Best History Books

One could make the argument that recording historical events, capturing the fleeting nature of time in a more durable medium, was one of the primary reasons people started writing. While ancient times saw the mixture of history and folklore, of science and superstition, even the oldest, most esoteric writings provide invaluable insight into what it meant to be human in very different eras.

Reading about history is one of the best ways to ground oneself in a firm understanding of where we’ve been as people, as well as to help understand the mistakes and triumphs of those who have come before. Simply put, learning from the past helps inform our present. Below you will find some of the best history books from recent decades, with a focus on the history of broad events and trends rather than specific biographies. These are our picks for the best books for understanding the history of the human condition.

annefrankThe Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (1953)

Anne Frank, the adolescent girl whose family hid from the Nazis in the attic of their Amsterdam home before their eventual capture and imprisonment within a concentration camp, could never have known just how many hearts her poignant diary (kept during her ordeal) would eventually touch. Possessing a mind beyond her years, she recounts both a first-hand account of the looming nightmare of the Third Reich, and also chronicles the various thoughts and musings of an adolescent who, despite the horrors around her, is still a precocious young girl. Despite the fact that she died in an concentration camp, Anne Frank’s spirit lives on in every page.



A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present
by Howard Zinn (1980)

History is most often told through from the perspective of those in power, whether politically or economically. To help buck that trend, historian and political scientist Howard Zinn wrote his compendium of U.S. history from the view of the common person, focusing on those historical figures who fought injustice and advanced the United States as a civilization. As an example of his approach he’s said that his American hero isn’t someone like Teddy Roosevelt, who glamorized war, but Mark Twain who satirized imperialism and denounced violence.


gunsgermsGuns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies
by Jared Diamond (1997)

This Pulitzer Prize-winning book delves into the subject of why Eurasian civilizations were the ones to conquer other societies from around the world and colonize those regions instead of vice versa. Diamond offers evidence that the geographic locations of the conquering civilizations had much to do with this, allowing them to produce guns and steel and develop resistances to deadly germs. Diamond’s book helps to further dress down any latent notions that genetics or inherent intellect played a role in world conquest.



A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson (2003)

Popular scientist Bill Bryson starts from the very beginning and breaks down the history of life and its formation on Earth as he discusses the history of geology and biology in lay terms, while also simply explaining complex themes such as subatomic particles. Focusing largely on the development of Homo sapien life, Bryson also delves into the historical accounts of global catastrophic events, including earthquakes, massive storms, and volcanic activity, while speculating on how life would react to another global event like a meteor strike.



ancientworldThe History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome by Susan Wise Bauer

When we study history, oftentimes the focus is on one specific culture or event at a time. Susan Wise Bauer’s stellar book on the ancient world seeks to change that by tying together the stories of all the worlds’ people from ancient times, explaining the connections between Europe, the Middle East and China. The book also draws its narrative style from literature, traditions and even letters from the era that unlock a vibrant view into the world of both those in power and those they ruled. The individual cultures are made even more vivid when their connections to others are shown.

Best Psychology Books – The Top Psychology Books that you have to own

Since the mind first gained the ability to conceive of its own capacity, humans have searched for ways to turn the light of consciousness upon itself. Before modern science, learning more about what makes us tick was left to philosophers and religion, to speculative theories and storytelling. While Hippocrates first conjectured that mental disorders were physical rather than supernatural in nature as early as the 4th century BCE, psychology didn’t see its first advancements into the laboratory setting until the late 19th century. Since then, humanity has achieved an unprecedented level of enlightenment about our own cognitive processes.

We’ve compiled a list of some of the best modern psychological books. While classics like William James’ The Varieties of Religious Experience, Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams, and Jung’s The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious obviously deserve mention on a list like this for laying the groundwork that subsequent psychology was built upon, we’re narrowing our focus here to more recent books that have greatly impacted the layperson’s understanding of the way the human mind works.

games people playGames People Play by Eric Berne (1964)

Though we like to think of social interactions as ways in which we make connections with other people, much of the social behavior of humans is driven by mind games we’re not even aware of. In his landmark book on the subject, Eric Berne details the games we play in our various relationships, whether the games be for power and control in our work relationships, competitive games for status with our peers, or sexual games in our romantic relationships. With his focus on the procedures and rituals we follow in the various mind games we create, Berne’s book changed the way many people view the dynamic of human relationships.


