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Cover Image of Through a Window by Jane Goodall published by Houghton Mifflin Co
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A Survey of Best Book Titles of 2012: All Sources

abstract:As the year draws to a close we book people are bombarded with lists from various sources extolling the Best Books of 2012. We've picked several from a line-up of excellent sources: The New Yorker, The Financial Times, The Atlantic, The New York Times, Granta, The Guardian, The Walrus, Salon, Esquire and so on. There is something for everyone on your holiday list. Purchase in book stores, order pre-wrapped and direct delivery from online vendors, or perhaps digitally load books onto a new iPad or e-reader? [click on each header for direct link to review source]

The New Yorker:
The New Yorker chose to do submissions from book review contributors resulting in an interesting variety.
Shake Off, by Mischa Hiller is powerhouse author and essayist Malcolm Gladwell's top choice. He says, "I picked it up entirely by accident. I’d never heard of Hiller before, and the book absolutely blew me away. The only thriller this year that even came close was Chris Pavone’s, The Expats but Hiller’s novel has the benefit of mining every trope of the thriller genre while being absolutely original at the same time. I will read anything by Hiller from now on."

Teju Cole writes, "The new novel I liked best this year was Katie Kitamura’s Gone To The Forest. This is a story of how the submerged violence among “civilized” men requires little excuse to surface. Startling, written in clean, understated prose, the better to frighten.

The Financial Times:
Makers: The New Industrial Revolution, (Random House, Business), by Chris Anderson - the former editor of Wired Magazine, is a book I've recently ordered. "Anderson brings evangelical zeal to the story of how ever-cheaper 3D printing is shaking up the world of manufacturing. He weaves his own attempts to build working models and whole businesses with themes familiar from his previous books The Long Tail and Free, which extolled the virtues of cheap digital distribution and open-sourcing."

Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest, by Wade Davis, (Vintage). "Davis retells the story of George Mallory’s doomed bid to conquer Everest – and uses it to examine the mentality of a generation scarred by the first world war and the decline of empire. Winner of the 2012 Samuel Johnson Prize and described as 'magnificent' by the FT."

article:

December 19, 2012
The James Bond Archives by Paul Duncan (Taschen)
The 50th anniversary of a unique cinematic franchise is lavishly celebrated with numerous treasures from the archives. Interviews, unpublished artwork and storyboards all add up to a hefty and handsome seasonal treat.

Subliminal:, published by Allen Lane and written by Leonard Mlodinow. "em>Subliminal is a breathtaking introduction to the world of cognitive neuroscience that changed my understanding of what we human beings are."—Mohsin Hamid, author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, is a CIA plot mind-bender.

The Atlantic I must say that the reviews in the Atlantic are quite exquisite; like the student term paper whose professor has scrawled poetry on the sides.
The Patrick Melrose Novels by Edward St. Aubyn
"Take P. G. Wodehouse’s lighthearted country-house tales of the British aristocracy, then dip them in an acid bath of irony, drug abuse, and general decay, and you have Edward St. Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose novels. Bertie Wooster has his aunts, his inheritance, and Jeeves to get him out of tight scrapes; Patrick Melrose has his rapist father, his addictions to heroin and alcohol, and his squandered patrimony...Yet if you like stories about the (declining) British upper class, and stories about people being awful to one another in myriad ways, St. Aubyn’s novels offer some of the same quality of delight as Wodehouse’s. That’s partly because St. Aubyn, like Wodehouse, is a brilliant prose stylist. This assertion is hard to demonstrate without extensive quotation. But take my word for it. Almost every page of every one of these novels yields at least one, and often many, examples of the author’s mordant eye, his aphoristic wit, his expansive use of indelible metaphors.

Bring Up the Bodies won the Man Booker Prize this fall. It shows up on virtually every "best" list. Sequel to Wolf Hall which won the same prize in 2009—but as senior editor Nicole Allan writes, "Mantel has transformed a notorious historical villain into one of the most complicated, lovable, fully rendered characters in the history of English literature (or at least in the history of books I’ve read on vacation)." "Mantel’s Cromwell is, above all else, a competent man. He’s the sort of man you’d want by your side in a bar brawl, during a congressional investigation, in any setting in which shit starts to go down—for example, in Henry VIII’s Machiavellian court (I mean that literally: Machiavelli’s The Prince was the self-help guide of choice for Cromwell and his fellow courtiers). By the end of Bring Up the Bodies, after Cromwell has arranged the breathtaking rise and stomach-churning fall of Anne Boleyn, you see how history will remember him, and that it will be a fair reputation. But you do not love him any less."

Salon: for some reason Salon chose to pick the best audiobook narration of 2012. I can't find any formal review of fiction, nonfiction or other genres. Beautiful Ruins written by Jess Walter and narrated by Edoardo Ballerini also shows up repeatedly on the best book lists. "Ballerini’s handling of this fantastically complex narration is so accomplished you keep forgetting that it’s a performance. He’s called upon to speak both native Italian and the clumsy speech of Americans with an uncertain grasp of the language. The dialogue of Pasquale, the innkeeper, is accented English; Deane spouts the flashy patter of The Business; the World War II book is a vamp on macho mid-century bids for the Great American Novel and the contemporary film-industry aspirants are exactly the right mix of cynicism and unearned self-confidence. And then there’s Burton, so easy to exaggerate to the point of ridicule, but always a figure whose magnificence cannot be discounted.

Parts of “Beautiful Ruins” are darkly bitter and others are flush with a sincere romanticism. It’s a novel about the possibility of achieving art in popular culture, and love in a world where people don’t hesitate to use each other mercilessly. One of the book’s most striking images is of an abandoned German bunker up in the cliffs near Pasquale’s hotel, lined with ravishing frescoes painted by one of the soldiers stationed there, paintings only a handful of people will ever see. Its counterpart is “Cleopatra,” a mess of a movie that (contrary to its reputation) actually managed to break even — but solely on account of publicity driven by the scandalous love affair between its two leads, Burton and Elizabeth Taylor."—Laura Miller, senior writer Salon

Esquire is no slouch on the book review circuit. Their choices cover the gamut of male interests with intelligence.
Yellow Birds is Esquire's pick for best book of the year. Written by a former Iraq soldier who is being touted as having written the definitive book on the Iraq war. "Twenty-one-year-old Private Bartle is our narrator. His mind is fragmented by battle and so is his story. He spins the reader through time and place, sometimes at boot camp, sometimes on rooftops bristling with rifles in Al Tafar, sometimes in a military prison where he scrapes the walls until they match the scarred nowhere of his mind. He cannot recover from his time overseas. He reaches for a rifle that isn't there. He sees the ghosts of lost soldiers everywhere. And he is haunted by a failed promise made: When he was deployed, he told the mother of his friend, 18-year-old Private Murphy, that he would keep the boy safe. Over the course of the novel, we slowly piece together the sickening details and learn the truth behind what happens to Murphy. Every sentence of The Yellow Birds (Little, Brown, $25) is something to marvel over, the words flashing and chiming like spent brass casings. Kevin Powers, who served as an Army machine gunner, has written one of the best books of the year, what could become the definitive novel about Iraq."—Benjamn Percy

Rule and Ruin by Geoffrey Kabaservice is about the decline of the Republican party from what Clinton described as "honorable advisaries" to the present-day Tea Party waccos. It makes a fascinating read.

The Guardian

 

 

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