With all the ‘best of 2012’ posts around I couldn’t resist a little list-making of my own. Last year, with official writing deadlines for the first time, I was more aware than ever how little time I have to read, especially as I’m a slow reader. The one positive outcome of this is choosing my next book more carefully, and happily everything I’ve read this year has been either good, very good or deeply excellent. So, my twelve recommendations from 2012’s reading (listed in the order I read them) are:
1. The Devil That Danced On The Water – Aminatta Forna (2010)
Beautiful and heartbreaking memoir of Forna’s search to discover the fate of her father, an influential Sierra Leonian minister who disappeared when she was ten.
2. Soft Apocalypse – Will McIntosh (2011)
A near future portrayal of American society slowly breaking down as resources run out, while the protagonist just wants to find a girlfriend. This was a great read.
3. Of Blood and Honey – Stina Leicht (2011)
Inventive urban fantasy set amidst the Troubles of Northern Ireland, another read that zipped along with totally convincing characters.
4. Mr Fox – Helen Oyeyemi (2011)
Mr Fox, haunted by his muse, the inveigling Mary Fox, is torn between Mary and his wife. I’m green with envy over Oyeyemi’s turn of phrase.
5. 1Q84 Books 1 and 2 – Haruki Murakami (2012)
Classic and epic Murakami with a wonderful heroine. I still need to read Book 3. But The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle remains the masterpiece.
6. Osama – Lavie Tidhar (2011)
Private detective Joe is hired by a mysterious woman to find the obscure author of pulp fiction novels featuring one Osama bin Laden: Vigilante. A real inspiration and beautifully written.
7. If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller – Italo Calvino (1979)
I’d been meaning to read this for ages and it did not disappoint. Gloriously clever.
8. The Islanders – Christopher Priest (2011)
There was a line which describes the work of the sociologist character Caurer, and it exactly sums up how this gorgeous book works. I want to quote it but won’t because it’s a joy to discover.
9. The Dervish House – Ian McDonald (2010)
Another writer I’d been meaning to read for ages. I read the beautiful opening description of the storks flying over Istanbul and was hooked from there.
10. Last Evenings On Earth – Roberto Bolaño (2006)
Darkly satirical collection of stories by Chilean writer Bolaño, the first of his work I’ve read. The final piece in this collection is just mind-blowing.
11. The Passage – Justin Cronin (2010)
I don’t normally read horror, being a total wimp, but got hooked on this after the first two chapters. After that it was like stuffing your face with a box of chocolates.
12. Nine Nights – Bernard Cavalho (2007)
Part memoir, part imagined history, the author becomes obsessed with an American ethnologist who committed suicide in the Amazon jungle in 1939. Dreamy and mysterious.
And thirteen for 2013 – things I hope to get round to reading this year:
Spin – Nina Allan (2013)
The Shining Girls – Lauren Beukes (2013)
2666 – Roberto Bolaño (2004)
Budapest – Chico Buarque (2005)
The Hired Man – Aminatta Forna (2013)
Kalpa Imperial – Angelica Gorodischer (2003)
At the Mouth of the River of Bees – Kij Johnson (2012)
Redemption In Indigo – Karen Lord (2010)
Love Minus Eighty – Will McIntosh (2013)
The Adjacent – Christopher Priest (2013)
Hawthorn and Child – Keith Ridgeway (2012)
Communion Town – Sam Thompson (2012)
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal – Jeanette Winterson (2011)
And if I get through all of those I’ll be happy!
Happy New Year all and here’s to the books to be discovered in 2013.