flow psychology bookFlow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1991)

In his book Flow, personal development guru and esteemed psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi provides enthralling analysis of the euphoric state of nearly uninterrupted concentration that many people experience. The state of “flow” occurs when our focus is honed so sharply that we are completely involved in the task at hand and essentially lose our self-consciousness. Best of all, Csikszentmihalyi details methods anyone can use to achieve this level of concentration and awareness almost at will.


curious incident of dog in the night timeThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (2003)

Mark Haddon’s spellbinding book is such an insightful glimpse into the perceptions of people on the autism spectrum that it’s the only work of fiction to make this list. The first person narrator, a teenager with an autistic disorder, tries to solve the neighborhood mystery of who killed a neighbor’s poodle with a garden tool. Through his years of experience working with people on the autism spectrum, Haddon effectively sheds light on their sensory perceptions and cognitive processes while telling a compelling story.


malcolm gladwell Blink

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell (2005)

We’re often led to believe that snap judgments are always a bad thing, but Malcolm Gladwell challenges that notion in Blink. In this accessible read, Gladwell details behavioral economics theory and the processes of the “adaptive unconscious,” which is capable of making rapid decisions and judgments about given scenarios with a high degree of effectiveness. While making a strong case about how our brain is capable of thinking without our active conscious involvement, he also points out the drawbacks to this, such as humanity’s tendency to stereotype.


Thinking Fast and Slow

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (2011)

Nobel Memorial Prize winner Daniel Kahneman’s recent compendium on years of his behavioral research is a fascinating read. He goes in depth about cognitive bias (whereby we create our own social realities), prospect theory (where we make choices based on perceived losses or gains rather than final outcomes), and his general research on the nature of happiness. The scope of this book is as impressive as its author’s long history of research, and Kahneman will certainly make you stop and think.

Best Books of 2013 (So Far)

We’re in the midst of another great year for books. As we’ve discussed, 2012 gave us some truly creative gems, and 2013 is shaping up to be another banner year. There are many exciting releases awaiting us, most notably a sequel to The Shining from Stephen King, another imaginative work by prolific bestselling author Neil Gaiman, and even a children’s book by The Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins. But plenty of great titles have already hit the shelves. Here are some of the best of the bunch

diabeteswithowlsLet’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris

With his infectious blend of embellished memoir, David Sedaris has risen to the vanguard of humor writing. Every book release by the famed author is a literary event. Pilfering its title from an actual (and presumably much more serious) antique book, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls is packed full of enthralling narrative essays from Sedaris’ unique mind, and it unsurprisingly debuted at the top of the New York Times bestseller list.



Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright

In writing this analysis of Scientology, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Lawrence Wright was confronted with numerous threats of legal action by lawyers representing the Church of Scientology and celebrities who ascribe to the modern religion. Wright covers the history of Scientology as developed by sci-fi writer L. Ron Hubbard and interviewed over 200 current and former members in writing this captivating and critical work of non-fiction.



American Isis: The Life and Art of Sylvia Plath by Carl Rollyson

Sylvia Plath’s spellbinding creative output is only enhanced by the fact that she left this world too soon. In a year that marks the 50th anniversary of her suicide, Carl Rollyson digs into Ted Hughes’ personal archives to get a more intimate look at Plath’s life from the perspective of her fellow poet husband. The book reassesses the life that has become overshadowed by  mystique, and points out how Hughes strove to reshape the perception of his late wife following her untimely death.



All That Is by James Salter

James Salter is one of America’s greatest living writers, yet he’s anything but a household name. Perhaps the octogenarian’s most recent novel will help change that. Set in the World War II era, a returning soldier finds success in the book publishing world, but is unhappy in his romantic life until he meets an intriguing woman who changes everything. This moving novel is both romantic and harrowing and is yet another page-turner from an author who’s quietly been captivating readers for decades.

Best Fantasy Novels of All Time

The fantasy genre is often maligned for being too focused on swords and sorcery and dragons. While store shelves are certainly packed with books within this particular scope (fantasy is one of today’s most popular genres, especially with younger readers), the beauty of fantasy is that, when done right, it can reveal greater truth through its transcendence of the mundane. As stories in which literally anything can happen, fantasy not only displays the boundlessness of the human imagination, but often can use invented worlds populated with whimsical, dark or grotesque characters to shed greater light onto our own. Rather than simply being limited to entertaining escapism, the best fantasy stories reshape the way we understand our humanity through the use of allegory. Simply put, fantasy can often tap into hidden truths that are difficult to convey in reality.

