Friday, 21 December 2012

I enjoy other people's books of the year lists and I'm more inclined to take inspiration from favourite bloggers' lists than from the Sunday papers. Rachel's enthusiasm for Henry Green means I'll be keeping an eye out for an author I've never read before and I'm sure I'll be dipping into Cornflower's lists of fiction and non-fiction.

So here's my round-up for 2012 from the 66 books that I've read. (There were a couple of very long ones but I'm still rather shocked when I think that only a few years ago, I was easily getting through two novels a week. If only book blogs weren't such a distraction ...)

And as I kept a movie list, too, let's award an Oscar. As I seem to average a visit to the cinema every three weeks or so, I'm hardly the film buff of the year -
but for sheer, unexpected enjoyment my Best Film 2012 has to be Woody Allen: A Documentary which had me smiling all the way through.

But on with the main feature, the books. Here they are, in no particular order:

Harriet by the wonderful Elizabeth Jenkins is one that I wrote about quite recently, and would be a strong contender for my Book of the Year.

As would The Expendable Man by Dorothy B Hughes, so it has been a vintage year for Persephones.

I was completely smitten by Mrs Bridge by Evan S Connell as beguiling as an American Provincial  Lady but with an undercurrent of heartbreaking sadness. But why have I never managed to find the companion volume Mr Bridge?
(No matter. A 26p copy is now on its way from America. As midnight treats go, at least it's non-fattening.)

Still in America, The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe went some way to assuage my distress at missing out on the latest series of Mad Men.

The Lewis Man took me to the Hebrides and was just as gripping as the first book in this trilogy which means that Peter May features on my list for the second year running.

For sheer elegance of writing I'm including The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes and An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro, which was published in 1986 but was new to me. In many ways, it made me think back to The Remains of the Day.

Pure by Andrew Miller is one of the best historical novels that I've ever read and evokes the stench of the Ancien Régime so vividly that you can taste it. (If you enjoyed Patrick Susskind's Perfume, you will  love this.)

And I mustn't forget The Odd Women by George Gissing, and Gillespie and I by Jane Harris, although it does seem a long time since I read them at the start of the year.

So that's my Top Ten in fiction. I've also been re-reading some old favourites. Wolf Hall was just as good second time round. David Copperfield was better as I didn't have to sit an A-level at the end of it. At Mrs Lippincote's will always be one of my favourite Elizabeth Taylors. And Mildred Pierce by James M Cain is as good as a second helping of Mildred's wonderful pies.

Whoops, just forgotten one so let's have a special category for graphic novels and include Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, by Leanne Shapton. Quirky and engaging - and just the right length to enjoy in one evening.

I don't read anything like as much non-fiction, but I'd agree with Cornflower who also recommends The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe - poignant and very moving. 
The Paper Garden by Molly Peacock was a beautiful book - with creamy paper and lovely illustrations -about Mrs Delany and her exquisite paper cut-outs. But it loses points because of the intrusive presence of the author who simply can't shut up about herself. 

In the end, I'm torn between two very different biographies. So my non-fiction award of the year goes to Jeanette Winterson for Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? Even the title is brilliant! 
(There is still time to catch this fascinating documentary about her on iPlayer.)
Sharing joint place with Martin Gayford's A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney.


kristina said...

Thank you so much for your list. You've reminded me of some titles I've been meaning to seek out. And Mr and Mrs Bridge are still my all-time favorite books!

K x

callmemadam said...

Oh dear, when you mentioned Peter May, I immediately thought of the cricketing hero of my youth!

I'll look out for Pure. Other people's recommendations are so useful.

Sue said...

I have actually read one of your list. I loved both Peter May's Lewis books and am eagerly awaiting the third which is due out very soon. I'm also waiting for Ann Cleeves fifth Shetland book. In fact I have become obsessed with crime fiction and cannot get back to anything else on my tbr list.

mary said...

I reminded myself that I must get hold of Mr Bridge, Kristina. He seems a much rare commodity than Mrs! Anyway, now he's on his way. Funny that Mrs Bridge isn't better known here, she's so lovely. I didn't see the film either, did you?

Cricketing is a closed book to me, Callmemadam!

I'm desperate for the third one too, Sue. Can't be long now!

kristina said...

Do see the film, but only after you've read both books. K x