In the Arena

Best Books 2012

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This is not a list of the best books published in 2012, just the best I’ve read in the past year:
Non-Fiction

1. Hitch 22: Finally got around to reading Christopher Hitchens’ rollicking memoir, just after he passed away. It is brilliant and delectable. His genius for friendship outweighs, in my mind, his contrarian escapades…and the fact that he was dead wrong about the Iraq war. It was a privilege to know him. He is missed.

2. The Presidents Club by Michael Duffy and Nancy Gibbs: Yes, they’re colleagues. Indeed, bosses. But this is great fun to read, and just chocked with things I never knew before–Eisenhower, for example, encouraged Lyndon Johnson to amp up the Vietnam war effort. And then there’s Nixon, brilliant and demonic and omnipresent.

3. The New New Deal by Michael Grunwald: Another colleague–and a valued one, for his dogged refusal to run with the pack. This is the story of Barack Obama’s wildly successful–yes, wildly successful–stimulus program. Don’t believe me? Read it and stop being so damned cynical.

4. Start-up Nation by Dan Senor and Saul Singer: Senor’s a neoconservative, but not an angry or graceless one and this book, about how the culture of creativity in Israel’s military begat the culture of high-tech creativity in Israel’s economy, has a great deal to teach us about how to revive our economy and our society.

5. Reckless Endangerment by Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner: The absolutely outrageous and nauseating story of how Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac helped bring on the housing crash.

6. The Revenge of Geography by Robert Kaplan: An essential and unexpected way of looking at the world–how nations evolve and sometimes collapse, given the vastly underrated importance of geography.

7. Coming Apart by Charles Murray: Love him or hate him, Murray has some vital insights into the growing white underclass.

8. The Escape Artists by Noam Schieber: A very smart account of the Obama economic team’s failure to deal with the Wall Street aspect of the economic crisis.

Fiction

1. Solar by Ian McEwan–Hitch’s great friend writes an absolutely hilarious novel. (And Sweet Tooth, which came out this fall, was pretty damn good, too). He is a gorgeous writer.

2.  Look at Me by Jennifer Egan: This is an amazing book, published just before the terrorist acts of 2001, in which Egan predicts the 9/11 attacks, the rise of reality TV, the hyper-banal private lives of non-celebrities that the media have inflicted upon us, and the properties of the post-modern world that make us crazy. It is a comedy, a thriller, an intellectual feast. Egan may well be the best living American novelist.

3. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett: But Patchett ain’t bad, either. Her kindness and decency always shine through, especially in this lovely, mystical novel about a South American tribe that has discovered a strange chemical, with properties that illuminate the nuances of our have-it-all culture.

4. The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson:  A terrific, funny novel about a family of performance artists.

5. The Privileges by Jonathan Dee: A terrific, funny novel about a family of investment bankers.

6. This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman: A terrific, horrifying novel about a family ruined by an internet prank.

 

Congratulations to all these wonderful writers and here’s hoping for a happy, creative New Year.

 

24 comments
La_Randy
La_Randy

Another thread has completely disappeared.

motikahana
motikahana

@dansenor I love the book! But what you think about #betterplace now? @JoeKleinTIME

notsacredh
notsacredh

I'm currently reading "Encounter at Farpoint" by David Gerrold. It's the 1st ST: Next Generation book. I kind of gave up on educating and bettering myself. Now I just want to be entertained. Here we are now. Entertain us.

SaveRepublic
SaveRepublic

@JoeKleinTIME I just wanted to say Thank you Mr Klein for writing to establish a well informed citizenry. Not all in press do this. TY

kbanginmotown
kbanginmotown

Joe: TIME.com tweets your post which generates an assortment of one-time replies. 

I fail to see how this is an improvement over dealing with the regular "sordid idiots" who inhabit the Swamp. 

aam429
aam429

@MikeGrunwald Well deserved, man. Definitely one of my favorite books this past year.

xpostfactoid1
xpostfactoid1

@MikeGrunwald @TIME @JoeKleinTIME I bet it's on Obama's list too -- not to say Biden's.

AustinMeadows
AustinMeadows

@dianatrampler Joe Klein is a nut job he lied about writing Primary Colors. What else has he lied about or not been forthright in his work.

sanode2k
sanode2k

@TIME @JoeKleinTIME 1. Hitch 22

MayorGalvan713
MayorGalvan713

@TIME @JoeKleinTIME The TOP NEWS for today is that the New World Order is dying. George H. W. Bush is in Methodist Hospital in Houston dying

striperone70
striperone70

@time @joekleintime -CURIOUS? WHERE DID THE BIBLE COME IN ON YOUR LIST?

MistaKurtzHeDed
MistaKurtzHeDed

@TIME @JoeKleinTIME Ur choice of Person of the Year was stupid. I expect ur choice of best books to be just as stupid.

CliffKerr
CliffKerr

George Lakoff, "MORAL POLITICS"

deconstructiva
deconstructiva

@kbanginmotown That twitter crossover is among the most annoying livefyre features, as if we didn't have enough problems dealing with locusts. I wonder if Joe will ever admit reading "50 Shades of Grey" in his book lists.

notsacredh
notsacredh

Is "sordid idiots" an insult? My wife says I'm a disgusting hedonist but I think it may be her version of a compliment. She doesn't hand them out lightly.

notsacredh
notsacredh

They make an effective doorstop. When I was youger I hollowed one out and kept my weed in it. We left it right out on the coffee table. No one ever gave it a second glance.

MayorGalvan713
MayorGalvan713

@MistaKurtzHeDed @TIME @JoeKleinTIME The TOP NEWS for today is that the New World Order is dying. George H. W. Bush is in Methodist Hospital