Our list of the best fantasy novels includes those titles that bear universal themes, regardless of whether its our own universe or another. One book that also belongs on this list is the 1865 Lewis Carroll classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which is so good that it already made it onto our Best Novels of All Time list. But without further ado, it’s time to take a trip over the rainbow, through the wardrobe, or into Middle-earth with our list of Best Fantasy Novels

wonderful-wizard-of-ozThe Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (1900)

You probably know it best by the classic 1939 film adaptation starring Judy Garland, but L. Frank Baum’s novel about a Kansas girl with her head in the clouds who’s whisked away by a tornado and deposited over the rainbow is one for the ages. Through her adventures with Scarecrow, Tin Woodman and the Cowardly Lion, Dorothy not only learns the value of friendship, but also discovers that while the grass may seem greener elsewhere, there’s really no place like home.


lionwitchandwardrobeThe Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (1950)

In the first installment of the dazzling Chronicles of Narnia series, C.S. Lewis introduces us to four London-based siblings who escape the horrors of WWII not only by being sent to the countryside, but also by discovering a portal into another world. Controlled by the evil White Witch, Narnia is frozen in a state of perpetual winter and is awaiting the return of its lion king, Aslan. Lewis pulls from many mythologies and traditions to craft story that serves as an imaginative allegory to the stories of sacrifice and redemption that permeate Christianity.


The Fellowship Of The Ring Book Cover by JRR Tolkien_1The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien (1954)

It’s been said that absolute power corrupts absolutely. That’s a running theme throughout The Fellowship of the Ring, Tolkien’s first volume in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The hobbit Frodo Baggins has a ring bestowed upon him that turns out to be the One Ring of Sauron, a dark lord who oppressively rules Middle-earth. With everyone wanting to get a hold of the powerful ring, some craving it above all else, Frodo decides to trek to Mordor, the dwelling place of Sauron, in order to destroy the ring in this epic tale that echoes with themes of the corrupting influence of power.


princess bride 01The Princess Bride by William Goldman (1973)

Goldman’s The Princess Bride is an amalgam of many genres, including fantasy, fairy tale, romance, adventure, and comedy. It’s framed by the author as though it’s an abridgement of a much older text by the fictional author S. Morgenstern. Through this narrative device, Goldman not only spins the tale of the rescue of an unwilling princess by her one true love, but also throws in something for everyone. With giants, pirates, swashbuckling, Rodents of Unusual Size, and plenty of romance, The Princess Bride is a perfect introduction to fantasy for those unfamiliar with the genre.

gameofthronesA Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin (1996)

As the first novel in the Song of Fire and Ice series of high fantasy novels, A Game of Thrones succeeds in the swords-and-sorcery subgenre by weaving together a host of competing families and lineages along with multiple perspectives from chapter to chapter. The human touch in this engrossing novel makes it stand apart from its contemporaries, and even as Martin uses well-worn fantasy genre tropes, the book’s humanity transcends these conventions. It’s little wonder that the epic scope of the book would convert so successfully to the wildly popular HBO series.


nameofthewindThe Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (2007)

Patrick Rothfuss burst onto the fantasy scene in 2007 with his New York Times bestseller The Name of the Wind, the first book in the still in-progress The Kingkiller Chronicle trilogy. As legendary hero Kvothe tells his story to the Chronicler over the course of three days (hence the three books), a dazzling story of magic and mayhem unfolds. But Kvothe’s first person tale is not of the epic scope that fans of the genre are so used to; instead it’s a story of personal love and loss, fear and hope, and despite the magical abilities of its hero, The Name of the Wind is a highly relatable personal journey.

Best Novels of All Time

While storytelling predates the written word, the novel in its current form is a relatively recent phenomenon, rising to prominence in the 19th century. Whereas stories in centuries and millennia past often required grounding in claims of historical fact or at least widely-accepted myths, the evolution of the novel to its current status as fiction that reveals greater truth has only achieved widespread legitimacy within the past 200 years.

