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Best of 2012

Butterfly People by William Leach

Butterfly People: An American Encounter with the Beauty of the World isn’t really about butterflies. It sears deeply into the lives of middle class America in the 19th century when a newly industrial population began having the leisure to explore the natural world in ways that hadn’t been possible ever before.

The Rude Story of English by Tom Howell

In author Tom Howell’s opinion, before he got to it, there were two main problems with the officially stated story of the English language.

Best of 2012

The NHL: A Centennial History by D’Arcy Jenish

Author D’Arcy Jenish clearly knows his way around a rink. Also, well-received and conceived earlier works paved the way -- in all ways -- for The NHL: A Centennial History.

“Mr. President” by Harlow Giles Unger
“Mr. President”: George Washington and the Making of the Nation’s Highest Office is a very good book in a series of them.

Painters and the American West: Volume II edited by Joan Carpenter Troccoli
You’d have a tough time going wrong with Painters and the American West: Volume II. It’s an impressive -- almost epic -- book, beautifully produced and lovingly annotated. It’s just a splendid art book, from any angle.

The Secret Museum by Molly Oldfield
The book is about the museum you never see. The objects that are, for various reasons, tucked out of sight, hidden in secret locations and kept from public view.

Under the Eagle by Samuel Holiday and Robert S. McPherson
Former soldier Samuel Holiday and history professor Robert S. McPherson get together to tell Holiday’s amazing story in Under the Eagle: Samuel Holiday Navajo Code Talker.

Working with Bitches by Meredith Fuller
One of those books you’ll either not care much about one way or the other, or that will change your life almost as soon as you know it’s in the world. That is, if you need this book, you’ll know it when you see it.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Heaven: (Or, How I Made Peace with the Paranormal and Stigmatized Zealots and Cynics in the Process) by Corey Taylor
A lot of people will come to A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Heaven for an inside glimpse of Slipknot and Stone Sour frontman Corey Taylor and stick around for Taylor’s charm, wit and 21st century philosophizing.

Women of the Frontier: Sixteen Tales of Trailblazing Homesteaders, Entrepreneurs, and Rabble-Rousers by Brandon Marie Miller
They are the backbone of the country, and in many ways their struggles and triumphs represent the very best we have ever had to offer.

To Save Everything, Click Here by Evgeny Morozov
On the surface of things, To Save Everything, Click Here has everything going for it.

Strange Rebels by Christian Caryl
There are banner years. Years that make all the difference. Years that somehow count more than others and, according to journalist, scholar and all around brainy guy Christian Caryl, 1979 was the nexus.

Visions of Infinity by Ian Stewart
Visions of Infinity is mathematics professor Ian Stewart’s love letter to advanced thinking.

Raising Elijah by Sandra Steingraber
Dangers to children -- both born and unborn -- abound. The very thought of it must, for parents, be crazy making. If that is one of your fears, Raising Elijah will not ease your mind.

How To Be Interesting
At indexed, a Seattle writer named Jessica Hagy diagrams life. She crosses one idea with another mathematically, and the result is a new lens -- a new and often invigorating way to look at the world.

A North Country Life by Sydney Lea
Vermont poet laureate Sydney Lea puts both his talent and his love of the sporting life front and center in A North Country Life.

Making Habits, Breaking Habits: Why We Do Things, Why We Don't, and How to Make Any Change Stick by Jeremy Dean
Making Habits, Breaking Habits is a much better book than you’re expecting.

The Official NASCAR Trivia Book by John C. Farrell

As much of a game as it is a book, as the title suggests, The Official NASCAR Trivia Book rounds up a whole lot of NASCAR trivia, then offers multiple choice answers.

100 Grey Cups by Stephen Brunt

Author Brunt knows sports inside and out and is the perfect tour guide for this intense look at the Grey Cup’s first 100 years.

Writing in Pictures by Joseph McBride
“Who needs another book on screenwriting?” McBride begins. Who indeed? Yet this author does things differently.

The Life of Super-Earths by Dimitar Saddelov
It doesn’t take long for Harvard professor of astronomy Dimitar Saddelov to get down to business in The Life of Super-Earths.

Care to Make Love in that Gross Little Space Between Cars? by Amy Sedaris, Judd Apatow, et al
Care to Make Love in that Gross Little Space Between Cars? follows up 2010’s You’re A Horrible Person But I Like You, another compendium with the same pedigree.

The Lean by Kathy Freston
Always on the look-out for what is going to be happening next in books on food and diet, I knew I was spotting a winner when I saw The Lean by Kathy Freston.

Emotional Equations by Chip Conley
Every once in a while, you come across a book that changes the way you think about life, yourself, and what’s possible.

Bad Mommy by Willow Yamauchi
Prior to the birth of our children, we are given to believe that, while motherhood may not be a walk in the park, exactly, some instinctive something will kick in when the time comes and we’ll know what to do. Willow Yamauchi doesn’t believe that.

