Instead of Picks this week, we’re naming October 2 as The Best Book Day of 2012. Why? Because on October 2, there are more great books than any other pub week this year--no less than 32 books to be excited about if you love reading. You'll find books from small presses and university presses; books from Norway, China, and Mexico; books in history, comics, novellas, chick lit, memoir, YA, food, poetry, and more. Take a look at all the books we found below, divided into categories based on reading taste, and be sure to click the titles to read the full reviews. If none of these books excites you, then you just don't love books.
For the Thrill Seeker
Live by Night by Dennis Lehane (Morrow) - Bestseller Lehane chronicles the Prohibition-era rise of Joe Coughlin, an Irish-American gangster, in this masterful crime epic.
Phantom by Jo Nesbø, trans. from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett (Knopf) - In Nesbø’s deeply moving seventh Harry Hole novel to be published in the U.S., Harry returns to Oslo from Hong Kong to help his estranged 18-year-old son, who has fallen in with a group of drug users.
For the Kid (or the Kid in You)
A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel by Madeline L’Engle, adapted and illus. by Hope Larson (FSG/Ferguson) - L’Engle’s Newbery Medal–winning 1962 novel of good, evil, and quantum physics gets a stellar graphic novel treatment from Eisner-winner Larson.
Son by Lois Lowry (HMH) - Drawing characters and themes from The Giver and its companions, Gathering Blue and Messenger, Lowry concludes her Giver Quartet in a wholly satisfying way.
Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin (Little, Brown) - Lin returns to Chinese folklore as the foundation for this masterfully told tale, which combines compelling character development and captivating language.
For the History Buff
Mao: The Real Story by Alexander V. Pantsov with Steven I. Levine (Simon & Schuster) - Readers will encounter plenty of fireworks in this definitive biography.
Double Entry: How the Merchants of Venice Created Modern Finance by Jane Gleeson-White (Norton) – This spellbinding historical narrative accomplishes the feat of making ledgers and numbers come alive.
The Blood of Free Men: The Liberation of Paris, 1944 by Michael Neiberg (Basic) – A vivid and thoroughly satisfying account of the six days of disorganized urban warfare between poorly armed Frenchmen and mostly unenthusiastic Germans until a French regiment, in defiance of Allied orders, entered the city.
For the Biography Lover
The Man Who Saved the Union: Ulysses Grant in War and Peace by H.W. Brands (Doubleday) – A fine portrait of the quintessential American hero.
Citizen Soldier: A Life of Harry S. Truman by Aida D. Donald (Basic) - Succeeds in making Truman much more than a silent commander of a failed watch, into a fully formed man of sizable defects and masterful achievements.
William Harvey: A Life in Circulation by Thomas Wright (Oxford University Press) - Wright’s “biography of an idea as much as... of a man” presents a wonderful portrait not only of physician William Harvey but also of the changing face of the study of medicine and scientific inquiry in Europe in the early 17th century.
For the Poet
Mayakovsky’s Revolver by Matthew Dickman (Norton) – A raw, frightening collection that tackles, among other things, reasons to live.
Meme by Susan Wheeler (University of Iowa Press) – Wheeler’s far-reaching experimentation through language is as ambitious as it is stirring.
For the International Enthusiast
Lenin’s Kisses by Yan Lianke, trans. from the Chinese by Carlos Rojas (Grove) - Both a blistering satire and a bruising saga, this epic novel by Yan (Dream of Ding Village) examines the grinding forces of communism and capitalism, and the volatile zones where the two intersect.
Down the Rabbit Hole by Juan Pablo Villalobos, trans. from the Spanish by Rosalind Harvey (FSG) – This slim book follows the thoughtful son of a violent and paranoid drug czar, a boy whose obsession with the decapitated royalty of the French Revolution leads the reader through a devastating and wonderful story.
For the Comic Nut
The Nao of Brown by Glyn Dillon (SelfMadeHero) - A triumph of comics for grownups, this is a must-read.
