Books of 2012 – the great, the good, and the disappointing

It’s safe to say that 2011 has been my best reading year so far. By comparison, 2012 has been well toned down. I’ve read around 40 books (probably closer to 43) quite a step down from 2011 when I managed around 60 books. Not one to set a fixed number for a challenge, because I’d rather read when and what I like instead of trying to meet a quota, I won’t be challenging myself this year either. Reading is a pleasure and I don’t want it to change into a must. That being said, there are a few books I am excited to share with the world.

Favorite classic

This was a difficult one to choose. I’ve enjoyed She, A History of Adventure, by H. Rider Haggard, The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon as well as The Yellow Wallpaper and selected writings by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. All great books who kept me well anchored in the story and in whose company I spent many entertaining hours. However, if I must choose one, it’s going to be The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe. Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV. This book has the right amount of creepiness, an old castle, a love story and lots of secrets. Not to mention poems sprinkled here and there throughout the book.

Best short story collection

I had no trouble picking this one – The Vampire Archives is number one on my list. There were other worthy competitors in this category, like Neil Gaiman’s Smoke and Mirrors, and Songs of Love & Death, but this collection of vampire short stories starting from the 1800’s and going well into the 1900’s is one I would recommend to any fan of the genre.

Best novels

There are two, and I like them both for very different reasons: The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes, for its elegant prose and the twist at the end, and A Widow for One Year by John Irving, for its meticulously crafted storyline, great characters and for teaching me patience. Some books just can’t be rushed. I just realized I forgot to post a review for it, but hopefully it will be done by the end of the week.

Best horror book

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova was one book I was really anxious to read but in spite of its being a great story (and one involving the most famous of vampires, nonetheless), The Secret of Crickley Hall by James Herbert was my favorite. In the pretty tight battle between vampires and ghosts, the latter prevailed this time.

Best non-fiction

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Non-Fiction by William Zinsser is a book that was recommended to me by a friend, and one that was well worth reading. I love books about writing ever since I read Stephen King’s On Writing. Now that was a perfect little gem.

Favorite best-seller

Despite trying not to get too caught up in the best-selling whirlwind, I did want to read The Help by Kathryn Stockett, and ended up enjoying it very much.

Other books I liked

11.22.63 – Stephen King
Prodigal Summer (a read-along) – Barbara Kingsolver, Part I, Part II, Part III
Anne of Green Gables – L.M. Montgomery
Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman

The disappointing

When I saw the first two books in a new series by Anne Rice, I was very excited to read them. After all, The Lives of the Mayfair Witches was better than I had ever imagined, so I hoped of nothing less this time. The new series is called The Songs of the Seraphim, and the first two books are Angel Time and Of Love and Evil. Unfortunately, the heavy religious component was too much for me and it overshadowed everything else. The idea is interesting – giving up a life of crime in order to serve God by doing good things, and a fair amount of time travel – but this is done in such an overpowering and almost preachy sort of way that it put me off. A part of me understands the fervor behind it, and I think it’s so great when a writer’s passion drives them to pour their heart into their work – that is why I feel bad for not liking the books (I made it only halfway through the second one before abandoning it), but the way in which it was put across just did not click with me. Nevertheless, I look forward to reading Interview with a Vampire.

A friend of mine was really excited about The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz and so I gave it a try. Not an easy or pleasant task, and not because of the bleak story or the violence but mostly because of the language and the way in which it was written. The macho attitude of the storyteller, and the combination between Spanish and English just ruined the book for me. And that’s not because my Spanish is lacking. The only thing that saved the book from being a total loss was the multitude of references to The Lord of the Rings. Those were like a tiny glimmer of light in an otherwise disappointing book.

The shortest/longest book.

The Sense of an Ending – 163 pages
The Vampire Archives – 1034 pages

Last year I also participated in some challenges and read-alongs:

The Stephen King Project, with Bag of Bones (the 2011 TV mini-series) and 11.22.63, the novel.

Once Upon a Time VI, with Mermaid by Carolyn Turgeon and Songs of Love & Death (short stories by various authors).

R.I.P. VII, with The Secret of Crickley Hall by James Herbert

Three read-alongs (see one below, under “Dickens in December”) Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver, Part I, Part II, Part III and one for The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe. Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV.

Dickens in December , with a couple of movies The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (2001) and The Old Curiosity Shop (2007), A Christmas Carol readalong and three short stories.

