Cult books of 2012

Posted by
Stylist Team
backgroundLayer 1
Add this article to your list of favourites

2012 is in full swing - and with the early spate of no-drinking resolutions and gym sessions now firmly out the way, it's time to freshen up your bookshelf. This year is already shaping up to be big in the literary world, with a string of talented debut authors battling for elbow space alongside more established writers to form a dazzling collection of hot new reads. From the very best of crime fiction to critically acclaimed memoirs and offbeat comedies, we've selected our favourite big literary bets of 2012. Read on for the lowdown on this year's coolest must-reads...

Simply click on an image to launch the gallery. Do you agree with our choices? Let us know your thoughts on Twitter or in the comments section, below.

  • So Much Pretty, Cara Hoffman

    When nineteen-year old local waitress, Wendy White, disappears, the small town of Haeden, New York, is shaken to its core. Nothing like this has ever happened in Haeden and, assuming that Wendy most likely ran away, the police make little headway with the case. But, six months later, Wendy’s tortured body is found in the nearby woods. And she has only been dead a matter of days…

    This dark, atmospheric tale of murder in a small-town world has been likened to The Lovely Bones and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

    Released: February 2012

  • My Policeman, Bethan Roberts

    From the moment Marion first lays eyes on Tom - her best friend's big brother, broad, blond, blue-eyed - she is smitten. And when he comes home from National Service to be a policeman, Marion, a newly qualified teacher, is determined to win him. Unable to acknowledge the signs that something is amiss, she plunges into marriage, sure that her love is enough for both of them...

    Set in 1950s Brighton, Bethan Roberts tackles an unconventional love triangle in her third book, following up on the success of her Radio 4 serialised novel The Good Plain Cook and The Pool.

    Released: February 2012

  • The Little Shadows, Marina Endicott

    The three Avery sisters ("The Belle Auroras," as they become known on the stage) begin with little in their favour besides youth and hope but each one slowly and steadily evolves into a unique and accomplished artist while navigating her way to adulthood among a cast of extraordinary charmers, charlatans, eccentrics and impresarios.

    Lauded by Margaret Atwood as "very high quality writing," Marina Endicott's novel delves into the world of Vaudeville theatre, in all its eccentricity.

    Released: February 2012

  • The Roundabout Man, Clare Morrall

    Quinn Smith, "The Roundabout Man," is an eccentric figure living in a caravan on a busy motorway junction. What no-one knows is that he is one of the stars of a phenomenally successful series of children's adventure books written by his mother...

    Booker-shortlisted writer Clare Morrall brings her flair for capturing people on the periphery of society to the fore in this witty look at the gulf between past and present, and childhood nostalgia.

    Released: February 2012

  • What the Grown-Ups Were Doing, Michele Hanson

    Michele Hanson grew up an 'oddball tomboy disappointment' in a Jewish family in Ruislip in the 1950s - a suburban, Metroland idyll of neat lawns, bridge parties and Martini socials. Yet this shopfront of respectability masked a multitude of anxieties and suspected salacious goings-on.

    There's already quite a bit of buzz around Michele Hanson's funny, touching memoir that immerses the reader into 1950s society in an exploration of her Jewishness.

    Released: February 2012

  • WONDER, R.J. Palacio

    Born with a terrible facial abnormality, ten-year-old Auggie Pullman has been home-schooled by his parents for his whole life, in an attempt to protect him from the stares and cruelty of the outside world. Now, for the first time, Auggie is being sent to a real school - and he's dreading it.

    This New York graphic designer's debut novel is highly anticipated and has already been compared to Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

    Released: March 2012

  • London in the Sixties, Rainer Metzger

    Powered by the three key elements of youth, affluence and the mass media, London became the hub of sixties pop culture, with its bold and creative spirit attracting an international cast of artists and luminaries in all fields, from pop music and fashion to literature and the visual arts.

    Exquisite illustrations abound in this tome, painting a multifaceted portrait of London in the sixties and exploring why it became the epicentre for creativity and expression.

    Released: March 2012

  • The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce

    Recently-retired Harold Fry sets out one morning to post a letter to a dying friend. Quite unexpectedly, in a moment of impulse, Fry finds himself at the start of an extraordinary journey which will lead him to walk hundreds of miles from home, en route making chance encounters and reflecting on tragic events from his past.

    This poignant and subtly comic tale by Rachel Joyce has already been singled out by The Times as its stand-out debut of the year.

    Released: March 2012

  • The Land of Decoration, Grace McCleen

    Judith and her father don’t have much – their house is full of dusty relics, reminders of the mother she’s never known. Bullied at school, she finds solace in making a model of the Promised Land – little people made from pipe cleaners, a sliver of moon and luminous stars, and a mirror sea – a world of wonder that Judith calls The Land of Decoration.

    A powerful and unique story from first-time novelist Grace McCleen, who shines a spotlight on mysticism, childhood and family bonds.

    Released: March 2012

  • The Story of the Streets, Mike Skinner

    Mike Skinner's memoir charts the meteoric rise and fall of his cult garage project The Streets, as well as taking a broader look at the British music scene over the past ten years. Ben Thompson, who has previously worked on autobiographies for Russell Brand, Vic Reeves and Phil Daniels, collaborates on the book.

