Number One: The Lighthouse by Alison Moore – Olfaction and odours
Every year I set myself a task to read the Booker short list. Every year I fail. I manage to read two or three of them but always have a favourite. This year it was The Lighthouse. I don’t know what it was for sure, but it really engaged me right from the start. The book dips into sensory olfactory perception and plays with smells – some familiar and some unusual, and this was a rare treat that completely engaged me. Although the story is mundane, the plot was cleverly driven by motivations and the characters’ stormy motivations that underpinned a loner hiking around Germany. I’m still thinking about it now, several books later.
Number Two: Boneland by Alan Garner – Growing Up
In a year where my own writing has sometimes veered towards speculative fiction, I was tremendously excited by Boneland, the sequel to the Weirdstone of Brisingamen. It’s almost as if I’ve waited all my life for it. Lots of people were disappointed with Bonelands as they were expecting closure to the previous children’s story where we found wizards and witches wandering around Cheshire. For me it was closure. Colin grew up and remained in Cheshire working at Jodrell Bank. Much of Bonelands is played out in Colins’ mind and as a psychologist I find Garner’s later writing fascinating. Boneland has a psychic depth that requires work, but in the end it’s worth it.
Number Three: The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey – Losing a child
The Snow Child is an exceptional book and, like The Lighthouse, stayed with me all year. Eowyn Ivey writes about Alaska and around the global fairytale of the Snow Child. The alternating joy, hope and sorrow shine through, and even though most of us know the ending to The Snow Child through childhood stories, it’s still a cliffhanger. The book is so beautifully written that I would definitely read it over and over again and the emotional depth to this book in particular made me sorry it ended. I read later that Eowen was raised in Alaska, and I couldn’t help but think she has described it so perfectly that I feel like I have visited.
Number Four: This is Life by Dan Rhodes – Finding a Child
Several of my colleagues recommend Dan Rhodes and This is Life was the first novel of his that I read. It’s and unusual and sometimes shocking book, but the extreme circumstances of the characters made me question aspects of my own life. It’s also very funny in places, with well drawn characters, particularly the baby, who maintains a great presence. As the story progresses and the unlikely scenarios begin to make more sense, the novel rushes towards and ending that brings the reader back to earth. It’s pure escapism and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Number Five: Popco by Scarlet Thomas – Codes and Passwords
I am a big fan of Scarlet Thomas’ books and Popco didn’t disappoint. Set in a kind of think tank for a toy company, the story takes Alice, the main character, through some informative code breaking techniques and cryptography in general. The story weaves back and forth through the MC’s grandparents lives and even includes a pirate. Because Alice is such a strong character the plot eccentricities are second to the reader’s involvement with her past and present.
So that’s it. My favourite five books of 2012. There have been a few books I haven’t liked this year, I would never dream of naming them but I’ve drawn the conclusion that even though there has been an explosion of erotic fiction and genre-driven gimmicks on the market, it is still possible to search out books that have been written for the sake of it and still published, which I feel most of the above have.
One book that I read originally as a beta reader but has been published this year is This Green and Pleasant Land by Anstey Spraggan and Dimmi Khan. I would have included this in the list if I had read it this year, as it is an extraordinary novel that examinines cultural issues throught the lens of a love and loss. It’s the only book that I have read recently that has made me cry.
I started to read some of the Booker shortlist but couldn’t finish a few of them, but The Lighthouse was, for me, a stand-out book for 2012. My preferences are eclectic, but I’m beginning to see a leaning in my reading towards magical realism and speculative fiction. I’m looking forward to titles old and new in 2013, if anyone has any recommendation, please feel free to leave a comment.