Shelf Unbound Top 10 Books of 2012

Dec 11, 2012 09:29 AM EDT

What to read next? Shelf Unbound Top 10 Books of 2012

Shelf Unbound book review magazine’s list of the best small press and indie books includes two books in translation, three collections of short stories, and a self-published novel, reflecting trends we’ve been seeing this year in independent publishing: global, shorter, and do-it-yourself.

The Polish Boxer by Eduardo Halfon, Bellevue Literary Press, The first English translation of work by Halfon, who has been deemed one of the best young Latin American writers. The Polish Boxer is based on the author’s grandfather surviving Auschwitz and, in a brilliant exercise in metafiction, centers on a Guatemalan literature professor named Eduardo Halfon. Read Shelf Unbound’s interview with Halfon here:

Glaciers by Alexis Smith, Tin House Books, Isabel works in a library mending old books. She collects vintage postcards and dresses found in thrift stores she frequents and dreams of other peoples’ lives and loves. And she dreams of her co-worker, Spoke, a quiet and enigmatic war veteran who seems just out of her reach. Glaciers is a dreamy book, in fact, soft and lyrical, to be read slowly, and savored.

True by Riikka Pulkkinen, translated by Lola M. Rogers, Other Press, Troubled Anna spills wine on a vintage dress from the back of her dying grandmother’s closet. “Actually, it’s not mine,” says the grandmother, beginning the revelation of her husband’s long-ago affair with the nanny. For Anna, and for Anna’s mother, the truth brings into question their belief about the family and about themselves, about love and deceptive memory. Translated from the Finnish.

Ghosting by Kirby Gann, Ig Publishing, You realize from the first sentence that Ghosting is a novel you will want to read slowly, savoring its poetry.  Ghosting is a tragedy, a story of drug dealers and addictions that go beyond drugs. Wrapped in Gann’s lush language, the story and the characters resonate long after you read the final line.

Cataclysm Baby by Matt Bell, Mudluscious Press, Twenty-six small tales of the grim and grotesque, with grossly malformed babies and shockingly evil children. Bell’s brilliant use of language evokes real, relatable pain within his fantastical gothic construct. Read Shelf Unbound’s interview with Bell here:

Hot Pink by Adam Levin, McSweeney’s, Adam Levin delivers non-stop dazzle in this short story collection, with characters like a precocious 15-year-old lesbian double-amputee with denial and mother issues and an art school dropout who entices strangers to injure her. But it’s not just spectacle; Levin also writes with affecting poignancy. Read Shelf Unbound’s interview with Levin here:

The Law of Strings and Other Stories by Steven Gillis, Atticus Books, www.atticusbooks- From the author of the superb The Consequences of Skating comes this equally superb collection of short stories that inventively mine the complexities of the human condition. In “Falling,” for example, a professional daredevil preparing for a high-wire walk is drowning his lover, as she has become a distraction and therefore a risk to his life. In just a few pages, Gillis unfolds a fully realized, memorable story.

My Only Wife by Jac Jemc, Dzanc Books,  A husband remembers his missing wife, trying to find her in his recollection. “My wife climbed staircases like a bull, but she descended them like a Duchamp painting, all blurred angles and motion.” Brilliant, beautiful, and thought-provoking. We can’t wait to read more work from debut novelist Jemc.

The Expeditioners and the Treasure of Drowned Man’s Canyon by S.S. Taylor, illustrated by Katherine Roy, McSweeney’s McMullens, The first middle-grade novel from hip McSweeney’s, The Expeditioners has it all: secret maps, hidden treasure, villains, cool gadgets, plenty of adventure, and three intrepid siblings joining forces to save the day. Middle graders will love it, but this middle-ager couldn’t put it down. Look for an interview with Taylor in the next issue of Shelf Unbound (

The Last Death of Tev Chrisini by Jennifer Bresnick, Aenetlif Press, www.jennifer- Winner of the Shelf Unbound Writing Competition for Best Self-Published Book. Bresnick’s enchanting Tolkien-esque epic fantasy captivated our judges from page one and held us in thrall through its conclusion 467 pages later. It is a book that basks you in the pleasure of reading it. Read Shelf Unbound‘s interview with Bresnick here:

Shelf Unbound book review magazine is published six times a year and reaches an audience of 125,000 readers in the U.S. and in 57 countries around the world. Subscriptions are free at


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