This was meant to be a “Top Ten” post, but it turned out to be too difficult to pick ten books. Or rather, there were six books that absolutely had to be on the list, but I couldn’t make up my mind about the other four. My simple solution was to list the six that stood out so clearly. They all made a strong impact on me this year, and when I think of them, the first thing I recall is the wonderful feeling of reading them, closely followed by thoughts of all the things that made them so great.
They aren’t all 2012 publications, but the oldest is still very recent (published in 2010). I’ve listed them in the order I read them, and you can click on the title or the cover to see my review, if I’ve written one.
Rich, exquisite writing relating Norse myths and a young child’s experience of reading them.
This is one of those wonderful books that has everything – humour, mystery, action, weirdness, loads of people and creatures with supernatural powers, and a touch of tragedy. If I was listing these books according to sheer entertainment, The Rook would undoubtedly be at the top.
The Habitation of the Blessed by Catherynne M. Valente
The only novel that could possibly compete with Ragnarok in terms of writing is this beauty. In fact, I think Valente would win.
Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses by Ron Koertge
Gorgeous retellings of fairy tales in the form of prose poems. They’re dark and twisted, full of violence, sensuality, and taboo desire. The writing is both elegant and snarky, and the whole is utterly lovely.
I’ve heaped praise on this ever since I read it. One of the best psychological thrillers ever.
The Etymologicon by Mark Forsyth
Subtitled “A Circular Stroll Through the Hidden Connections of the English Language”, The Etymologicon leaps delightfully from one word to another, exploring their connections and etymologies. Anyone who likes trivia will love this, and if a friend or family membe or other victim is sitting beside you when you’re reading, you will frequently turn to them with the words, “Hey! Did you know…”
The following books didn’t have as much of an impact as the top six, but I really wanted to give them a mention in this post because they were great books nevertheless.
Enormity by W.G. Marshall – Marshall takes a weird, silly, and often gross premise of a small, lonely man turned into a 6000-foot tall colossus and crafts a surprisingly engaging story out of it. Great, quirky sf.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – the romance made me wary of this book, but it turned out to be as delightfully magical as all its fans said it was. One of the few occasions when popular fiction lives up to the hype.
God’s War by Kameron Hurley – unique sf set in the midst of an Islamic war between two far-future post-Earth societies. Excellent writing, an unforgettable main character, an Islamic society where women rule, and bug-tech.
Railsea by China Miéville – I wish this kind of adventure – rather than romance – was the face of contemporary YA. Miéville’s latest is one of his msot entertaining novels, with lots of his characteristic weirdness and wordplay.
John Saturnall’s Feast by Lawrence Norfolk – gorgeous historical fiction for foodies and myth-lovers
vN by Madeline Ashby – this sf novel has the perfect balance of character, action and ideas, musing on the possibilities and problems of AI as a part of human society.
And that’s that! Here’s to more brilliant books in 2013!