I had a reading drought in 2012. No clear favourite, no book which even blew me away – and yet I still discovered some interesting and worthy ones. I have been scared I’ve been losing my love of reading, but I cured that re-reading an old favourite, Siri Hustvedt’s What I Loved, which I finished when I couldn’t sleep on New Year’s Day. She reminded me in that novel of why I read, the pleasures and insights I hope to have, after I was so disheartened at feeling unable to finish three novels in a row.
1. Promised Lands / Jane Rogers (1996)
I wonder how much attention this received when it came out; it deserves to be read, as it is excellent. The frame story is that of a historian, Stephen, a failed idealistic school teacher now writing the story of William Dawes, part of Australia’s First Fleet in 1788. Kate Grenville wrote about Dawes in The Lieutenant, which I haven’t read, but the two books would make an interesting comparison.
2. The Sense of An Ending / Julian Barnes (2011)
I’m not sure it deserved the Man Booker Prize, but it certainly got my attention – a simply written story of a man looking back on his life and failed love that plays with the reader’s mind.
3. The Quest for Corvo: An Experiment in Biography / A.J.A. Symons (1934)
This the nonfiction antecedent for the biographical-quest genre I have been writing about and in. Symons goes in search of an obscure writer, ‘Baron Corvo’, a strange man who burned everyone who tried to help him.
4. Winter Journal / Paul Auster (2012)
Perhaps it is just for fans. But he’s my favourite writer, so this memoir certainly captivated me. Auster writes a memoir of his body, detailing his illnesses, scars, memories, and listing the address of every place he has ever lived. (He leaves his current address vague.)
5. Accordion Crimes / Annie Proulx (1996)
6. Too Much Happiness / Alice Munro (2009)
7. 11/22/63 / Stephen King (2011)
8. Ice / Louis Nowra (2008)
What was the best book you read in 2012?
The best non fiction book I read in 2012 was “The Chrysanthemum and the Bat” by Robert Whiting. It is a look at baseball in Japan. The title is supposed to invoke an early western book about Japan called the Chrysanthemum and the Thorn.
The best fiction book I read in 2012 was (suprisingly) Eddie and the Cruisers, by P.F. Kluge–yes, the movie was based on a book. It was a rather well written novel that might have been overlooked by people, but deserves a good read.
Other notable mentions should go to “Time was Soft There” by Jeremy Mercer, and “My Korean Deli” by Ben Ryder Howe.