Falling for Eli by Nancy Shulins
Nancy Shulins’ fantastic personal journey is made all the more powerful by her fierce talent. The twice Pulitzer Prize-contending journalist knows how to tell a story; knows how to bring us along.

Gifts of the Crow by John Marzluff and Tony Angell
Think about it: few creatures are as misunderstood as the crow. Their black plumage and watchful demeanor can evoke fear and even shadows of future evil.

Darwin’s Devices by John Long
Robotics viewed through a biologist’s lens, that’s a bit of what Darwin’s Devices: What Evolving Robots Can Tell Us About the History of Life and the Future of Technology (Basic Books) boils down to.

Choose the Life You Want by Tal Ben-Shahar
Choose the Life You Want strives to help us face the choices every day with confidence and courage. Subtitled “101 Ways to Create Your Own Road to Happiness,” each of this book’s brief chapters offers a quote, a touch of therapy, and a story that links the thoughts to real life.

License to Pawn by Rick Harrison
Rick Harrison, one of the owners of Las Vegas’ Gold and Silver Pawn Shop, is an unlikely television star. But the History Channel’s Pawn Stars, a blue-collar Antiques Roadshow and advanced negotiation seminar, is one of the most successful reality television shows.

Clean Energy Nation by Jerry McNerney
In a week where the eyes of the world weren’t focused on the apparent looming financial collapse of the West, the debut of an intelligent and lucid book focused on answering difficult questions relating to energy would likely have been met by a lot more fanfare and maybe even a bit of hoopla.

Always On by Brian X. Chen
It seems hyperbolic to say that the iPhone has changed everything and yet, in a very real way, how can you not? We, all of us, remember a time when a phone was just a phone. It rings. You answer. Say hello. But in a world of smartphones, talking on it the is the very least of what we do.

Landing in the Executive Chair by Linda Henman
So you scrabble and you scramble and you poke and prod and push your way to the top. You step on all the heads necessary to take the big corner office and, once you get there, you sit back with a big scary sigh and say, “What now?”

The Curve of Time by M. Wylie Blanchet
Half a century after the debut publication of The Curve of Time, the first person account of a young widow’s travels with her five children on a 25-foot coastal cruiser of the shores of British Columbia still captivates.

Just Tell Me What to Eat! by Timothy S. Harlan
You can barely turn on a television or open a newspaper anymore without reading about obesity: how its cutting a swath through the health of America. It almost seems that, as a culture, we’re out of control, and we just don’t know what to do.

The Tattooed Girl by Dan Burstein, et al.
Something happens when a book goes all mega-seller. Take, for instance, Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series. It just seems that, without much seeming effort and all of a sudden people want to start running in your tracks and scraping off a bit of what you’ve created.

Celebrating the 2010-2011 Season of the Vancouver Canucks by Andrew Podnieks
Considering the way it all turned out -- cars on fire and a city in shame -- some would say the Vancouver Canucks hockey club doesn’t have anything to celebrate about their most recent season. Those people would be wrong.

Rawhide Down by Del Quentin Wilber
While the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert are still somewhat shrouded in mystery, more details about the 1981 attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan emerge as time goes on.

Pacific Air by David Sears
How Fearless Flyboys, Peerless Aircraft, and Fast Flattops Conquered the Skies in the War with Japan is Pacific Air’s subtitle but could just as easily be a quite accurate sell line because it describes the book so completely.

Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World by Lisa Bloom
Lisa Bloom, lawyer, author, famous daughter (to women’s rights attorney, Gloria Allred) and frequent television talking head, is trying to rekindle girl power. Think is a smart book that calls on women and girls to assess what it means to be part of a culture that often rewards beauty over brains.

The Natural Laws of Good Luck by Ellen Graf
Ellen Graf’s The Natural Laws of Good Luck is one of those memoirs that, if it were presented to you as fiction, you’d scoff and send it back. Incredible but true, then, that this is the story of the author’s own marriage.

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson
Larson is a phenomenal writer and his ability with creative and narrative non-fiction is near-legendary. A former Wall Street Journal and Time contributor, Larson is best known as the author of Devil in the White City, his riveting 2003 look at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

Pragmatics of Human Communication by Paul Watzlawic, Janet Beavin Bavelas and Don D. Jackson
Our first reaction when it spilled out of its packaging was, “Wait. Really? What?” The title, after all, does not inspire the idea that this will be an easy Sunday read and, truly, it felt as though some sort of mistake had been made.

Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred: Seriously Geeky Stuff to Make with Your Kids by David Erik Nelson
Ever sat around and said, “Wow: I wish I could help my kids make an electro-didgeridoo.” Or, why think small? Why not a whole Electro-Skiffle Band? And, sure, not all of us are into music. So maybe you’ve always wanted to make a water rocket with your children, but you just didn’t know how.

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