What I’ve Been Reading in 2012

Everybody loves an end-of-the-year Best Of list, so here is mine. No statistics this time, because I’m too lazy and have written a post on (almost) everything I’ve read, so you can work out the figures yourself.

My favourite books I’ve read this year, then, in no particular order:

Samuel R. Delany: Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders
Easily my favourite book this year, and also my favourite new release. Definitely not for everyone, but if you can stomach some lovingly described icky sex (well, okay… a lot of lovingly described icky sex – but it kind of draws you in, and after a while you don’t care all that much about what is described anymore but just roll with the rhythm of Delany’s wonderful writing) you are rewarded with what I consider one of the greatest and most moving love stories in literature ever. (Post here)

Dorothy Dunnett: The Ringed Castle, Checkmate
The final two volumes in her Lymond Chronicles – historical fiction as it should be: a gripping, moving tale, told without sacrificing sense of history to readability. Complex, sometimes dense, always a challenge, always rewarding. And I finally managed to like Lymond, yay! (Posts here and here)

Ali Smith: Free Love and Other Stories, Like, Other Stories and Other Stories
Her Here but for the was my favourite new release in 2011 and everything of hers I have read since then has contributed to convince me that she is among the best and most important living prose writers (and, of course, a personal favourite author). Nobody manages like her to combine experiment and emotion, demonstrating again and again that you can be formally inventive and daring and still touch your readers. And her writing is just a sheer delight to read. (Posts here and here, last one forthcoming)

Daniel Abraham: The Long Price Quartet
I’m unspeakably annoyed at myself that I did not manage to write any posts on what in my opinion is one of the best Fantasy series ever. Abraham does everything different: the books are all comparatively slim, there is a 15-year gap between each of them, they take place in a world that does not even faintly resemble Medieval Europe, there is hardly any action. But there are some of the most fully realized characters you are likely to find in Fantasy fiction, there is thoughtful and fascinating world-building (the only instance I can think of where I actually enjoyed the world-building for its own sake) and there is a highly original and deeply moving story centered around two friends who become lifelong antagonists and how their conflict brings about the end of an era. Really great stuff that everyone even remotely interested in fantastic literature should read. (Sadly, no posts on this)

M. John Harrison: Light
A wildly inventive, beautifully written and cleverly constructed Science Fiction novel that turns quantum theory into a literary form. The first volume in a trilogy (so far at least), the other two I will hopefully manage to read in 2013. (Post here)

Ursula K. Le Guin: The Dispossessed
One of the great classic Science Fiction novels. Formally rather more conservative than Light, but still very conscious of its status as literature and deftly using literary techniques to get its point across – or should that read, to draw the reader into its circle? (Post here)

Meg Maguire – The Reluctant Nude
My favourite Romance novel this year (although Ruthi Knox’ Ride With Me was a close second) – it’s all about character and two people slowly falling (maybe “sinking” wold be the better term) in love with each other. This is just how I love my contemporary Romance: simple stories about flawed people with real emotional depth. (Post here)

2012 also was the first year I took part in a challenge, namely Lurv A La Mode’s Year of the Fantasy Classic. I read and posted about eight books so far, and am currently reading the ninth and most likely last one. Which does not sound too bad, except that most of those were the volumes of Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser series, and if you count that (as you should) as a single work, I only read three, and that is not even near to what I had planned. Lesson learned: If you participate in a thematic challenge, keep away from series (or else select a representative volume instead of the whole thing). Still, it was fun to do some quasi-systematic reading and I might do it again if I see something that strikes my fancy.

Last year’s New Year’s resolution was to read more German books and to read more erotica. I did quite well on the first, but not so great on the second; so my resolution for 2013 will be again to read more erotica, and in addition to keeping up reading German books I should really read some French again, I’m getting very rusty there.

And finally – as this has been (the occasional music video apart) a blog exclusively about books for over a year now, I’ve been contemplating a name change. I think there might be two or three people out there who actually follow this blog on a somewhat regular basis – does either of you have an opinion on this? possibly even a suggestion on what to call this blog? Suggestions would be very welcome!

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6 comments

  1. Thanks for all these recommendations. Ditto on Dorothy Dunnett! I’m intrigued by what you say about The Long Price Quartet – mainly because you rather teasingly say just enough to make it sound utterly fascinating, but not enough to give me any idea of what it’s about (*grins*). I think I’m going to have to look it up… I suspect your question about the blog name wasn’t really aimed at me as I’m very much a newbie follower, but have you had any ideas that you can share with us? Personally I love your choice of the name Heloise, but that’s because I’m a medieval historian at heart and love stories don’t come much better than Abelard and Heloise 🙂

  2. Hehe, sorry about The Long Price Quartet…. okay, not really – I try to avoid plot summaries so as not to give the impression that there is anything resembling serious reviewing going on in this blog. I really do regret not posting about those novels as I loved them lots. If you want to know more, there is Jo Walton’s (as always) excellent post on them here. And I can really recommend the novels, they’re not like any other fantasy I’ve read and the final volume packs a huge emotional punch.
    About a possible renaming of the blog… I wasn’t being coy when I said that there were two or three people following this blog, in fact I was probably being overly optimistic – this blog is tiny, with an average of about seven hits per day, and most of them come here via searches. I’m not really good with titles, as you can tell from the really imaginative title of the blog, so all I have come up with so far is that I’d like something literature-related and unpretentious…

  3. Ooh, brainstorm time! I haven’t checked to see whether any of these already exist, but here goes. Bookmarked. Between the Bookends. Under the Covers (well, you said you were interested in erotica… 🙂 ). Booknapped. Paper Worlds (on the basis you write a lot about sci-fi and fantasy).

    None of which are probably remotely what you’re looking for, but I like playing the title game. The problem is that lots of the titles involving the word ‘book’ will have gone already because there is such an enthusiastic community out there. You could always give it an English-German hybrid title, which would make it stand out… or even just a German title with an English subtitle? There must be some fabulous compound noun in German which describes someone who loves dipping into all kinds of different books? Something like Die Buchabenteurerin…?

  4. Thank you very much, and that’s actually exactly what I was looking for… except that, as you already suspected, there’s not just one blog with each of those titles out there but at least half a dozen. *big sigh* There’s a lot of German-language book blogs around, too, so that would offer the same problem, and I think I’d rather stick with an English title, to not confuse people too much. Maybe I should take something as unimaginative as the current title but more book related, like “Heloise Merlin’s Bookshelf”?

  5. Oh dear – I’m sorry I wasn’t able to come up with anything original 🙂

    I don’t think your current title is unimaginative, really I don’t. You’ve chosen an unusual enough name that it’s going to catch people’s attention. As I said before, I love the name Heloise, and Merlin ties in to so much of your fantasy / sci-fi interests… So why not go with that for now? After all, it’s the titles of your posts (with book titles) that will show up in searches. And anyway, from my own experience I can say that a blog title doesn’t really have to have anything obviously to do with books… 🙂

  6. Hehe, “Heloise” is actually the only part I came up with myself – “Merlin” was one of the second names you could chose when creating a Second Life account back when I registered, and “Username’s Weblog” is the default name for any new WordPress blog, I just kept that because I couldn’t think of anything better. 😛
    But it seems like trying for something original is a lost cause anyway, so I suppose I’ll stick with the current for now. But thank you for your help, it is very much appreciated. 🙂

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