A book-giving guide for 2012

Shopping for something delightful for your fellow bookworms, but not sure what to buy? Here’s some help.

I love getting books as gifts, but giving books is another story.

I give them with trepidation and a boatload of qualifiers. It usually goes something like, “I hope you love this book as much as I did, but no big deal if you don’t.” Or maybe, “Not sure if it’s your cup of tea, but I thought it was great. You can just toss this in the closet if you don’t like it. No biggie.”

Enter the yearend “best of” lists. They’re a handy resource if you, like me, aren’t sure what to buy. No list can truly include all the best books, because there are far too many. And who’s to say what qualifies as a great read?

Books are viewed subjectively. You’ll inevitably hear someone mutter, “Says who? I hated that book,” after it won a prestigious award. Nevertheless, “best of” lists can help narrow things down if you’re on the fence, or offer new ideas altogether.

I culled the top 2012 choices from The New York Times, The Huffington Post, NPR, and Goodreads. This list is by no means definitive nor authoritative. In no particular order, here’s what they suggest:


NW” by Zadie Smith

Home” by Toni Morrison

Swimming Home” by Deborah Levy

Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn

A Hologram for the King” by Dave Eggers

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore” by Robin Sloan

Bring Up the Bodies” by Hilary Mantel

This is How You Lose Her” by Junot Diaz

The Casual Vacancy” by J.K. Rowling

The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green

The Light Between Oceans” by M.L. Stedman

Building Stories” by Chris Ware

The Long Earth” by Terry Pratchett

The Yellow Birds” by Kevin Powers


Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” by Cheryl Strayed

Behind the Beautiful Forevers” by Katherine Boo

Brothers” by George Howe Colt

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain

The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson” by Robert A. Caro

Mortality” by Christopher Hitchens

When I Was a Child I Read Books” by Marilynne Robinson

Far From the Tree” by Andrew Solomon

Ninety Days: A Memoir of Recovery” by Bill Clegg

The Patriarch” by David Nasaw

Why Does the World Exist” by Jim Holt

Are you nodding in agreement, or shaking your head? Either way, tell me what you read this year that you loved—the kind of love that made you want to clutch your book, run to a rooftop, and scream, “This is the best book ever!”


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