Books of the Year So Far…

I am in the throws of the Green Carnation Prize 2012 shortlisting weekend, which looks like it may run into the start of the coming week, and during the discussions and debates I have been talking about how some of the long listed titles are some of my favourite books of the year. Then I suddenly realised that in less than two months it will be 2013 and a whole new year… and I still feel like I might have missed out on some fantastic new books that have come out in 2012. Fortunately there are still two months left of 2012 and so I am wondering if you could do me a favour by answering a simple bookish question…

What have been some of your favourite reads of the year that you would suggest people read as soon as they can*? You can leave more than one recommendation, who doesn’t like a list of books to check out now and again? Simple as that! I alas can’t talk about some of mine, on here at least though I am over the weekend, until later in the year but I would really love to know what yours are in the meantime – I will of course share mine towards the end of the year as always.

*Oh and do feel free to recommend amazing books you have read this year published before 2012 of course.


Filed under Book Thoughts

35 responses to “Books of the Year So Far…

  1. david73277

    Off the top of my head, favourite reads from this year that were also first published in 2012 would include This Is Life by Dan Rhodes and Susan Hill’s Question of Identity. That said, I have just started Bring Up the Bodies and I have a feeling it might be about the blow the competition out of the water.

  2. My two picks from 2012 books are definitely Absolution by Patrick Flanery and Sightlines by Kathleen Jamie. I’m pretty sure you’ll have read Absolution already, so that won’t be new to you! 😉

    My pre-2012 discovery is John le Carre. He is fantastic!

  3. Tops for me this year are Glass Boys by Nicole Lundrigan and Broken Harbor by Tana French.

    I can’t believe the year’s so close to over. I’m sure there are zillions of books published just this year that have passed me by. *sigh* Where does the time go??

  4. I second the Kathleen Jamie recommendation, Sightlines is wonderful and her previous, Findings is excellent too.
    From what I’ve read this year – Why Be Happy When You Could be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson was amazing, and The Daylight Gate, by her is also good, all about the Pendle Witches (I can’t remember if you’ve read it or not?). I enjoyed Death Comes to Pemberley and Caitlin Moran’s Moranthology (although not quite as good as How to Be a Woman) and Dark Matter by Michelle Paver.
    Also finally read Farenheit 451 this year and it was brilliant, I definitely want to read more Ray Bradbury.

  5. Most of my contemporary favorites of this year will be familiar to you: Gillespie and I by Jane Harris, The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. The last one is quite the pageturner once you get into it.

    My favorite older books and classics include: McTeague: A Story of San Francisco by Frank Norris, The Grapes of Wrath by Steinbeck, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, and A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving.

  6. Barbara

    Just finished The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton. Liked it a lot.

  7. Roger

    Hi Simon,

    A book I just finished that really made an impression on me is a memoir published within the last couple of months by Farrar, Strauss and Giroux titled “My Husband and My Wives” by Charles Rowan Beye. It is a fascinating story by this eighty-odd-year-old man who is a former professor of Ancient Greek. From about the age of sixteen, he was openly gay (including to his two wives), married three times (the last time to a man) and fathered four children by his second wife. His current marriage to Richard is in its twentieth year or so. I first learned of the book through this NPR review:

    Truly fascinating!

  8. Railsea, China Mieville.

  9. Ann Bradley

    Please look after Mother Kyung-Sook Shin…Mesmerizing beautiful tale.

  10. Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks and The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker.

  11. sharkell

    There are so many, it is hard to choose. Here’s a few – The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, Someone Knows My Names (aka The Book of Negroes) by Lawrence Hill, A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry, Thursday’s Child by Sonya Harnett and Gillespie and I and The Colour of Milk (the latter two on your recommendation).

  12. I’ll choose three — The Solitary House by Lynn Shepherd (where you are it’s called Tom-All-Alone’s), The Secrets of Mary Bowser by Lois Leveen and Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling by Michael Boccacino.

