More Views on The Best of 2012

Publishers Lunch

The Wall Street Journal published their lists of best fiction and nonfiction over the weekend. Their picks are a bit more distinctive than some of the other "best of" lists, with independent presses comprising a good portion of the fiction picks (including titles from the University of Chicago Press, Small Beer Press, Soho Press, and Grove/Atlantic).

The People of Forever Are Not Afraid, Shani Boianjiu
Tell the Wolves I'm Home, Carol Rifka Brunt
A Naked Singularity, Sergio De La Pava
Earth and Air, Peter Dickinson
Absolution, Patrick Flanery
The Orphan Master's Son, Adam Johnson
The Thief, Fuminori Nakamura
John Saturnall's Feast, Lawrence Norfolk
NW, Zadie Smith
At Last, Edward St. Aubyn
Iron Curtain, Anne Applebaum
The Endgame, Michael R. Gordon and Bernard E. Trainor
The Founders and Finance, Thomas McCraw
Sincerity, R. Jay Magill Jr.
The Lion Sleeps Tonight, Rian Malan
The Wives, Alexandra Popoff
The Astaires, Kathleen Riley
The Signal and the Noise, Nate Silver
Connectome, Sebastian Seung
A Man and His Ship, Steven Ujifusa

Rounding out their main lists, the WSJ also offered top 10s for children's books from Meghan Cox Gurdon (including popular favorites The Fault In Our Stars by John Green and Wonder by R.J. Palacio), mystery and crime books from Tim Nolan ("the most audacious crime-fiction novel of 2012 is also a debut: Ariel S. Winter's "The Twenty-Year Death," a hat-trick of linked books written in a pastiche of genre-masters Georges Simenon, Raymond Chandler and Jim Thompson); and another lens on top 10 fiction from critic Sam Sacks. His additions less-frequently found on other lists include: Coral Glynn, by Peter Cameron; The Book of Jonas, by Stephen Dau; In Sunlight and in Shadow, by Mark Helprin; Mountains of the Moon, by I.J. Kay; The Story of My Assassins, by Tarun J. Tejpal; and Dead Stars, by Bruce Wagner.

On Monday the individual New York Times critics added their personal top 10 lists, too. Not only did Michiko Kakutanirave about Alan Sepinwall's self-published THE REVOLUTION WAS TELEVISED, but she put it on her top 10 list. Janet Maslin's listmore closely aligns with popular top 10 selections from other sources (Hilary Mantel, Katherine Boo, Gillian Flynn, Maria Semple, Ben Fountain, Lauren Groff). And Dwight Garner's picksare surprisingly mainstream given his track record, combining his particular taste (including two books of poetry) with other frequently-listed nonfiction books from Cheryl Strayed, Jeanette Winterston, Andrew Solomon and David Quammen.

In other lists, the Seattle Timescelebrated "fabulous year for books, particularly fiction," in their top 25. Critics from the Cleveland Plain Dealer picked their lists of best fiction and nonfiction as well.
For lists of a different sort, Nielsen BookScan published their lists of the bestselling print books of the year. Each category features multiple products from the same author: Suzanne Collins takes 6 of the top 10 children's and YA slots; EL James claims all top 4 adult slots; Bill O'Reilly has the No 3. and No. 4-selling nonfiction books.

While we continue to monitor the flow of "Best of 2012" lists, the race for the top has become pretty clear: Katherine Boo and Hilary Mantel are fighting it out for consensus "book of the year" honors, while the rest of the top 10 currently leans 2-1 fiction over nonfiction. From over 30 sources logged so far (we draw on lists from retailers; magazines; newspapers; individual critics; trades; and major awards), here is the current Top 10 Best of the Best of 2012, with total votes noted in parentheses. (We'll have the final list in early January, drawing on 50 lists or so in all.)

Top 10 Best of the Best of 2012, So Far
1. Behind The Beautiful Forevers, Katherine Boo (16)
2. Bring Up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel (15)
3. This Is How You Lose Her, Junot Diaz (11)
Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, Ben Fountain
Wild, Cheryl Strayed
7. The Passage of Power, Robert Caro (10)
8. Iron Curtain, Anne Applebaum (9)
The Yellow Birds, Kevin Powers
10. The Round House, Louise Erdrich (8)
The Fault in Our Stars, John Green