Books of the Year 2012

The Atlantic's literary editor picks the five best of the crop.

The Great Sea
David Abulafia
OXFORD

Abulafia relates and interprets the history of the Mediterranean from 22,000 B.C. to A.D. 2010 with authority, exactitude, and verve.

Time’s Shadow
Arnold J. Bauer
KANSAS

Bauer’s portrait of life in rural Kansas from the 1930s to the 1950s conjures with extraordinary thoughtfulness and grace a world we have lost.

Good Behaviour
Molly Keane
VIRAGO MODERN CLASSICS

In this dark and tart novel of manners, Keane renders a complex, shriveled, and disturbing character with uncanny skill and nuance.

Bring Up the Bodies
Hilary Mantel
HENRY HOLT

In prose at once lyrical and tightly clever, Mantel has written a brilliant study of character, and a rich portrait of 16th-century society, deftly revealing the ramifications of birth, alliance, and personality at a time when being on the wrong side in a political argument meant death.

Moscow, 1937
Karl Schlögel
POLITY

In this dazzling panorama, a feat of literary finesse and of meticulous historical reconstruction, Schlögel summons up the communists’ new Jerusalem in the grip of the Great Terror.

More of Benjamin Schwarz's best books picks.

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Benjamin Schwarz is The Atlantic's national and literary editor. More

His first piece for the magazine, "The Diversity Myth," was a cover story in 1995. Since then he's written articles and reviews on a startling array of subjects from fashion to the American South, from current fiction to the Victorian family, and from international economics to Chinese restaurants. Schwarz oversees and writes a monthly column for "Books and Critics," the magazine's cultural department, which under his editorship has expanded its coverage to include popular culture and manners and mores, as well as books and ideas. He also regularly writes the "leader" for the magazine. Before joining the Atlantic's staff, Schwarz was the executive editor of World Policy Journal, where his chief mission was to bolster the coverage of cultural issues, international economics, and military affairs. For several years he was a foreign policy analyst at the RAND Corporation, where he researched and wrote on American global strategy, counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, and military doctrine. Schwarz was also staff member of the Brookings Institution. Born in 1963, he holds a B.A. and an M.A. in history from Yale, and was a Fulbright scholar at Oxford. He has written for a variety of newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Foreign Policy, The National Interest, and The Nation. He has lectured at a range of institutions, from the U.S. Air Force Special Operations School to the Center for Social Theory and Comparative History. He won the 1999 National Book Critics Circle award for excellence in book criticism.

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