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 PROFESSIONALS by Owen Laukkanen
Released: March 29, 2012

"Let's hope Laukkanen writes more thrillers like this one."
A fast-moving debut thriller with enough twists to fill a pretzel bag. Read full book review >
A VIOLET SEASON by Kathy Leonard Czepiel
Released: July 10, 2012

"An excellent debut."
A mother and daughter discover empathy, courage and autonomy in this powerful first novel by Czepiel. Read full book review >

LENIN'S KISSES by Yan Lianke
Released: Oct. 2, 2012

"A satirical masterpiece, very funny for all its footnotes. You can bet the authorities in Beijing are scratching their heads about it."
Sprawling, sometimes goofy, always seditious novel of modern life in the remotest corner of China. Read full book review >
AND WHEN SHE WAS GOOD by Laura Lippman
Released: Aug. 14, 2012

"Like Mary Cassatt, Lippman studies families with a different eye than her male contemporaries, showing the heartbreaking complexity of life with those you love."
Lippman (The Most Dangerous Thing, 2011, etc.), who specializes in tales of feckless parents and their luckless kids, puts a madam at the center of her latest dysfunctional family. Read full book review >
YOUNG PHILBY by Robert Littell
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Nov. 13, 2012

"A Cold-War spy novel for the top shelf."
A dizzying "what if" take on (in)famous British spy Kim Philby. Read full book review >

THE DREAM OF THE CELT by Edith  Grossman
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: June 12, 2012

"A dazzling novel of great intensity and power. "
The Celt in question is Sir Roger Casement, who advocated on behalf of oppressed natives of the Congo and of Amazonia, but when he turns his attention to the Irish Troubles in 1916, the British feel he's gone too far, so he's caught, tried and executed. Read full book review >
RIZZO'S DAUGHTER by Lou Manfredo
MYSTERY & CRIME
Released: March 13, 2012

"Good cops, bent cops, tormented and demented cops, cops of every description inhabit Rizzo's world, all of them utterly believable and intensely interesting. For readers compiling a short list of crime fiction, here's an essential."
In Manfredo's tender and terrific latest, a burned-out cop can't quit because he's also a devoted dad. Read full book review >
BRING UP THE BODIES by Hilary Mantel
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: May 22, 2012

"The inventiveness of Mantel's language is the chief draw here; the plot, as such, will engage only the most determined of Tudor enthusiasts."
Second in Mantel's trilogy charting the Machiavellian trajectory of Thomas Cromwell. Read full book review >