BookPeople Best of 2012: FICTION

In no particular order…..

The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson

“The first thing to know about Adam Johnson’s marvelous book is that nothing is as it seems. The protagonist, after an arduous childhood, does not really have a name. Like many things in North Korea, appearance is more important than substance; thus, his name is that of one taken from a martyr’s grave, the name of some war hero who died resisting the influences of the West in the Korean War. That his mother was a beautiful singer whisked off to Pyongyang only enhances this dream-like quality of his existence…(Johnson’s) book is an open letter to metaphorically examine the North Korean state of mind. Engaging and well paced, The Orphan Master’s Son will charm and terrify you at the same time.” – Raul, First Floor Inventory Manager (Read his full review.)


This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz

“If there is one author who knows how to simultaneously make me fall head-over-heels in love and break my heart, it’s Junot Diaz…I had my heart dragged along a bumpy journey of passionate decision making and unadulterated youthful bliss.  Diaz’s writing flows like none other, and reads so smoothly and with such vulnerability, you’d think he were writing to you personally…Diaz holds nothing back in This Is How You Lose Her, and I cannot thank him enough.” – Colleen, Bookseller Extraordinaire (Read her full review.)


The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers

“I canceled dinner plans two nights in a row so I could stay home and read The Yellow Birds. From its powerful opening sentence to its last breathless paragraph, Powers gives us a devastating, vital look at the front lines of one of our nation’s longest wars. I closed this book and felt changed, like I’d been punched in the gut in a most necessary way. Powers’ poetic prose sets its cross hairs on a murky military mission, zeroing in on the confusion and frustration through one soldier’s eyes and the long lingering effects of the experience after the desert has receded and he returns to “real life”. I’ve read many nonfiction books about the Iraq war and none of them have hit home the experience the way The Yellow Birds does. This is The Things They Carried for a new war and a new generation. This book demands to be in readers’ hands, and I look forward to putting it there.” – Julie, Bookseller Extraordinaire


How Should a Person Be by Sheila Meti

So much has already been said about Heti’s new book that I don’t know what’s left for me to say. When has an experimental novel written by a lady received so much attention? The answer is, um, never. In the history. Of time. Many people compare this novel-from-life to Lena Dunham’s work on the HBO show Girls, and while I see some resemblance, I prefer the comparison Michelle Dean’s review makes between How Should a Person Be? and Fiona Apple’s new album. Combine the two? Sheer bliss. (Plus, this book got everyone’s favorite snooty, dull New Yorker critic James Wood’s panties all in a twist, which I’d say is a pretty high recommendation.)” – Jenn S., Bookseller Extraordinaire (Read more of Jenn’s recommendations.)


Telegraph Avenueby Michael Chabon
Reviewed by Spencer

“Maybe it’s the hard-hitting, fierce prose that draws the reader along Telegraph Avenue, or possibly the seemingly endless fount of vinyl knowledge –sure to titillate any aficionado of records- that keeps the reader hooked well into the ante meridian hours; or could it be the names of the characters who exist in an all-too-familiar world, those names like Brokeland Records (the vinyl record store struggling to keep its doors open) and Brokeland’s co-owner Archy Stallings (who abjectly forestalls the inevitable, not only with regards to Brokeland)…maybe it was the bigger picture of the book, the struggle between small businesses…and the encroaching societal degradation manifested in the form of homogenized corporate retail establishments…or maybe it’s all of these things combined, but Michael Chabon…has done marvelously what so many writers only hope to do: he has written a novel filled with places and characters -no matter how disparate or familiar- with whom we cannot help but empathize, and ultimately love.” – Spencer, Bookseller Extraordinaire (Read Spencer’s full review.)


The Round House by Louise Erdrich

The Round House, Louise Erdrich’s newest novel, is an absolutely stunning coming of age story about a young boy on a Native American reservation in North Dakota during the summer of 1988. Infused with beautiful storytelling, admirable characters and Erdrich’s haunting poetic imagery, The Round House is a stick of literary dynamite. – Jessica, Gifts Department Inventory Manager (Read Jessica’s full review.)

***National Book Award winner in Fiction!***


The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

“In his first novel Heller accomplishes the amazing: his story of survival after a devastating pandemic is equally as sad (an intense and lonely, heartbreaking type of sadness that somehow grows worse with each passing hour) as it is uplifting (in the way that dyed-in-the-wool dreamers can find hope at even the bleakest moments). Hig has survived super-flu, but the accompanying fever has affected his mind, which is a bit disjointed at times even if it still works fluidly. Once you become familiar with the cadence of his thoughts you are able to see the poetry that Heller is spinning. By the end you will be forever indebted to the author for creating such a unique perspective and then allowing you in to experience it for yourself.” – Alex, Assistant Manager


Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

“Two years ago something astonishingly fair happened in the world of prestigious prizes: the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction for 2009 both went to the right winner. The book was Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, and it would have dwarfed the competition any year…It was a hard act to follow. But the follow-up is equally sublime…That ironic ending will be no cliffhanger for anyone even remotely familiar with Henry VIII’s trail of carnage. But in Bring Up the Bodies it works as one. The wonder of Ms. Mantel’s retelling is that she makes these events fresh and terrifying all over again.”—The New York Times

***Winner of the 2012 Man Booker Prize!***


A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers

“[A] supremely readable parable of America in the global economy that is haunting, beautifully shaped and sad … With ferocious energy and versatility, [Eggers] has been studying how the world is remaking America … Eggers has developed an exceptional gift for opening up the lives of others so as to offer the story of globalism as it develops and, simultaneously, to unfold a much more archetypal tale of struggle and loneliness and drift.”—Pico Iyer, The New York Times Book Review



NW by Zadie Smith

“Zadie Smith’s new book is fantastic. Brian C. and I have been hunting around for years (picture safari hats, a jungle of weird prose) for something we call the “Big, Experimental, Contemporary Novel” by a female writer. Think about it. There are tons of examples from the male contingent: Pynchon, DeLillo, Gaddis, Wallace, plus about one million others. NW is the closest thing I’ve read written by a lady. It follows two old friends, Leah and Natalie, who share a neighborhood of origin in lower class Northwest London, but it seems like that’s about all they share. Each point of view gets a unique style and treatment—dialogue is elevated or made into tiny background font, text makes shapes on the page, chapters come in lists, conversation via Gchat—and in this way, characters come to life through narrative style. Smith’s voice is addictive and compulsively readable. She can describe the most complex, nuanced realities of human existence, those you’ve never bothered to explain before, in three perfect words. Can’t wait to hear her read right here at BookPeople in December.” – Jenn S., Bookseller Extraordinaire

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