Last year was another good year for me reading wise. I managed to read or listen to 93 books, only two less than the year before. As usual well over half were crime novels – 56 in all. A pleasant surprise was that I did indeed succeed in reading more non-fiction books. I managed eight last year compared to only two in 2011. Still not that many and I will endeavour once again to extend my reading horizons to include more non-fiction books.
The 93 books were written by 73 different authors, of whom 34 were new to me. 28 of the books were translated into English from other languages and most of them were crime novels from Scandinavia. For example eight of the books were originally written in Swedish. I had never really thought about it before, but it turns out that I read more works by writers who come from the UK and Ireland than any other part of the world – 26 in all. 13 were from England and 11 from Scotland. Familiarity and all that? The USA provided the next largest number of authors – last year I read works by nine US writers. I also managed to read seven books in Spanish and one in German.
Highlights and Discoveries from 2012. Discovering Australian Women Writers was definitely one of the highlights and discoveries of the year. This came via a Reading Challenge of that name. I only managed to read three books by Australian women writers, but all were very good and very different. Toni Jordan’s Addition is a seemingly light hearted rom-com, but underneath is a serious account of a serious subject – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. My Brilliant Career, by Miles Franklin is a tour de force of uninhibited writing describing life in the Australian outback in the 1890s. Finally Malla Nunn counts as an Australian writer as she now lives and works in there. However she is from South Africa and her novel A Beautiful Place to Die is a reflective and exciting tale of murder and racial tensions in the early years of apartheid. I hope to continue reading more works by Australian women writers and if you are interested in finding out more about this particular challenge go here.
My stand out discovery last year was The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh. I loved the first two parts in the Ibis trilogy – The Sea of Poppies and The River of Smoke. I await with great anticipation the third in the series. The Glass Palace is an earlier work, but is an equally outstanding novel. It traces the contrasting lives over several decades of various families who all have an intimate connection with Burma when it was part of the British Empire. Wonderful evocative writing. Ghosh is originally from Bengal in India, but writes in beautiful English.
The other fascinating discovery from last year was the works on Israel by Israeli historian Shlomo Sands. His two books, the Invention of the Jewish People and the Invention of the Land of Israel provide a detailed and learned account of the myths behind the Zionist claim to Palestine as a Jewish homeland. Not the easiest of reads, but immensely worthwhile and a necessary counter to the propaganda coming out from Israel and their Zionist supporters.
I enjoyed all the other books I read last year and would recommend almost all of them. But some did stand out a bit more than others and here is a brief list of particularly memorable books from 2012, in addition to the ones mentioned above.
Las Viudas de los Jueves/Thursday Evening Widows – Claudia Piñeiro
Una Comedia Ligera/A Light Comedy – Eduardo Mendoza
Disgrace – J M Coetzee
A Burnt Out Case – Graham Greene
The Woman from Bratislava – Leif Davidsen
Trackers – Deon Meyer
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter – Tom Franklin
Stolen Lives – Jassy MacKenzie
The Samaritan’s Secret – Matt Rees