Best Books Of 2012 Canada: The Top Books From This Year To Read Next Year

It is only the most dedicated of readers who can manage to keep up with all the thrilling works of literature — both fictional and non — released throughout any given year. And for the rest of us, there are the "best of" lists that crop up in December and inspire us to hit the stacks, armed with our notes, come January.

Over the course of the year, we've had a chance to look at everything from the books that should be read by twentysomething women to the must-reads for fall — and yes, have even looked forward to what's going to be hot for 2013.

For an end-of-the-year selection at HuffPost Canada Living, we've drawn upon the pickings from Canada's biggest booksellers, Indigo and, to inspire our list, as well as the heavy hitters in the literary awards and review lists. The bookstores allow for a general range of tastes (and book sales), with a healthy dose of Canadian content (Amazon's list had four Canadian books in its top 10). Of course, those with more specific interests would be best served by genre lists, like this selection of mystery novels via Quill & Quire.

Take a look at the books we've picked for the best of 2012 — have you read them? Did you love or hate them? Do you plan to get into them next year? Let us know in the comments below!

Best Books Of 2012

Gone Girl

Author: Gillian Flynn

Listed: #1 on, #12 on Indigo, currently at 28 weeks on the New York Times' bestseller list

The description: "This thriller about a marriage gone toxic was the book that everyone you know took to the beach this summer—and this best-seller lives up to the hype." - The Slate Book Review


Author: J.R. Moehringer

Listed: #1 on Indigo, #13 on

The description: "[Moehringer] brings a raconteur's grace and rhythm to his first novel, Sutton, a stirring portrait of Willie ''The Actor'' Sutton, the notorious American bank robber who never fired his gun." - Karen Valby, Entertainment Weekly

The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry

Author: Rachel Joyce

Listed: #2 on Indigo, #11 on GoodReads' Choice Awards, longlisted for The Man Booker Prize

The description: "While the novel isn't necessarily interested in organized religion, it is most definitely concerned with the results of faith and compassion. “It was not a life, if lived without love,” a character realizes. As a mission statement, one could do so much worse." - Yvonne Zip, The Christian Science Monitor

Behind The Beautiful Forevers

Author: Katherine Boo

Listed: #15 on Indigo, #7 on, one of the year's best from New York Times Book Review, winner of 2012 Nationa Book Award for non-fiction

The description: "[Katherine Boo] focuses on a small group of Annawadi residents. They are very poor, very desperate, and very human, similar to the slum dwellers you'd find in the gin alleys of 18th-century London. The book is less about India and more about how the struggle to stay alive affects the heart and the soul." - Deidre Donahue, USA Today

Bring Up The Bodies

Author: Hilary Mantel

Listed: #19 on, top of the Daily Beast's 2012 list, winner of the Man Booker Prize

The description: "[Hilary Mantel] has set an impossibly high standard when it comes to evoking the murky world of Henry VIII’s court and the dark, equivocal figure of Thomas Cromwell ... Her choice of present tense and curious use of pronouns to position her reader in Cromwell’s mind give a vividness and urgency to the text that makes the past sing." - Suzannah Lipscomb, The Telegraph

The Headmaster's Wager

Author: Vincent Lam

Listed: #10 on Indigo, #16 on, shortlisted for the Governor General Literary Award

The description: "Inspired by Lam's own family history, The Headmaster's Wager tells the story of Chen Pie Sou, a man who can exercise the power of privilege but who also indulges recklessly in privilege's vices. When the hostilities of the Vietnam War threaten members of his family, Chen Pie Sou learns that the limits of his power are dictated not by the size of his fortune, but by the strength of his self-mastery." - Sonnet L'Abbé, The Globe and Mail

The End Of Your Life Book Club

Author: Will Schwalbe

Listed: #4 on Indigo, #5 on,

The description: "On the surface, this is the story of the two-person book club Schwalbe started with his mother, Mary Anne, after she was given a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Not curable, as her doctors told her, but treatable ... But Schwalbe gives us so much more than a portrait of a dying woman who had a remarkable life. It is as much a love letter to his mother as it is to reading." - Patricia Crowe, Montreal Gazette


