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2012 Top Ten Fiction Books

Also featuring: Atomic Books’ Top Ten Bestsellers of 2012

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1. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, by Ben Fountain (Ecco) Late bloomer Ben Fountain’s first novel delivers an absurdly comic tale of an Army unit’s last day before redeployment, a day spent at Texas Stadium for the Dallas Cowboys’ Thanksgiving classic, the movie deal they fail to make, and the new person the titular Billy somehow meets during this novel-long meditation on the meanings of life, love, war, and duty. (Bret McCabe)

2. The Last One Hundred Days, by Patrick McGuinness (Bloomsbury USA) A fictional glimpse at a Romanian communist regime in its death throes? Sure, The Last One Hundred Days is certainly that, but poet Patrick McGuinness’ debut novel is also a testament to surreptitious co-dependence: how it’s possible to fall head over heels for the wrong places and people. When Days’ draconian litany of demotions, double-crosses, and uprising decelerate to a beginning where its principals resist defection, you’ll wish you could stay too. (Raymond Cummings)

3. True Believers, by Kurt Andersen (Random House) Kurt Andersen (of radio’s Studio 360 and formerly Spy Magazine) treads well-covered ground in True Believers: an aging Boomer with a hidden radical past tries to come to terms with it. But his idiosyncratic narrator and writerly panache help us see this overly documented period—and our own era—with fresh eyes. (Baynard Woods)

4. City of Bohane, by Kevin Barry (Graywolf Press) The only thing that kept us from finishing Bohane in one sitting is that we were constantly pausing to Google Irish slang. Set in a seedy Irish backwater of the future, where dandyish thugs control the streets, the tale of an epic power struggle is told in language that is a delicious mix of high and low. A stupefyingly well-written first novel. (Andrea Appleton)

5. HHhH, by Laurent Binet (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) The red-and-black color scheme, monumental font, and tiny parachutes on the cover scream “Hitler book.” But Laurent Binet’s account of the real-life suicide-mission assassination of odious, Zelig-like Nazi Reinhard Heydrich is also a historical novel about how one writes a historical novel, a surprisingly droll and personable meta-romp based on a story you couldn’t make up—even though, as Binet finds, you have to make up parts of it. (Lee Gardner)

6. Blueprints of the Afterlife, by Ryan Boudinot (Grove Press) Some tidbits from this post-apocalyptic explosion of a novel: New York City has been destroyed and is being painstakingly rebuilt on Bainbridge Island in Puget Sound, and it is now possible to hack into other people’s nervous systems via “the Bionet.” This mindfuck of a book is a celebration of the power of the imagination. (AA)

7. Almost Never, by Daniel Sada (Graywolf Press) This late, underappreciated Mexican modernist’s penultimate novel follows the ribald, randy life of an agronomist who falls in love with both a virgin and a whore in 1945 Mexico, where a manly man presumes he can control his appetites; it’s this machismo hubris that Sada—thanks to Katherine Silver’s wonderful English translation—intoxicatingly skewers in corkscrewing, dazzlingly efficient, and evocative prose. (BM)

8. Building Stories, by Chris Ware (Fantagraphics) Comics artist/overachiever Chris Ware follows the lives of three residents of a Chicago apartment complex in variously sized comic layouts. This is basically a how-to book for all practical purposes: how to take the mundane facts of daily existence and elevate them into at times heartbreaking observations of the frailty of just being human. (BM)

9. Further Interpretations of Real-Life Events, by Kevin Moffett (Harper Perennial) In Kevin Moffett’s imagination, to draw breath is to suffer somehow. So it’s no shock that his newest collection of short stories is something of a misery index: the cruelty distance, dementia porn, familial disconnection. Moffett’s gift lies in his ability to craft prose snapshots that gnaw and paw at the reader after the fact, like puzzles missing a crucial piece—if you can find it, everything’s explained. Everything. (RC)

10.The Twenty-Year Death, by Ariel S. Winters (Hard Case Crime) Winters has accomplished something close to a miracle: the experimental thriller. Death comprises three different books, each written in the style of a classic noir writer, but the effect is far greater than pastiche. Seeing the same character from three perspectives at three different times carries a profound moral punch. (BW)

Atomic Books’ Top Ten Bestsellers of 2012

1. Walking Dead comics series by Robert Kirkman / Charlie Adlard / Cliff Rathburn

2. Adventure Time comics series by Ryan North / various

3. Henry & Glenn Forever & Ever #1 by Tom Neely, Scot Nobles and Igloo Tornado

4. Dirtfarm: Hideous Heart by Ben Claassen III

5. Role Models by John Waters

6. My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf

7. Get Jiro by Anthony Bourdain / Joel Rosen / Langdon Floss

7. Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel

9. Smile, Hon, You’re In Baltimore #15 by William P. Tandy / various

10. Love Is Not Constantly Wondering If You Are Making The Biggest Mistake Of Your Life by Sarah Miller


Read More 2012 Top Ten

Top Ten Most Intriguing Local Stories | Top Ten Films | Jed Dietz and Eric Allen Hatch’s Top Ten Films | Top Ten Home Video | Top Ten Albums | Top Ten Local Albums | Top Ten Releases by Genre | Top Ten Shows | Top Ten Fiction | Atomic Books’ Top Ten Bestsellers | Top Ten Non-Fiction | Top Ten Art Shows | Gary Kachadourian’s Top Ten Art Shows | Top Ten Stage | Top Ten Restaurants | Top Ten Twelve Wines


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