2012 in books
by, 12-30-2012 at 02:18 PM (1350 Views)
It's a little early, but I have some time so I thought I'd post this now. At the beginning of the year I set myself a challenge to read one longer book (600+ pages) per month. I didn't succeed in that challenge, but I did manage to read more longer books and/or series' of books and I learned that I could and I learned that I enjoyed them (when they were the right books, of course) and I learned that there are some great long books out there, just waiting to be delved into. Of the ones that I did read, the one which struck me as being deserving of much greater attention is Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset. I am surprised it is not more lauded, and more well known. It is a wonderful read.
So, without further ado, this is the list of 2012.
1. The Tale of Genji - Murasaki Shikibu 5/5
2. The Whispering Muse - Sjön 4/5
3. The Good Shepherd - Gunnar Gunnarson 4/5
4. Black Water - Joyce Carol Oates 4.5/5
5. The Sorrows of Young Werther - J W von Goethe 4/5
6. Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie 3.75/5
7. The Housekeeper and the Professor - Yoko Ogawa 4.5/5
8. The Woman in Black - Susan Hill 2/5
9. The End of the Affair - Graeme Greene 4/5
10. Rape a Love Story - Joyce Carol Oates 4.5/5
11. Housekeeping - Marilynne Robinson 5/5
12. Battle Royale - Koushun Takami 3/5
13. State of Happiness - Stella Duffy 4/5
14. Hotel du Lac - Anita Brookner 4.5/5
15. The Poisonwood Bible - Barbara Kingsolver 4.5/5
16. Spring Snow - Yukio Mishima 4/5
17. Runaway Horses - Yukio Mishima 3/5
18. The Temple of Dawn - Yukio Mishima 3/5
19. The Decay of the Angel - Yukio Mishima 3.5/5
20. Contre-Jour - Gabriel Josipovici 3.75/5
21. The City & The City - China Mieville 4.5/5
22. The Angel's Game - Carlos Ruiz Zafón 4/5
23. The Prophet - Khalil Gibran 5/5
24. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov 4.5/5
25. Kristen Lavransdatter - Sigrid Undset 5/5
26. The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins 2.5/5
27. Bring Up the Bodies - Hilary Mantel 5/5
28. The Giver - Lois Lowry 4/5
29. Cosmopolis - Don DeLillo 5/5
30. The Sense of an Ending - Julian Barnes 4/5
31. The Weirdstone of Brisingamen - Alan Garner 3/5
32. Middlemarch - George Eliot 4.5/5
33. The Fermata - Nicholson Baker 4/5
34. Hawthorn & Child - Kevin Ridgeway 4/5
35. The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood 4/5
36. The Chocolate War - Robert Cormier 4/5
37. The Lighthouse - Alison Moore 3.5/5
38. His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman 4.5/5
39. Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow - Peter Hoeg 4.5/5
40. The Bridge of San Luis Rey - Thomas Wilder 4/5
41. White Noise - Don DeLillo 4.5/5
42. Peter Schlemihl - Adelbert von Chamisso 3.5/5
43. Offshore - Penelope Fitzgerald 3.75/5
44. There but for the - Ali Smith 4.5/5
45. To Bed with Grand Music - Marghanita Laski 3.75/5
46. My Elvis Blackout - Simon Crump 4/5 (but 8/5 for total oddness)
47. Five Little Pigs - Agatha Christie 3.5/5
48. The Good Soldier - Ford Maddox Ford 4/5
49. Orlando - Virginia Woolf 4/5
50. Dare Me - Megan Abbott 4.5/5
51. Next World Novella - Matthias Politycki 3.75/5
52. Train Dreams - Denis Johnson 4/5
I've discovered a few things whilst reading this year. One thing that has surprised me is how powerful a tool Twitter is (I can't quite believe I'm saying this) in uncovering interesting contemporary fiction. Two of my favourite reads of the year I picked up after they'd been recommended by John Self on Twitter - these were the most excellent Hawthorn & Child by Keith Ridgeway (that everyone should read) and the utterly bizarre My Elvis Blackout which I'm not sure everyone should read but is an experience which is quite unforgettable. And bizarre (did I mention that?).
I also discovered that I quite unexpectedly love Don DeLillo. I had previously read The Body Artist, which I hated, and had intended never to read anything by DeLillo again. Then I saw a copy of Cosmopolis in Fopp for £2 and thought 'oh go on then' spurred on by an interest in the movie (which I haven't seen. I can't see it as a filmable book, to be honest). Cosmopolis, for such a short book, really blew me away. I read it twice and for a short time it burned me and I couldn't read anything else. Later I read White Noise which is also good but less intense. I have come away with an amazing respect for DeLillo's mastery of the written word. I can quite understand, now, why David Mitchell (who is himself a master) reveres him.
So what for 2013? Initially I had a plan to read the big Russians next year but actually coming in to the year I've decided to have no plan. Perhaps a plan will unfold itself before me, perhaps not. What I do want to do more than anything is enjoy what I read.
Aside from reading, 2012 has been a funny old year. Work has been very busy and increasingly pressured. I love and hate my job, or perhaps it is truer to say that I love my work but hate my job. I have not reconciled myself to it after 3 years. Perhaps I never will.
On a more positive note, I wrote the first draft of a novel over the summer. Actually the draft took around 6 weeks and then I've laid it aside and when I get time I'll look at it again. I think this one might actually work, or I might actually properly finish it which would be something.
I also started studying for my degree. So I am officially a student now. I am finding that the studying eats into my reading time, but it is manageable and I find it interesting. My degree will be in International Studies, which works well with my job, and the course I'm studying at the moment is about the environment. It is very interesting, which always makes it easier to study, and so far I am doing well.
My kids continue to grow and change. My son, in particular, has had a tough year. His second year at high school has been hard, partly due to the school having an inconsistent and somewhat authoritarian approach and partly due to him starting to butt up against rules he doesn't like or understand and not being able to communicate this in a positive way. So we've been working through some of that. But on top of this we discovered that he has been having hallucinations in which everything he sees goes small or large, or where time seems to move too slowly or too fast or sometimes his hands feel too big. The disturbances last for 10 - 20 minutes and then pass. They seem to be triggered by low level lighting, and he's been having problems for the past couple of months, since the daylight hours reduced. We did some digging around and the best description we've found of his symptoms is something called Alice in Wonderland syndrome which can be triggered by illness or migraine or it could be a form of epilepsy. Now the reason we've been able to identify this is because my husband suffered from this too as a teenager and recognised the symptoms. So we know it is something that he will eventually grow out of. In the meantime, we need to understand exactly what it is and what's causing it and how to manage it. It is obviously very difficult for him to do anything which involves hand - eye co-ordination once he is hallucinating. So he's been referred to a neurologist and we're going in January and hopefully that will give us some answers.
So there is continuous proof, in case you ever need a reminder, that no matter how much you might feel you ever 'master' the role of being a parent, there is always something just around the corner to remind you that actually it's just a case of muddle through as best you can.
I'm not likely to be around much during the next year. I think with my studies, my writing and my kids I kind of have my hands full now and I don't seem to find the leisure time to pop around for a catch up anymore. But I do lurk, even if I haven't the time to post.
Wishing you all a wonderful, peaceful and fulfilling 2013.
Love to all