24 March 2013

Favourite Books of 2012

I have historically done Top 10 lists for my favourite books of the year, ranking them in order for young adult and adult fiction. For book awards I've been shadowing I've also often done a ranking post of the shortlists. However, I am hereby officially abandoning ranking lists from my blog because they ignore the wonderful undefinable aspect of good books. Do you rank by sheer enjoyment? Or by literary worth? Or by how much it spoke to you? If it will get good reviews? If it will win the award it is shortlisted for? Do you put a book that was challenging and impressive above something that was fun and engaging?

I had started writing a Top 10 for 2012 but got stuck because I read so many wonderful books and so abandoned it but I'm now sad I didn't share what I loved (and goodness knows, the Internet needs more lists) so here is my favourite books of last year.

(Some of these books I didn't get round to writing a full review of, mainly those I read in the second half of the year whilst I was also beginning my MSc dissertation. If I have done a full review, clicking the title of the book will take you there. Reading some of them back, some books I have clearly grown more fond of in hindsight.)

Young Adult Fiction

My Name is Mina by David Almond: I adored this book and it has stuck with me since I read it. I think it got a little lost with A Monster Calls winning everything last year but this is a beautiful, charming and inspiring book that is wonderfully unique. Mina has become one of my absolute favourite children's book characters. 

The Fault in our Stars by John Green: Not exactly a surprising choice, but there's a reason this has been so popular - Green is an expert at just shoving you through all the feelings - I was a mess after reading this. It's two leads are particularly appealing as well. It is inspired a fervour for reading in my students that gets it extra points. 

Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick: This is currently on the Carnegie shortlist (and I reckon in with a seriously good chance at winning). This is my favourite of Marcus' books so far and just glorious - intelligent and unexpected. I taught some lessons on this to Year 8 and the more I read it the more I was impressed and entranced by it.

The Midnight Zoo by Sonya Hartnett: I read this because it was on the Carnegie shortlist last year and didn't really expect to like it as it's about animals and war but I was transported by this magical and heartbreaking story. Unexpectedly wonderful. 

The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean by David Almond: This is different from everything else I have read and special because of that. Thought provoking and challenging, I was entranced by Billy's voice and am sad that it's challenging narrative has put some people off.

Adult Fiction

Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel: The reason this has won, and is winning, all the prizes is because it's pretty much a perfect novel. Mantel's talent is staggering and I cannot wait to read The Mirror and the Light. For me this was far and away the strongest novel on the Booker shortlist (and I did read all of them, I even got through Umbrella eventually). She faces some stiff competition from Kate Atkinson's Life After Life on the current Women's Prize longlist though. 

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan: I adored this. It was lovely to read a book that was so much fun but still beautifully written. I read it so quickly, carried along with the quirky plot full of a love of books, technology and people. Book lovers should read this and fall in love with it - it made me laugh out loud in joy.

The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson: Such an intelligent, moving story that is both literary and readable. Pak Jun Do is such an engaging hero, I fell a little bit in love with him, and his story is tragic, brutal and yet uplifting and hopeful. 

The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman: I really wanted this Booker longlisted novel to make it onto the shortlist as it was so refreshing. Fun and irreverent, I loved the way it played with literary genres and never took itself too seriously. It made me laugh out loud and also has one of the most audaciously wonderful endings I've ever read.  

Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O'Farrell: I'm a big fan of Maggie O'Farrell and her new book doesn't disappoint - it's up there with After You'd Gone as my favourites. I was very grateful to get a proof of this from Publicity Books and loved immersing myself in her characteristic careful, melancholy prose and uncomfortably familiar characters. 

The Blue Book by A. L. Kennedy: This is a book I would find difficult to rank. I didn't exactly enjoy it but I was fascinated and hugely impressed by it. Uncomfortably intimate and intricately written with another very clever ending - one of the only books I have started reading again straight after I finished it.

Finally, these two books were not published in 2012 but I discovered them this year...

The Secret History by Donna Tartt: A favourite of a lot of people and I now know why - this was the first book I read last year and one of the best. I'm so excited to read her new book, Goldfinch.

Incendiary by Chris Cleave: This book destroyed me - I am in awe of it. It is dark and beautiful and really got inside my head. I was incredibly moved by it and instantly went out and bought all of Cleave's other books. There are passages in this book that gave me goosebumps through the sheer beauty of the way he puts words together.

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