I have found it enormously difficult this year to come up with a top 10 books for 2012. I have I think had an especially good reading year. So stealing an idea from Rachel at Booksnob – I have instead come up with a top 12 for 2012. Looking through my list of the 134 books I read this year I see I have read only 20 non-fiction books. Although there were some good ones among them, I have ended up only including fiction books on my top 12, this wasn’t deliberate – and if I had taken my list to a top 15 there would have been a couple of non-fiction on the list – however it felt right – for the sake of brevity at least – to stop at 12. In order to prevent myself filling up my list with Thomas Hardy and Elizabeth Taylor I have only allowed myself one title for each author. Some of the books on my list are re-reads – I find as I get older I re-read far more books – than I ever thought I would when I was younger. For years I would cry “too many books, too many books” when faced with the possibility of re-reading anything. However as time goes on, I find I envy people their first experience of a book I once loved. That first experience of a book can’t be entirely re-created, but it can be enhanced.
I have also created a separate list of three fabulous reads that were published in 2012. I read so many older books these days, Persephone books, Virago Modern Classics, Penguin Classics are among my favourites. I have only read 14 books published in 2012 – so a top 10 would be over kill – however I have listed 3 books which I absolutely loved – and would like to highly recommend. (I have not included Bring up the Bodies or The Lighthouse – which I loved – because everyone else will be talking about them I am sure)
Highly recommended and published this year:
1. The Garden of Evening Mists – Tan Twan Eng – Short listed for the Man Booker Prize – a beautifully written novel set in Malaysia in the years after the Second World War.
2. Tom-All-Alones – Lynn Shepherd A homage to Dickens it is that marvellous thing; just an absolute page turner! – a book to curl up with late at night and read and read till you are done. Also look out for the next book in this series in February – A Treacherous Likeness it too is fantastic read.
3. The Snow Child – Eowen Ivey – Right outside my comfort zone, or at least I thought it would be – based on the Russian fairy story of the same name; this is an atmospheric and memorable read.
So then on to my top 12 books for 2012.
My favourite reads of 2012 – in no particular order:
1. The House of Mirth – Edith Wharton (1905)- Which I think I may have read many many years ago, but had no memory of at all. This started me off on an Edith Wharton binge – I read 3 other Edith Wharton novels this year, loved them all and added a further five to my TBR.
2. Far from the Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy (1874)– Read for my on-going Thomas Hardy reading project which doesn’t end till April 2014. Another re-read for me, and I loved it far more this second time around. It is a wonderful book, exciting, romantic and still enormously readable.
3. Death of the Heart – Elizabeth Bowen (1938) – Again I think I may have read this many many years ago – before I think I was able to appreciate Elizabeth Bowen’s writing. One of three Elizabeth Bowen novels I read this year, it made me want to read all her novels and I have added another 3 to my TBR.
4. The Garden of Evening Mists – Tan Twan Eng (2012)– the novel I wanted to win this year’s Man Booker Prize, I loved every word. An enormously memorable novel, beautifully written, the images Tan Twan Eng wove into his marvellous narrative have stayed with me.
5. Miss Buncle Married – D E Stevenson (1936)– A Persephone book – and one book I was bereft to finish – I just wanted it to go on. Possibly not as literary as some other works, it is deeply cosy, hugely charming and a book I will read and read again I am sure. It prompted me to order the third “Miss Buncle” from the library – it took six months to come through.
6. A Game of Hide and Seek – Elizabeth Taylor (1951) – Well there had to be an Elizabeth Taylor on the list didn’t there? I have loved so much reading her books this year. A Game of Hide and Seek is now firmly my favourite of her novels.
7. Lady Audley’s Secret – Mary Elizabeth Braddon (1862)– A well-known classic – that I had actually never read. I bought it in the new Penguin English Library edition – and gobbled it up while on holiday – could not put it down.
8. The New House – Lettice Cooper (1936)– A Persephone book, a novel of such beautiful simplicity that it defies description.
9. Manja – Anna Gmeyner –(1938) Yet another Persephone book – a deeply poignant affecting story of five children in Germany in 1930’s during the rise of Nazism. Unforgettable, and unputdownable, a pretty good combination.
10. Little Women – Louisa May Alcott (1868)– Read a couple of days before Christmas, a re-read of course, but I think I enjoyed it far more this time around.
11. Greenbanks – Dorothy Whipple (1932)– I just adore Dorothy Whipple – this was the last of her books published by Persephone that I had left to read. I just loved this story of a family between the wars.
12. Illyrian Spring – Ann Bridge (1935)– Re-issued this year by Daunt books – I ordered it as soon as I heard it was available. I have never been able to afford to travel outside this country – one of my biggest regrets – this novel transported me 1930’s style to sun drenched European villages, I adored it.
So what will 2013 bring? My TBR is at critical mass – and has some truly wonderful looking books on it. There is my month of re-reading to look forward to next month, and the start of the Librarything Virago group’s readalong of Barbara Pym in celebration of her centenary, I know others will be joining in too. I will also continue with the classics club, which I have only recently joined.