Soft as a Petal: A History of the World, Told through Handkerchiefs
This elegant little history is an excellent primer for anyone fascinated with the role of textiles in law, love, and literature. Many authors of popular history have hunted for the perfect "frame story" that would inspire general readers to make sense of the long and tangled threads of world civilization. Smithson's Soft as a Petal puts it in your back pocket. From the hankie's humble beginnings as an all-purpose rag and surrender flag for meek craftsmen on ancient trade routes, to its heyday in Victorian parlors, its near-extinction after the disposable tissue revolution, and its triumphant renaissance alongside the return of the handlebar mustache in the 21st century, the common pocket handkerchief has seen virtually every major turning point of history. Smithson weaves the hankie's story in a humorous, readable style that will make this book one to reach for for years to come.
Eating Will Kill You: The definitive diet book of 2012. Don't miss 2013's The "Eating Will Kill You" Cookbook: 415 Recipes That Will Leave You Hungry for Less.
Guiscard's Lists: Famous People Who Aren't Dead Yet: Perhaps the most useful Guiscard list book this year, it will save you from embarrassing mishaps. Sadly, this one only made our runners-up because of our doubts about its enduring relevance.
My Brain is an Anomoly: Stories.
Very little could be said about this book that would capture its haunting permeance into the dimmest corners of urban banality. Lopez is a master of making the small things of life even smaller, and the big things virtually nonexistent. Her brief tales -- sometimes only five letters long -- capture the desperation and quiet suffering of a soul trapped in American comfort. A must-read.
Twelve Days of Nothing: This collection, "a novel told in short stories," follows the lives of twelve unconnected residents of a small Ohio town. Each chapter portrays in microscopic detail a day in each person's life, in which nothing happens.
Goofy, irreverent, stylized, manic, cynical, chartreuse, wobbly, vivisexual: these are all words critics have used to describe Terry Bart's breakout novel, Excitable Times. Other words have included: golumphuous, weebinkle, magisterial, vainglorious, yeoman-like, pioneering, geological, corpuscular, baroque, and hardy. The thousands of ways to describe this energetic, wholly one-of-a-kind debut are innumerable. Instead of trying to understand it yourself, just glide among its phalanx of reviews. Eighty-five percent of people who try to read Excitable Times on their own just aren't ready for it.
The Ever-Expanding Willow Tree: A novel so profound you'll never forget its message, even if you forget everything about it.