Book Reviews

Favourite books of 2012 – the readers’ lists

It”s that time of the year when newspapers, magazines and blog sites like to fill up their spaces with lists. One of the oddest for me is a feature on people who died in the year in question – not sure I understand what value that has other than its easy to do.  Lists about books are popular of course because they’re often combined with features on the perfect Christmas present to buy your mother, gran, aged aunt, horrible nephew etc etc .

The feature pieces that ask politicians and celebrities of various status levels what they would most like in their Christmas shopping list, always amuse me. I can imagine some of them agonising over their choice, particularly the politicians. Do they chose a book to show off their street cred or something erudite that give us mere mortals the clear sign of how serious and intelligent they are?? I wonder how many of these longed for books actually get read.

It’s more interesting to find out what ordinary readers actually rate as the best books of the year. So far we’ve seen two of these. One from the members of Good Reads and the more recent one from followers of the Book Riot blog site.   There is some is common ground between the two lists (marked with *) J K Rowling shows up on both as does Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore which I’ve heard good reports about. Miracle of miracles Fifty Shades is on neither.  Apart from the fact they seem heavily weighted towards American authors, what struck me about both lists is the absence of many heavy hitting authors. Only the Book Riot list includes Erdrich’s National Book Award winner and the Man Booker prize winner Hilary Mantel while the GoodReads list includes just one of the Booker longtlisted novels (Pilgrimage of Harold Fry). Is this just a reflection of the fact that word about these books is slow to percolate and interest will increase once more of them make it into more affordable paperback versions? Or is this somehow a reflection of the profile of members of these sites?


Here’s the Book Riot one 

Of this list of 25 I have read precisely one (Hilary Mantel)

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (94 votes)

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (80)

Insurgent by Veronica Roth (26)

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter (23)

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (21)

The Twelve by Justin Cronin (21)

*The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (19)

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain (18)

The Age of Desire by Jennie Fields (17)

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling (17)

*This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz (16)

Arcadia by Lauren Groff (14)

*Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (13)

The Round House by Louise Erdrich (13)

*Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt (13)

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson (12)

Wild by Cheryl Strayed (12)

*Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain (11)

*Canada by Richard Ford (11)

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey (11)

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple (11)

*The Dog Stars by Peter Heller (10)

Every Day by David Levithan (10)

The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan (10)

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness (10)


And the GoodReads list

Of this list, I’ve also read just one (Harold Fry)

The Casual Vacancy – J.K. Rowling 11,525 votes

Where we Belong – Emily Griffin

Home Front – Kristin Hannah 

The Age of Miracles – Karen Thompson Walker

*This is How you Lose Her – Junot Diaz

*Tell the Wolves I’m Home – Carol Rifka Brunt

*Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore – Robin Sloan

* Beautiful Ruins – Jess Walter

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend – Matthew Dicks

Grown up Kind of Pretty – Joshilyn Jackson

Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry – Rachel Joyce

*The Dog Stars– Peter Heller

Flight Behaviour – Barbara Kingsolver

In the Shadow of the Banyan– Vadday Ratner

The Orphan Master’s Son – Adam Johnson

Running the Rift – Naomi Benaron

A Walk Across the Sun – Corban Addison

Telegraph Avenue – Michael Chabon

*Canada – Richard Ford

*Billy Linn’s Long Halftime Walk – Ben Fountain


What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

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