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.

BILLY LYNN'S LONG HALFTIME WALK by Ben Fountain
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: May 1, 2012

"War is hell in this novel of inspired absurdity. "
Hailed as heroes on a stateside tour before returning to Iraq, Bravo Squad discovers just what it has been fighting for. Read full book review >
THE BEDLAM DETECTIVE by Stephen Gallagher
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Feb. 7, 2012

"Gallagher loves character development but respects plotting enough to give it full measure. The result is that rare beast, a literary page turner. "
Monsters, actual and metaphorical, are at the heart of this superbly crafted thriller. Read full book review >

SIMPLE by Kathleen George
Released: Aug. 21, 2012

"George's all-too-familiar story is so richly observed, subtly characterized, precisely written—her syncopated paragraphs are a special delight—and successful in its avoidance of genre clichés that you'd swear you were reading the first police procedural ever written."
George's Pittsburgh cops (Hideout, 2011, etc.) investigate a robbery-murder that's a lot less routine and more sordid than it looks. Read full book review >
CITY OF WOMEN by David R. Gillham
Released: Aug. 7, 2012

"World War II Germany may be familiar ground, but Gillham's novel—vividly cinematic yet subtle and full of moral ambiguity, not to mention riveting characters—is as impossible to put down as it is to forget."

In his debut about 1943 Berlin, Gillham uses elements common to the many previous movies and books about World War II—from vicious Nazis to black marketeers to Jewish children hiding in attics to beautiful blond German women hiding their sexuality inside drab coats—yet manages to make the story fresh.

The blond beauty is Sigrid, a stenographer living alone with her unpleasant mother-in-law while her husband, Kaspar, serves on the eastern front. Read full book review >

BLOODLAND by Alan Glynn
MYSTERY & CRIME
Released: Feb. 1, 2012

"His prose spare but spirited, Glynn (Winterland, 2011, etc.) spins an all-too-likely tale of secrets, lies and power corrupted. Chilling."
A plot-twisting, page-turning humdinger in which collateral damage gets a murderous spin. Read full book review >

Released: Aug. 14, 2012

"Although their fates are known, Gregory creates suspense by raising intriguing questions about whether her characters will transcend their historical reputations."
The latest of Gregory's Cousins' War series debunks—mostly—the disparaging myths surrounding Richard III and his marriage to Anne Neville. Read full book review >
ARCADIA by Lauren Groff
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: March 1, 2012

An astonishing novel, both in ambition and achievement, filled with revelations that appear inevitable in retrospect, amid the cycle of life and death.

As a follow-up to Groff's well-received debut (The Monsters of Templeton, 2008), this novel is a structural conundrum, ending in a very different place than it begins while returning full circle. At the outset, it appears to be a novel of the Utopian, communal 1960s, of a charismatic leader, possibly a charlatan, and an Arcadia that grows according to his belief that "the Universe will provide." Read full book review >

THE THING ITSELF by Peter Guttridge
MYSTERY & CRIME
Released: Oct. 1, 2012

"Guttridge's third Brighton thriller is so well-written that it would be well worth your time even if it were not such a darkly brilliant mystery."
An ice-cold case heats up. Read full book review >