Building Stories by Chris Ware (Pantheon) – Chris Ware, creator of one of the greatest graphic novels ever (Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth), puts out a treasure chest—a giant box containing more than 200 pages spread over 14 separate printed works. It’s one of the year’s best arguments for the survival of print.
Sailor Twain by Mark Siegel (Roaring Brook/First Second) – This fantastic graphic novel follows Captain Twain, who discovers a wounded mermaid clinging to the side of his ship. Wait until you get to its remarkable conclusion.
For the Literary Lover
The Round House by Louise Erdich (Harper) – Erdrich perceptively chronicles an attack in an Ojibwe community in North Dakota and its effects on the young narrator’s premature introduction to a violent world.
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (FSG) – A fun old-fashioned tale of friendship and ingenuity about a bookstore employee who discovers mysteries and codes hidden around the store.
It’s Fine by Me by Per Petterson, trans. from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett (Graywolf) – A spare but memorable novel notable for Petterson’s ability to convey the alienation of a young man caught between a childish need for protection and a powerful desire to protect.
For Those Who Miss Math and/or Science Class
Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat by Bee Wilson (Basic) - Humanity’s least sung but most vital gadgets are celebrated in this rich history of cooking technology.
The Joy of X: A Guided Tour of Math, From One to Infinity by Steven Strogatz (HMH) - Even the most math-phobic readers might forget their dread after just a few pages of this lighthearted and thoroughly entertaining exploration of algebra, geometry, and calculus.
Fever Season: The Story of a Terrifying Epidemic and the People Who Saved a City by Jeanette Keith (Bloomsbury) - Yellow Jack traveled from New Orleans to Illinois in the summer and early fall of 1878, killing 18,000 people and gripping national attention. Here, historian Keith delivers a rewarding account of the epidemic that’s a must-read for both history and public health buffs.
For the Chick Lit Die-Hard
Ellie Andrews Has Second Thoughts by Ruth Saberton (Orion) - This diverting British import wins hearts with its delightful heroine, whom readers will love following through her hilarious lurching journey from man to man and disaster to disaster.
For the Short Story Purist
Blasphemy: New and Selected Stories by Sherman Alexie (Grove) – 15 classic stories combined with 15 recent stories that shows Alexie’s versatility, as well as his gifts for wicked humor.
Object Lessons: The Paris Review Presents the Art of the Short Story by The Editors of the Paris Review (Picador) - A selection of fiction culled from the journal’s archive with a twist: writers often featured in the journal’s pages—Lorrie Moore, David Means, Ann Beattie, Wells Tower, Ali Smith, among others— offer brief critical analyses of their selections, elevating this book from a greatest hits anthology to a kind of mini-M.F.A.
The Invisibles by Hugh Sheehy (University of Georgia Press) – This collection (which won the Flannery O’Connor Award) features childhood idylls paired with murder, addiction, and amnesia. The lurking fear at the heart of these stories elevates them beyond the merely promising to reveal a wicked new talent.
For the Memoir Lover
You Saved Me, Too: What a Holocaust Survivor Taught me About Living, Dying, Loving, Fighting, and Swearing in Yiddish by Susan Kushner Resnick (Globe Pequot/Skirt!) - In well-executed, second-person prose, Resnick speaks directly to the elderly Aron Lieb—a virtually family-less Holocaust survivor whom she befriends—as he lies on his deathbed in a nursing home.
The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe (Knopf) – The story of Schwalbe’s book club with his mother, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2007. The book club provided a “much-needed ballast” and allowed them to get to know each other and talk about death. An astonishing, pertinent, and wonderfully welcome work.
For the Culture Nut
Do the Movies Have a Future? by David Denby (Simon & Schuster) - New Yorker film critic Denby’s fascinating collection of essays on the business, the art, and the sacred rituals of movie making and movie watching.
This Book Is Full of Spiders: Seriously, Dude, Don’t Touch It by David Wong (St. Martin’s Dunne) – In this phantasmagoria of horror and humor, Cracked.com editor Jason Pargin's alter ego Wong returns with a sequel to the cult classic John Dies at the End.