Buried under all the usual chatter about the death of the book is this not-so-little secret: 2012 was an amazing year for literature. And no, I’m not talking about Fifty Shades of bla bla bla. I’m talking about living, breathing, squirming, shouting, bleeding, spasming, lacy and lovely and lovelorn and fleshy and true and great literature. The real deal. In the small press world, in the big press world, it was a great year for it. Good writers got great books published, awards were given to some of the right people for once, good presses got recognized, and Random House even took the jillions of dollars they made from Fifty Shades and gave their employees some very nice holiday bonuses. Yay for reading!
It was difficult, with such a glut of the good, to pick just a few. But I feel sort of obligated, you know, to pass on the recommendations of a year’s heavy reading. And this year I feel it especially necessary to do so, for karmic reasons alone. You see, I had a book published this year, and it’s been a modest success so far, and I think that would not have been possible without the vouching and word-of-mouthing and reviewing and recommending of it by people who really enjoyed it and felt it their duty to pass said enjoyment on to others. So in the spirit of glad gratefulness and sharing (appropriate given the holidays now upon us) just like I do every year here in this space, I present my (imperfect) list of the literary best of 2012:
Best Novels: Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter; The Listeners by Leni Zumas; Threats by Amelia Gray, Big Ray by Michael Kimball; The Alligators of Abraham by Robert Kloss; Nine Months by Paula Bomer; Shadow Man by Gabriel Blackwell; Last Call in the City of Bridges by Salvatore Pane; Another Governess/The Least Blacksmith by Joanna Ruocco
Best Short Story Collections: Asunder by Robert Lopez; Understories by Tim Horvath; The Collected Works Vol. 1 by Scott McClanahan; Light without Heat by Matthew Kirkpatrick; Together We Can Bury It by Kathy Fish; Modern Manners for Your Inner Demons by Tara Laskowski; Strategies Against Extinction by Michael Nye; Vicky Swanky is a Beauty by Diane Williams
Best Translation: Sandalwood Death by Mo Yan, translated by Howard Goldblatt
Best Poetry: Fjords by Zachary Schomburg; Meat Heart by Melissa Broder; Pretty/Tilt by Carrie Murphy
Best Anthology: The Anthology of Etiquette and Many Angels With Terrifying Heads, ed. by James Tadd Adcox
Best Thing Ever Because Everything She Does is the Best Thing Ever: Sophocles’ Antigonick translated/interpreted by Anne Carson
Best Unclassifiable: Cataclysm Baby by Matt Bell; Sky Saw by Blake Butler; An Dantomine Eerly by JRD Middleton;
Best Indie Lit Promoters: Laura Straub, Mark Cugini
Non-fiction: Reflections by Diana Wynne Jones; Things That Are by Amy Leach; Legs Get Led Astray by Chloe Caldwell
Most Anticipated Fiction of 2013: In The House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods by Matt Bell; Billie the Bull by xTx
Best Well-Shit-How-Could-I-Have-Never-Read-This-Before-and-Now-It’s-Changed-my-Life Book: William Faulkner’s A Light in August
People I Want to See Books from Next Year: Steve Himmer, Molly Gaudry, Lincoln Michel, James Tadd Adcox, Chantel Tattoli, Erin Fitzgerald, Lauren Becker, Tim Jones-Yelvington
Best Internet Stories About Presidents: All of THESE
Here’s to an equally grand and glorious 2013 for literature!