Monday, 31 December 2012

Reading in 2012

I've kept track of my reading for 2012 like I did for 2011. I read fewer books this year than last (though I wouldn't be far off if I counted unabridged audiobooks). Also of course I haven't counted titles like "Artifical Intelligence: a Modern Approach" or "Head-First Design Patterns". Here are the statistics:
  • Total number of books read: 174
  • Gender of authors of each book: 91 male, 78 female (the rest are anthologies)
  • Fiction vs non-fiction: 136 to 38
  • Number of re-reads: only 15
  • Number read on Kindle: 100 (57.47%)
It's not been quite such an interesting reading year as last year was. I think this is because so much of my energy has gone into the very tough course and the challenge of moving down to Devon and starting a new job in a completely new industry. I haven't taken so many reading risks, so I haven't had so many nice surprises. But there were a few books I enjoyed more than I had expected: Jerzy Pilch's The Mighty Angel, about a Russian drinker who falls in love, and Vanessa Gebbie's The Coward's Tale, about a Welsh mining village haunted by a terrible mine accident, are both more interesting than they sound from synopses. Pat McIntosh's series of murder mysteries set in fifteenth-century Glasgow is very good, as is Nicola Shulman's Graven with Diamonds, a biography of Thomas Wyatt. Lytton Strachey can really write, and is more interesting than he has any right to be, and Iain Pears is reliably great.

I read some mid twentieth-century stuff which I enjoyed, fiction in the form of Anthony Powell's surprisingly easy-to-read A Dance to the Music of Time, and non-fiction in the form of Nella Last's War and Call the Midwife, both of which took my breath away.

But leaving aside rereads, my favourite books of the year were, in reverse order:
  • Austin Wright, Tony and Susan, reviewed here
  • Craig Taylor, Londoners, reviewed here.
  • Tom Lubbock, 50 Great Paintings, reviewed here.
  • Muriel Spark, A Far Cry From Kensington. I seem not to have reviewed this yet. It's about a young fat widow called Mrs Hawkins who lives in a genteel boarding house in Kensington. She works in publishing, and the story mostly follows what comes from her designation of a hack called Hector Bartlett as a "pisseur de copie". This is a seriously brilliant book, and has to be one of the standing classics of the twentieth century.

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