The greatest achievement of the novel is the ability to convey truth and meaning about the human condition through both the painstaking attention to detail in realism or the creation of fantastical worlds and scenarios that could only exist within the vast landscape of the human mind. Our Best Novels of All Time list focuses most on those novels that use surreal or sensational imagery to convey meaning. Some titles that were included in our Best Books of All Time list would also fit in well here, but there’s no need to repeat ourselves. Still, Lolita, Crime and Punishment, and To Kill a Mockingbird are also among the best novels of all time.

mobydickMoby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851)

A wandering sailor called Ishmael narrates this Great American Novel as shipmates discuss the meaning of life, the nuances of good and evil, and the universe at large. Meanwhile, Captain Ahab follows his obsession with destroying the whale that wrecked one of his previous ships and took his leg. This triumph of American literature illustrates the ravages of unhealthy fixations and points out how one cannot get revenge on an animal because revenge is a human construct that does not apply to other living creatures.


AliceWonderlandAlice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (1865)

The strange creatures Alice encounters in Wonderland serve as projections of the human psyche and imagination in this classic novel. The story has been adapted numerous times, including into many films, and remains one of the most beloved surrealist stories. In addition to being a mind-bending story, the novel has entered our modern lexicon with expressions like “down the rabbit hole” and “through the looking glass” taking on their own meanings outside of Carroll’s wonderful book.





The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)

In one of the more historically-grounded entries in this list, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel vividly outlines the excess and kinetic energy of America’s “Roaring Twenties.” This novel packed full of intrigue, hedonism, betrayal, and violence serves as a cautionary tale of the excesses of youth and downsides to luxury. Amidst Jay Gatsby’s lavish parties, there’s a dark undercurrent that ultimate makes The Great Gatsby not only an informative book about one of the most intriguing eras of American history, but also a thrill ride from cover to cover.


bravenewworldBrave New World by Aldous Huxley (1931)

Through his non-fiction writing, Aldous Huxley become a notable pioneer for the expansion of human consciousness. But he’s best known for his unsettling speculative fiction novel Brave New World. In a not-too-distant future where mass consumption is the new religion, and individuality is demonized, the possibilities for what can become of society are frighteningly outlined by Huxley. Brave New World manages to foresee both the social engineering aspirations of fascism and the collectivist perils of communism that would overtake the world in the years to come.


thestrangerThe Stranger by Albert Camus (1942)

One of the most notable existentialist works, Albert Camus’ The Stranger is narrated by a man named Mersault who feels no emotion, but rather experiences only sensory perceptions. Due to excessive heat and a trick of the sun, Mersault irrationally murders a man at the beach. He’s convicted of the crime and sentenced to execution, but the books excels at showing how Mersault finds much of the world, and especially the criminal justice system, entirely arbitrary.


19841984 by George Orwell (1949)

George Orwell’s commentary through his fiction has impacted society to such a degree at the term “Orwellian” is commonplace. 1984 also gave us the often used term “Big Brother.” In this dystopian society, Thought Police not only use intrusive surveillance cameras to watch people’s every move but also monitor their thoughts for anything negative about the  watchful leader Big Brother. 1984 is the story of one man’s attempt to carve out a slice of privacy in a world gone mad with propaganda and strict adherence to overbearing government control.


slaughterhousefiveSlaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (1969)

Vonnegut’s most famous book blends both heart-wrenching WWII imagery with wildly imaginative sci-fi. Like Vonnegut did, the novel’s protagonist, Billy Pilgrim, survives the firebombing of Dresden, Germany by the Allied Forces. However, Billy has another issue: he has come unstuck in time. Billy jumps around to different periods of his life, and is even abducted by an alien race who teach him that people simply perceive time as though they were “bugs stuck in amber,” and that our perception of time is an illusion. Slaughterhouse-Five is a masterpiece of incredible wisdom mixed with bizarre imagery.

Best Books of All Time

The written word has held a special place in the hearts of humans since long before widespread literacy. Whether in the form of Greek tragedies and comedies, religious texts, or later in Shakespeare’s plays, the written word has been physically performed on stage, internalized by those who have had the privilege to read, and has otherwise become a crucial pillar in the framework of how we understand the world around us. Storytelling is an important part of what makes us human.

