31 December 2012

My Top Books of 2012

Although my commute, and therefore reading time, has doubled since I moved South of the River, I've read slightly fewer books this year than previous years, for much the same reasons I saw fewer films: moving house takes up a lot of time and so does being busy. I did, however, have some Evernote issues a few months ago, and I had to reconstruct my June, July and August books from memory; I think I remembered most of them, but I probably missed two or three. And one final disclaimer: two of the books on my list are from the Game of Thrones series and are so long they should count for at least two entries each.

And so to the top five; where I've reviewed the book previously on this blog, I've linked to my review.

1. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. This seems like an obvious choice and I'm slightly surprised to be picking it as my favourite book of the year, but it definitely belongs in my top five and I just enjoyed it more than the other four. Compelling and disarming, this is a great thriller, especially for anyone interested in unreliable narrators.

2. The Guilty One by Lisa Ballantyne. As I noted in my original review of this book, it combines the best bits of the better of Jodi Picoult's courtroom dramas and much darker works, such as We Need To Talk About Kevin. The protagonist, Daniel, is also a solicitor, which helps to satisfy my maybe-I-should-have-been-a-lawyer tendencies.

3. Every Contact Leaves a Trace by Elanor Dymott. Another thriller set in the legal world, Every Contact Leaves a Trace is similar in some ways to The Guilty One, but it differs too. Alex is a thirty-something lawyer whose beloved wife Rachel is murdered brutally when they return to their old Oxford college. While trying to deal with his grief, Alex is soon drawn in to the mystery surrounding Rachel's death--and indeed her life. As Sean Bateman in Bret Easton Ellis's The Rules of Attraction puts it, "No one ever ever knows anyone." The truth in this story definitely has the potential to hurt.

4. You Deserve Nothing by Alexander Maksik. A charismatic young teacher at an international school for privileged students in Paris finds himself falling for one of his female students. It's one of the oldest stories in the book, but Maksik's sharp and keenly observed prose, with the narration alternating among several key characters, made this book stand out for me.

5. A Possible Life by Sebastian Faulks. It's unusual for me to rate short stories or even novellas so highly, but I've always been a sucker for Faulks and even though I didn't enjoy all five of these musings on the nature of being and existence--not in a Sartresque way, don't worry--I did like most of them and I also enjoyed them as a set piece. If you enjoy Faulks, and even if you don't, give A Possible Life a try--and don't be put off if you don't enjoy the first story.

Token non-fiction: John Lanchester's Whoops! Many books have claimed to be able to explain the recent financial crisis in a straightforward and even entertaining way, but this is the only one I've read that succeeds. Plus it's really short, which is always a bonus.

And here's the full list of books I read this year:

  • The End of Everything  Megan Abbott
  • The Family Fang  Kevin Wilson
  • How To Lose Friends and Alienate People  Toby Young
  • Anthropology of an American Girl  Hilary Thayer Hamann
  • PopCo  Scarlett Thomas
  • The City and the City — China Mieville
  • How To Be an American Housewife  Margaret Dilloway
  • American Tabloid  James Ellroy
  • We Had It So Good  Linda Grant
  • The Moment  Douglas Kennedy
  • You Deserve Nothing  Alexander Maksik
  • The Uncoupling  Meg Wolitzer
  • Before I Go To Sleep  SJ Watson
  • The Pleasures of Men  Kate Williams
  • The Hunger Games  Suzanne Collins
  • The Paris Wife  Paula McLain
  • The Reversal  Michael Connelly
  • Salmon Fishing in the Yemen  Paul Torday
  • The Woman in Black  Susan Hill
  • Catching Fire  Suzanne Collins
  • Blue Monday  Nikki French
  • Mockingjay  Suzanne Collins
  • The Brass Verdict  Michael Connelly
  • Lone Wolf  Jodi Picoult
  • This Is Life  Dan Rhodes
  • One Good Turn  Kate Atkinson
  • The Scarecrow  Michael Connelly
  • Phantom  Jo Nesbo
  • Maine  J. Courtney Sullivan
  • Hanging Hill  Mo Hayder
  • Capital  John Lanchester
  • Every Contact Leaves a Trace  Elanor Dymott
  • The Dud Avocado  Elaine Dundy
  • Whoops!  John Lanchester
  • Mystic River  Dennis Lehane
  • Academy X  Andrew Trees
  • The Sins of the Father  Jeffrey Archer
  • Waiting for Sunrise  William Boyd
  • Never Mind  Edward St Aubyn
  • The Final Judgment  Richard North Patterson
  • Ape House  Sara Gruen
  • Stranger Than Fiction  Michael Crick
  • A Visit from the Goon Squad  Jennifer Egan
  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close  Jonathan Foer
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks  Rebecca Skloot
  • Empire Falls  Richard Russo
  • Word Freak  Stefan Fatsis
  • A Game of Thrones  George RR Martin
  • Gone Girl  Gillian Flynn
  • The Spire  Richard North Patterson
  • Dare Me  Megan Abbott
  • Eclipse  Richard North Patterson
  • Fall From Grace  Richard North Patterson
  • Bad News  Edward St Aubyn
  • Next to Love  Ellen Feldman
  • Battle Royale (manga)  Koushun Takami
  • A Clash of Kings  George RR Martin
  • My Last Duchess  Daisy Goodwin
  • The Kingmaker's Daughter  Philippa Gregory
  • A Son of the Circus  John Irving
  • Landfall  Helen Gordon
  • The Silence of the Lambs  Thomas Harris 
  • A Clear and Present Danger  Tom Clancy
  • Sweet Tooth  Ian McEwan
  • The Leftovers  Tom Perrotta
  • A Possible Life  Sebastian Faulks
  • Tigers in Red Weather  Liza Klaussmann
  • Telegraph Avenue  Michael Chabon
  • Winter of the World - Ken Follett
  • We Need To Talk about Kelvin  Marcus Chown
  • Yes, You Cannes  Marie-Laurence de Rochefort
  • Into the Abyss  Carol Shaben
  • A History of Modern Britain  Andrew Marr
  • Berlin Game  Len Deighton
  • Mexico Set  Len Deighton
  • London Match  Len Deighton
  • The Life and Loves of a She-Devil  Fay Weldon
  • Battle Royale  Koushun Takami
  • The Tiger's Wife   Téa Obreht
  • The Language of Flowers  Vanessa Diffenbaugh
  • The Lake of Dreams  Kim Edwards
  • Ordinary Thunderstorms  William Boyd
  • The Night Train to Lisbon  Pascal Mercier
  • Miracle Cure  Harlan Coben
  • Alex's Adventures in Numberland  Alex Bellos
  • My Beautiful Genome  Lone Frank
  • The Dinner  Herman Koch
  • The Guilty One  Lisa Ballantyne
  • Sacrilege  SJ Parris
  • Bad Pharma  Ben Goldacre
  • The Poisonwood Bible  Barbara Kingsolver
  • Crash  JG Ballard
  • The Hydrogen Sonata  Iain M. Banks
  • Solar  Ian McEwan
  • Perlmann's Silence  Pascal Mercier
  • Perfect Match  Jodi Picoult
  • Degree of Guilt  Richard North Patterson
  • Protect and Defend  Richard North Patterson
  • Paranormality  Richard Wiseman
  • The Historian  Elizabeth Kostova

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