Wyatt’s World: RUSA’s Outstanding Books of the Year

The Collection Development and Evaluation Section (a part of the Reference and User Services Association, or RUSA) has announced its selections of the most outstanding works of 2012 (though the winners and contenders were largely published in 2011). These awards are unique in the pantheon of best lists, representing as they do the judgments of collection development, readers’ advisory, and reference librarians. Honoring the power and pleasure of reading, these titles were selected for readers and researchers by the librarians who work with them every day. Click on the hotlinks for annotations, readalikes, listenalikes, and honor titles. [Check LJ‘s Best Books of 2011 articles for crossover.‚ Ed.]

Notable Books


Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks (Ecco: HarperCollins)

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (Knopf)

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt (Ecco)

Say Her Name by Francisco Goldman (Grove)

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (Little, Brown)

Light Lifting by Alexander MacLeod (Biblioasis)

The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht (Random)

The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje (Knopf)

The Tragedy of Arthur by Arthur Phillips (Random)

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell (Knopf)

We the Animals by Justin Torres (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Selected Stories by William Trevor (Viking)



Right Turn at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time by Mark Adams (Dutton)

The Memory Palace by Mira Bartók (Free Pr: S. & S.)

The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood by James Gleick (Knopf)

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt (Norton)

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand (Random)

Arguably: Essays by Christopher Hitchens (Twelve: Hachette)

Apollo’s Angels: A History of Ballet by Jennifer Homans (Random)

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (Farrar)

Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable (Viking)

Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard (Doubleday)

Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee (Scribner)

Inside Scientology: The Story of America’s Most Secretive Religion by Janet Reitman (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)



Illuminations by Arthur Rimbaud. Translated by John Ashbery (Norton)

Beauty Is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability by Jennifer Bartlett, Sheila Black & Michael Northen (Cinco Puntos)

The Sophie Brody Medal

Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza by Adina Hoffman and Peter Cole (Schocken Bks.)


The Reading List

Adrenaline: Before I Go To Sleep by S. J. Watson (Harper Collins)

Fantasy: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (Doubleday)

Historical Fiction: Doc by Mary Doria Russell (Random)

Horror: The Ridge by Michael Koryta (Little, Brown)

Mystery: The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino (Minotaur: St. Martin’s)

Romance: Silk Is for Seduction by Loretta Chase (Avon)

Science Fiction: Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey (Orbit)

Women’s Fiction: The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (Ballantine)


The Dartmouth Medla

Green’s Dictionary of Slang by Jonathan Green (Oxford Univ.)


Outstanding Reference Sources

The Encyclopedia of Political Science, editor in chief George T. Kurian (CQ Pr.)

The Civil War Naval Encyclopedia edited by Spencer Tucker (ABC-CLIO)

Competing Voices from the Russian Revolution: Fighting Words edited by Michael Hickey (Greenwood)

The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Books of the Bible, editor by Michael D. Coogan (Oxford Univ.)

Concise Encyclopedia of Amish, Brethren, Hutterites, and Mennonites by Donald B. Kraybill (Johns Hopkins Univ.)

The Polish American Encyclopedia edited by James S. Pula (McFarland & Co.)

Green’s Dictionary of Slang by Jonathan Green (Oxford Univ.)

Encyclopedia of Sports Medicine edited by Lyle J. Micheli (Sage)

The Encyclopedia of Literary and Cultural Theory, general editor Michael Ryan (Wiley-Blackwell)

The Homer Encyclopedia edited by Margalit Finkelberg (Wiley-Blackwell)

The Grove Encyclopedia of American Art edited by Joan Marter (Oxford Univ.)


The Listen List: Outstanding Audiobook Narration

All Clear by Connie Willis. Narrated by Katherine Kellgren (Brilliance Audio)

Bossypants by Tina Fey. Narrated by Tina Fey (Hachette Audio)

The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey by Walter Mosley. Narrated by Dominic Hoffman (Penguin Audio)

Life Itself: A Memoir by Roger Ebert. Narrated by Edward Herrmann (Hachette Audio)

Middlemarch by George Eliot. Narrated by Juliet Stevenson (NAXOS)

The Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren Willig. Narrated by Kate Reading (Penguin Audio)

One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde. Narrated by Emily Gray (Recorded Books)

A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley. Narrated by Jayne Entwistle (Random House Audio)

The Snowman by Jo Nesbø. Narrated by Robin Sachs (Random House Audio)

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. Narrated by Simon Prebble (Blackstone Audio)

The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht. Narrated by Susan Duerden and Robin Sachs (Random House Audio)

Why Read Moby-Dick? by Nathaniel Philbrick. Narrated by Nathaniel Philbrick (Penguin Audio)

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Neal Wyatt About Neal Wyatt

Neal Wyatt compiles LJ's online feature Wyatt's World and is the author of The Readers' Advisory Guide to Nonfiction (ALA Editions, 2007). She is a collection development and readers' advisory librarian from Virginia. Those interested in contributing to The Reader's Shelf should contact her directly at Readers_Shelf@comcast.net