Thursday, December 27, 2012

2012 round-up

Trawled back through the blog earlier for reading recommendations from 2012. Too lazy to post in links: it's much, much easier for me just to list! Here are some thoughts, anyway. If it's here, it's something I'm actively recommending as worth your time and likely to elicit considerable enjoyment.

Favorite new read: Edward St. Aubyn's Patrick Melrose novels, including At Last.

Strongest other recommendations: David Gordon, The Serialist; Lavie Tidhar, Osama.

Favorite (only!) new book of poetry, also an all-round favorite: Jane Yeh, The Ninjas.

Favorite nonfiction: Katherine Boo, Behind the Beautiful Forevers.

Slightly under the radar, and absolutely beautifully written: Alan Warner, The Deadman's Pedal.

Novel I most surprised myself by thoroughly enjoying: Ernest Cline, Ready Player One.

Most startlingly unusual new read: Heath Lowrance, The Bastard Hand.

Favorite literary fiction: Heidi Julavits, The Vanishers; Sheila Heti, How Should a Person Be?; Victor La Valle, The Devil in Silver; Ellen Ullman, By Blood. Three also quite literary and very good that I would group together in a single category: Joshilyn Jackson, A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty; Lauren Groff, Arcadia; Lydia Netzer, Shine Shine Shine.

Between literary and genre fiction: J. Robert Lennon, Familiar.

Three books of the outdoors I liked very much: Colleen Mondor, Map of My Dead Pilots; Will Chaffey, Swimming with Crocodiles; Cheryl Strayed, Wild.

Vaguely supernatural and humorous: Daniel O'Malley, The Rook; Ben Aaronovich's occult London series; Christa Faust, Coyote's Kiss; and M. H. Van Keuren's debut Rhubarb. Supernatural and less humorous: Chuck Wendig, Blackbirds.

Favorite zombie novel (I think!): S. G. Browne, Breathers: A Zombie's Lament. Mira Grant's final Newsflesh installment also very good, as were the novels of hers I read under the Seanan McGuire byline.

Favorite presidential vampire novel: Christopher Farnsworth, Blood Oath.

Favorite paranormal romance: Lilia Ford, The Heartwood Box.

My favorite crime read of the year was Tana French's Broken Harbor, and it prompted me to reread her three earlier books with strong pangs that there aren't more of them.

Other crime fiction of excellence: Deon Meyer, Seven Days; Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl (I am not quite the evangelist for this book that others seem to be, I liked at least a dozen other crime novels better, but it is undoubtedly very good); Alan Glynn, Bloodland; Harriet Lane, Alys, Always; Martyn Waites, Born Under Punches; Johan Theorin, The Darkest Room and Echoes from the Dead; Attica Locke, Black Water Rising and The Cutting Season; Tom Piccirilli, The Last Kind Words; Jorin Lieder Horst, Dregs; John Rector, Already Gone; Anya Lipska, Where the Devil Can't Go; and a couple co-authored crime novels whose authors' names I am too lazy to look up: The Eyes of Lira Kazan, Three Seconds and Invisible Murder.

Megan Abbott's superb Dare Me led me to Rebecca Godfrey's wonderful Under the Bridge.

I hugely enjoyed new books from Lee Child, Karin Slaughter, Taylor Stevens, Mo Hayder, Rosamond Lupton, Mark Billingham, Charlie Williams, Arnaldur Indridason and Liza Marklund.

Books in different genres from one another (science fiction and crime respectively) but lodged in my mind as a couple as they are engaged with some related issues: Kameron Hurley, God's War; Anthony Neil Smith, All the Young Warriors.

And should I count Hilary Mantel's Bringing Up the Bodies under this heading? (I would recommend Mantel instead of George R. R. Martin, if you're not sure about whether to read the Game of Thrones books, although I did quite enjoy the latest installment.)

Two nonfiction books that made a significant impression on me: Tim Parks, On Trying to Sit Still; Gideon Lewis-Kraus, A Sense of Direction.

Other nonfiction: Sarah Manguso, The Guardians; Ben Anastas, Too Good to Be True; Marco Roth, The Scientists; Maureen McLane, My Poets; Oliver Sacks, Hallucinations.

Cycling-related: David Millar, Racing Through the Dark; Tyler Hamilton, The Secret Race. Also, Benjamin Lorr's Hell-Bent: Obsession, Pain and the Search for Something Like Transcendence Through Competitive Yoga; and Leanne Shapton's Swimming Studies, which I wished I hadn't read on a Kindle.

I didn't read very much YA fiction this year, but I thoroughly enjoyed Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan's collaboration Teen Human and Gwenda Bond's Blackwood. Delia Sherman, The Freedom Maze is a wonderful book, highly recommended to a wide range of readers; the same goes for Terry Pratchett's Dodger, though it is less original than Sherman's (and also gave me a yen to reread Philip Pullman's 19th-century London trilogy). Laini Taylor's Days of Blood and Starlight is irresistible!

Much reading and rereading of Diana Wynne Jones, not all of it noted here. Other significant rereads: Alan Hollinghurst, The Line of Beauty; Neal Stephenson, The Diamond Age; Victor Nell, Lost in a Book; Middlemarch; The Hobbit; and the selected works of Lee Child.

Favorite theater: These Seven Sicknesses and Restoration Comedy at the Flea. The Ring Cycle made quite an impression on me, as for that matter did the Ades adaptation of The Tempest, but my favorite opera by far was the ravishing Einstein on the Beach at BAM. While I binged on House and The Good Wife, my favorite television-watching experience involved a truly charming and short-lived older series called Wonderfalls. Favorite movie: Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

Here's to an even better year of reading and spectatorship in 2013!

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