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)


By Nick Harkaway. Knopf, $26.95 (9780307595959).

In this sublimely intricate and compulsively readable tour de force of Dickensian bravura and genre-blending splendor, Harkaway tells the tale of a mild-mannered London clockmaker faced with saving humanity from extinction.


By Lauren Groff. Hyperion/Voice, $25.99 (9781401340872).

This beautifully crafted novel invokes the fragility of community as it follows Bit Stone, the first child to be born in the late 1960s on an upstate New York commune called Arcadia, from childhood through the year 2018.


By Emma Donoghue. Little, Brown, $24.95 (9780316206297).

Inspired by newspaper stories from the last four centuries, Donoghue’s masterful short story collection explores the unexpected in people’s lives in such varied settings as Victorian England, Civil War–era Texas, and early twentieth-century New York City.

The Bartender’s Tale

By Ivan Doig. Riverhead, $27.95 (9781594487354).

Doig’s latest historical novel set in the fictional Two Medicine Country in northern Montana stars an affable bartender and his precocious 12-year-old son, whose coming-of-age takes place in a saloon. Rich in character and detail.

Beautiful Ruins

By Jess Walter. Harper, $25.99 (9780061928123).

In 1962, an American movie starlet arrives at a small hotel on the Italian coast, there to recuperate from a disaster on the set of the movie Cleopatra. A sparkling reimagining of history.

The Beginner’s Goodbye

By Anne Tyler. Knopf, $24.95 (9780307957276)

Tyler’s sparkling, covertly philosophical tale about a man who refuses to be defined by his disability or denied communication with his deceased wife reveals how ill-prepared we are for life’s contrary demands.

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.

By Ben Fountain. Ecco, $25.99 (9780060885595)

Written in a voice that is at once hopeful, cautious, and completely lost yet utterly knowing, Fountain’s novel delivers a brilliant, powerful examination of how modern warfare affects soldiers who have returned home.

Bring Up the Bodies

By Hilary Mantel. Holt, $28 (9780805090031)

This second volume in the author’s planned trilogy brilliantly reconstructing the life of Henry VIII’s secretary Thomas Cromwell follows Wolf Hall (2009) and tells the story of the fall of Anne Boleyn.

Social Sciences

2012 Selection(s)

Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else

By Chrystia Freeland. Penguin, $27.95 (9781594204098).

Freeland offers an engaging, deeply analytical look at the history, politics, and economics behind the rise of the super-elites, drawing parallels between current inequality and the Gilded Age of the late 1800s.

Thunder on the Mountain: Death at Massey and the Dirty Secrets behind Big Coal

By Peter A. Galuszka. St. Martin’s, $25.99 (9781250000217).

Galuszka investigates the 2010 Upper Big Branch Mine disaster in this bracing inquiry into the corporate culture at Massey Energy and how the coal industry conquered a landscape’s body and soul.