  13. Barbara in southern California

    In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson (biography of American ambassador to Germany in mid 1930’s)
    Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
    The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle
    Let Me Go by Helga Schneider (true story of woman whose mother worked in WW2 concentration camp)
    The Paper Dragon by Evan Hunter
    The Accident by Linwood Barclay
    McTeague by Frank Norris (I agree with “Sly Wit” – it’s one of my favorite older classics.

  14. Outstanding for me this year:

    The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey – absolutely the best in contemporary literary fiction, nothing comes near it for me
    Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier– my classic read discovered, gripping and brilliant as you know
    Red Dust Road by Jackie Kay – non-fiction memoir of this wonderful poet’s journey in adulthood to find her birth family, taking you from the Highlands of Scotland to preacher/dancers and academics of Nigeria, brilliant
    Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese – not new fiction but read this in 2 days and was the most compelling, page turning read of the year for me
    Black Count by Tom Reiss – non-fiction, gotta include a swashbuckling hero especially when its all true, brilliant, reads like a novel, account of the life of General Alex Dumas, father of the novelist, sold as a slave by his own father, but rises to become a hero of the French revolution – inspired his son to write The Count of Monte Cristo – brilliant read.

  15. Geraldine

    My top read was A Land More Kind than Home by Wiley Cash. Set in North Carolina about a faith healing gone wrong amongst the snake handling Pentecostals. What a great read it was .Also I loved reading The Hundred Year Old Man who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson.

  16. I’ve read so many wonderful books this year, it’s hard to single one out, but Miss Hargreaves, by Frank Baker, was enchanting, and probably tops my list of Best Books for 2012. And I really enjoyed The Diary of a Provincial Lady, by EM Delafield, and what about The Best of Myles, by Flann O’Brien (a collection of his very funny, and very anarchic newspaper pieces). And Alison Pick’s Far to Go was superb, as was Sebastian Barry’s On Canaan’s Side (though they both made me cry). And anything by Tove Jansson is a must read, and I loved ME Braddon’s sensationalist novel Lady Audley’s Secret… there are just too many books in my life…

  17. David

    Agh, I’ve read so many good books this year it’s hard to know what to leave out (goodness knows how I’ll ever choose a top ten of 2012 in a couple of months!). Of the novels I’ve read published this year my top reads have been:

    ‘The Deadman’s Pedal’ by Alan Warner – really should have been on the Booker longlist in my opinion. I’d never read Warner before or even fancied his stuff, but I thought this was superb. Compelling characters, wonderful writing, and so layered with meaning and metaphor. And the best bit is I hear it might be the first part of a trilogy.

    ‘The Silver Dark Sea’ by Susan Fletcher – I just love Fletcher’s writing, it’s so lyrical and makes you want to read it out loud for the music of it. All of her books are favourites of mine, and though I was dubious of a novel about a possible merman/selkie she completely won me over.

    ‘Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk’ by Ben Fountain – currently a finalist for the National Book Award and deservedly so. It’s set during a single day at an American Football game and is about the Iraq war and the way American soldiers are treated by the US public. Based on those subjects this book should not have been my cup of tea at all. But good writing can overcome most things, and this is great. Similar to (and as good as) ‘The Art of Fielding’.

    ‘The Street Sweeper’ by Elliot Perlman – not to everyone’s tastes as a lot of people have found it heavy-handed and don’t like the use of repetition. But if it clicks with you, it really really works. I just found it staggeringly powerful.

    ‘Bring up the Bodies’ by Hilary Mantel – *yawn* I know. But it is so good and for me was a deserving Booker winner.

    ‘Indian Horse’ by Richard Wagamese – a Canadian novel so might be tricky to get hold of in the UK but worth trying to find. Again it’s another sports novel (and I am not a sporty person at all!) that transcends the limitations of that to say something much more universal. It also highlights an aspect of the way the Canadian government and church treated (until quite recently) Indian children that I knew nothing about. A very moving book indeed.

