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Best Reads of 2012

Our favorite books and articles of the year include a disturbingly accurate portrayal of some real-life upper crust Chicagoans; a story about the New York Pizza wars; and a graphic novel about a kinder, gentler Darth Vader

From books to magazine articles to even some new children’s stories, 2012 brought a lot of great reads to the world. Here are just a few of the things we read and loved this year.

Senior Editor Emmet Sullivan
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
The story of a missing wife and a suspicious husband quickly turns into a captivating thriller that twists with each new chapter. The fact that it’s written by Flynn, a Chicagoan and Northwestern grad, makes it even better.

Executive Editor Cassie Walker Burke
The Chocolate Money by Ashley Prentice Norton
I won’t say it was a Best Read, but it was definitely the most intriguing novel I read this year (check out my interview with the author). Some of the darkest incidents in the book were not apparently far from fiction, and her portrayal of some real-life upper crust Chicagoans kept me fascinated, if also somewhat disturbed.

Dining Editor Penny Pollack
“Revenge Is a Dish Best Served Piping Hot from a Coal-Fired Oven,” New York magazine, October 29
Since Jeff Ruby and I “wrote the book on pizza” (Everybody Loves Pizza), a current story about New York Pizza wars provided a particularly entertaining read for me. Then again, since everyone does love pizza, and everyone eats pizza, and everyone has pizza loyalties, I think every pizza-head out there will enjoy this story.

Senior Editor Jeff Ruby
Love and Shame and Love by Peter Orner
Orner, a North Shore kid of the 70s and 80s, gets Chicago and its irregular rhythms in a way that few writers do anymore. When this novel – told in a series of brief, loosely connected chapters – wasn’t making me laugh or shake my head in anger and recognition, it was breaking my heart.

Senior Editor Geoff Johnson
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
Fountain’s novel is a powerful, funny, impossible-to-put-down novel of the Iraq War with the improbable setting of a Dallas Cowboys football game. Local connection: The visiting Bears kick Cowboys butt (another sign this is a work of fiction). The Passage of Power Robert Caro With its account of the battle between Lyndon Johnson and John F. Kennedy for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1960, the fourth volume in Robert Caro’s bio of LBJ, was a great election-year read. Local connection: several cameo appearances by “Dick” Daley (that’s Richard J., for you youngsters), in one instance accompanied by the phrase “widespread fraud.”

Features Editor David Bernstein
Darth Vader and Son by Jeffrey Brown
As a Star Wars generation kid—disclaimer: the original Star Wars movies, not the prequels—this little book was pure joy. I now read it with my five-year-old daughter, who cracks up at little Luke and a much kinder, gentler Darth Vader.

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