We can’t pretend that the following list is complete or even close. But the books here are high among those that received excellent reviews in The Buffalo News in 2012:
“Selected Letters of William Styron” (Random House): “THE literary letters collection of the year by many miles.” – Jeff Simon
“Great Expectations: The Sons and Daughters of Charles Dickens” by Robert Gottlieb (Farrar, Straus and Giroux): “Robert Gottlieb, former editor of The New Yorker, could write a book about bananas and I’d read it.” – Michael D. Langan
“Building Stories” by Chris Ware (Pantheon): “Utterly unlike anything else out there.” – J.S.
“More than Human” by Tim Flach (Abrams): “These are some of the most amazing photographs of animals you’ll ever see.” – J.S.
“The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy” by David Nasaw (Penguin Press): “The real Joe Kennedy, the Irish-Catholic fighter, the self-made Wall Street millionaire, the movie mogul, the outspoken critic of presidents and kings, the consummate showman, the ‘opinionated, volatile, argumentative, driven’ Joe Kennedy … is what David Nasaw brings to life .” – Edward Cuddihy
“The Revolution Was Televised” by Alan Sepinwall (self-published paperback): “Great journalism about television … a book that fulfills in the 21st century that promise made by television criticism in the ’70s when Michael Arlen wrote extraordinary essays about television in The New Yorker, James Wolcott was at the Village Voice, ex-Buffalonian Gary Deeb (before his professional self-immolation) was standing TV on its head from Chicago, and such people as Ron Powers and William Henry were given Pulitzer Prizes as a tentative but unsuccessful way for the journalistic establishment to try to represent it all.” – J.S.
“Bruce” by Peter Ames Carlin (Touchstone): “If ever again a disbeliever confronts one with the standard, ‘Just what exactly is the deal with this Springsteen character you’re always babbling on about like a religious zealot,’ it will be Carlin’s ‘Bruce’ that I’ll thrust forward by way of response.” – Jeff Miers
“The Spoiler” by Annalend McAfee (Knopf): “A troubling and uproarious first novel” and “a book made in heaven for old print journalists.” – Karen Brady
“Sweet Tooth” by Ian McEwan (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday): “To read Ian McEwan is to hold one’s breath as his intoxicating prose reaches toward some (probably unwanted) unknown … a superb novel … Bravo!” – K.B.
“Do The Movies Have a Future?” by David Denby (Simon and Schuster) and “The Big Screen” by David Thomson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux): “America’s finest living film critics … Among the most important books of 2012, both.” – J.S.
“The Middlesteins” by Jami Attenberg (Grand Central): “It had me from its very first pages but it wasn’t until the final pages that I fully appreciated the range of Attenberg’s sympathy and the artistry of her storytelling.” – Stefan Fleischer
“The Richard Burton Diaries” (Yale University Press): “One of the great entertainment books of 2012 … the on-again, off-again diary of his era’s most fascinating failure, a man almost universally lamented by his peers for never fulfilling his extraordinary gifts, simultaneously a genuinely poetic intellect and just as genuine a vulgarian.” – J.S.
“The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton” (BOA Editions): “A great book to be sure.” – J.S.
“Who I Am” by Pete Townshend (Harper). “Townshend is perhaps the only man who ever considered a hockey arena or small town civic center to be a suitable venue for a religious experience. It makes sense then that when it finally came time to write his autobiography, Townshend would deliver a book as complex as the man himself and that man’s finest music.” – J.M.
“No Easy Day: The Autobiography of a Navy SEAL” by Mark Owen with Kevin Maurer (Dutton): “The story America has been dying to hear … a pulsating, unabashedly patriotic page-turner.” – Donn Esmonde
“Gods Like Us: On Movie Stardom and Modern Fame” by Ty Burr (Pantheon): “The sudden, wildly unexpected attainment of intellectual stardom by a humble movie critic in an era increasingly engaged in prohibiting movie critics from becoming any such thing.” – J.S.
“Paris: A Love Story” by Kati Marton (Simon and Schuster): “It could be the antidote to the hype surrounding ‘50 Shades of Grey.’ ” – Carol Crissey Nigrelli
“Solo: A Memoir of Hope” by Hope Solo with Ann Killian (HarperCollins): “Chalk up another triumph for Title IX, further proof that female athletes have come a long way the past few years.” – Gene Warner
“Wish You Were Here” by Graham Swift (Knopf): “Strong, intelligent and successful from start to finish … If it is dark and terrible, it is also beautiful and moving.” – K.B.
“Silver: Return to Treasure Island” by Sir Andrew Motion (Crown): “A wonderful tale well told.” – M.D.L.
“This Is How You Lose Her” by Junot Diaz (Riverhead): “Read this. If you care even a whit about the vitality of current American literature.” – J.S.
“Telegraph Avenue” by Michael Chabon (Harper): “Chabon has a near effortless ability to reveal the huge human truths that scaffold absurdly specific circumstances and he does so on nearly every page.” – Emily Simon
“Mortality” by Christopher Hitchens (Twelve): “Here was something no reader was quite used to – dying in public with all of one’s literary virtues not only preserved but sharpened to a fine edge.” – J.S.
“Hot Pink” by Adam Levin (McSweeney’s): “Funny, intensely self-aware and wise.” – Ed Taylor
“The Cove” by Ron Rash (Ecco): “A piece of fiction … so fine yet simply put that it seems the stuff of life itself.” – K.B.
“The Way the World Works: Essays” by Nicholson Baker (Simon and Schuster): “An authentic culture hero in the current literary age.” – J.S.
“Cindy Sherman: The Early Work” (Harje Cantz): “A stunning addition to an already vast literature about Sherman.” – Colin Dabkowski
“Gangsters and Organized Crime in Buffalo” by Michael F. Rizzo (History Press): “Much has been written about Buffalo-area mobsters in newspaper articles, magazine articles and, of course, FBI files. But never has anyone put it all together. … until now.” – Lee Coppola
“The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire” by Ted Gioia (Oxford University Press): “A valuable reference book that is as much fun to read as it is informative.” – J.S.
“Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America” by Christopher Bran (Twelve Books): “A long-overdue discussion bringing post-war gay literature into the light.” – C.D.
“Istanbul Passage” by Joseph Kanon (Atria): “A first-rate spy novel whose layers of description remind one of Graham Greene’s 1939 novel ‘The Confidential Agent’ as well as Orhan Pamuk’s ‘The Museum of Innocence.’ ” – M.D. L.
“Diary” by Witold Gombrowicz (Yale University Press): “A one-volume edition of a masterwork by a writer often called ‘the most unknown of celebrated writers.’ ” – J.S.
“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” by Ben Fountain (Ecco): “A mediation on both the 99 percent and the 1 percent.” – Ed Taylor
“The Fan Who Knew Too Much” by Anthony Heilbut (Knopf). “A brilliant, one-of-a-kind and immensely challenging book.” – J. S.
“America the Philosophical” by Carlin Romano (Knopf): “His news in this book is a head-rocker and a complete contradiction of everything you’re likely to believe true.” – J.S.
“At Home on the Range” by Margaret Yardley Potter (McSweeney’s): “So much, much more than a cookbook. It is a memoir of one woman’s life, her marriage and her full and happy years of taking care of a family.” – Charity Vogel
“The Passage of Power” by Robert A. Caro (Knopf): “Rivals Machiavelli’s ‘The Prince.’ ” – M.D.L.
“Dropped Names” by Frank Langella (Harper). “You never know where the great showbiz memoirs are going to come from.” – J.S.