Friday, December 28, 2012

My Favorite Reads of 2012

It's that time again- time for all of us to write our top faves of the year. I read 30-odd 2012 releases so I won't do a 2012 Top Ten- not enough to choose from! But I'll share my top five or six and then some great backlisters I read this year.

I knew it would be my favorite when I read it back February and time has not proven me wrong. Absolution, by Patrick Flanery, was the best new book I read this year. It's a staggering debut about South Africa, loss, memory, reconciliation and finding the truth buried under layers of secrets- or not finding it. It just blew me away.

Other 2012 books I loved:
  • Varamo, by Cesar Aira, the funnest book I read in 2012 about a soon-to-be poet and his hilarious dark night of the soul,
  • Pure, by Andrew Miller, expertly written historical fiction with a dry wit, set in pre-Revolutionary Paris,
  • The Forgiven, by Lawrence Osborne, a book the New York Times called "sleek" and "panther-like," a gripping and moody page turner set in the Moroccan desert,
  • Second Person Singular, by Sayed Kashua, is a not-to-be-missed meditation on identity set in Israel among Arab-Israelis trying to figure out their place in a country that can't figure out what to do with them, and
  • The Watch, by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya, an incredible and riveting war novel set in Afghanistan that isn't afraid to take sides even as it shows a single event from numerous points of view.
But I don't just read new releases. Here are some other books that I loved reading this year:

Before Night Falls, by Reinaldo Arenas. Read this, please! The memoir of the dissident Cuban writer is the book I read in 2012 that I think I want everyone to read.

Moffie, by Andre Carl Van Der Merwe. It's a searing, unforgettable story about a gay man in the South African army and a must-read.

Freedom in Exile, the memoir of the 14th Dalai Lama.

He Died With His Eyes Open, brilliant literary crime by Derek Raymond, himself a fascinating character!

Happy Birthday, Turk! the funnest crime novel I read this year, by Jakob Arjouni, about an ethnically Turkish German P.I. out to solve the murder of an immigrant.

Cold Comfort Farm, by Stella Gibbons. Irresistible fun about a posh young lady visiting her country cousins.

The Goodbye Kiss, by Massimo Carlotto. Silly, trashy fun about a love-to-hate psychopath on the loose in Italy.

The Sisters Brothers, by Patrick deWitt. Simply delightful Western black comedy about a pair of hired killers and their last big job.

The Long Song, by Andrea Levy. What a great, engrossing, gorgeous book!

Stoner, by John Williams, a quiet and somewhat depressing novel about an academic in the early 20th century. I loved it even though it was kind of a downer.

Season of Migration to the North, by Tayeb Salih. If you've never read this masterful Sudanese writer, make room in your schedule for this tight, amazing novel about cultural clash.

When I Was Otherwise, by Stephen Benatar.  An extraordinary book from an extraordinary writer, this haunting and harrowing family story is dysfunction at its messed-up best. A brother and sister live with their sister-in-law and the three create a brilliantly frightening domicile.

What made your tops-of-the-year list this year? What are you excited about in 2013?