books

This is going to be quite a difficult post to do, as I’ve read so many books this year and loved so many of them, that picking just a few or putting them in order will be a bit of a strain! So I’ve decided to just list a few of the stand-out reads that really made an impact and stayed with me the most:

Elizabeth Taylor

This was the year I discovered the *other* Elizabeth Taylor, thanks to the wonderful LibraryThing Virago Modern Classics group.  Over the 9 months since I did, I’ve read all 12 of ET’s novels and I think she’s an amazing and underrated writer. Her subtlety, her eye for detail, her economy of style and her ability to get to the nub of things have made her one of my favourite writers. It’s difficult to pick out a favourite – at the moment I’m tossing up between “A Game of Hide and Seek” and “Blaming” but I think this might change as I reflect on her books.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day – definitely my Persephone of the year! I’m ashamed to say I only discovered this wonderful publisher in 2012 and am still on catch-up. I love the variety of their books – from thrillers to romances to cook books to – well anything that seems to be neglected and need rediscovering! “Miss Pettigrew” is one of the best feel good reads I’ve ever had!

In The First Circle– for Russian Reading Month I undertook a number of volumes, including this chunkster. I’ve read and loved Solzhenitsyn’s work since my teens and this book absorbed me for a number of days. Wonderful writing and wonderful translation – the later subject being something that exercised my mind a lot recently and still has me searching out the best versions of some of my favourites!

A Christmas Carol – a re-read for Dickens in December and my, did I enjoy it! A perfect little book packed with everything you need for a great creepy and yet  uplifting Christmas tale celebrating the best side of humans – lovely!

If on a Winters Night a Traveller / Cosmicomics – hard to pick just one Calvino, as I have re-read three this year and want to re-read more. These are very different books in many ways but still with Calvino’s distinctive voice. One of my favourite authors ever!

A Pin to see the Peepshow – this has to be my Virago of the year! I read this quite soon after joining the VMC group and loved it. A brilliantly written, very moving and absorbing story with a heroine who was flawed but who deserved more than life served up to her. I recommend it to everyone.

Guard your Daughters – surprise hit of the year amongst LT members, thanks to Simon‘s championing of the book. A lovely, surprisingly deep volume with a portrait of a lively and endearing family, and how they can conspire to keep an unnatural status quo going without realising it. As many have said, it cries out to be reissued by Persephone.

I haven’t read an awful lot of non-fiction lately but two volumes stand out:

Bright Young People by D.J. Taylor – an excellent read, telling the tale of the bright young things of the 1920s, even-handed and scrupulously fair – a great example of how all factual books should be written.

Nabokov by Gogol – and as if to contradict myself, Nabokov’s unconventional portrait of Gogol by concentrating on specific work still manages to bring the great Russian writer alive, while entertaining the reader with some amazing prose!

Honorable Mentions

A few titles worth mentioning that nearly made it onto the favourites list (and actually the list itself might well be different if I had written it yesterday or tomorrow!):

Conquered City – Victor Serge

What’s Become of Waring – Anthony Powell

Cruise of the Rolling Junk – F. Scott Fitzgerald

Red House Mystery – A. A. Milne

I’ve had a wonderful year of reading, only 6 months or so of which have been rambled about here since I started blogging. It’s possible that I’ll set myself some reading challenges for 2013 – but whether I stick to them is another matter!