Great books tend to build on the themes and knowledge of the books that came before. In this list you will find those books that have had lasting impacts on our collective consciousness. They have challenged preconceived notions, established new norms, or simply helped us realize greater truth about ourselves by articulating sentiments about what had previously seemed inexpressible.


The Odyssey by Homer (8th century BCE)

The Greek epic poem The Odyssey is one of the most seminal of all narratives. In this sequel to Homer’s The Iliad, the trials and tribulations that hero Odysseus would encounter upon his 10-year return journey from the 10-year long Trojan War (in which it was assumed by his wife Penelope that he’d died) are the stuff of legend and would inspire countless stories in the coming centuries. Odysseus’ navigation between sea monsters Scylla and Charybdis itself would spawn the idiom “between a rock and a hard place,” only one small debt modern storytelling and language owes to Homer’s ancient writings.


Oedipus-the-KingOedipus the King by Sophocles (429 BCE)

As it was known in Latin, Oedipus Rex changed the course  of storytelling and humanity’s understanding of the world, as it was one of the first notable Greek tragedies to shift the cause of events onto the actions of its tragic hero rather than simply a result of the fates. While Oedipus was destined from birth to murder his father and marry his mother, the chain of events indicates how Oedipus (despite being prophesied to commit these heinous acts) indirectly chooses his own fate through actions of his own free will. This interaction between predestination and free will would lay the groundwork for myriad fictional works to come.



Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes (1605 & 1615)

Written in two volumes 10 years apart, Cervantes’ Don Quixote stands as one of the great intersections between tragedy and comedy. As the titular protagonist, an aging gentleman otherwise of sound mine, Don Quixote is enraptured by a book he reads about chivalry and has a mental break. He finds himself a squire and sets out on a knight-errand that ends up being a foolhardy enterprise. Most famously, Don Quixote attacks a set of windmills thinking they are menacing giants. As with many great works of literature, the meaning of Cervantes epic two-volume story is open to many interpretations, making it all the more engrossing.


crime and punishment

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1866)

Troubled young man Raskolnikov murders and robs an aged money-lender due to an ideological rationalization he’s developed that some people have the right to take the lives of others if done for some higher purpose. Of course, Raskolnikov’s conscience begins to wear him thin as an investigator suspects him of the crime. Raskolnikov begins to understand the error of his ways and even as his threat of prosecution wanes, he’s bound to confess. Dostoyevsky expertly incorporates his own philosophy against anti-radicalism into his anti-hero in this all-time classic brimming with internal tension.


heart-of-darknessHeart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (1899)

Conrad’s most famous work, Heart of Darkness, focuses on the universal themes of humanity’s primal tendency toward violence and also our penchant for civilization. Moreover, the book delves into how “civilization” throughout the centuries has pillaged indigenous people and built imperialist empires on the backs of other cultures. As the book’s protagonist journeys down an unnamed African river to the compound of the brutal and unhinged Mr. Kurtz, Conrad illustrates the light and darkness within humans.


the jungleThe Jungle by Upton Sinclair (1906)

Sinclair used his investigation skills as a journalist to put together one of the 20th century’s most important books, The Jungle. In it, he exposed the brutal conditions of low-wage workers and immigrants within the meat packaging industry. In an age before social welfare programs and other efforts to fight poverty, Sinclair’s book helped to re-shape how the nation viewed the working poor who often suffered through dangerous and harsh working conditions in order to try to survive, while not being paid enough to do so. In a century defined by protest and social change, The Jungle was a bellwether of things to come.


lolitaLolita by Vladimir Nabokov (1955)

Lolita is notable not only for pushing boundaries with its prurient subject matter, but for Nabokov’s innovative writing style. Narrator Humbert Humbert details his criminal desires and pursuit of a young girl who has become his step-daughter in one of the most striking examples in literature of an unreliable narrator. Nabokov proved that we don’t have to trust or even like the narrator of a story to make it compelling fiction and Lolita continues to appear near the top of many Best Books lists to this day.


To_Kill_a_MockingbirdTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)

Harper Lee rightfully won the Pulitzer Prize for her tale of overcoming racial prejudice and  injustice in the pre-Civil Rights United States. Narrated by a young girl named Scout, as she comes to grips with the loss of innocence associated with living in highly racist town in the Deep South and the first hand accounts of injustice she witnesses as her father, Atticus Finch, unsuccessfully defends an innocent African American man wrongfully accused of assaulting a white woman. The book is a triumph in stating through the simple language of a child how civilization and freedom for all depends on seeing things from other people’s perspectives.

