In this inception year the titles were drawn from a variety of national lists that include Booklist Editors’ Choice, RUSA CODES Notable Books, Publishers Weekly, the New York Times Best Books of 2012, and submission from Maine librarians
A Good American by Alex George (Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam)
The Meisenheimer family struggles to find their place among the colorful residents of their new American hometown, including a giant teenage boy, a pretty schoolteacher whose lessons consist of more than music, and a spiteful, bicycle-riding dwarf.
A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers (McSweeney’s)
A struggling American businessman travels to a rising Saudi Arabian city with the hopes of securing a contract that will earn him a commission large enough to stave off his economic woes and hold his family together.
A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar by Suzanne Joinson (Bloomsbury USA)
In 1923, Eva English and her devout sister Lizzie embark on a journey to be missionaries in the ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar, while in modern-day London, a young woman’s act of kindness to a Yemeni refugee results in an unexpected journey.
A Land More Kind than Home by Wiley Cash (William Morrow)
Jess Hall, growing up deep in the heart of an unassuming mountain town that believes in protecting its own, is plunged into an adulthood for which he is not prepared when his autistic older brother, Stump, sneaks a look at something he isn’t supposed to,
which has catastrophic repercussions.
A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava (University of Chicago Press)
Manhattan public defender Casi has a perfect record of courtroom victories, but he experiences a personal and professional devolution as his sense of justice begins to crack.
Absolution by Patrick Flanery (Riverhead Books)
In post-apartheid South Africa, controversial writer and recluse Clare Wald is haunted by the memories of a sister she fears she betrayed to her death and a daughter she fears she abandoned.
Arcadia by Lauren Groff (Voice)
In a haunting story of the American dream, Bit, born in a back-to-nature commune in 1970s New York State, must come to grips with the outside world when the commune eventually fails.
At Last by Edward St. Aubyn (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Friends, relatives, and foes trickle in to pay final respects to Patrick’s mother, Eleanor. An American heiress, Eleanor married into the British aristocracy, giving up the grandeur of her upbringing for “good works” freely bestowed on everyone but her own son, who finds himself questioning whether his transition to a life without parents will indeed be the liberation he had so long imagined.
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter (Harper)
The story begins in 1962. On a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline, a young innkeeper, chest-deep in daydreams, looks on over the incandescent waters of the Ligurian Sea and spies an apparition: a tall, thin woman, a vision in white, approaching him on a boat. She is an actress, he soon learns, an American starlet, and she is dying.
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain (Harper/Ecco)
A satire set in Texas during America’s war in Iraq that explores the gaping national disconnect between the war at home and the war abroad. Follows the surviving members of the heroic Bravo Squad through one exhausting stop in their media-intensive “Victory Tour” at Texas Stadium, football mecca of the Dallas Cowboys, their fans, promoters, and cheerleaders.
By Blood by Ellen Ullman (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
The book is set in San Francisco in the 1970s. A disgraced professor takes a downtown office to plot his return. But the walls are thin and he’s distracted by voices from next door. His neighbor is a psychologist, and one of her patients dislikes the hum of the white-noise machine. And so he begins to hear about the patient’s troubles with her female lover, her conflicts with her adoptive WASP family, and her quest to track down her birth mother.
Canada by Richard Ford (Harper/Ecco)
The story of Dell Parsons, a young man forced by catastrophic circumstances to reconcile himself to a world rendered unrecognizable. Spirited across the Montana border into Saskatchewan and taken in by Arthur Remlinger, an enigmatic man whose own past exists on the other side of the border, Dell struggles to understand what his future can be even as he comes to understand the violence simmering below the surface in his new life.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (Crown)
When a woman goes missing on her fifth wedding anniversary, her diary reveals hidden turmoil in her marriage, while her husband, desperate to clear himself of suspicion, realizes that something more disturbing than murder may have occurred.
Heading Out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick (Algonquin Books)
Charlie Beale wanders into the town of Brownsburg, a sleepy village nestled in the Valley of Virginia. Charlie quickly finds a job at the local butcher shop and through his work there meets all the townspeople, most notably Sam Haislett, the five-year-old son of the shop’s owner; and Sylvan Glass, the beautiful, eccentric teenage bride of the town’s richest man. What no one anticipates is how the interaction of these three people will alter the town forever.
HHhH by Laurent Binet (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Imagine the story of two Czechoslovakian partisans responsible for assassinating the “Butcher of Prague” Reinhard Heydrich, traces their escape from the Nazis and recruitment by the British secret service.
How to get into the Twin Palms by Karolina Waclawiak (Two Dollar Radio)
This is the story of Anya, a young woman living alone in a Russian neighborhood in Los Angeles, who struggles to retain her parents’ Polish culture while trying to assimilate into her newly adopted community. Anya stalks the nearby Twin Palms nightclub, the pinnacle of exclusivity in the Russian community. Frantic not only to gain entrance into the club but to belong there, Anya begins a dangerous pursuit for Lev, a Russian gangster who frequents the seemingly impenetrable world of the Twin Palms.
In The Shadow of the Banyon by Vaddey Ratner (Simon & Schuster)
Her life of privilege in Cambodia shattered by the outbreak of civil war on the streets of Phnom Penh, young Raami endures four years of loss, starvation, and brutal forced labor while clinging to memories of the legends and poems told to her by her father.
Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a San Francisco web-design drone and landed him a new gig working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after just a few days on the job, Clay begins to realize that this store is even more curious than the name suggests. There are only a few customers, but they come in repeatedly and never seem to actually buy anything. Soon he embarks on a complex analysis of the customers’ behavior and ropes his friends into helping him figure out just what’s going on.
