The 2012 Books You Missed But Shouldn’t Have

Sonia Faleiro Beautiful Thing
‘Beautiful Thing: Inside the Secret World of Bombay's Dance Bars’ by Sonia Faleiro. 240 pp. Black Cat. $15.

The subtitle does not lie: Inside the Secret World of Bombay’s Dance Bars. Faleiro chronicles that world through the experience of 19-year-old exotic dancer Leela, who seems more like Faleiro’s close friend than a reporting subject, and the Bombay club scene bears upon you as if it were your own neighborhood.

George Howe Colt Brothers ‘Brothers: On His Brothers and Brothers in History’ by George Howe Colt. 480 pp. Scribner. $30.

The story of Colt’s relationship with his three brothers—the adored Harry, the emo Ned, the troubled Mark—is woven around entertaining anecdotes of famous siblings like Edwin and John Wilkes Booth and Theo and Vincent van Gogh. A perfect gimmick that makes this book even livelier than The Big House.

Bee Wilson Consider the Fork ‘Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat’ by Bee Wilson. 352 pp. Basic Books. $27.

A book to keep at your side as you cook. Consider the fork. It’s a piercing, sharp weapon associated with the Devil. How did this unlikely tool become the West’s most popular and indispensable utensil? Wilson serves up brisk histories of everything you use in the kitchen.

Patricia Nelson Limerick A Ditch in Time ‘A Ditch in Time: The City, the West and Water’ by Patricia Nelson Limerick, Jason Hanson (Contributor). 352 pp. Fulcrum Publishing. $20.

The first book in 25 years by MacArthur-winning historian Limerick is an entertaining history of the Denver Water Board. (Stealing, even stealing water, is always good copy.) Best of all, this deftly wrought history banishes our complacency about where water originates.

Per Petterson It's Fine By Me ‘It's Fine By Me: A Novel’ by Per Petterson. Translated by Don Bartlett. 208 pp. Graywolf Press. $20.

In this coming-of-age novel about a tenacious teen boy with a nose for trouble, Petterson, author of the critically acclaimed sleeper hit Out Stealing Horses, tells his story in sentences so full of momentum that they insist on being read.

Andrew Blum Tubes ‘Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet’ by Andrew Blum. 304 pp. Ecco. $27.

Most books about the Internet tell us how it’s ruining our minds and social lives, but Blum does something far more interesting and ambitious: he sets out to figure out how it actually physically works. He follows all the cables and cords that crisscross our oceans and our floors.

Douglas Smith Former People ‘Former People: The Final Days of the Russian Aristocracy’ by Douglas Smith. 496 pp. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. $30.

It may seem strange in the midst of economic turmoil to urge readers to spend time with the last Russian aristocrats as they watched their palaces sacked and their family members hunted down by Stalin. But Smith tells a mesmerizing tale 
of how glamorous toffs figured out how to survive.

Hans Keilson Life Goes On ‘Life Goes On: A Novel’ by Hans Keilson. Translated by Damion Searls. 272 pp. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. $15.

Two years ago Dutch-Jewish writer and psycho-analyst Keilson was discovered by the English-speaking world at the age of 101 for novels he wrote decades before. Now his first novel—an autobiographical story set in Germany after World War I—has been gloriously translated. There will sadly be no more of his fine prose as he died last year.

David Quammen Spillover ‘Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic’ by David Quammen. 592pp. W. W. Norton & Company. $29.

The scariest book you’ll read this year. Science journalist Quammen explores the nastiest, most virulent diseases on earth—and says that more 
are likely to emerge as humans encroach further 
on the animal world, and viruses jump species 
from them to us.

Keith Lowe Savage Continent ‘Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II’ by Keith Lowe. 480 pp. St. Martin's Press. $30.

How do you end a war? A peace treaty often means nothing for the millions displaced, injured, and seeking revenge, as Lowe brilliantly shows in his history of ravaged Europe after the end of World War II. The relative success of the European Union seems all the more remarkable in light of 
what he describes.

Eric Jay Dolin When America First Met China ‘When America First Met China: An Exotic History of Tea, Drugs, and Money in the Age of Sail’ by Eric Jay Dolin. 416 pp. Liveright. $28.

Amidst the U.S.’s election-year demagoguery against China, Dolin’s engaging history of the origins of trade between the two countries proves that we’ve been making insane amounts off China for centuries—and that the growth of American capitalism is inextricable from the East.