Michele Filgate is a freelance critic who has written for Salon, O, Vulture and the Daily Beast.
Michele’s top 10:
1. “Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity” by Katherine Boo
2. “Glaciers” by Alexis M. Smith
3. “My Only Wife” by Jac Jemc
4. “The Middlesteins” by Jami Attenberg
5. “How to Get Into the Twin Palms” by Karolina Waclawiak
6. “All We Know: Three Lives” by Lisa Cohen
7. “Arcadia” by Lauren Groff
8. “May We Be Forgiven” by A.M. Homes
9. “Heroines” by Kate Zambreno
10. “Understories” by Tim Horvath
1. Explain why your No. 1 book was your favorite title of the year: “Glaciers” by Alexis M. Smith, a deceptively slim novel published by Tin House Books. Smith tells the story of one day in the life of a librarian who is pining after a co-worker. She’s obsessed with ephemera and repairs damaged library books. I loved this quirky and gorgeous debut.
2. What was the strongest debut book of 2012? Katherine Boo’s “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” should be read by everyone. I’m in awe of her reporting skills and her ability to tell a true story in such a compelling way.
3. What book sits outside your list, but has either been overlooked or deserves more attention? “Let Me Clear My Throat” by Elena Passarello. Her essay collection is centered around the human voice, and she mixes quirky facts with personal narrative. This book is definitely for fans of John Jeremiah Sullivan.
4. Was there one book, either on your list or off your list, fiction or nonfiction, that seems to best encapsulate America in 2012? “The Middlesteins” by Jami Attenberg.
5. What was the single most memorable character from a 2012 book? Definitely Yunior in Junot Diaz’s “This Is How You Lose Her.”
6. What is the book from 2012, either from your list or not, fiction or nonfiction, that is most likely to join the canon, or still be discussed 20 years from now? Andrew Solomon’s “Far From the Tree.” I haven’t read it yet, but from everything I’ve heard, it’s a book that encapsulates the human spirit.
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