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 SCAR by Sergey Dyachenko
SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY
Released: Feb. 28, 2012

"A truly spellbinding work even audiences jaded by standard U.S./U.K. fantasy will devour. Kudos to the publishers for taking the plunge—but what took them so long?"
First English translation of a work written in Russian in 1997, from an award-winning Ukrainian husband-and-wife team now resident in Moscow. Read full book review >
A HOLOGRAM FOR THE KING by Dave Eggers
Released: June 19, 2012

"Even so, Eggers' fiction has evolved in the past decade. This book is firm proof that social concerns can make for resonant storytelling."
A middle-aged man scrapes for his identity in a Saudi Arabian city of the future. Read full book review >

Released: Sept. 4, 2012

"Grace and empathy infuse this melancholy landscape of complex loyalties enfolded by brutal history, creating a novel of peculiar, mysterious, tragic beauty."
The unexpected relationship between a war-scarred woman and an exiled gardener leads to a journey through remorse to a kind of peace. Read full book review >
THE STOCKHOLM OCTAVO by Karen Engelmann
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Oct. 23, 2012

"The setup is wonderfully engrossing; the denouement doesn't deliver quite enough. But this is stylish work by an author of real promise."
Elegant and multifaceted, Engelmann's debut explores love and connection in late-18th-century Sweden and delivers an unusual, richly imagined read. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 15, 2012

Parables of emotional complexity and moral ambiguity, with lessons that are neither easy nor obvious, by a short-story master (For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, 1999, etc.). 

The title story that opens the collection (evoking in its title both the Holocaust and Raymond Carver) is like so much of the best of the author's narratives, with a voice that evokes a long legacy of Jewish storytelling and the sharp edge of contemporary fiction. It presents the reunion of two women who had been best friends as girls but who have married very different men and seen their lives take very different paths. One is now living an "ultra-Orthodox" family life in Israel, with a husband who insists that "intermarriage...is the Holocaust that is happening now." Read full book review >


ABSOLUTION by Patrick Flanery
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: April 12, 2012

"Complex in theme, complex in narrative, this is a masterful literary exploration of the specter of conscience and the formidable cost of reconciliation."
In Flanery's debut literary fiction, Sam Leroux has a publisher's assignment to write the biography of a famous South African author, Clare Wald, imperious, reticent, evasive about her writing and disinclined to discuss her catastrophic personal life. Read full book review >
GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn
THRILLERS
Released: June 5, 2012

"One of those rare thrillers whose revelations actually intensify its suspense instead of dissipating it. The final pages are chilling."
A perfect wife's disappearance plunges her husband into a nightmare as it rips open ugly secrets about his marriage and, just maybe, his culpability in her death. Read full book review >
CANADA by Richard Ford
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: May 22, 2012

"At the start of the novel's coda, when Dell explains that he teaches his students "books that to me seem secretly about my young life," he begins the list with The Heart of Darkness and The Great Gatsby. Such comparisons seem well-earned."
A great American novel by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author. Read full book review >