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Finders Keepers: 2012's Books To Hang On To

Illustration: A woman walks down the street with an armful of books.

Part of a book critic's challenge is to sift through piles of new publications, panning for literary gold. In a way that makes us what one of my favorite children's book heroines, Astrid Lindgren's Pippi Longstocking, called a "turnupstuffer" — "Somebody who finds the stuff that turns up if only you look." Or like Dickens' optimistic Mr. Micawber, who was always sure something good would turn up.

This year's treasures — none rescued from obscurity, but all standouts I'm likely to press on friends or want to read again — include a Nobel-winner's blazing illumination of insidious racism; a posthumous memoir by an intrepid journalist who shied from reporting on nothing, including his own fatal illness; a heart-racing memoir about literally outpacing your demons; a fun first novel that makes a passionate case for reading on all platforms; and a fascinating study of fraternal bonds. They're all books I've made space for on my overstuffed shelves — this Finder's Keepers. I'll leave the Loser's Weepers to another list maker.

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