Best Books Of 2012
3:24 pm
Mon December 24, 2012

Best Books Of 2012: The Complete List

Originally published on Thu January 3, 2013 3:43 pm

Use the list below to browse NPR's Best Books Of 2012 recommendations. Each critic's list is presented separately. Click on the article names to read our critics' comments about the books.


Well-Versed: Five Poets With Punch
Recommended by Kevin Young

Thrall: Poems by Natasha Trethewey, hardcover, 84 pages, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, List Price: $23

Useless Landscape Or A Guide For Boys by D.A. Powell, hardcover, 80 pages, Graywolf Press, List Price: $22

Mayakovsky's Revolver by Matthew Dickman, hardcover, 93 pages, W W Norton & Co Inc, List Price: $25.95

Our Lady Of The Ruins by Traci Brimhall, paperback, 95 pages, W W Norton & Co Inc, List Price: $15.95

Bender: New & Selected Poems by Dean Young, hardcover, 279 pages, Consortium Book Sales & Dist, List Price: $26

Courage And Curiosity: The Best Heroines Of 2012
Recommended by Parul Sehgal

Sophie Calle: The Address Book, by Sophie Calle, hardcover, 104 pages, Siglio, list price $29.95

As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals And Notebooks, 1964-1980, by Susan Sontag, hardcover, 544 pages, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, list price $30

All We Know: Three Lives, by Lisa Cohen, hardcover, 448 pages, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, list price $30

Carry The One, by Carol Anshaw, hardcover, 272 pages, Simon & Schuster, list price $25

Antigonick, written by Sophocles and translated by Anne Carson, hardcover, 180 pages, New Directions, list price $24.95

Staff Picks: Our Favorite Music Books Of 2012
Recommended by NPR Staff

Life Is A Gift: The Zen Of Bennett, by Tony Bennett and Mitch Albom, hardcover, 250 pages, Harper, list price $28.99

How Music Works, by David Byrne, hardcover, 345 pages, McSweeney's, list price $32

The First Four Notes: Beethoven's Fifth And The Human Imagination, by Matthew Guerrieri, hardcover, 368 pages, Knopf, list price $26.95

Where The Heart Beats: John Cage, Zen Buddhism, And The Inner Life Of Artists, by Kay Larson, hardcover, 474 pages, Penguin Press, list price $29.95

Why Jazz Happened, by Marc Myers, hardcover, 267 pages, University of California Press, list price $34.95

Will Oldham On Bonnie "Prince" Billy, by Will Oldham and Alan Licht, paperback, 402 pages, W. W. Norton & Company, list price $16.95

Ernie K-Doe: The R&B Emperor Of New Orleans, by Ben Sandmel, hardcover, 304 pages, The Historic New Orleans Collection, list price $39.95

The One: The Life And Music Of James Brown, by R. J. Smith, hardcover, 455 pages, Gotham, list price $27.50

No Regrets: Writings On Scott Walker, by Rob Young, hardcover, 320 pages, Orion, list price $29.95

5 Young Adult Novels That You'll Never Outgrow
Recommended by Maggie Stiefvater

Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein, hardcover, 343 pages, Hyperion Book CH, list price $16.99

Purity, by Jackson Pearce, hardcover, 218 pages, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, list price $17.99

Endangered, by Eliot Schrefer, hardcover, 272 pages, Scholastic Press, list price $17.99

Where Things Come Back, by John Corey Whaley, hardcover, 228 pages, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, list price $16.99

Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman, hardcover, 465 pages, Random House Books for Young Readers, list price $17.99

In 2012's Best Mysteries, Mean Girls Rule
Recommended by Maureen Corrigan

Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn, hardcover, 416 pages, Crown, list price $25

The Stonecutter, by Camilla Lackberg, hardcover, 480 pages, Pegasus, list price $25.95

Broken Harbor, by Tana French, hardcover, 464 pages, Viking Adult, list price $27.95

The Beautiful Mystery: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel, by Louise Penny, hardcover, 373 pages, Minotaur Books, list price $25.99

Strong Poison, by Dorothy L. Sayers, paperback, 272 pages, Harper Paperbacks, list price $14.99

Have His Carcase, by Dorothy L. Sayers, paperback, 476 pages, Harper Paperbacks, list price $14.99

Gaudy Night, by Dorothy L. Sayers, paperback, 528 pages, Harper Paperbacks, list price $14.99

Busman's Honeymoon, by Dorothy L. Sayers, paperback, 432 pages, Harper Paperbacks, list price $14.99

Romantic Reads From Shakespeare To Steampunk (Heavy On The Steam)
Recommended by Eloisa James

I Own The Dawn, by M. L. Buchman, paperback, 404 pages, Sourcebooks Casablanca, list price $6.99

