2012 in Books

These are books that I read in 2012, rather than books published in 2012. I never seem to keep up to date with new releases. To see all the books I read during last year click here!


The Good

What Was Lost by Catherine O’Flynn. This was one of my favourite books of the year. It was published in 2007 and it seems that everybody else picked up on it that year, or not at all. It was, as is typical, a charity shop buy. I expected it to be ‘chick lit with an edge’ but was hugely surprised by it: it is sweet, touching, funny and gripping.

The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood. Of course I loved this book. Atwood is one of my favourite writers, and Oryx and Crake is one of my favourite books. If I find myself with some spare reading time in 2013 I plan on rereading both books to put everything in more perspective.

Freshta by Petra Procházková. I still haven’t had time to sit down and review this so I don’t have any well-formulated thoughts about it, but the fact that it’s a reasonably hefty volume and I managed to get through it in just a few days speaks volumes. A complicated but fascinating and moving story. I was expecting it to be quite heavy-going but it was actually written in a surprisingly light style, with an unexpected but welcome amount of humour from the confusing but endearing narrator.


The Bad

Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo. I don’t think I ever got into this, even though I eventually finished. I felt like I was just staring at a wall of text and not absorbing anything. I didn’t like or understand any of the characters and didn’t really care about any plot points.

Love and Other Possibilities by Lewis Davies. This was a collection of short stories that just left me wondering why, after reading one, I ever bothered reading the rest. A few were ‘alright’ (to damn them with faint praise) and a few were just irritating.


The Disappointing

White Horse by Alex Adams. Oh, I so wanted this to be good. I actually think I saw an advert for it some time ago, and against all my better judgement I love these ‘end of the world’ narratives that are always flying around. And… it wasn’t bad, but it was not great. A few pages in, I have a Kindle note that says ‘a bit ham fisted’ on the phrase “Nature is rebuilding with her own set of plans. Man has no say” – and it just gets more ham fisted as it goes on. The story was interesting, as apocalypse stories go, but the painfully strained metaphors and heavy handed attempts at poignancy began to wear me down quite quickly.

Poppy Shakespeare by Clare Allan. Once again, this was not bad, but just not that good. I went from being really interested, to vaguely amused, and eventually was just annoyed. I wonder if it would make a good audiobook, though.


What were the best, worst and most disappointing books you read in 2012?

12 thoughts on “2012 in Books

  1. I don’t think I’ve heard of any of those books!

    The best books I read in 2012 were The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, the worst American Gods by Neil Gaiman, and the most disappointing Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell.

    • I bought The Night Circus but never got round to reading it! I hope I manage it this year because I’ve heard so many good things. Why were you disappointed by Cloud Atlas? I read it quite a long time ago and it’s one of my favourites, though I read it before the hype which might have made a difference.

      • See when I read it I’d never heard anyone mention it except one of my teachers and I honestly expected it to be really stuffy and boring so maybe I enjoyed it more for not having any expectations

    • I’m glad it wasn’t just me. So many people seem to think it was a masterpiece but I just generally had very few feelings about it.

  2. I haven’t read any of these but will add the Atwood books you mentioned to my list. I’ve only started reading her recently and have loved everything. The best book I read in 2012 was ‘And the Land Lay Still’ by James Robertson – it’s a fictional look at the lives of different characters in Scotland throughout the latter half of the twentieth century. It’s a sweeping, leftie novel that I was so impressed by. Worst was ‘The Peculiar Sadness of Lemon Cake’ which I haven’t even finished. Something about the writing left me feeling really cold, and I quickly bored of the premise that she can taste emotions in food as it never really built anything beyond itself.

    • Which of her novels have you read so far? I started reading her books when I was about 13 and still haven’t managed to read all of them. Maybe that will be an aim for the next year or so. I’ve genuinely never heard of And The Land Stay Still, but I am making a little note as we speak to look out for it. I read a Kindle sample of The Peculiar Sadness of Lemon Cake and felt just the same as you – there was just nothing there. There was no emotion and the bizarre premise was just sort of thrown out there with no elaboration or explanation. I did not bother to download the whole book.

  3. I haven’t read any of those but The Year of the Flood is on my list as I love Atwood’s writing. The best books I read in 2012 have to be Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (which I know not everybody liked), Jon McGregor’s If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things, and Sebastian Faulks’s Birdsong. I didn’t read any awful books but I didn’t particularly enjoy Salman Rushdie’s Shame, it was too strange for me.

    • I wish I had enjoyed If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things as much as you did! :( I think I built it up in my head too much before I read it, so it ended up as a bit of a disappointment. I enjoyed it well enough while I was reading it but it hasn’t had any lasting effect on me. I read Birdsong years ago and loved it so much! It’s definitely one that I want to reread in the coming years. I’ve never read any Rushdie but actually never seem to hear anything positive about his novels. I suppose I will have to attempt at least one in my lifetime. (When I think of Rushdie, this is actually what I think of: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5IwwLrf1eU)

  4. Atwood will always make it onto my “best of” lists too. I thought about picking up Cosmopolis but didn’t–now I’m glad! Hmm, I was surprised by a lot of nonfiction this year–not a genre I usually enjoy, but Warmth of Other Suns and The Garden of Beasts both surprised me by falling in with some great fiction reads that I would consider my best of the year.

    • I bought Cosmopolis and White Noise at the same time and now, even though I have been assured that White Noise is a million times better, I just can’t bring myself to read it. I started reading a bit more nonfiction in 2012 as well – hopefully I can keep this up in 2013, especially as I have a few exciting books lined up (The Real North Korea, The History of the World in Bite-Sized Chunks, From Dictatorship to Democracy etc.).

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