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10 books we can't wait to read this year

New titles to top your reading list for

New titles to top your reading list for 2012. Photo Credit: Getty Images

Fire up your e-readers, pay off your library fines, make nice with your neighborhood bookseller. However you obtain your reading material in 2012, there's a crop of promising new books coming your way. Here are 10 fiction and nonfiction titles for a Happy New Year.


THE OBAMAS, by Jodi Kantor (Little, Brown)

Jodi Kantor's portrait of the first couple, which began as a cover story for The New York Times magazine in 2009, has been kept under tight wraps by the publisher. We haven't seen a copy yet, but we're dying to know what makes Barack and Michelle tick and why they seem so in synch after 19 years of marriage. Keep your Bill and Hillary; this is the power duo that fascinates us. (Jan. 10)


WATERGATE, by Thomas Mallon (Pantheon). Mallon, whose previous historical novels have taken on the Lincoln assassination and Joe McCarthy's anti-communist witch hunts, turns to the downfall of the Nixon administration in his latest. For anyone obsessed with this bizarre episode in American politics -- a hotel break-in and a far-reaching administration cover-up -- "Watergate" is must reading. (Feb. 21)


THE MAN WITHOUT A FACE: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin, by Masha Gessen (Riverhead)

A Moscow-based journalist examines the once and future Russian president, whose regime now faces widespread dissatisfaction and protests. Gessen charts the trajectory of a low-level KGB operative anointed by the power brokers; once in office, Putin managed to systematically halt democratic progress. (March 1)


THE SONG OF ACHILLES, by Madeline Miller (Ecco)

Last year saw Stephen Mitchell's wonderful new translation of "The Iliad"; 2012 brings this debut novel, a retelling of Homer's tale about the Trojan War, focused on the powerful bond between the Greek hero Achilles and his comrade Patroclus, the exiled prince. The classics never get old. (March 6)


WHY BE HAPPY WHEN YOU COULD BE NORMAL?, by Jeanette Winterson (Grove)

Winterson's autobiographical first novel, "Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit," was published in 1985, an instant classic about an adopted girl's upbringing as an English Pentecostal and the discovery of her lesbianism. Now comes a memoir that promises to revisit and expand on that life story. It begins: "When my mother was angry with me, which was often, she said, 'The Devil led us to the wrong crib.'" We're hooked. (March 6)


ARCADIA, by Lauren Groff (Voice)

The second novel from the author of "The Monsters of Templeton" is set in a commune in rural western New York in the late 1960s; it observes the rise and fall of this utopian community and the coming of age of a young boy, Bit, who is born there. (March 13)


THE NEW REPUBLIC, by Lionel Shriver (Harper)

Novelist Lionel Shriver has seen her profile raised with a new film adaptation of "We Need to Talk About Kevin" starring Tilda Swinton. "The New Republic," written in 1998, never came out in the United States -- a victim of Shriver's poor sales figures (in those days) and later a post-9/11 squeamishness about terrorism. Set in a fictional region of Portugal, "The New Republic" follows a journalist dispatched there to cover a local independence movement setting off bombs for their cause. (March 27)


THE PASSAGE OF POWER: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, by Robert A. Caro (Alfred A. Knopf)

The Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer (and former Newsday reporter) delivers Volume 4 in his massive life of the 36th president. This latest installment follows LBJ through his unhappy vice presidency, tells the story of the Kennedy assassination from Johnson's perspective and examines the early triumphs of his presidency. (May 1)


ARE YOU MY MOTHER? by Alison Bechdel (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Bechdel blew everyone away with her cartoon-style memoir "Fun Home" in 2006; it told the story of the author's closeted gay father who committed suicide. Now, Bechdel is back with a book about her mom, a frustrated actress and music lover who stopped touching and kissing Alison when she was 7. If it's anything like "Fun Home," it should be outstanding. (May 1)


IN ONE PERSON, by John Irving (Simon & Schuster)

Irving's 13th novel is the story of a bisexual man named Billy, whose life and loves make him a societal outcast. Irving's last book didn't make much of an impression, but this promises a return to the sexual themes and unconventional characters that are vintage Irving. (May 8)

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