Author: Will Ferguson

Listed: #6 on, winner of the Giller Prize

The description: "Perhaps feeling constrained by even the comic novel’s limitations, Ferguson has entered the ranks of literary novelists with 419, a story that follows a Canadian editor from her comfortable life in Calgary to neo-liberalism’s lawless frontiers in the oil- and blood-drenched streets and backwaters of Nigeria." - James Grainger, Quill & Quire

Above All Things

Author: Tanis Rideout

Listed: #2 on, listed on the Globe and Mail top Canadian fiction of the year

The description: "In 1924, at a Tibetan monastery called Rongbuk, a Tibetan Sherpa is anxious to dissuade the Englishman George Mallory from making a last desperate effort to reach the summit of Mount Everest. There are demons that inhabit these heights, and the goddess of the mountain, the Sherpa warns, is against them. With due respect to the goddess, she may not be the worst obstacle the Englishman and his party face in their quest to scale the mountain." - Philip Marchand, National Post

The Casual Vacancy

Author: J.K. Rowling

Listed: #6 on, #1 on GoodReads' Choice Awards

The description: "In something like the offstage deaths of Harry’s parents, “The Casual Vacancy” begins with a death of a beloved figure: parish councilman Barry Fairbrother, who leaves behind a village divided in an ongoing struggle to fill the vacancy — hence the book’s title — with someone who will either support or oppose the rezoning of the Fields, as the housing project is known." - Kevin Nance, Chicago Sun-Times

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

Author: Ben Fountain

Listed: #11 on, #19 on Indigo, 2012 National Book Award Finalist

The description: "A bracing, fearless and uproarious satire of how contemporary war is waged and sold to the American public, Fountain's novel gives us one Denisovichian day in the life of Billy Lynn, a 19-year-old soldier who's on a "Victory Tour" of America during the time of the Iraq war." - Adam Langer, San Francisco Chronicle

Bobcat And Other Stories

Author: Rebecca Lee

Listed: #9 on Indigo

The description: "High schoolers should be encouraged to read Rebecca Lee’s Bobcat and Other Stories, particularly if they plan to go to university. Amorous collisions between professors and students and intellectual scrapping among academic colleagues can be as psychologically ferocious as an attack by a bobcat. Understand that and you’ll do brilliantly at any post-secondary institution." - Jennifer Hunter, Toronto Star

Let's Pretend This Never Happened

Author: Jenny Lawson

Listed: #3 on Indigo, winner for Best Humor in GoodReads' Choice Awards

The description: "Lawson relishes revealing plenty about her life, except perhaps just how much she may exaggerate about it. Fall into her writing, though, and she proves that a memoir need not be exact to be enjoyable. She removes the onus of perfectly reported recollections and leads her readers down the rabbit hole of her memories." - Melissa Bell, Washington Post


Author: Rawi Hage

Listed: #8 on, winner of Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction

The description: "The narrator, who calls himself Fly, lays the world out for the reader in extreme and contradicting proportions that feel heartbreaking. Fly, in fact, made me fall in love with books all over again. And why not? A book fanatic raised in a traveling circus, Fly is one strand of a web of cabdrivers in a city that loosely resembles Montreal. He separates cab drivers as “spiders” and “flies.” Spiders wait around for prey to find them. Flies wander and roam the city. By name alone, you know where Fly lands." - Caitlin Stall-Paquet, Paste

Dear Life

Author: Alice Munro

Listed: #14 on, #1 on Kirkus Reveiws' Best Fiction of 2012

The description: "None of these stories needs to be a novel, however, and that’s because Alice Munro confects her characters and shapes their backgrounds so deftly that the stories have all the rich lusciousness of novels without their tendency to put on more weight than they should. Most of them are set in the 1940s and ‘50s or, if not, their characters look back to those decades. In a sense, then, these stories are historical, often recalling the rationing and responsibilities of World War II." - Claire Hopley, Washington Times

The Yellow Birds

Author: Kevin Powers

Listed: #4 on, National Book Award finalist, New York Times Best Books of 2012 list

The description: "John Bartle, age 21, is a soldier in the middle of combat in Iraq and his one job is to stay alive, and he’s made a promise to the mother of a fellow soldier, Murphy, 18, that he would keep him alive, too. It’s the honoring of this promise that propels the book backward and forward in time and across landscapes in Iraq and the U.S." - Doug Stanton, The Daily Beast


