12.16.12

The Best of the Best List: 2012 Critics’ Top Books

We collect all the year-end best-of lists published by major critics and publications to find out which work wins the title of ‘the single best book of 2012.’

And the winner is… Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel. The winner for nonfiction is Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo. Here is our tally for all the books with at least three mentions in the best-of lists.

Fiction

1. Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (20 mentions—our review)

2. NW by Zadie Smith (10 mentions—our review)

2. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (10 mentions—our interview)

2. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain (10 mentions—our review)

5. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter (9 mentions)

6. The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers (8 mentions—our review)

7. At Last by Edward St. Aubyn (7 mentions—our review)

7. Building Stories by Chris Ware (7 mentions—our review)

7. Canada by Richard Ford (7 mentions—our review and interview)

7. Dear Life by Alice Munro (7 mentions)

7. This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz (7 mentions—our review)

7. Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple (7 mentions—our review)

13. Arcadia by Lauren Groff (5 mentions—our review)

13. The Round House by Louise Erdrich (5 mentions—our interview)

13. The Fault In Our Stars by John Green (5 mentions)

16. The Orphan Master's Son (4 mentions)

16. Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson (4 mentions)

18. A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers (3 mentions)

18. Object Lessons edited by Lorin Stein and Sadie Stein (3 mentions—our excerpt)

18. Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan (3 mentions—our interview)

18. Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon (3 mentions—our interview)

Nonfiction

1. Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo (16 mentions—our interview)

2. The Passage of Power by Robert Caro (8 mentions—our review)

2. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed (8 mentions)

4. The Old Ways by Robert Macfarlane (7 mentions—our review)

5. Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon (6 mentions—our bookbag)

5. Iron Curtain by Anne Applebaum (6 mentions—our review)

7. Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story by D.T. Max (5 mentions—our excerpt)

7. House of Stone by Anthony Shadid (5 mentions—our obituary)

7. Mortality by Christopher Hitchens (5 mentions—our section)

7. Spillover by David Quammen (5 mentions)

11. Bertie: A Life of Edward VII by Jane Ridley (4 mentions)

11. Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie (4 mentions—our speed read)

11. People Who Eat Darkness by Richard Lloyd Parry (4 mentions—our review)

14. The Black Count by Tom Reiss (3 mentions—our review)

14. Country Girl by Edna O’Brien (3 mentions)

14. Double Cross by Ben Macintyre (3 mentions—from the same author)

14. The End of Your Life Book Club (3 mentions)

14. The Origins of Sex by Faramerz Dabhoiwala (3 mentions)

14. The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver (3 mentions—our excerpt)

14. When I Was a Child, I Read Books by Marilynne Robinson (3 mentions—our review)

14. Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson (3 mentions—our review)

14. Zona by Geoff Dyer (3 mentions—our review)

Here are the individual top books lists. Some critics rank their choices, some just list 10 or more books, some publications pick the top 10 in different categories (e.g. history), while others compile massive lists asking novelists, contributors and editors their favorite books. We’ve compiled many of them; check back frequently for new lists and let us know which ones we missed.

The New Yorker

The Constant Heart
Major/Minor
We Are Taking Only What We Need
Dictionary of American Regional English, Volume V, SL-Z
Fear Of Music
Bewilderment
Gone to the Forest
Nice Weather (based on a true story)
The First Four Notes
Zona
Freedom and the Arts
Bewilderment
Poetic Notebooks
Shake Off
Behind the Beautiful Forevers
The Passage of Power
Portrait of a Novel
Bring Up the Bodies
Maile Meloy
Brothers
Place
India Becoming: A Portrait of Life in Modern India
Tombstone
Lenin’s Kisses
Left-handed
Naples Declared: A Walk Around the Bay
Country Girl: A Memoir
A Choreographic Mind

P.S.

NW
A Naked Singularity
Balloon Pop Outlaw Black
The Flame Alphabet
The Vanishers
Prosperous Friends
Narcopolis

James Wood

Bring Up the Bodies
How Should a Person Be
At Last
I Curse the River of Time
Four New Messages
NW
My Struggle
Alive in Writing: Crafting Ethnography in the Company of Chekhov
Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of a Masterpiece

New York Daily News

May We Be Forgiven
Memorial
Bring Up the Bodies
A Condition of Doubt
Detroit City Is the Place to Be
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
This Is How You Lose Her
One for the Books
Mortality
Behind the Beautiful Forevers

