Booklist Editors' Choice: Adult Books

About the Booklist Editors' Choice: Adult Books
The Adult Books editors have selected the following titles as representative of the year’s outstanding books for public-library collections. Our scope has been intentionally broad, and we have attempted to find books that combine literary, intellectual, and aesthetic excellence with popular appeal.

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2012 Selection(s)

American Tapestry: The Story of the Black, White, and Multiracial Ancestors of Michelle Obama

By Rachel L. Swarns. Amistad, $27.99 (9780061999864).

Drawing on two years of research, including interviews with two elderly women—one black, the other white—Swarns presents the complicated story of race in the U.S. through the prism of Michelle Obama’s family history.

And Bid Him Sing: A Biography of Countée Cullen

By Charles Molesworth. Univ. of Chicago, $30 (9780226533643).

Molesworth rescues Harlem Renaissance poet and novelist Countée Cullen from obscurity in this scrupulous and vivid biography, celebrating his work and pondering the mysteries of his life.

Barack Obama: The Story

By David Maraniss. Simon & Schuster, $32.50 (9781439160404).

A thoroughly fascinating, multigenerational biography that explores broader social and political changes even as it highlights the elements that shaped one man’s life.

The Fish That Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America’s Banana King

By Rich Cohen. Farrar, $27 (9780374299279).

In this gripping biography—it’s as page-turningly exciting as any thriller—Samuel Zemurray, once the most powerful banana importer in America, comes off as a sort of real-world Charles Foster Kane.

I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen.

By Sylvie Simmons. Ecco, $27.99 (9780061994982).

In this compelling biography, Simmons chronicles the career of courtly, elegant, and influential singer-songwriter, poet, and novelist Cohen and illuminates his impressive body of work.

James Joyce: A New Biography

By Gordon Bowker. Farrar, $35 (9780374178727).

In tracing the evolution of Joyce’s art, Bowker also hints at the dark recesses of the artist’s psyche, defending his psycho-reading of Joyce’s fiction as the only way to plumb the turbid inner life of an often mystifying man.

Joseph Anton

By Salman Rushdie. Random, $30 (9780812992786).

In his forthright, gripping, and darkly humorous memoir, Rushdie tells the full story of his life under siege after the Ayatollah Khomeini called for his death and reminds us of why artistic and intellectual freedoms are essential to human life.

The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill; Defender of the Realm, 1940–1965

By William Manchester and Paul Reid. Little, Brown, $40 (9780316547703).

The late Manchester was one of the best Churchill biographers, and this third volume in the series is the capstone to his magnum opus.

Arts and Literature

2012 Selection(s)

The Big Screen: The Story of the Movies

By David Thomson. Farrar, $35 (9780374191894).

In this compelling collection of thematically linked essays, veteran film historian Thomson defines screen as encompassing everything from early nickelodeons through tablets and smart phones.

Leonardo and the Last Supper

By Ross King. Walker, $28 (9780802717054).

King’s uniquely detailed and engrossing chronicle of the creation of Leonardo’s revolutionary masterpiece, The Last Supper, brings to vibrant life wizardly Leonardo, his cunning patron and conniving rivals, and the glorious and miraculous mural.