Saturday, 12 January 2013

New year, new list

I am a sucker for book lists. Every time a list is published of the best books of the year, or the books you must read, award shortlists, or even bestseller lists - I analyse my own reading against the list to contrast and compare. These lists frequently point me in the direction of books that have been in my 'to be read' pile for way too long. But more often they introduce me to new authors that I have not tried - making my pile even higher!

Over the Christmas holidays I perused the 'Best books of 2012' lists to compile a reading list for 2013.  The Washington Post list cites: Arcadia by Lauren Groff, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain, Bring up the Bodies by Hillary Mantel, Broken Harbor by Tana French and Canada by Richard Ford.

The New York Times list notes all of the above (except Broken Harbor) and adds many more that I would like to read including: Dear Life: Stories by Alice Munro, HHhH by Laurent Binet, Home by Toni Morrison, A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers, In One Person by John Irving, NW by Zadie Smith, Ian McEwan's Sweet Tooth, and so many more.

The Guardian list of course mentions 2012 releases by Hillary Mantel, Zadie Smith, Ian McEwan and Richard Ford, but includes other books I want to read such as Skagboys by Irvine Welsh and JK Rowling's Casual Vacancy. The Guardian also has a list of books recommended by other writers which  include some weird and wonderful offerings of both fiction and non-fiction.

Over the holidays I had a chance to reflect on my own reading over the past year. It was a mixed bag. I read and blogged considerably less than I normally do largely because I spent most of the year travelling around the world.  In 2012 I read classics (Steinbeck's East of Eden), prize winning literature (Anna Funder's All that I am, Paul Harding's Tinkers), childhood favourites (Tolkien's The Hobbit), guilty pleasures (Evanovich's Explosive Eighteen, Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse series), popular young adult fiction (The Hunger Games trilogy), non-fiction (Chloe Hooper's The Tall Man and the compelling  Spirit Level) and my current obsession (George RR Martin Song of Fire and Ice series) - and a handful of others here and there. Perhaps a better indicator of the quality of my reading is that I didn't read the Fifty Shades... series!

So now it is 2013 and it is time to plan out my reading for the year. I am almost finished George RR Martin's A Clash of Kings (book two) and while I am tempted to immediately jump in and read the next book in the series, A Storm of Swords, I need to leave Westeros behind for a while and try some others. Although, with the third season of Game of Thrones starting in March, chances are I will be sucked back in!

Almost every list recommends the Hillary Mantel Booker prize winner Bring up the Bodies (2012) - which I have on my e-reader but haven't started because I haven't read Wolf Hall (2009). So while both are on my 2013 reading list I will definitely read Wolf Hall and will likely start it once I have finished Clash of Kings.

I have also started reading Christopher Hitchen's Mortality (2012) which is a collection of his essays about his terminal cancer. He is probably my favourite writer and I have read many of these writings in his Vanity Fair column, but the collection itself is incredible.
For Christmas I received The Slap (2008) by Christos Tsiolkas which tells the tale of a suburban barbeque where a man slaps a three year old child that is not his own. I have wanted to read it for a long time, and I have avoided seeing the television series so that I could enjoy the book - so I am looking forward to jumping into this one.

I also received Henry Handel Richardson's The Getting of Wisdom (1910) which I have long wanted to read. An Australian classic, this novel tells the story of Laura, a clever country girl who is sent to a boarding school in Melbourne when she is twelve. In 1978 Bruce Beresford directed a film version of the tale and I received a copy of the DVD for Christmas as well, so I hope to read the book soon too.

Some books I added to my pile include Canada by Richard Ford, Dear Life: Stories by Alice Munro,  Home by Toni Morrison, and Notorious Nineteen by Janet Evanovich.  Plus I need to save room for some not-yet-published titles that I am eagerly awaiting. These include Margaret Atwood's Maddaddam (August 2013), Mary Roach's Gulp (April 2013), Therese Anne Fowler's Z - A novel of Zelda Fitzgerald (March 2013), JM Coetzee's The Childhood of Jesus (April 2013) Khaled Hosseini's And the Mountain's Echoed (May 2013), the new Bridget Jones book by Helen Fielding (October 2013).

There are also some non-fiction books I want to squeeze in such as Maya Angelou's Mom and Me and Mom (April 2013), David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell (October 2013). I just hope I have more time to read this year!

One more thing on lists: A great series of audio playlists are included on the NPR website looking at the best books across various genres for those, like me, who can't get enough of book lists!