Steel's Edge, by Ilona Andrews, paperback, 388 pages, Ace, list price $7.99

A Royal Pain, by Megan Mulry, paperback, 338 pages, Sourcebooks Landmark, list price $14.99

Riveted, by Meljean Brook, paperback, 404 pages, Berkley Trade, list price $16

A Lady Never Lies, by Juliana Gray, paperback, 311 pages, Berkley, list price $7.99

True Originals: Biographies That Defy Expectations
Recommended by Michael Schaub

Dearie: The Remarkable Life Of Julia Child, by Bob Spitz, hardcover, 557 pages, Knopf, list price $29.95

I'm Your Man: The Life Of Leonard Cohen, by Sylvie Simmons, hardcover, 570 pages, Ecco, list price $27.99

Barack Obama: The Story, by David Maraniss, hardcover, 672 pages, Simon & Schuster, list price $32.50

A Difficult Woman: The Challenging Life And Times Of Lillian Hellman, by Alice Kessler-Harris, hardcover, 439 pages, Bloomsbury Press, list price $30

The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, And The Real Count Of Monte Cristo, by Tom Reiss, hardcover, 414 pages, Crown, list price $27

10 Books To Help You Recover From A Tense 2012
Recommended by Maureen Corrigan

The Odds, by Stewart O'Nan, hardcover, 179 pages, Viking Adult, list price $25.95

Canada, by Richard Ford, hardcover, 420 pages, Ecco, list price $27.99

Girlchild, by Tupelo Hassman, hardcover, 275 pages, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, list price $24

This Is How You Lose Her, by Junot Diaz, hardcover, 213 pages, Riverhead Hardcover, list price $26.95

Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter, hardcover, 337 pages, Harper, list price $26.99

The Brontes: Wild Genius On The Moors: The Story Of A Literary Family, by Juliet Barker, hardcover, 1158 pages, Pegasus, list price $39.95

Marmee & Louisa: The Untold Story Of Louisa May Alcott And Her Mother, by Eve LaPlante, hardcover, 368 pages, Free Press, list price $26

Elsewhere: A Memoir, by Richard Russo, hardcover, 246 pages, Knopf, list price $25.95

My Husband And My Wives: A Gay Man's Odyssey, by Charles Rowan Beye, hardcover, 256 pages, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, list price $26

Behind The Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, And Hope In A Mumbai Undercity, by Katherine Boo, hardcover, 256 pages, Random House Inc., list price $27

Great Reads In Store: Indie Booksellers Pick 2012's Best
Recommended by Rona Brinlee, Lucia Silva and Daniel Goldin

100 Diagrams That Changed The World: From The Earliest Cave Paintings To The Innovation Of The iPod, by Scott Christianson, hardcover, 223 pages, Plume, list price $25

American Ghost, by Janis Owens, hardcover, 278 pages, Scribner, list price $25

The Art Forger, by B.A. Shapiro, hardcover, 360 pages, Algonquin Books, list price $23.95

City Of Women, by David R. Gillham, hardcover, 392 pages, Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, list price $25.95

Travels With Epicurus: A Journey To A Greek Island In Search Of A Fulfilled Life, by Daniel Klein, hardcover, 164 pages, Penguin Books, list price $20

Instant: The Story Of Polaroid, by Christopher Bonanos, hardcover, 192 pages, Princeton Architectural Press, list price $24.95

The Carter Family: Don't Forget This Song, by Frank M. Young and David Lasky, hardcover, 191 pages, Abrams ComicArts, list price $24.95

Lies, Knives, And Girls In Red Dresses, by Ron Koertge and Andrea Dezso, hardcover, 96 pages, Candlewick, list price $17.99

The Graphic Canon, Volume 1: From The Epic Of Gilgamesh To Shakespeare To Dangerous Liaisons, by Russ Kick, paperback, 501 pages, Seven Stories Press, list price $34.95

The Graphic Canon, Volume 2: From "Kubla Khan" To The Bronte Sisters To The Picture Of Dorian Gray, by Russ Kick, paperback, 501 pages, Seven Stories Press, list price $34.95

My Ideal Bookshelf, by Jane Mount and Thessaly La Force, hardcover, 225 pages, Little, Brown and Company, list price $24.99

Object Lessons: The Paris Review Presents The Art Of The Short Story, by Lorin Stein and Sadie Stein, paperback, 358 pages, Picador, list price $16

My Heart Is An Idiot, by Davy Rothbart, hardcover, 307 pages, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, list price $25

Laura Lamont's Life In Pictures, by Emma Straub, hardcover, 306 pages, Riverhead Hardcover, list price $26.95

The News From Spain: 7 Variations On A Love Story, by Joan Wickersham, hardcover, 208 pages, Random House Inc., list price $24.95

