It is time for my annual, end of year top reads of the year thingy.
I’ve been browsing through my Amazon reviews and was interested to find that this year, on balance, I have enjoyed what I have read way more than last year’s offerings. On the whole it has been a good year for book selection. Yay!
The first part of the year was a bit meh, but things powered from strength to strength as the year went on – which is nice.
I have read more short story collections this year – and enjoyed them. I never used to be a fan of short stories, but have read some crackers in 2012. ‘The Tent’ by Margaret Atwood, ‘Ten Sorry Tales’ by Mick Jackson, ‘Love Your Enemies’ by Nicola Barker and ‘Four Stories’ by Alan Bennett, were all superb.
I have rediscovered Marian Keyes, whose writing is woefully underappreciated and who is clever and powerful, and funny and wonderfully easy to read. I am very happy about that.
I discovered the author Tan Twan Eng through the book ‘The Gift of Rain’ which was mesmerisingly beautiful and so very sad. I am looking forward to reading more in 2013.
One of the things on my New Year’s Resolution list for 2012 was to find more American female authors, which I did. I am happy to say that I love Willa Cather, Siri Hustvedt and Joyce Carol Oates thanks to this year’s experiments.
One of the other things was to finally finish A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu by Proust. I got to Volume Four and then lost the will to live. I may attempt another volume or two this year, but I am convinced that had I powered on with the entirety of Proust in a year I might well have been in the basket weaving department of our local mental hospital by now. So it’s all for the best.
I have, this year read a lot of children’s fiction, as you can imagine. I have loved Jerry Spinelli’s work, and he is the author I have read the most of this year. I have also loved Frances Hardinge’s work, who is another, criminally underappreciated author. Any book by either author is guaranteed to be a hit in our house I have also been introduced to Anthony Horowitz’s Storm Breaker and am definitely going to finish the Alex Rider books next year, and Charlie Higson’s Young Bond series, and Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, because they’re all great fun.
For older children I can highly recommend anything by Meg Rosoff, who is marvellous. I particularly enjoyed ‘Just in Case’, this year. I also read ‘Trash’ by Andy Mulligan, which is brilliant and dark and thrilling. ‘Hitler’s Canary’ by Sandi Toksvig was beautiful, as was ‘Wonder’ by R.J. Palacio. ‘Chomp’, by Carl Hiaasen is one of the best children’s books I’ve read all year, and I’ve read all his other works for children since reading this, and loved them all.
I surprised myself by loving Khaled Hosseini’s ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ and ‘The Kite Runner’,which I had been avoiding because of the hype. Ditto Erin Morganstern’s ‘The Night Circus’. I also read a couple of Jojo Moyes’ books, which turned out to be eminently readable.
I did not surprise myself when it turned out that try as hard as I might, I really dislike Jodi Picoult’s books and their parade of never ending, highly unbelievable misery. Frank Cottrell Boyce, who I consider to be a god amongst writers, let me down rather with the dull reinvention of the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang series, but redeemed himself with; ‘The Unforgotten Coat’, which is back to his usual, glittering standards. I was rather gutted at the latest John Irving; ‘In One Person’, because although I could see its merit, I did not love it like I wanted to. Similarly with Jeffrey Eugenides ‘The Marriage Plot’ which plodded along fairly conventionally and had none of the eerie brilliance of ‘Middlesex’ or ‘The Virgin Suicides’.
I was not disappointed by Nicola Barker’s latest book; ‘The Yips’, which I loved. Also A. S. Byatt’s ‘Ragnarok’, which was superb and knocked the disappointing ‘Children’s Book’ into a cocked hat. Dan Rhodes, ‘This is Life’ was gentle and funny and didn’t make me cry half as much as ‘Timoleon Vieta Come Home’, which is good. ‘The Cat’s Table’ by Michael Ondaatje was a welcome return to form.
As a publisher, Persephone came up trumps with the delightful, ‘Making of a Marchioness’ by Frances Hodgson Burnett, ‘A London Child of the 1870’s’ by Molly Hughes, and the sublime: Miss Buncle’s Book’ by D. E. Stevenson.
Factual books that I loved included ‘The Horologicon’ by Mark Forsyth, and ‘Lost London’ by Richard Guard, both of which were brilliant and funny. I adored the essays of Kathleen Jamie from her book ‘Sightlines’. Ditto those of Robert McFarlane in his book of essays on walking called: ‘The Old Ways; A Journey on Foot’.
In a class all of its own was ‘Mother, Brother, Lover’ by Jarvis Cocker, which is the Faber anthology of his song lyrics. Poetry, social criticism, wonder. Lovely.
So, a good year. But if I had to pick only ten to read, which ones would they be?
Well, in no particular order:
- The Summer Without Men by Siri Hustvedt
- Miss Buncle’s Book by D. E. Stevenson
- Four Stories by Alan Bennett
- Sightlines by Kathleen Jamie
- The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern
- Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
- Mother, Brother, Lover by Jarvis Cocker
- A London Child of the 1870’s by Molly Hughes
- Chomp by Carl Hiaasen
- Oh! Pioneers by Willa Cather