Best Books of 2012

“Blasphemy” by Sherman Alexie (Grove)

This big book of short stories includes some that have been published in previous collections. But there’s enough new stuff in here to make it worthwhile. Does anybody else write about longing in such a funny way?

“This is How You Lose Her” by Junot Díaz (Riverhead Books)

Díaz returns to his first love, short stories, in this latest collection. I had read most of these in The New Yorker, but still couldn’t help but to read them again. His prose remains dazzling as ever, and somehow he manages to make despicable characters, such as his alter ego, Yunior, likeable.

“When My Brother was an Aztec” by Natalie Diaz (Copper Canyon)

Dark, sensual, and humorous, Diaz writes poems about her tribe and family. Love, poverty, and addiction duke it out. This is her first collection of poetry and hopefully not her last.

“Crazy Salad” and “Scribble Scribble” by Nora Ephron (Vintage)

Finally, two of Ephron’s early works have been reissued, and in one volume, to boot. Despite the essays being forty or so years old, they still seem fresh and relevant. So many good lines. A favorite is the essay “Truth and Consequences,” where she admits “I am a writer and I am a feminist, and the two seem to be constantly in conflict.” Why? “One of the reoccurring ironies of this movement that there is no way to tell the truth without, in some small way, seeming to hurt it.” Reminded me of how I feel about labor reporting. Thanks, Nora, I miss you very much.

“How to Be a Woman” by Caitlin Moran (Harper Perennial)

This riotous British columnist writes a profane and funny book about being a woman in a messed up, sexist world. She’s a proud feminist and willing to say things out loud that usually remain unspoken.

“A Thousand Mornings” by Mary Oliver (Penguin)

Oliver takes us back to her beloved Massachusetts in her latest book of poems. Bees, moths, mountains, rivers, and hurricanes are her characters, along with the stillness that can be found within.

“How to be Black” by Baratunde Thurston (Harper).

This is a hilarious mix of razor-sharp satire, memoir, and social commentary from one of America’s funniest dudes. I read the iBook digital-enhanced edition, which contained links to video interviews, some childhood photos, tweets, and most importantly, audio of Baratunde reading his black power speech he wrote in eighth grade. He admits he’s a happy progressive and it shines through in his prose.

“Lizz Free or Die” by Lizz Winstead (Riverhead).

The stand up comedian and “The Daily Show” co-creator writes about her life and how she found her voice. Winstead’s book is a reminder that, while we do not live in a post-feminist world—no matter how much popular culture of politicians try to convince us—we can still laugh at the hypocrisy of it all.

If you liked this story by Elizabeth DiNovella, the Culture Editor of The Progressive magazine, check out her story "While Busting Unions, Michigan Legislature Also Finds Time to Regulate Uteruses."

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