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FILE PHOTO: Author Sadie Jones. Her first novel is titled, The Outcast. (Tibor Kolley/The Globe and Mail)
FILE PHOTO: Author Sadie Jones. Her first novel is titled, The Outcast. (Tibor Kolley/The Globe and Mail)


The Globe’s top 29 picks for international fiction of 2012 Add to ...

The Globe’s Books team is sent thousands of books every year: novels and poetry, mysteries and histories, memoirs and coffee-table books, erotica, exotica, graphic novels, self-published books, books sophisticated and crude, even textbooks. From this rich array we select only the most promising for reviews - and then only those that wowed our professional readers for our annual 100 list. Herewith, the foreign fiction titles reviewers couldn’t put down, couldn’t stop talking about, and insist you stock up on, too.

American Dervish

By Ayad Akhtar,

Little, Brown

This thrilling novel incorporates the vital ingredients of fine storytelling: a powerful coming-of-age story, mesmerizing protagonists and writing that ranges from haiku-like interior monologues to the faultless mimicry of the spoken language of a community of Pakistani immigrants in American suburbia. -- Nazneen Sheikh

The Fat Years

By Chan Koonchung, translated by Michael S. Duke,


This brave, audacious and radical satire skewers the “counterfeit paradise” that is the 21st-century China of material growth and prosperity under totalitarian governance. The Fat Years centres on the erasure from sanctioned memory of the events surrounding June, 1989, including the massacre on Tiananmen Square. That, amazingly, is not fiction.  -- Charles Foran

What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank

By Nathan Englander,


Nathan Englander’s collection returns to the same fertile territory as his first book of stories: Religious Jews in crisis, the ephemeral nature of the written word and, most pointedly, the enduring trauma of the Holocaust are explored with abundant humour, tenderness and heartache. -- Jonathan Papernick


By Thomas Mallon,


This novel’s brilliance rests upon Mallon’s ability to weave Watergate’s oft-told events into a moral tapestry that feels wholly new. One curious side effect is to remind us just how progressive many of Richard Nixon’s policies were, from his stewardship of the environment to his “opening” of communist China. -- Stephen Amidon

At Last

By Edward St. Aubyn,

Farrar, Straus, Giroux

This last of five novels centred on the life of upper-class Englishman Patrick Melrose deals with the death of Patrick’s mother. Readers who do not know the other novels will still enjoy At Last’s humour, thoughtfulness, amusing characterizations and intelligence. -- André Alexis


By Lauren Groff,


We follow the lives and times of Abe and Hannah Stone, and their son Bit, at first on a commune on a crumbling estate in 1968. Bit grows up, but the family finally walks out on Arcadia’s souring dream, only to return late in their lives to live in an off-grid cottage on the estate’s grounds. -- J.C. Sutcliffe


By Kathryn Harrison,

Random House

It’s Jan. 1, 1917, and Rasputin’s frozen body has just been fished out of the Neva River. His daughter Masha, 18, came to St. Petersburg after her father mesmerized the Russian court. But without Rasputin, there’s no one to care for Russia’s crown prince. So Masha inherits the job. A beautifully sculpted novel. -- Jerome Charyn

The Lifeboat

By Charlotte Rogan,

Reagan Arthur/Little Brown

When the Empress Alexandra is sunk in mid-Atlantic in 1914, we follow, through the not-quite-reliable eyes of Grace Winter, the failing fortunes of the 39 passengers of a lifeboat. Rogan’s thrilling debut novel is very fine at detailing the sheer arduous, draining physicality of the ordeal. -- Martin Levin

Waiting for Sunrise

By William Boyd,


It is Vienna, 1913, and German-speaking English actor Lysander Rief is seeking psychoanalysis. He meets a mysterious woman, who lures him into a sexual adventure, then charges him with rape. He eventually ends up behind enemy lines in search of a traitor. Sex, spies and suspense, this novel has it all. -- Giles Blunt


By Richard Ford,


Dell Parsons, the narrator, is a recently retired, 66-year-old American English teacher living in Windsor. He is remembering the year he and his twin sister, Berner, turned 15, a time when a pair of significant and traumatizing events took place. A majestic, generous novel that encompasses the full range of human life. -- Jane Urquhart

The Hunger Angel

By Herta Müller, translated by Philip Boehm,

Metropolitan Books

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