades. Read full book review >

CALIBAN'S WAR by James S.A. Corey
SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY
Released: June 1, 2012

"Independently intelligible but best appreciated after volume one—and with a huge surprise twist in the last sentence. "
Part two of the topnotch space opera begun with Leviathan Wakes (2011), from Corey (aka Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck). Read full book review >
THE BOOK OF JONAS by Stephen Dau
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: March 15, 2012

"A literary tour de force."
In Dau's debut fiction, Younis, a perceptive, observant boy in a nameless Central Asian land, is caught up in the war on terror. Read full book review >
A WOMAN OF CONSEQUENCE by Anna Dean
MYSTERY & CRIME
Released: April 10, 2012

"The third in Dean's series is another delight, complete with perfect regency prose and an excellent mystery."
A clever Regency sleuth is much like Jane Austen with her ability to see that the mundane things of life are more important than they seem. Read full book review >

CLIFF WALK by Bruce DeSilva
MYSTERY & CRIME
Released: May 22, 2012

"As in Mulligan's hard-nosed debut, the real star here is Providence, which the author knows intimately."
Fresh from the Most Corrupt State competition comes a second persuasive entry that links pretty much every citizen of Providence to a child-snuff-porn ring. Read full book review >
FALLEN ANGELS by Connie Dial
MYSTERY & CRIME
Released: April 1, 2012

"A veteran cop herself, Dial (The Broken Blue Line, 2010, etc.) does authenticity to the max, and readers will like that. But it's tough, vulnerable, never-say-die Josie that they'll love. "
She's a wife, a mom, an LAPD captain and compelling no matter what she does. Read full book review >
THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE HER by Junot Díaz
Released: Sept. 11, 2012

"Not as ambitious as Díaz's Pulitzer Prize winner, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007), but sharply observed and morally challenging."
From the author of Drown (1996), more tales of Dominican life in the cold, unwelcoming United States. Read full book review >