Friday, December 21, 2012

My year's best

It looks like I'll finish out this year with 72 books read. I'm in the middle of one I'll finish in another day or two, then next week I head to Texas to spend the holiday break with my wife and in-laws which means probably my only reading time for the final week of the year will be on airplanes, so that's that, 72. I've had the impression of a vaguely unsatisfying reading year, but I wonder why, for when I review the books I read in 2012 I see clearly that that impression is mistaken. Curious. It's been a very good reading year indeed. Here's why: the best books I read this year.


The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

The Barbarian Nurseries by Hector Tobar
Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
The Cutting Season by Attica Locke
Home by Toni Morrison
The Infinities by John Banville
The Invisible Mountain by Carolina De Robertis
Once Upon a Time in England by Helen Walsh
The Round House by Louise Erdrich
Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantel
Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

Yes I know--I got caught up in those damn Cromwell books by Hilary Mantel! Embarrassing, but what can I say? They're delicious, just superb juicy sublimely well written. Actually I may have more to say about them, here or elsewhere, by and by. I did blog here earlier in the year about the wonderful books by Otsuka, Tobar and De Robertis. I didn't about Brooks' novel of the plague in England; or about the new ones by Banville and Erdrich, both very fine and long since established writers; or the second book by Locke, who follows up her great debut of a couple years ago and who is a writer I will now follow anywhere; or by the master Morrison who once again works magic, this time in a quite short but oh so powerful book. Sorry I didn't, hope to do more diligent reporting on my reading in the coming year.

Meanwhile, I see a good number of also-rans in my list of 2012 reads, so, why the hell not, herewith the Honorable Mentions, books that I enjoyed a lot even if they didn't quite make me swoon:

Arcadia by Lauren Groff
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
Daughters of the North by Sarah Hall
The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey
Love and Fatigue in America by Roger King
Middle Age: A Romance by Joyce Carol Oates
The Missing by Tim Gautreaux
Monstress by Lysley Tenorio
Open City by Teju Cole
Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin
The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
The Tragedy of Arthur by Arthur Phillips
Work Song by Ivan Doig