The New York Times

Bring Up the Bodies
Building Stories
A Hologram For the King
NW
The Yellow Birds
Behind the Beautiful Forevers
Far From the Tree
The Passage of Power
The Patriarch
Why Does the World Exist

Dwight Garner

Poems 1962-2012 by Louise Glück
Fire in the Belly
Wild
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?
In Praise of Messy Lives: Essays
Far From the Tree
The Richard Burton Diaries
Red Plenty
Spillover
Alien Vs. Predator: Poems by Michael Robbins

Michiko Kakutani

The Passage of Power
A Hologram for the King
The Yellow Birds
Telegraph Avenue
The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation
The Twelve Tribes of Hattie
The Revolution Was Televised
Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace
Hello Goodbye Hello: A Circle of 101 Remarkable Meetings
Hallucinations

Janet Maslin

Bring Up the Bodies
Behind the Beautiful Forevers
Where'd You Go, Bernadette
Truth Like the Sun
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
Gone Girl
Arcadia
Watergate
Ike's Bluff: President Eisenhower's Secret Battle To Save the World
The One: The Life and Music of James Brown

The Los Angeles Times

David L. Ulin

The Address Book
Building Stories
Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story
Gods Without Men
The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire
Magnificence
NW
On Politics
Our Kind of People
These Dreams of You

Carolyn Kellogg

Where'd You Go, Bernadette
Suddenly, A Knock on the Door
People Who Eat Darkness
Spillover

The Seattle Times

Fiction

In the Kingdom of Men
Running the Rift
The Chemistry of Tears
The Orchardist
The Bartender’s Tale
The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving
Winter of the World
The Chaos
The Legend of Pradeep Mathew
Capita
Bring Up the Bodies
Trapeze
Sweet Tooth
Beautiful Ruins
Alif the Unseen

Nonfiction

The Way the World Works
Behind the Beautiful Forevers
Dust to Dust—a Memoir
My Heart Is Boundless
Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power
Spillover
The Generals
Joseph Anton
Seward: Lincoln’s Indispensable Man
The Outpost

The Wall Street Journal

Fiction

The People of Forever Are Not Afraid
Tell the Wolves I'm Home
A Naked Singularity
Earth and Air
Absolution
The Orphan Master's Son
The Thief
John Saturnall's Feast
NW
At Last

Nonfiction

Iron Curtain
The Endgame
The Founders and Finance
Sincerity
The Lion Sleeps Tonight
The Wives
The Astaires
The Signal and the Noise
Connectome
A Man and His Ship

Entertainment Weekly

Rob Brunner

Bring Up the Bodies
The Orphan Master’s Son
Beautiful Ruins
Where’d You Go, Bernadette
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
The Newlyweds
The Fault In Our Stars
Gone Girl
Building Stories
This Is How You Lose Her

Tina Jordan

Behind the Beautiful Forevers
Wild
House of Stone
People Who Eat Darkness
The Passage of Power
The Mansion of Happiness
The End of Your Life Book Club
Marbles
No Easy Day
The Violinist’s Thumb

Amazon

The Round House
The Yellow Birds
Gone Girl
The End of Your Life Book Club
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
Behind the Beautiful Forevers
A Hologram for the King
The Middlesteins
Mortality
The Fault in Our Stars

Publisher’s Weekly

Building Stories
Bring Up the Bodies
The Round House
Happiness Is a Chemical In the Brain
The Devil in Silver
Detroit City Is the Place to Be
All We Know
People Who Eat Darkness
The Barbarous Years
Iron Curtain

The Daily Beast

Lucas Wittmann

The Yellow Birds
The Orphan Master’s Son
Dear Life
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
Bring Up the Bodies
Joseph Anton
The Barbarous Years
Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story
Behind the Beautiful Forevers
Far From the Tree

Newsday

1. Wild
2. Beautiful Ruins
3. The Passage of Power
4. Gone Girl
5. Fire in the Belly
6. Monkey Mind
7. This Is How You Lose Her
8. Building Stories
9. Behind the Beautiful Forevers
10. May We Be Forgiven
11. The Patriarch
12. Carry the One

The Atlantic

Benjamin Schwartz

The Great Sea
Time’s Shadow
Good Behaviour
Bring Up the Bodies
Moscow, 1937

What They Do in the Dark
The Book of Common Prayer
Orderly and Humane
Fairness and Freedom
The Road to Ruins
Evening's Empire
Dear Life
Sir Walter Raleigh
Masters of the Planet
The Essays of Virginia Woolf, Volume 6

