Today is one of those dates that can only happen once every hundred years – 12-12-12, so it’s an ideal time to review my reading year. Yes, in common with many other bloggers, critics and reviewers I’ve picked out the best bits, so here are my personal top ten books that I’ve read in 2012, plus a few close-run titles and ones that disappointed. The links go to my original reviews. As always, I’ve devised categories for fun so that my list has variety:
Best Fairy Tale: The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. One of the first books I read this year, and one of the very best. This story of a longed-for child appearing in the wilds of Alaska is truly magical.
Best Noir: The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson. Dark thoughts run deep in this 1950s novel of a Police Officer with a bad mind.
Best of Beryl: The Bottle Factory Outing by the late, great Beryl Bainbridge. Reading this vicious comedy from 1974 back in March, gave me the idea for running the “Beryl Bainbridge Reading Week” in June. I’ve still got half of her books to read, so may well do it again next year …
Best Re-Read: Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr. Re-reading my favourite book from childhood was a brilliant experience. I could really understand why it affected and scared me so then, but could appreciate its depth and sublety too. Timeless!
Best Three Hankie Book: My Policeman by Bethan Roberts. This novel of a love triangle in 1950s Brighton made me cry. None of the three involved ultimately were happy and I found that profoundly sad.
Best Contemporary Crime Novel: City of Veils by Zoe Ferraris. Set in Saudi Arabia, I, and our Book Group, found this mystery totally absorbing – such a different way of life.
Best Crossover Title: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. I thought this novel about a young boy dealing with his mother’s illness was exceptional. Our book group didn’t quite agree – but à chacun son goût, as they say en France.
Best Future Cult Classic: Lightning Rods by Helen De Witt. Not for those who shock easily, this clever satire can almost make you believe anything could happen.
Best for Chucklesome Comfort Reading: The Darling Buds of May by HE Bates. Kentish ‘Larkin’ about – Perfick entertainment.
Best Arty Biography: Beryl Bainbridge: Artist, Writer, Friend by Psiche Hughes. I shouldn’t really include another Beryl Bainbridge related title, but this recent biography is just so fascinating, I couldn’t resist.
That’s my top ten. If pushed, I’d possibly opt for The Snow Child as my absolute favourite, although Lightning Rods comes very close.
A few that didn’t quite make the top ten were John Saturnall’s Feast by Lawrence Norfolk, The Colour of Milk by Nell Leyshon, and Winter Journal by Paul Auster.
Other highlights have been discovering Edna O’Brien and Dorothy Dunnett, both of whom will feature in my reading to come, I know.
By way of contrast, there were a few titles that I found disappointing – Laurent Binet’s critical success HHhH just irritated me, although I do recognise its originality; The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus was very experimental and interesting, but didn’t work out, and lastly that overhyped first grown-up novel by JK Rowling that was OK, but underwhelmed.
There you have it. Of course, with a few weeks of the year left, I may yet add to these lists. As usual too, I will be looking at the stats of my reading towards the end of the year – Yes, I do that for fun!
Do share your thoughts on my choices above, and feel free to tell me what I should read next year that you loved this year too.