This year reading has been pretty similar to previous years. The books I’ve read have been a mix of recommendations, book club choices and stuff that takes my fancy, chosen at a whim. Where things have differed massively this year, is this blog. I started it in February to offload some of my thoughts on books, but it has become so much more than that. I have met, albeit virtually, many lovely people through blogging. Whether that’s readers popping by, or stumbling across other bloggers with interesting things to say about books and reading.
I might not have been dependable as a blogger (just see my last post where I promised one more review this year – that’s not happened!), but I have managed to maintain my reading habit and to some extent upped my game in certain areas by reading books slightly out of my comfort zone.
Having also challenged myself to read a few more books by women, I managed to exceed the number of post 1950 books I wanted to read. This exercise made me realise that there is some brilliant writing out there by women and I don’t know why I’ve not read more. I will continue this policy of positive discrimination into next year!
I’ve read so many great books this year, I’m not sure there is much merit in me writing my “Best Books of 2012” but I will mention four books that really touched me and still mean a lot to me weeks and months after finishing them, if you fancy discovering something different in 2013, I can highly recommend any of the following (I’ve left my favourite till last).
The first is a classic Victorian novel. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte is special for me because unlike other Bronte novels where I slowly grew to admire the characters, I instantly fell in love with Helen and Gilbert and was completely swept away with their misery, desperation and difficult lives. Anne Bronte gets the action going almost immediately in this book, there is very little scene setting, which I absolutely loved. She also had great courage publishing this book as some of the themes would have shocked to the Victorian reader. The beautifully descriptive language is a pleasure to read but the main thing going for it is its fabulous story of love overcoming many pitfalls, rooting it most definitely in Bronte country.
The L-Shaped Room by Lynne Reid Banks is a book everyone should read just to get a glimpse of what life was like for women and minorities in the 1950’s. The story follows a young woman after she is thrown out of her home when she accidentally falls pregnant. She moves into a boarding house and encounters various characters while there. They become her surrogate family. It is a wonderful tale of survival and friendship as well as being an amazing commentary on the social norms of the mid twentieth century. Reading this book makes you appreciate how far we’ve come since then, but also makes you realise how different things were only a generation or so ago.
I read Next World Novella by Matthias Politycki (trans. Anthea Bell) for the only common reading/blogging event I joined this year. German Literature Month took place in November and is quite self-explanatory by its name. Peirene Press is fairly new and specialises in short European fiction. They chose a corker with this book. It well and truly fills its 140 pages with more than some lengthier books manage, focusing on how a small change can cause a devastating ripple effects, leaving upset and destruction in its wake. It is a sad story of ageing, loneliness and fear of dying, but it is so sensitively written you can’t help but admire it.
If you’ve visited this blog before or read any of my twitter feed you will know that Pig Iron by Benjamin Myers is a real favourite. It is not only my favourite book of this year, it is quite possibly the best book I’ve read for several years. Reading my original thoughts on Pig Iron, I’m not sure I did it justice. It is a haunting tale of a young man trying to do the right thing whilst attempting to distance himself from his violent past. John John Wisdom’s voice is so engaging and realistic it sucks you in and elicits an emotional response. It is beautifully written and Ben Myers deserves much more praise for this book than he gets. I tell everyone who will listen how brilliant it is and now I’m repeating myself to you!
So there you have it. There is a definite theme running through the four books getting a special mention above. They all deal with loneliness, personal hardship and dealing with the crap life deals you sometimes. Maybe, these sorts of books make me appreciate what I have in my own life, who knows?! One thing I do know is that I’m looking forward to finding some more gems next year – I’ve already read a couple that I’ve not managed to review in December. So roll on midnight and a new year of exciting bookish finds!