Esquire

Beautiful Ruins
Capital
Good Son
The Yellow Birds
Rule and Ruin
House of Stone
At Last
The Three Day Affair

Christian Science Monitor

Arcadia
Canada
Bring Up the Bodies
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
In the Shadow of the Banyan
Gone Girl
Where’d You Go, Bernadette
The Yellow Birds
The Round House
Alif the Unseen

Huffington Post

Ninety Days
The Yellow Birds
My Heart Is an Idiot
The Lifespan of a Fact
Immobility
Page 1: Great Expectations
Suddenly, A Knock at the Door
Object Lessons
The Elephant Keeper’s Children
Zona: A Book About a Film About a Journey to a Room
No One Is Here Except All of Us
Swimming Home
How Should a Person Be?
Farther Away
Birds of a Lesser Paradise
American Dervish
Swimming Studies
As If
When I Was a Child I Read Books
Gone Girl
This Is How You Lose Her
Penelope
The Fault In Our Stars

The Observer/The Guardian

The Old Ways
La Folie Baudelaire
Hope: A Tragedy
A Room Full of Bones
Broken Harbor
On Poetry
At Last
Iron Curtain
Artful
NW
When It Happens to You
Joy
The Big Screen
A History of Opera
The Old Ways
The Man Within My Head
From the Ruins of Empire
Subliminal
Canada
The Pinecone
The Old Ways
The Forrests
Dirt
A Death in the Family
The Apartment
Skios
The Man Within My Head
Where’d You Go, Bernadette
The Lifeboat
Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace
In Praise of Messy Lives
Behind the Beautiful Forevers
When I Die
Through the Window
Country Girl
Joseph Anton
A Free Man
Missing Out
The Letters of Samuel Beckett Vol. II
Hockney: The Biography
Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure
The Origins of Sex: A History of the First Sexual Revolution
Double Cross
A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar
Dear Life
The Plantagenets
The Second World War
As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh
Ignorance: How It Drives Science
Drawing from the City
The Lighthouse
The Cleaner of Chartres

The Telegraph

Queen Anne: The Politics of Passion
Bertie
Lionel Asbo
Iron Curtain
The British as Art Collectors
The Old Ways
Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure
The Plantagenets
The Sleepwalkers
Museum Without Walls
The Guardians
Swimming Home
Bring Up the Bodies
The Daughters of Mars
Another Country
Sightlines
Dangerous Work
Inconvenient People
Becoming Dickens
Traces Remain
They Eat Puppies, Don’t They?
The Dictator’s Learning Curve
Waging Heavy Peace
The Origins of Sex: A History of the First Sexual Revolution
Titanic Lives
Bertie
Strindberg: A Life
The Baroness
The Old Ways
The Shadow of the Sword
Dear Life
Bertie
Merivel
Double Cross
New Ways to Kill Your Mother
Through the Window
Bring Up the Bodies
Merivel
Flight From Berlin
Sweet Tooth
Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain
John Saturnall’s Feast
An Almost English Life

Time

Lev Grossman

Fiction

1. The Fault in Our Stars
2. Bring Up the Bodies
3. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
4. At Last
5. The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There
6. The Casual Vacancy
7. Building Stories
8. NW
9. Where’d You Go, Bernadette
10. This Is How You Lose Her

Nonfiction

1. Iron Curtain
2. The Passage of Power
3. Far From the Tree
4. My Friend Dahmer
5. Are You My Mother?
6. Wild
7. Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child
8. People Who Eat Darkness
9. The First Four Notes
10. The Black Count

Times Literary Supplement

Johann Zoffany RA
Aeneas of Gaza
Zacharias of Mytilene
Drawing to a Close
Ernst Junger and Germany 1914-1945
Profane Illumination
NW
The London Square
In Search of Rex Whistler
London: A History in Maps
Country Girl
The Yellow Birds
The Old Ways
What Light Can Do
Dark Lies the Island
The End of Ulster Loyalism?
My American Revolution
Alfred Jarry
Willy Ronis
Woodlands
The Panopticon
The Heroic Life of George Gissing Vol 3
Elsewhere (published as On Helwig Street in the U.K.)
Mrs. Bridge
Canada
The Sensory World of Italian Renaissance Art
At Last
Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World
If You Sit Very Still

