Our favorite books of 2012
Oh, the Places We Went
Michael Chabon's Telegraph Avenue (Harper) is ostensibly about two friends – one black, one white – whose venerable vinyl record store on the Oakland/Berkeley border is being threatened by gentrification. But this ambitious literary feast encompasses so much more: race, family relationships, urban renewal, and blaxploitation films, to name but a few.
Junot Diaz's This Is How You Lose Her (Riverhead) is a collection of related short stories that grabs you from the get-go with its compelling use of language and its empathetic insights into the immigrant experience.
J.G. Ballard's last novel – and a fitting farewell, indeed – is Kingdom Come (W.W. Norton), a typically dystopian tale of modern consumerism transformed into fascism in the London suburbs.
Presence of place is a major attribute of Kim Barnes' In the Kingdom of Men (Knopf), which tells of the self-actualization of an American woman who joins her husband in an oppressive oil company compound in Cold War Saudi Arabia and must grapple with sexism, classism, racial oppression, and corrupt oil company politics.
Honorable mentions go to Karen Thompson Walker's impressive debut, The Age of Miracles (Random House); Jami Attenberg's funny and empathetic family drama, The Middlesteins (Grand Central Publishing); musician Gil Scott-Heron's posthumous memoir, The Last Holiday (Grove Press); and Austinite Dave Oliphant's rhyming poetic bio of Texas trumpeter Kenny Dorham, KD: A Jazz Biography (Wings Press). – Jay Trachtenberg