Books of the Year 2012

So many books, so many books. I consciously tried to expand my reading horizons this year, which has helped to swell my reading list to unmanageable lengths.  Sifting out worthy entries in disciplines with which I’m not especially familiar is not at all easy, so sometimes I just have to go on faith that apparent hard work, diligence, and care have resulted in an enlightening end product.

Krasznahorkai’s Satantango is certainly for me the book of the year, though in its way Lucan’s Civil War was as well, and I was very happy to have William Bronk‘s later poetry collected.

I have hardly read all of all of the nonfiction selections–I’ll be lucky if I ever read the Bailyn book cover to cover–but they have all been of note to me at least as reference or inspiration. Some stragglers from 2011 have snuck in as well.

If anyone’s curious as to why some book or other made the list, feel free to ask in the comments. Reviews on a couple are forthcoming.

(As always, I do not make any money from these links–this was just by far the simplest way to get thumbnails and metadata.)



László Krasznahorkai (New Directions)

Galley Slave (Slovenian Literature)

Drago Jancar (Dalkey Archive Press)

Bursts of Light: The Collected Later Poems

William Bronk, David Clippinger, editor (Talisman House, Publishers)

Wild Dialectics

Lisa Samuels (Shearsman Books)


David Albahari (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Marginalia on Casanova: St. Orpheus Breviary I

Mikl S. Szentkuthy (Contra Mundum Press)

Every Short Story: 1951–2012

Alasdair Gray (Canongate UK)

The Snail’s Song

Alta Ifland (Spuyten Duyvil)

Happy Moscow (New York Review Books Classics)

Andrey Platonov (NYRB Classics)

Civil War (Penguin Classics)

Lucan (Penguin Classics)

Petersburg (Penguin Classics)

Andrei Bely (Penguin Classics)

Tyrant Banderas (New York Review Books Classics)

Ramon del Valle-Inclan (NYRB Classics)

The Holocaust as Culture

Imre Kertesz (Seagull Books)

Mathematics: (French Literature)

Jacques Roubaud (Dalkey Archive Press)

The Museum of Abandoned Secrets

Oksana Zabuzhko (AmazonCrossing)



Black Paths

David B. (SelfMadeHero)




Michael Levenson (Yale University Press)

Essays in Ancient and Modern Historiography

Arnaldo Momigliano (University Of Chicago Press)

Acolytes of Nature: Defining Natural Science in Germany, 1770-1850

Denise Phillips (University Of Chicago Press)

Memory: Fragments of a Modern History

Alison Winter (University Of Chicago Press)

The Lucretian Renaissance: Philology and the Afterlife of Tradition

Gerard Passannante (University Of Chicago Press)

Literary Names: Personal Names in English Literature

Alastair Fowler (Oxford University Press)

German Philosophy of Language: From Schlegel to Hegel and beyond

Michael N. Forster (Oxford University Press)

Fictions of the Cosmos: Science and Literature in the Seventeenth Century

Frédérique Aït-Touati (University Of Chicago Press)

Reality: A Very Short Introduction

Jan Westerhoff (Oxford University Press)

American Nietzsche: A History of an Icon and His Ideas

Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen (University Of Chicago Press)

Augustus: Introduction to the Life of an Emperor

Karl Galinsky (Cambridge University Press)

Thinking, Fast and Slow

Daniel Kahneman (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

More than Real: A History of the Imagination in South India

David Shulman (Harvard University Press)

The Twenty-Five Years of Philosophy: A Systematic Reconstruction

Eckart Förster (Harvard University Press)

Governing the World: The History of an Idea

Mark Mazower (Penguin Press)