Best Books of 2012

Time often seems as though it’s whirring by in one big kaleidoscopic blur, but you can always ground yourself by taking a look back at the year that was. Though we averted the Mayan apocalypse, 2012 was still a monumental year, especially for books. New hardcovers can carry quite a hefty price tag upon their release, but you can’t go wrong with this crop of 2012 books, now available at used book prices that don’t break the bank.

Making our list are titles that capture the imagination through tension, transcendence, intrigue, candid humanity and unique participation requirements. Richard Ford’s Canada, his first novel in six years, covers everything from the growing pains of adolescence and the dynamic of family life to survival against the odds all wrapped in a gripping story of bank robbery and murder. Wild by Cheryl Strayed became the year’s best memoir by documenting how immersion with Nature inspired the transcendence of inner turmoil. By using unreliable narrators (and by switching back and forth between husband and wife narrators), Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl is packed full of intrigue and deception and makes for one of the year’s most enthralling and tension-packed reads. Kurt Vonnegut: Letters shows a side of the famed author few have seen. Meanwhile, Building Stories and Beck’s Song Reader are incredibly imaginative works that require a huge amount of participation from the reader. So without further ado, our Best Books of 2012.

canadaCanada by Richard Ford

Fifteen year-old Dell Parsons has problems unlike most teens: his parents have robbed a bank. What’s more, he becomes an accessory to murder. If you think that’s a spoiler, think again, as Dell reveals these facts about himself in Canada‘s opening lines. When his parents’ ill-advised bank heist goes awry and lands them in the slammer, Dell and his twin sister Berner are left to fend for  themselves. As Berner runs off, a family friend whisks Dell away to Canada before child services can swoop in. But Dell soon finds that his new lodgings have put him in even greater peril in this suspenseful coming-of-age tale.


WildWild by Cheryl Strayed

If you get Oprah’s attention, you’re doing something right. Cheryl Strayed’s spectacular memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail made it onto Oprah’s revived book club, and with good reason. The memoir recounts Strayed’s 1,100 mile trek from the Mojave desert all the way to the Oregon/Washington border, while frequently flashing back to influential events in the author’s life, most importantly her mother’s death. This inspirational book is a powerful testament to personal triumph in the face of internal and external adversity.


gonegirlGone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Bad marriages provide some of the most intense interpersonal drama in both real life and fiction. In Gillian Flynn’s thriller Gone Girl, the intensity of the volatile marriage between dual narrators Nick and Amy is heightened when Amy disappears and Nick is suspected of murder. By hearing both Nick and Amy’s respective points of view, the reader finds herself embroiled within the swirling tension and eventually discovers that neither spouse is entirely what they seem. Gone Girl made the New York Times best seller list for a very good reason.


vonnegutKurt Vonnegut: Letters edited by Dan Wakefield

One of the 20th century’s absolute masters of fiction, Kurt Vonnegut expressed to those dear to him that he didn’t “want to become a character in fiction” himself. In Dan Wakefield’s carefully edited collection of Vonnegut’s letters from the 1940s up through his death in 2007, we see the side of Vonnegut he only revealed to those who knew him. While even his most bizarre fiction was imbued with painstaking humanity and earnestness, we read in his letters about a man who could be petty and fussy when he wasn’t spouting genius. In other words, we see a human.


building storiesBuilding Stories by Chris Ware

Graphic novelist Chris Ware has blown those old-school Choose Your Own Adventure stories out of the water with his new book, Building Stories. This book comes in a sturdy cardboard box and multiple interactive pieces that can be arranged in any way the reader chooses in order to interpret the story, one that focuses on multiple characters and scenarios, including the most prevalent one about a nameless brunette with a prosthetic leg. This unconventional means of storytelling begs more adventurous readers to jump in with both feet.


beckSong Reader by Beck

And no Best of 2012 list is complete without this truly unique gem of a book by offbeat singer-songwriter Beck. Of course, that Best of 2012 could also apply to music, as Song Reader is both a book and new album by Beck all rolled into one. Composed of sheet music, the contents of this book must be played on a piano in order for the music to be heard and the story to be told. Song Reader also manages to be Beck’s most heartfelt work in years.