100 Children's Books to Read in a Lifetime

Best Books of 2012

Over the past year we've read new release after new release, scoured customer reviews and made note of which books we most loved in anticipation of this moment. After thoughtful consideration and lengthy debate, we are pleased to present our editors' picks for the Best Books of 2012.
Top Ten: Editors' Picks
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and DisappearedThe Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

One hour before his one-hundredth birthday celebration, Allan Karlsson escapes out the window of his room in an old person's home. He soon finds himself in possession of a suitcase full of cash and on the run from criminals and lawmen who are giving chase. For anyone else it would be the adventure of a lifetime, but Allan has led a larger-than-life life; one that seems implausible, yet oddly possible in the hands of author Jonas Jonasson. From meeting world leaders to witnessing and influencing some of the most important events of the past century, Allan is someone who has seen it all, but who isn't finished living--and we're lucky enough to join in the fun. The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared is a delightfully charming novel that is impossible to put down.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold FryThe Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Harold Fry--retired sales rep, beleaguered husband, passive observer of his own life--decides one morning to walk 600 miles across England to save an old friend. It might not work, mind you, but that's hardly the point. In playwright Rachel Joyce's pitch-perfect first novel, Harold wins us over with his classic antiheroism. Setting off on the long journey, he wears the wrong jacket, doesn't have a toothbrush, and leaves his phone at home--in short, he is wholly, endearingly unprepared. But as he travels, Harold finally has time to reflect on his failings as a husband, father, and friend, and this helps him become someone we (and, more important, his wife Maureen) can respect. After walking for a while in Harold Fry's very human shoes, you might find that your own fit a bit better.

A Street Cat Named BobA Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen

When James Bowen found an injured, ginger street cat curled up in the hallway of his sheltered accommodation, he had no idea just how much his life was about to change. James was living hand to mouth on the streets of London and the last thing he needed was a pet, but as he nursed the newly-named Bob back to health the two became inseparable. Their adventures would transform both their lives, slowly healing the scars of each other's troubled pasts. A Street Cat Named Bob is a sweet and moving story that has touched the hearts of readers this year.

>The Yellow BirdsThe Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers

In this moving story of courage and survival, US Army veteran and poet Kevin Powers delivers a remarkable debut about the psychological impact of war. As their platoon engages in a bloody battle for control of Al Tafar, Iraq, Privates John Bartle and Daniel Murphy cling to life by aiming to not become the one-thousandth soldier killed in action. On returning home after his service, Bartle remains haunted by what he experienced in the field and by the promise he made to Murph's mum to bring her son home to safety. Powers is a war poet for the 21st century and like his forebears Robert Graves and Wilfred Owen, he vividly captures the desperation and brutality of war and its effects in The Yellow Birds.

WonderWonder by R.J. Palacio

Wonder is a rare gem of a novel--beautifully written and populated by characters who linger in your memory and heart. August Pullman is a 10-year-old boy who likes Star Wars and Xbox, ordinary except for his jarring facial anomalies. Homeschooled all his life, August heads to public school for fifth grade and he is not the only one changed by the experience--something we learn about first-hand through the narratives of those who orbit his world. August’s internal dialogue and interactions with students and family ring true, and though remarkably courageous he comes across as a sweet, funny boy who wants the same things others want: friendship, understanding, and the freedom to be himself.

>Billy Lynn's Long Halftime WalkBilly Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

Billy Lynn and his Bravo squad mates are thrust into the spotlight after an embedded TV crew films footage of a firefight against Iraqi insurgents. Overnight the group become heroes and are sent on a Victory Tour that ends with an appearance at the Dallas Cowboys game on Thanksgiving Day. There they find themselves wooed by Hollywood producers, falling in love with cheerleaders and sharing a stage with Beyoncé. A satire on American politics and society, Billy Lynn's Long Half-Time Walk introduces us to a maddening and believable cast of characters full of humanity, duty, honour and conflict. With writing that is both fierce and fearless, Ben Fountain's debut has earned its spot in this year's Top 10.

AngelmakerAngelmaker by Nick Harkaway

Alternately charming and thrilling, relentlessly inventive and shot through with a puckish, frequently waspish sense of humour, Angelmaker delights from cover to cover. Peppered with instantly memorable characters like superannuated secret agent Edie Bannister (and her horrible, hilarious dog), to try to describe the novel’s labyrinthine, bee-ridden plot is akin to attempting to describe fractals to a duck, but suffice to say that there is significant method in the madness--making for one of the year’s most purely enjoyable reads.

>Bad Pharma: How drug companies mislead doctors and harm patientsBad Pharma by Ben Goldacre

Ben Goldacre is a doctor, writer, broadcaster and academic who specialises in unpicking dodgy scientific claims. His first book, Bad Science, was a huge success, exposing the tricks that quacks and journalists use to distort science. Now, with the same accessible and meticulously-researched writing, Goldacre puts the $600bn global pharmaceutical industry under the microscope.

Tigers in Red WeatherTigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann

It’s the end of World War II, and cousins Nick and Helena part ways for the first time. Helena is moving to Hollywood and getting married; Nick goes to Florida with her veteran husband, Hughes. The women soon realise that their lives don’t match their dreams, but it takes more than twelve years and their children finding a murder victim to jar them out of their complacency. Liza Klaussmann layers the story with the distinct viewpoints of Nick, her daughter Daisy, Hughes, Helena, and Helena’s son Ed. From wartime London in the 1940s to the family beach estate, Tiger House, in the late 1960s, each character brings their own baggage to the story of a family unraveling. Secret fears, desires, and relationships come to light as facades are worn away. The unsolved murder soon becomes just one of many mysteries swirling around the Tiger House, building suspense all the way to the startling conclusion.

>My Animals and Other FamilyMy Animals and Other Family by Clare Balding

2012 has been quite a year for Clare Balding. The presenter became the face of television coverage for the London Olympics and Paralympics and has cemented her place at the heart of the nation. In My Animals and Other Family she gives us an insight into her unusual upbringing. As she puts it: 'I had spent most of my childhood thinking I was a dog, and suspect I had aged in dog years. By the time I was ten I had discovered the pain of unbearable loss. I had felt joy and jealousy. Most important of all, I knew how to love and how to let myself be loved. All these things I learnt through animals. Horses and dogs were my family and my friends. This is their story as much as it is mine'.


Best of 2012: Top Categories

More Great Reads to Explore