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?


Beth F said...

We don't overlap by much! I remember reading Cold Comfort Farm years ago and really liking it. I have my best of Imprint Friday up today and will post my general best-of list on Monday.

bermudaonion said...

I haven't read any of those and don't think I own any of them either. My wish list is growing by leaps and bounds!

bookspersonally said...

Love that your list has so many titles I haven't seen anywhere else- sound like fantastic reads. Especially intrigued by The Forgiven - "sleek" and "panther-like" - sounds delicious.

Marce said...

The Goodbye Kiss sounds good, totally me, I will have to go check it out.

My favourite was Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, my first time reading her, amazing.

Most I have never heard of.

Happy Holidays

Marie Cloutier said...

Marce, Rebecca is incredible and one of my all-time favorites! :-)

JoAnn said...

I haven't read any of these, but purchased Stoner after hearing you and Matt both loved it. Absolution is on my wish list. Great list, Marie!

ImageNations said...

This year saw me read some very interesting books including Repudiation by Rashid Boudjedra, A Farewell to Arms by Hemingway, The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen, Absalom, Absalom by Faulkner, White Teeth by Zadie Smith etc.

I was also able to read the most books since I began blogging in 2009. I hope 2013 will present even more opportunities for reading and for blogging.

ImageNations said...

On the list I read Tayeb Salih's Season of Migration to the North.

Alexia561 said...

Love seeing everyone's year end lists! Sad to say I haven't read any of these, but you're tempting me! :)

Jenners said...

Impressive that a book read in Feburary remained your favorite for the rest of the year!!

Wishing you a wonderful new year filled with great reads.

Literary Feline said...

You read some amazing books this year, Marie. I stuck mostly to lighter reads this year as that's where my mood took me.

Have a Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

I haven't read any of your favorites :(
I hope 2013 brings lots of joy and great reading.

Sandra said...

I really liked Absolution and Pure too. I tried Forgiveness but disliked the people so much I gave up before the police even showed up! I will try again. You must try Let It Be Morning if you liked Second Person Singular by Sayed Kashua. I want to read Second Person but my library is not ordering it - phooey.
I may try The Watch. I liked The Sisters Brothers too, and Stoner is almost a classic it's so good. I want to read When I Was Otherwise but again the library isn't buying it. If you haven't read Benatar's Wish Her Safe at Home, I highly recommend it.
Happy reading in 2013 Marie.

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

I love it that all of these are unfamiliar to me!

Anonymous said...

neat! you will find my list in this post:

Booksnyc said...

Second Person Singular sounds very interesting! Happy New Year!

Laurie C said...

No overlap at all in our lists, but I've been meaning to read the Andrea Levy novel and The Sisters Brothers. The book I read in 2012 that I want everyone to read is Goodbye for Now by Laurie Frankel!

Anna said...

I haven't read any of these books, but you put a few of them on my radar. Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

You have some very interesting titles there. I'm really curious about He Died with his Eyes Open and Stoner and I think I will have to read something by Stephen Benatar soonish!