    Featuring unseen photos from Mike Skinner's youth, this book will be something of a bible for his fans - especially those anticipating the release of D.O.T., his new music project for 2012.

    Released: March 2012

  • Every Contact Leaves A Trace, Elanor Dymott

    Alex is in his thirties, a solitary man who has finally found love in the form of his beautiful and vivacious wife, Rachel. When Rachel is brutally murdered one midsummer night by the lake in the grounds of their alma mater, Worcester College, Oxford, Alex's life as he knew it vanishes.

    The subject of a five-way auction between publishers, Elanor Dymott’s debut novel is in high demand for its beautiful prose and compelling approach to themes of love and murder.

    Released: April 2012

  • Skagboys, Irvine Walsh

    Mark Renton has it all: he's good-looking, young, with a pretty girlfriend and a place at university. But there's no room for him in the 1980s. When his family starts to fracture, Mark's life swings out of control and he succumbs to the defeatism which has taken hold in Edinburgh's grimmer areas. The way out is heroin.

    The prequel to Irvine Walsh's Trainspotting - finally published nearly two decades after the cult classic sensation - will have copies flying off the shelves later this year, as Renton, Sick Boy et all return to the limelight.

    Released: April 2012

  • The Light Between Oceans, M L Stedman

    1926. On a remote island off Western Australia, Tom and Isabel Sherbourne, a young, childless couple whose lives have been scarred by the conflict of war, peaceably run the Janus lighthouse. Cocooned from the rest of the world, on an April morning a boat washes ashore with two bodies inside – an infant and a dead man. In a moment of impulse the path of their lives will hit an unthinkable crossroads.

    Described by The Book Thief author Markus Zusak as "extraordinary and heart-rending," this moving tale of morality was the subject of a fierce bidding war between publishers.

    Released: April 2012

  • Dead Scared, SJ Bolton

    Cambridge University has been suffering a spate of suicides, more than would be statistically be expected. Most of the victims have been very attractive young women, again a statistical anomaly. Psychiatrist Dr. Evi Oliver, new head of the student counselling service is worried that something else might be going on.

    With five successful thrillers under her belt, S J Bolton is hot property in crime fiction right now. "I love scaring people," she says - and her latest offering certainly delivers on the terror front...

    Released: April 2012

  • The Panopticon, Jenni Fagan

    Fifteen-year-old Anais Hendricks is consigned to life in The Panopticon, a home for chronic offenders where inspectors remain unseen in a looming watchtower. She can't remember how she got there, but across town a policewoman lies in a coma and there is blood on Anais's school uniform...

    Named by Waterstones as one of the best debuts of 2012, Jenni Fagan's original and dynamic voice has attracted admiration from the feted debut novelist Ali Smith.

    Released: May 2012

  • HHhH, Laurent Binet

    Prague, 1942. Two men have been enlisted to kill the head of the Gestapo. This is Operation Anthropoid: two Czechoslovakian parachutists sent on a daring mission by London to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich - chief of the Nazi secret services, 'the hangman of Prague', 'the blond beast', 'the most dangerous man in the Third Reich'.

    Laurent Binet's electrifying, brilliantly written debut of revenge and betrayal at the heart of the Third Reich has already won two prestigious awards in his native France.

    Released: May 2012

  • Heft, Liz Moore

    Former academic Arthur Opp weighs 550 pounds and hasn't left his rambling Brooklyn home in a decade. Twenty milesaway, in Yonkers, seventeen-year-old Kel Keller navigates life as the poor kid in a rich school and pins his hopes on what seems like a promising sporting career - if he can untangle himself from his family drama. The link between this unlikely pair is Kel’s mother, Charlene, a former student of Arthur’s.

    A charming, offbeat book that celebrates the power of love and family in the most unexpected places. Read this for a feel-good boost...

    Released: May 2012

  • Charlotte Street, Danny Wallace

    Jason Priestley (not that one) has just seen her. They shared an incredible, brief, fleeting moment of deep possibility, somewhere halfway down Charlotte Street. And then, just like that, she was gone - accidentally leaving him holding her old fashioned, disposable camera, chock full of undeveloped photos...

    Working Title Films has already optioned rights for this read from Danny Wallace, ShortList's award-winning columnist. The rom com tale of a disillusioned teacher in crisis, Wallace's debut novel promises to be every inch as popular as Yes Man, his non-fiction book - the inspiration for the 2008 film starring Jim Carrey.

    Released: May 2012

  • The Adoption, Anne Berry

    Growing up as the only child of strict, God-fearing parents, Lucilla has always felt her difference. As for Harriet, she would have readily sent her longed-for baby back if she could, having discovered she falls all too short of her expectations. And then there is Bethan, a young girl in 1940s Wales, whose only mistake is falling in love with the wrong man...

    The award-winning author of The Hungry Ghosts and The Water Children has expectations set sky-high with this heartwarming tale of motherhood and identity.

    Released: June 2012

  • Weirdo, Cathi Unsworth

    Twenty years ago, a fifteen-year-old schoolgirl named Corrine Woodrow was convicted of murdering one of her classmates. But now new forensic evidence indicates that Corrine didn't act alone...

    A haunting murder mystery from an author described by critics as "the First Lady of Noir Fiction."

    Released: July 2012.