    ‘More in Anger’ by J. Jill Robinson – another Canadian title. Told in three sections by three female narrators, each a different generation of the same family. Starts off seeming very safe and predictable but then introduces its central theme of inherited anger that eats away at the women like a hereditary disorder and asks if we can ever overcome who we are. What seemed safe ends up being searingly powerful.

    ‘The Infinite Tides’ by Christian Kiefer – I finished this thinking it was just a good debut novel but images and characters from it have continued to haunt me for three months now and I still find myself thinking about its themes. An astronaut learns his daughter has been in a road accident and died whilst he is trapped up on a space station. When he returns to earth it is to a completely empty house. His wife is gone and expects him to sell up and move on. But he finds he is completely stuck. A book in which very little happens but which manages to say so much.

    ‘Stone Arabia’ by Dana Spiotta – actually publsihed in 2011 in the US but only came out in the UK this year. Of the many books I’ve read this year with characters suffering memory problems this is far and away the best. Deals with memory, what constitutes art and identity. A wonderful read.

    Moving on to novels published before 2012 I particularly loved all of these:

    ‘The Merry-Go-Round in the Sea’ by Randolph Stow – published in 1965 this is an Australian classic that ought to be far better known. It is an absolute gem of a book that I became totally lost in whilst I was reading it. I can easily see re-reading this every few years it is so good. A coming-of-age story set in both town and country in Western Australia during the years of WW2 and just after, it is just beautiful and I want to force it on everyone 🙂

    ‘Journey to the Stone Country’/’Conditions of Faith’/’Landscape of Farewell’/’Autumn Laing’ by Alex Miller – Miller is my discovery of the year. I’d known the name for years but hadn’t read him before and now I’m trying to read everything by him. He writes landscapes that you can see, smell and hear, characters that you can touch and you feel you know – these are books you live inside rather than read.

    ‘The Catastrophist’ by Ronan Bennett – I had this sitting on my shelves for years and years and am so glad I finally read it. About a journalist and a love affair set in the Congo in the 1960s against a backdrop of political turmoil, this is a worthy successor to Graham Greene. If you like novels like Russell Banks’ ‘The Darling’ or Adichie’s ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ then I’d recommend this one.

    Finally I’ve also been reading a lot of short stories this year and I’d recommend any or all of these collections:

    Alice Munro – ‘Dear Life’
    DW Wilson – ‘Once You Break a Knuckle’
    Richard Bausch – ‘Something is Out There’
    Julie Orringer – ‘How to Breathe Underwater’
    Caitlin Horrocks – ‘This is Not Your City’
    Alan Heathcock – ‘Volt’
    Miranda Hill – ‘Sleeping Funny’
    Joan Wickersham – ‘The News from Spain’
    Nathan Englander – ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank’
    Jon McGregor – ‘This Isn’t the Sort of Thing That Happens to Someone Like You’
    Dan Chaon – ‘Stay Awake’
    Emma Straub – ‘Other People We Married’
    Buffy Cram – ‘Radio Belly’
    Sam Shepard – ‘Great Dream of Heaven’
    Daniel Griffin – ‘Stopping for Strangers’


  18. My favourites so far for the year are:
    – Gillespie and I by Jane Harris (blown away)
    – Rules of Civility by Amor Towles (fantastic, although I think this came out in 2011 in some places)
    – The Taliban Cricket Club by Timeri N. Murari
    – The Harbour by Francesca Brill
    I’ve got a lot of new recommendations to check out from this list!

  19. Annabel (gaskella)

    My five star books so far this year out of 80 read…
    – The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey – lovely fairytale retelling
    – The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson – nasty noir
    – Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr (re-read) – 1950s children’s classic
    – The Bottle Factory Outing by Beryl Bainbridge
    – Sweet William by Beryl Bainbridge
    – My Policeman by Bethan Roberts – made me cry. 1950s Brighton
    – A monster calls by Patrick Ness – made me cry even more.
    – Lightning Rods by Helen DeWitt – a cult classic in the making
    – The Darling Buds of May by HE Bates – perfick!