Dancers Among Us: A Celebration Of Joy In The Everyday, by Jordan Matter, paperback, 229 pages, Workman Publishing Company, list price $17.95

The Middlesteins, by Jami Attenberg, hardcover, 273 pages, Grand Central Publishing, list price $24.99

Now You're Talking! The Year's Best Book Club Reads
Recommended by Lynn Neary

The Lifeboat, by Charlotte Rogan, hardcover, 274 pages, Reagan Arthur Books, list price $24.99

The Round House, by Louise Erdrich, hardcover, 321 pages, Harper, list price $27.99

Arcadia, by Lauren Groff, hardcover, 291 pages, Voice, list price $25.99

NW, by Zadie Smith, hardcover, 401 pages, Penguin Press, list price $26.95

The Orchardist, by Amanda Coplin, hardcover, 426 pages, Harper, list price $26.99

10 Eye-Catching Reads For The Book Lover On Your List
Recommended by John McAlley

Fairy Tales From The Brothers Grimm, by Philip Pullman, hardcover, 405 pages, Viking Adult, list price $27.95

More Than Human, by Tim Flach and Lewis Blackwell, hardcover, 312 pages, Harry N. Abrams Inc., list price $65

Flower, by Andrew Zuckerman, hardcover, 300 pages, Chronicle Books, list price $75

Poems 1962-2012, by Louise Gluck, hardcover, 634 pages, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, list price $40

Blown Covers: New Yorker Covers You Were Never Meant To See, by Francoise Mouly, hardcover, 128 pages, Harry N. Abrams Inc., list price $24.95

Building Stories, by Chris Ware, hardcover, 14 various pieces, Pantheon, list price $50

Abstract City, by Christoph Niemann, hardcover, 267 pages, Harry N. Abrams Inc., list price $24.95

Cindy Sherman, by Cindy Sherman, Eva Respini, Johanna Burton and John Waters, hardcover, 264 pages, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, list price $60

The 20th-Century World Architecture, by Phaidon Press, hardcover, 831 pages, Phaidon Press, list price $200

The Best American Short Stories 2012, by Tom Perrotta and Heidi Pitlor, paperback, 356 pages, Mariner Books, list price $14.95

The Year's Outstanding 'Backseat' Reads, For Ages 9 To 14
Recommended by Michele Norris

Wonder, by R.J. Palacio, hardcover, 315 pages, Knopf Books for Young Readers, list price $15.99

Starry River Of The Sky, by Grace Lin, hardcover, 288 pages, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, list price $17.99

Liar & Spy, by Rebecca Stead, hardcover, 180 pages, Wendy Lamb Books, list price $15.99

Time Passages: The Year's Best Historical Fiction
Recommended by Mary Sharratt

Bring Up The Bodies, by Hilary Mantel, hardcover, 410 pages, Henry Holt & Co., list price $28

The Book Of Madness And Cures, by Regina O'Melveny, hardcover, 320 pages, Little, Brown and Company, list price $25.99

The Orphanmaster, by Jean Zimmerman, hardcover, 418 pages, Viking Adult, list price $27.95

The Twelve Rooms Of The Nile, by Enid Shomer, hardcover, 449 pages, Simon & Schuster, list price $26

The Orchardist, by Amanda Coplin, hardcover, 426 pages, Harper, list price $26.99

River Of Smoke, by Amitav Ghosh, hardcover, 522 pages, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, list price $28

The Year's Best Science Fiction Crosses Galaxies And Genres
Recommended by Annalee Newitz

2312, by Kim Stanley Robinson, hardcover, 561 pages, Orbit, list price $25.99

After The Apocalypse, by Maureen F. McHugh, paperback, 264 pages, Small Beer Press, list price $16

Intrusion, by Ken MacLeod, hardcover, 320 pages, Orbit, list price $32.85

Alif The Unseen, by G. Willow Wilson, hardcover, 433 pages, Grove Press, list price $25

All Yesterdays: Unique And Speculative Views Of Dinosaurs And Other Prehistoric Animals, by Darren Naish, John Conway and C.M. Koseman, paperback, 100 pages, Irregular Books, list price $32.82

The Cold Commands, by Richard K. Morgan, hardcover, 496 pages, Del Rey, list price $26

Recipe Rebellion: A Year Of Contrarian Cookbooks
Recommended by T. Susan Chang

The Sprouted Kitchen: A Tastier Take On Whole Foods, by Sara Forte and Hugh Forte, hardcover, 241 pages, Ten Speed Press, list price $25

Modern Sauces: More Than 150 Recipes For Every Cook, Every Day, by Martha Holmberg, hardcover, 256 pages, Chronicle Books, list price $35

