Pretty much all of the big, important books of the year are already released or soon-to-be-released by now, so it’s not too soon for “Best of 2012” lists to start rolling in. Amazon has made its choices — some bold, some expected — for its top 100 books of the year. Here is the top 10 — decide for yourself whether Amazon’s picks will make your holiday list. We’ll be coming out with our own list soon, so stay tuned!
1. The Round House by Louise Erdrich: Likely to be dubbed the Native American To Kill a Mockingbird, Erdrich’s moving, complex and surprisingly uplifting new novel tells of a boy’s coming of age in the wake of a brutal, racist attack on his mother. [EW’s grade: A–. Melissa Maerz called it “a gripping mystery with a moral twist: Revenge might be the harshest punishment, but only for the victims.”]
2. The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers: With this compact and emotional debut novel, Iraq War veteran Powers eyes the casual violence of war with a poet’s precision, moving confidently between scenes of blunt atrocity and almost hallucinatory detachment. [EW’s grade: B+. Keith Staskiewicz wrote, “While Powers occasionally lapses into abstraction to fill the spaces in his relatively sparse plot, he effectively shows how, for these soldiers, war isn’t hell. It’s purgatory.”
3. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn: Masterfully plotted from start to finish, the suspense doesn’t waver for one page. It’s one of those books you will feel the need to discuss immediately after finishing. The ending punches you in the gut. [EW’s grade: A. Jeff Giles wrote, “It’s an ingenious and viperish thriller — and no matter how smart you think you are, it’s going to bite you.”]
4. The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe: As much an homage to literature as to the mother who shared it with him, Schwalbe’s chronicling of his mother’s death to cancer — they wait, they talk, they read together — is nothing less than captivating. [EW’s grade: A. Tina Jordan called it “a graceful, affecting testament to a mother and a life well lived.”
5. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain: Debut novelist Fountain follows a squad of marines as they engage in a “victory tour” in the States. Set mostly during halftime at a Dallas Cowboy’s football game, Fountain skillfully illustrates what it’s like to go to war, and how bizarre and disconcerting it can be for these grunts to return from combat to the country they love.
6. Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo: This searing portrait of life in a Mumbai slum reads like a novel, but it’s all-too-true. Pulitzer Prize-winner Boo’s writing is superb, and the depth and courage of her reporting from this hidden world is astonishing. [EW’s grade: A. Jeff Giles wrote, “Beautiful Forevers will be one of the year’s big books — a conversation starter, an award winner.”]
7. A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers: Both disturbing and funny, this novel from onetime wunderkind Eggers shows surprising depth. A man’s wayward attempt to find himself and retake his life delivers him to Saudi Arabia but the journey abroad is also internal, and it ends up saying as much about life in America as in the Middle East. [EW’s grade: A–. Jeff Giles wrote, “The power of this thing sneaks up on you slowly. …”]
8. The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg: A quick read that’s more complex than it seems at first, this story about a Midwestern Jewish family is both recognizable (sometimes uncomfortably so) and entertainingly idiosyncratic.
9. Mortality by Christopher Hitchens: Like the late author himself, this book is funny, smart, entertaining and unflinching to the end. Mortality has the power to change ideas that you might have held immutable—which is one of the best things you can say about a book.
10. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green: This soulful novel originally written for teenagers tackles big subjects—life, death, love—with the perfect blend of levity and heart-swelling emotion. [EW’s grade: A–. I wrote, “The gut-busting laughs that come early in the novel make the luminous final pages all the more heartbreaking.”
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