Bookish delights of 2012 and 2013

My most anticipated novel of 2013 is my friend Ian’s manuscript, provisionally titled Rain Falling on Water. I can’t wait to see it printed and in a bookshop near you. It’s a tale about a foreign storyteller in Japan and … well, you’ll just have to read it when it comes out!

Vanished Years by Rupert EverettI’m currently reading Essie Fox’s Elijah’s Mermaid and am looking forward to reading Rupert Everett’s Vanished Years, Anthony Quinn’s Half of the Human Race and Edmund de Waal’s The Hare with Amber Eyes. My love affair with Oxford continues; this year I plan to read Compton Mackenzie’s Sinister Street and Edward Thomas’s Oxford. I’ll be reading all these in my preferred format (printed book). My e-book reader seems to be dying and yet I have paper books from the 1900s that still delight—there’s nothing like the real thing, is there?

2012 was the year that my e-book reader ate my brain, the characters in one of my works-in-progress beat me up, the media hyperventilated over Peter Stothard, J.K. Rowling and Fifty Shades of Grey and I continued my bookaholic ways.

The Uncommon Reader by Alan BennettOf the new releases I read in 2012, the stand-outs were Bring Up the Bodies, Sweet Tooth and Beautiful Lies. The books that really made an impression on me, however, were not new releases. They were Ingenious Pain and Oxygen (both by Andrew Miller), Zuleika Dobson (Max Beerbohm), The Great Stink (Clare Clark) and The Uncommon Reader (Alan Bennett). The latter has become one of my all-time favourites; I included it in my list of Books for book nerds.

I set aside several books in 2012 without completing them (Mrs Robinson’s Disgrace, Bleak House, Decline and Fall, The Woman Reader, How to Read a Novelist, Victorian Women in Crime, Bohemians of the Latin Quarter). This may be a reflection on my state of mind, not the books themselves.

Books read in 2012 (in chronological order)

Links in the list below are to my blog posts. You may also be interested in my list of book lists.

  1. Oscar Wilde and the Vatican Murders by Gyles Brandreth. Why do I keep doing it to myself? This crime series is kitsch and the best lines are all taken from Wilde’s works and letters. Brandreth’s Wilde murder mysteries are fun, though, and his passion for Wilde is evident. The book covers are gorgeous.
  2. The Chemistry of Tears by Peter Carey
  3. Wilde’s Last Stand by Philip Hoare – a fascinating, appalling account of political opportunism, homophobia and philistinism
  4. Simply Heaven by Serena Mackesy. The publisher is being misleading in comparing the sex-and-shopping farce of Simply Heaven with the moody, creepy Rebecca (which is of course a response to Jane Eyre). There’s too much mushy, gushy drivel. It’s as though a sappy, materialistic novel of sex, shopping and ‘romance’ got mixed up with something wittier.
  5. Houdini and Conan Doyle by Christopher Sandford. As bizarre as it seems, the creator of the ultra-rationalist Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle, became a leader of the Spiritualism movement. He believed in life after death, ‘spirit’ photos, mediums, seances, ghosts, fairies, and so on. The great illusionist, Harry Houdini, on the other hand, devoted himself to exposing mediums and others who claimed to have supernatural or psychic powers. Houdini and Conan Doyle became friends, then opponents in the bitter debate over Spiritualism. As Sandford foreshadows events here, then fills in the back-story there, and moves on to tell some sections in chronological order, the book is repetitive at times. Overall, this is an interesting book, although it would have benefited from more structural and copy editing.
  6. The Bellwether Revivals by Benjamin Wood
  7. Murder in Montparnasse by Kerry Greenwood
  8. Ingenious Pain by Andrew Miller
  9. Deaf Sentence by David Lodge
  10. Casanova by Andrew Miller
  11. Oxygen by Andrew Miller
  12. Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that won’t stop talking by Susan Cain
  13. Oxford: A Traveller’s History by Richard Tames
  14. The Whores’ Asylum by Katy Darby
  15. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
  16. Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh – abandoned
  17. Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm
  18. Sections of Icons of England, edited by Bill Bryson
  19. Sections of This Secret Garden: Oxford by Justin Cartwright
  20. Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
  21. Tom-All-Alone’s by Lynn Shepherd
  22. Oxford: A Cultural and Literary Guide by David Horan (Cities of the Imagination series)
  23. Sections of the Bodley Head Max Beerbohm
  24. Bleak House by Charles Dickens – set aside
  25. A Life with Books by Julian Barnes – OK, it’s a tiny, pocket-sized book, an essay, but it’s lovely
  26. Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan (see also Reading around and Poisonous novels)
  27. The Mystery of a Hansom Cab by Fergus Hume
  28. The Woman Reader by Belinda Jack – set aside
  29. Mrs Robinson’s Disgrace by Kate Summerscale – set aside
  30. How to Read a Novelist by John Freeman – parts of
  31. The Penguin Book of Victorian Women in Crime, edited by Michael Sims – parts of
  32. The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
  33. How Fiction Works by James Wood
  34. Money by Martin Amis
  35. A Shropshire Lad and Other Poems by A.E. Housman
  36. John Saturnall’s Feast by Lawrence Norfolk 
  37. The Great Stink by Clare Clark
  38. The Way Through the Woods by Colin Dexter
  39. Morse’s Greatest Mystery and Other Stories by Colin Dexter
  40. The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh
  41. Beautiful Lies by Clare Clark
  42. The Bohemians of the Latin Quarter by Henri Murger – abandoned at page 90; it’s purely episodic and I prefer a more integrated narrative.
  43. The Night Watch by Sarah Waters – Amazingly, Waters ratchets up the tension by telling the story in reverse. You have to read back in time to find out why the characters are the way they are. Fascinating.
  44. The Streets by Anthony Quinn

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