NW by Zadie Smith (Penguin Press)
Four Londoners, Leah, Natalie, Felix and Nathan, as they try to make adult lives outside Caldwell, the council estate of their childhood. From private houses to public parks, at work and at play, their London is a complicated place, as beautiful as it is brutal, where the thoroughfares hide the back alleys and taking the high road can sometimes lead you to a dead end.
Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer (St. Martin’s Press)
When fabricated aspects of their picture-perfect world are embarrassingly exposed by a car accident, Sunny Mann, a woman longing for an ideal life, and Maxon, her savant astronaut husband, struggle through blame and fear before confronting realities about their deep bond.
Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon (Harper)
When ex-NFL quarterback Gibson Goode, the fourth-richest black man in America, announces plans to construct his latest Dogpile megastore on a nearby neglected stretch of Telegraph Avenue, Nat and Archy fear it means certain doom for their vulnerable little enterprise.
Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt (Dial)
It is 1987, and only one person has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus — her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn’s company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June’s world is turned upside down. But Finn’s death brings a surprise acquaintance into June’s life — someone who will help her to heal, and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart.
The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (Random House)
The rotation of the earth has begun to slow and the environment is thrown into disarray. Julia is also coping with the fissures in her family, the loss of friends, the hopeful anguish of love and other normal disasters of everyday life.
The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro (Algonquin Books)
On March 18, 1990, thirteen works of art worth today over $500 million were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. It remains the largest unsolved art heist in history, and Claire Roth, a struggling young artist, is about to discover that there’s more to this crime than meets the eye.
The Bartender’s Tale by Ivan Doig (Riverhead)
Running a venerable bar in 1960 Montana while raising his twelve-year-old son, single father Tom Harry finds his world upended by the arrival of a woman from his past and her beatnik daughter, who claims Tom as her father.
The Book of Jonas by Stephen Dau (Blue Rider Press)
When his family is killed during an errant U.S. military operation in the Middle East, 15-year-old Jonas is sent to live with a foster family in America and struggles to adapt before revealing the heroics of a missing soldier who saved his life, a story that reveals a shocking secret to the soldier’s grieving mother.
The Devil in Silver by Victor LaValle (Spiegel & Grau)
Landing in a budget-strapped mental institution after being accused of a crime he does not remember, Pepper is assaulted by a monstrous creature that has been attacking patients but that the hospital staff does not believe exists.
The Dog Stars by Peter Heller (Knopf)
Surviving a pandemic disease that has killed everyone he knows, a pilot establishes a shelter in an abandoned airport hangar before hearing a random radio transmission that compels him to risk his life to seek out other survivors.
The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan (Reagan Arthur Books)
Forced into an overcrowded lifeboat after a mysterious explosion on their trans-Atlantic ocean liner, newly widowed Grace Winter battles the elements and her fellow survivors and remembers her husband, Henry, who set his own safety aside to ensure Grace’s.
The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin (Harper)
When two feral girls–one of them very pregnant–appear on his homestead, solitary orchardist Talmadge, who carefully tends the grove of fruit trees he has cultivated for nearly half a century, vows to save and protect them.
The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson (Random House)
The son of a single mother whose career forcibly separated her from her family and an influential father who runs an orphan work camp, Pak Jun Do rises to prominence using instinctive talents and eventually becomes a professional kidnapper and romantic rival to Kim Jong Il.
The People of Forever Are Not Afraid by Shani Boianjiu (Hogarth Press)
A gripping portrayal of life for a young woman as an Israeli soldier. A story set against the backdrop of an interesting country that weaves together the familiar coming-of-age milestones such as sexual initiation, the fierce bonds of friendship and the need for independence with the deplorable realities of military life.
The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison (Algonquin Books)
After losing virtually everything meaningful in his life, Benjamin trains to be a caregiver, but his first client, a fiercely independent teen with muscular dystrophy, gives him more than he bargained for and soon the two embark on a road trip to visit the boy’s ailing father.
The Round House by Louise Erdrich (Harper)
When his mother, a tribal enrollment specialist living on a reservation in North Dakota, slips into an abyss of depression after being brutally attacked, fourteen-year-old Joe Coutz sets out with his three friends to find the person that destroyed his family.
The Stockholm Octavo by Karen Engelmann (Ecco)
In 1791 Stockholm, self-satisfied bureaucrat Emil Larsson is informed by a fortune teller that in order to find love and connection, he must first find eight individuals who can help him realize his vision–a search that becomes dangerous when he must pull his country back from rebellion and chaos.
The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis (Knopf)
Ayana Mathis tells the story of the children of the Great Migration through the trials of one unforgettable family. An emotionally transfixing page-turner, a searing portrait of striving in the face of insurmountable adversity, an indelible encounter with the resilience of the human spirit and the driving force of the American dream.
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (Random House)
Harold Fry is convinced that he must deliver a letter to an old love in order to save her, meeting various characters along the way and reminiscing about the events of his past and people he has known, as he tries to find peace and acceptance.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple (Little, Brown)
When her notorious, hilarious, volatile, talented, troubled, and agoraphobic mother goes missing, teenage Bee begins a trip that takes her to the ends of the earth to find her.
Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers (Little, Brown)
In the midst of a bloody battle in the Iraq War, two soldiers, bound together since basic training, do everything to protect each other from both outside enemies and the internal struggles that come from constant danger.