  20. There have been some wonderful reads this year for me.
    Ones that stand out are –
    – The Street Sweeper by Elliot Perlman
    – Heft by Liz Moore
    – The Last Summer by Judith Kinghorn
    – The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman
    – My Policeman by Bethan Roberts
    – The Girl who Fell from the Sky – Simon Mawer
    – HHhH by Laurent Binet

  21. Excellent Women by Barbara Pym & Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather – adored them both!

  22. So many gems – but for the 2011/2012 crowd:
    Green Girl by Kate Zambreno (I’m reading Heroines by her right now – great)
    Zazen by Vanessa Veselka
    I Have Blinded Myself Writing This by Jess Stoner

  23. Laura Caldwell

    My top reads (5 stars on Goodreads) for 2012 are: The Song of Achilles, The Snow Child, & Miss Buncles’s Book. I have quite a few 4 stars also. I am halfway through Mythago Wood (saw it on your video) and it will be getting 5 stars too. I absolutely love it! If you try it and don’t like it, you can send me your copy of the series. 😉

  24. Just one of my MANY favourites this year is Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead by Sara Gran. It’s as if Nancy Drew studied under Carlos Casteneda and then took a case in New Orleans. It’s hard to tell the good guys from the bad. And it’s stylish and funny.

  25. Ronnie

    I felt very,very lucky this year! These books have become my new favourites –
    The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
    A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
    Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
    Foal’s Bread by Gillian Mears
    The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
    The Fault in our Stars by John Green

  26. JanetD

    One new(ish) choice would be The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. Wonderful. One old would be I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. So funny.

  27. 1Q84, but not as good as Kafka on the Shore (but that set the bar pretty high!). Nothing else I’ve read this year comes close.

  28. R.Basu

    Bring up the bodies by Hilary Mantel
    gone girl by Gillian Flynn.the former because it’s simply superlative.the latter because it makes you hunker down for a while and think.really question your decisions,actions and what kind of a person you truly are.

  29. Favourite books of the year are without doubt The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman and Waterline by Ross Raisin. If you haven’t already read, I’d heartily recommend either!

  30. three strong women ,satantango ,treblinka ,azazeel ,HhHH,,where tigers are at home to name a few oh and all those in translation in english so far umbrella will self

  31. I’ve had a really good reading year. Some of my favorites of 2012:

    Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain – totally deserves its National Book nomination. As if a funnier, more hip Tim O’Brien was writing about Iraq.

    A Land More Kind Than Home by by Wiley Cash – excellent Southern writing, with a narrative voice sometimes reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird,

    Country of the Bad Wolfes by James Carlos Blake – terrific fictional family saga.

    Boleto by Alyson Hagy – beautifully written character study.

    The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey – an engrossing modern fable.

    The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell – Imagine a Cormac McCarthy mashup of The Road and Suttree with a hint of Charles Portis.. Plus, it has a terrific female lead.

    Dead Harvest by Chris F. Holm – an angel of death revolts in urban America. A cynical, quirky, and engaging narrative voice.

    The Wool Omnibus by Hugh Howey – genuine page-turner (especially Part 3). Film rights purchased by Ridley Scott.

    A Working Theory of Love by Scott Hutchins – Richard Powers with a tender heart. Smart and touching.

    Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins – the short story collection of 2012.

    The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye – NYC’s first fictional detective.

    The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock – top notch Southern noir.

  32. Louise Trolle

    My best reads that were published this year are…
    “14” by Peter Clines
    “Diving Belles” by Lucy Wood
    “The Sandcastle Girls” by Chris Bohjalian

  33. Hmm… I enjoyed

    The Snow Child
    Boneland by Alan Garner, although I am not sure why and I’ll have to re-read…

    Pre 2012

    The Anatomy of Ghosts by Andrew Taylor
    Restoration by Rosé Tremain

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