Right before everyone ran off for the holidays, we asked the Book Business staff and contributors one question: What was the best book you read in 2012. It didn’t need to have been published in 2012, just one that they read in the calendar year. These are the results:
Lynn Rosen, Editorial Director
American Music, by Jane Mendelsohn (Knopf, 2010)
Milo is a traumatized Iraqi war veteran recovering in a VA hospital in the Bronx, and Honor is the young female physical therapist who is called in to treat him. Something remarkable happens when Honor begins to treat Milo: when she touches him, images appear that only they can see, amazing stories about people from other generations whom neither of them have ever met. Together they, and the reader, watch these stories unfold. It’s surreal the way it happens, yet within the context of the book it totally works. I love how the story weaves these different tales together and challenges the reader to put the pieces in order and figure out how the characters connect to each other. I so admire the writer’s skill in imagining and creating this world. I like literary fiction that stretches writerly boundaries the way this book does.
James Sturdivant, Senior Editor
The Johnstown Flood, By David McCullough (Simon & Schuster, 1987)
McCullough chronicles one of those watershed events in American history (no pun intended) that everyone has heard of but few know much about. McCullough’s book, built around survivor’s stories, manages to capture the scope and horror of the flood without losing sight of its effect on individual lives. Johnstown was a man-made disaster and cultural event which changed the way we respond to crisis, both on the ground and in the media. The rumors and misinformation about the flood that initially made it to the front pages of newspapers around the country, quickly corrected or mitigated by first-hand reporting, reminds us of the news response to the Newtown massacre. Stories of heroism, tragedy and suffering transfixed the nation, though surprisingly, the political response was muted.