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, by Deb Perelman, hardcover, 321 pages, Knopf, list price $35

The Science Of Good Cooking: Master 50 Simple Concepts to Enjoy A Lifetime Of Success In The Kitchen, by Cook's Illustrated Magazine, hardcover, 504 pages, Cooks Illustrated, list price $40

Susan Feniger's Street Food: Irresistibly Crispy, Creamy, Crunchy, Spicy, Sticky, Sweet Recipes, by Susan Feniger, Kajsa Alger, Liz Lachman and Jennifer May, hardcover, 224 pages, Clarkson Potter, list price $27.50

Hiroko's American Kitchen: Cooking With Japanese Flavors, by Hiroko Shimbo and Frances Janisch, paperback, 215 pages, Andrews McMeel Publishing, list price $24.99

Jerusalem: A Cookbook, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, hardcover, 288 pages, Ten Speed Press, list price $35

Canal House Cooks Every Day, by Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer, hardcover, 359 pages, Andrews McMeel Publishing, list price $45

The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook: Sweetness In Seattle, by Tom Douglas, hardcover, 389 pages, William Morrow Cookbooks, list price $35

Simply Sensational Cookies: Bright Fresh Flavors, Natural Colors & Easy, Streamlined Techniques, by Nancy Baggett, hardcover, 352 pages, Wiley, list price $29.99

Finder's Keepers: 2012's Stories To Hang On To
Recommended by Heller McAlpin

Home, by Toni Morrison, hardcover, 144 pages, Knopf, list price $24

Mortality, by Christopher Hitchens, hardcover, 128 pages, Twelve, list price $22.99

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan, hardcover, 304 pages, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, list price $25

Wild: From Lost To Found On The Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed, hardcover, 336 pages, Knopf, list price $25.95

Brothers: On His Brothers And Brothers In History, by George Howe Colt, hardcover, 480 pages, Scribner, list price $30

A Wintry Mix: Alan Cheuse Selects The Season's Best
Recommended by Alan Cheuse

The Hungry Ear: Poems of Food & Drink, by Kevin Young, hardcover, 319 pages, Bloomsbury USA, list price $25

Christmas at Eagle Pond, by Donald Hall and Mary Azarian, hardcover, 78 pages, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, list price $14.95

Memorial: A Version of Homer's Iliad, by Alice Oswald, hardcover, 90 pages, W. W. Norton & Company, list price $24.95

The Life of Objects, by Susanna Moore, hardcover, 239 pages, Knopf, list price $25

Merge / Disciple, by Walter Mosley, hardcover, 288 pages, Tor Books, list price $24.99

Librarian Nancy Pearl's Picks For The Omnivorous Reader
Recommended by Nancy Pearl

The Towers of Trebizond, by Rose Macaulay, paperback, 277 pages, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, list price $15

America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation, by David Goldfield, paperback, 632 pages, Bloomsbury Press, list price $20

We Learn Nothing, by Tim Kreider, hardcover, 221 pages, Free Press, list price $20

Heft, by Liz Moore, paperback, 352 pages, W. W. Norton & Company, list price $15.95

Among Others, by Jo Walton, paperback, 302 pages, Tor Books, list price $14.99

The Double Game, by Dan Fesperman, hardcover, 355 pages, Knopf, list price $26.95

Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein, hardcover, 343 pages, Hyperion Book CH, list price $16.99

Short Stories To Savor On A Winter Weekend
Recommended by Jane Ciabattari

Blasphemy, by Sherman Alexie, hardcover, 465 pages, Grove Press, list price $27

What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, by Nathan Englander, hardcover, 207 pages, Knopf, list price $24.95

The Doctor's Wife, by Luis Jaramillo, paperback, 158 pages, Dzanc Books, list price $14.95

Dear Life, by Alice Munro, hardcover, 319 pages, Knopf, list price $26.95

Battleborn, by Claire Vaye Watkins, hardcover, 288 pages, Riverhead Hardcover, list price $25.95

Graphic Novels That Flew Under The Radar In 2012
Recommended by Glen Weldon

The Crackle of the Frost, by Lorenzo Mattotti and Jorge Zentner, hardcover, 118 pages, Fantagraphics, list price $19.99

Little White Duck: A Childhood in China, by Andres Vera Martinez and Na Liu, paperback, 96 pages, Graphic Universe, list price $9.95

Drama, by Raina Telgemeier, paperback, 233 pages, GRAPHIX, list price $10.99

Gloriana, by Kevin Huizenga, hardcover, 96 pages, Drawn and Quarterly, list price $19.95

Saga 1, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, paperback, 160 pages, Image Comics, list price $9.99

Wonder Woman 1: Blood, by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang, paperback, 160 pages, DC Comics, list price $14.99

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