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December 5, 2012

Favorite Novels of 2012

2012 was yet another banner year for fiction. These are the 11 novels I have most recommended to friends, family, and anyone else who has crossed my path this year.

All links go to the authors' contributions to the Book Notes series. I have reposted my original review below each book.

What was your favorite novel of 2012?


Arcadia by Lauren Groff

With her second novel Arcadia, Lauren Groff firmly entrenches herself as one of America's finest writers. Vividly told and ambitious in scale, this is one of the best novels I have read in a very long time.

The Devil in Silver

The Devil in Silver by Victor LaValle

Victor LaValle's The Devil in Silver brilliantly melds literary horror with social conscience in one of the year's most striking novels.

The Forrests

The Forrests by Emily Perkins

In her novel The Forrests, Emily Perkins vividly shares the life of a New Zealand woman from birth to death, a masterful and intricate depiction of an ordinary life.


Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman

Tupelo Hassman's Girlchild is one of the most impressive debut novels I have read in years. The young protagonist's honesty, intelligence, and resilient nature illuminate her dark surroundings. Hassman's non-traditional narrative, which includes social worker reports about the girl's mother, works exceptionally well to frame this young woman's formative years and environment.

Gods Without Men

Gods Without Men by Hari Kunzru

Hari Kunzru's Gods Without Men may be the year's most ambitious and fully realized novel. Spanning almost 200 years, Kunzru skillfully weaves several narratives into a book that both challenges and rewards the reader.

How to Get into the Twin Palms

How to Get into the Twin Palms by Karolina Waclawiak

Karolina Waclawiak's debut novel How to Get into the Twin Palms is a quietly stunning exploration of assimilation and personal identity.


Malarky by Anakana Schofield

Anakana Schofield's Malarky is a brilliant debut novel that depicts one woman's descent into madness with dark humor and an intimate eye for grief and sorrow.


Narcopolis by Jeet Thail

Jeet Thayil's Narcopolis is a brilliant debut novel, one that vividly captures Bombay's drug culture from the 1960s to the present day.

The People of Forever Are Not Afraid

The People of Forever Are Not Afraid by Shani Boianjiu

Shani Boianjiu's debut novel The People of Forever Are Not Afraid is a mesmerizing exploration of the effects of war on young women. This coming of age story of three young Israeli army soldiers is one of the year's most important books.

Running the Rift

Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron

Barbara Kingsolver's Bellwether Prize for a Novel of Social Change has introduced me to several talented writers over the years, notably Gayle Brandeis, Hillary Jordan, and Heidi Durrow. Naomi Benaron is a worthy addition to that fine group.

Benaron's debut novel Running the Rift is a gripping coming of age story set in Rwanda before, during, and after the country's genocide. This tragic yet beautifully written and powerful book offers vivid insight into the country through the life of a young Tutsi boy who dreams of running in the Olympics, only to have his dreams deferred by civil war.

Tell the Wolves I'm Home

Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

Carol Rifka Brunt's Tell the Wolves I'm Home is a brilliant and thoughtful debut novel that thoughtfully explores love in all its forms.

also at Largehearted Boy:

online "best of 2012" book lists

Largehearted Boy favorite novels of 2011
Largehearted Boy favorite novels of 2010
Largehearted Boy favorite novels of 2009
Largehearted Boy favorite novels of 2008
Largehearted Boy favorite novels of 2007

Largehearted Boy favorite short story collections of 2012

previous lists at Largehearted Boy
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
guest book reviews
musician/author interviews
52 Books, 52 Weeks book reviews