The Economist

The New New Deal
The Immigrant Exodus
Days of God
From the Ruins of Empire
The Passage of Power
Thomas Hobbes
The Richard Burton Diaries
Wanted Women
Titian: His Life
Every Love Story is a Ghost Story
Raffles and the Golden Opportunity
Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend
Ivory, Apes & Peacocks
The Pinecone
When I Was a Child I Read Books
Bertie: A Life of Edward VII
Joseph Anton
Iron Curtain
Tombstone: The Great Chinese Famine 1958-1962
Unfinished Empire: The Global Expansion of Britain
The Eagle Unbowed
Why Nations Fail
Private Empire: Exxon Mobil and American Power
The New Industrial Revolution
Freedom’s Forge
Management in 10 Words
Spillover
The Origins of Sex
The Signal and the Noise
Bad Pharma
Ocean of Life
Behind the Beautiful Forevers
Far From the Tree
Music as Alchemy.
The Art of the Restaurateur
The Secret Race
Radio Congo: Signals of Hope from Africa’s Deadliest War
Into the Silence
The Old Ways
On Warne
Great Houses of London
Swim: Why We Love the Water
Strands: A Year of Discoveries on the Beach
How to Stay Sane

Fiction:
Bring Up the Bodies
The Forgiven
Toby’s Room
The Dinner
The Garden of Evening Mists
Grimm Tales: For Young and Old
Winter: Five Windows on the Season
Three Strong Women
Yellow Tulips: Poems 1968-2011
Place

NPR

Thrall: Poems by Natasha Trethewey
Useless Landscape Or A Guide For Boys by D.A. Powell
Mayakovsky's Revolver by Matthew Dickman
Our Lady Of The Ruins by Traci Brimhall
Bender: New & Selected Poems by Dean Young
Sophie Calle: The Address Book, by Sophie Calle
As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals And Notebooks, 1964-1980, by Susan Sontag
All We Know: Three Lives
Carry The One
Antigonick
Life Is A Gift: The Zen Of Bennett
How Music Works
The First Four Notes: Beethoven's Fifth And The Human Imagination
Where The Heart Beats: John Cage, Zen Buddhism, And The Inner Life Of Artists
Why Jazz Happened
Will Oldham On Bonnie "Prince" Billy
Ernie K-Doe: The R&B Emperor Of New Orleans
The One: The Life And Music Of James Brown
No Regrets: Writings On Scott Walker
Code Name Verity
Purity
Endangered
Where Things Come Back
Seraphina
Gone Girl
The Stonecutter
Broken Harbor
The Beautiful Mystery: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel
Strong Poison
Have His Carcase
Gaudy Night
Busman's Honeymoon
I Own The Dawn
Steel's Edge
A Royal Pain
Riveted
A Lady Never Lies
I'm Your Man: The Life Of Leonard Cohen
Barack Obama: The Story
A Difficult Woman
The Black Count
The Odds
Canada
Girlchild
This Is How You Lose Her
Beautiful Ruins
The Brontes: Wild Genius On The Moors
Marmee & Louisa
Elsewhere: A Memoir
My Husband And My Wives: A Gay Man’s Odyssey
Behind The Beautiful Forevers
100 Diagrams That Changed The World
American Ghost
The Art Forger
City Of Women
Travels With Epicurus
Instant: The Story Of Polaroid
The Carter Family: Don’t Forget This Song
Lies, Knives, And Girls In Red Dresses
The Graphic Canon, Volume 1
The Graphic Canon, Volume 2
My Ideal Bookshelf
Object Lessons
My Heart Is An Idiot
Laura Lamont’s Life In Pictures
The News From Spain: 7 Variations On A Love Story
Dancers Among Us: A Celebration Of Joy In The Everyday
The Middlesteins
The Lifeboat
The Round House
Arcadia
NW
The Orchardist
Fairy Tales From The Brothers Grimm
More Than Human
Flower
Poems 1962-2012
Blown Covers: New Yorker Covers You Were Never Meant To See
Building Stories
Abstract City
Cindy Sherman
The 20th-Century World Architecture
The Best American Short Stories 2012
Wonder
Starry River Of The Sky
Liar & Spy
Bring Up The Bodies
The Book Of Madness And Cures
The Orphanmaster
The Twelve Rooms Of The Nile
The Orchardist
River Of Smoke
2312
After The Apocalypse
Intrusion
Alif The Unseen
All Yesterdays
The Cold Commands
The Sprouted Kitchen: A Tastier Take On Whole Foods
Modern Sauces
The Science Of Good Cooking
Susan Feniger’s Street Food
Hiroko’s American Kitchen: Cooking With Japanese Flavors
Jerusalem: A Cookbook
Canal House Cooks Every Day
The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook: Sweetness In Seattle
Simply Sensational Cookies
Home
Mortality
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
Wild: From Lost To Found On The Pacific Crest Trail
Brothers: On His Brothers And Brothers In History
The Hungry Ear: Poems of Food & Drink
Christmas at Eagle Pond
Memorial: A Version of Homer’s Iliad
The Life of Objects
Merge / Disciple
The Towers of Trebizond
America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation
We Learn Nothing
Heft
Among Others
The Double Game
Code Name Verity
Blasphemy
What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank
The Doctor’s Wife
Dear Life
Battleborn
The Crackle of the Frost
Little White Duck: A Childhood in China
Drama
Gloriana
Saga 1
Wonder Woman 1: Blood