Author: Erlend Loe

Listed: #13 on Indigo

The description: "[Loe's] satirical point of view is the starting point for this strange and humorous book – and although some of the author's targets are less à propos in 2011 (the book has taken eight years to reach English readers, in a translation by Don Bartlett and Don Shaw), there are still some cogent points made here. If, that is, you can accept the whimsy of a man conversing with a baby moose." - Barry Forshaw, The Independent

Escape From Camp 14

Author: Blaine Harden

Listed: #8 on Indigo, one of Financial Times' best books of the year

The description: "As many as one million North Koreans are believed to have perished [in the North Korean gulag]. Only three people are known to have escaped. One is Shin Dong-hyuk, a young man who defied the odds and managed to flee, first from the gulag and then from North Korea itself. He made it to China and eventually reached safety in South Korea in 2006. His remarkable story is told by Blaine Harden, a former Washington Post reporter, in "Escape From Camp 14." It is a searing account of one man's incarceration and personal awakening in North Korea's highest-security prison." - Melanie Kirkpatrict, Wall Street Journal

The Fault In Our Stars

Author: John Green

Listed: #15 on, #23 on Indigo, Grantland's Overlooked Books Of 2012

The description: "The real tragedy of cancer may be that it affects people of all ages, and children suffering from the disease are often hit hardest. Robbed of any semblance of a normal life, "cancer kids," as Green's narrator, Hazel Grace Lancaster, calls them, mark their time in days and weeks." - Rachel Syme, NPR

A Hologram For The King

Author: Dave Eggers

Listed: #12 on, #17 on Indigo, 2012 National Book Award Finalist

The description: "A Hologram For the King” is a tale of emptiness, where the losses are of the more everyday kind — debts to pay, ex-wives to regret — even if the setting is exotic. In fact, if you describe the plot of this book — a salesman goes to Saudia Arabia, armed with a hologram, to pitch IT service to a king — it’ll probably provoke the kind of empathy shut-down that existed towards bankers . . . well, even now." - John Freeman, Boston Globe

In The Orchard, The Swallows

Author: Peter Hobbs

Listed: #5 on Indigo

The description: "We are introduced to the narrator as he is rescued from certain death by the kind, scholarly Abbas, who discovers him lying unconscious by the roadside. He has just been set free after 15 years in a subhuman prison; Hobbs's descriptions of the dungeon are chilling, and present a sharp contrast to the idyllic countryside." - Mirza Waheed, The Guardian

The Round House

Author: Louise Erdrich

Listed: #3 on, winner of National Book Award for Fiction

The description: "In the novel, Joe, a sheltered 13-year-old, must come to terms with crime, justice and adult sexuality after his mother is brutally raped. She is so traumatized that she initially will not speak of the incident or name her attacker, and Joe decides to find the culprit. He quizzes his father, eavesdrops on conversations and bikes around the reservation with his three closest friends, investigating." - Carolyn Kellogg, Los Angeles Times

The Chaperone

Author: Laura Moriarty

Listed: #7 on Indigo, Oprah's best Beach Reads

The description: "The Chaperone is the story of Cora Carlisle of Wichita, Kansas, a 36-year-old woman wife and mother hired to accompany Louise Brooks, 15, to New York City in the summer of 1922 where Brooks is attending dance school. While it’s a fictional account Moriarty uses Brooks, an actual silent screen star, as a prop upon which to reveal Cora’s awakening on a number of levels." - Georgie Binks, Toronto Star

The Beautiful Mystery

Author: Louise Penny

Listed: #9 on

The description: "The “beautiful mystery” of Penny’s eighth Gamache mystery refers to Gregorian chant, plainsong, and its mysterious allure and spiritual appeal even to the lay listener. Playing off the international sensation surrounding the 1994 release of recordings of the Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos, The Beautiful Mystery finds Gamache and his loyal lieutenant, Inspector Jean-Guy Beauvoir, being called to a monastery to investigate the murder of a monk." - Robert Wiersema, The Globe and Mail


Author: Christopher Hitchens

Listed: #17 on, eight weeks on the NPR Hardcover Nonfiction Bestseller List

The description: "Christopher Hitchens's own pieces are shaped like a fugue; the theme is death, his own death, and the voice in each piece changes slightly as death comes closer. He begins simply with the theme: "I have more than once in my time woken up feeling like death. But nothing prepared me for the early morning in June when I came to consciousness feeling as if I were actually shackled to my own corpse." - Colm Tóibín, The Guardian