Vogue

1. The Round House
2. Dear Life
3. My Brilliant Friend
4. Canada
5. Arcadia
6. The Patagonian Hare
7. The Scientists
8. Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?
9. Yes, Chef
10. Wild

Washington Post

Behind the Beautiful Forevers
House of Stone
Iron Curtain
Marigold
Why Nations Fail
Arcadia
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
Bring Up the Bodies
Broken Harbor
Canada

Slate

Behind the Beautiful Forevers
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
Bring Up the Bodies
Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story
Gone Girl
Journalism
The Lifespan of a Fact
NW
The Unreal and the Real
Wild

Barnes & Noble

Fiction

Winter of the World
Gone Girl
Defending Jacob
Bring Up the Bodies
The Light Between Oceans
Shadow of Night
The Wind through the Keyhole
This Is How You Lose Her
Beautiful Ruins
Telegraph Avenue
Where'd You Go, Bernadette
Phantom
Broken Harbor
The Dog Stars
The Age of Miracles
Canada
2312
Seating Arrangements
The Orphan Master's Son
Astray
Talulla Rising
By Blood
Fobbit
Magnificence
Gods Without Men
At Last
The Fault In Our Stars
Ragnarok: The End of the Gods

Nonfiction

Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power
Defender of the Realm
Wild
Behind the Beautiful Forevers
Far From the Tree
The Signal and the Noise
Quiet
The Power of Habit
Double Cross
The Passage of Power
Mortality
Drift
The End of Your Life Book Club
Spillover
Prague Winter
The Second World War
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?
God's Hotel
Hello Goodbye Hello
Turing's Cathedral
Are You My Mother?
Devil in the Grove
House of Stone
The Twilight War
Reinventing Bach

New York Magazine

Kathryn Schulz

1. Dear Life
2. Behind the Beautiful Forevers
3. Why Does the World Exist
4. Zona
5. Telegraph Avenue
6. Mortality
7. Object Lessons
8. When I Was a Child, I Read Books
9. Into the Silence
10. House of Stone

Salon

Laura Miller

1. Far From the Tree
2. Bring Up the Bodies
3. Behind the Beautiful Forevers
4. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
5. Wilderness of Error
6. Gone Girl
7. The Black Count
8. Beautiful Ruins
9. Wild
10. Alif the Unseen

The Seattle Times

Fiction:
In the Kingdom of Men by Kim Barnes—picked by Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett
Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron—picked by Bharti Kirchner
The Chemistry of Tears by Peter Carey—picked by Tyrone Beason
The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin—picked by Richard Wakefield
The Bartender’s Tale by Ivan Doig—picked by Tim McNulty
The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison—picked by Ellen Emry Heltzel
Winter of the World by Ken Follett—picked by Melinda Bargreen
The Chaos by Nalo Hopkinson—picked by Nisi Shawl
The Legend of Pradeep Mathew by Shehan Karunatilaka—picked by Alan Moores
Capital by John Lanchester—picked by Ken Armstrong
Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel—picked by Mary Ann Gwinn
Trapeze by Simon Mawer—picked by Valerie Ryan
Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan—picked by Moira Macdonald
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter—four reviewers
Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson—Agnes Torres Al-Shibibi

Nonfiction:
The Way the World Works by Nicholson Baker—picked by Adam Woog
Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo—picked by David Takami
Dust to Dust — a Memoir by Benjamin Busch—picked by Irene Wanner
My Heart Is Boundless edited by Eve LaPlante—picked by Barbara Llloyd McMichael
Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham—picked by Kevin J. Hamilton
Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic by David Quammen—picked by David B. Williams
The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today by Thomas E. Ricks—picked by John B. Saul
Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie—picked by Michael Upchurch
Seward: Lincoln’s Indispensable Man by Walter Stahr—picked by Steve Raymond
The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor by Jake Tapper—picked by Curt Schleier