For this year, I plan to join Fanda @ for “Celebrating Dickens” an event that will take place in February. More details here. There will probably be more events and I will add them later on. For now I’ll just start small.

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21 Responses to Books of 2012 – the great, the good, and the disappointing

  1. Carl V. says:

    I want to read every one of those classics on your list! Seriously. All books I’ve had on my list for a long time.

    I also want to read The Historian at some point. And I need to given how much I love Dracula.

    So glad you had a good reading year despite (or maybe cause of) it being toned down. I hope 2013 is an even greater one for you.

    • Delia says:

      A new year, a new chance to read great books. Perhaps this will be the year of the classics for you.
      You need to read The Historian and I need to read Dracula. Given how much I like vampire stories, it’s a bit weird I haven’t read the most famous of them yet.
      I hope you’re right, I’m definitely ready for a better reading year!

  2. Brian Joseph says:

    Looks like you read some great books this year.

    I never read She: A History of Adventure but I saw the 1925 a silent film version which for old movie buffs is a must see. I should pick up the book.

    • Delia says:

      It was an ok year.
      A silent film version of She, that must be interesting! The book is excellent, the writing is amazing, too. I hope you get to read it.

  3. JoV says:

    I couldn’t get ” The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” too. I’ll leave this to the Spanish speaking world to enjoy this.

    Happy 2013! May it be another wonderful bookish year for you.

  4. Vishy says:

    Wonderful post, Delia! I love the fact that you don’t set a target for the number of books to read but read what you want. You seem to have also read quite a number of chunksters – ‘The Mysteries of Udolpho’, ‘The Vampire Archives’, ‘11.22.63’ – Congratulations! You are an inspiration! It is wonderful that the longest and the shortest books you read made it to your list of favourites! I liked ‘The Mysteries of Udolpho’ very much for Ann Radcliffe’s prose and descriptions (I still remember the heroine’s journey to Italy and the descriptions of Venice – so beautiful) and the gothic atmosphere that the book evokes. I can’t wait to read your review of ‘A Widow for One Year’. I liked Elizabeth Kostova’s ‘The Historian’ very much when I read it. If ‘The Secret of Crickley Hall’ is better than that, then I should read it soon! Sorry to know that you didn’t like Anne Rice’s new series. Hope you enjoy her ‘Interview with a Vampire’. It is one of my favourite vampire novels. Thanks for the link on the ‘Celebrating Dickens’ event. I will explore it in a while. Hope you have a wonderful year in 2013! Will look forward to following your reading adventures this year.

    • Delia says:

      Hi Vishy,
      I’m definitely not a number person and wouldn’t want the extra pressure so I’ll just see where my reading takes me.
      The Mysteries of Udolpho was a great book in more ways than one. The Secret of Crickley Hall is a modern story but there are some scary and also quite sad scenes. I felt very emotional reading it.
      I wish you a great year too!

  5. Caroline says:

    A great list. I’ve only read She of the classics you’ve read and liked it. I’m still reading Songs of Love and Death.
    I’m not much of a statistics person and have no idea how many books I’ve read this year I just know it wasn’t the greatest reading year. I’m not sure why do, whether I chose the wrong books or was in a funny mood. No idea.
    In any case I wish you a great 2013.

    • Delia says:

      I am curious to see what you think of Songs of Love and Death.
      Maybe we take turns, some years are great, others, less so. If that’s the case, this year should be amazing. 🙂
      Here’s to a better reading year!

  6. Kathleen says:

    Sounds like you had a good reading year in 2012 even if you read less books than the year before! I had a goal to read 100 books but fell far short of that. Here’s hoping we will all have lots of time to read and many good books in 2013!

    • Delia says:

      Time is always against us, so many things to do! 100 books is huge, ok maybe if the books are around 200 pages is not that bad. 🙂
      I’ll keep my fingers crossed for that!

  7. M-----l says:

    I bought a copy of The Sense of an Ending at my local bookstore about an hour and a half ago after reading about it here and on Vishy’s site. I’d like to start it right now except that I usually try to finish up last year’s books before I start in on this year’s.

    • Delia says:

      I’m so excited for you, and looking forward to your review, if you decide to post one. I really liked that book, and also a collection of short stories of his called Pulse.
      Good luck with finishing last year’s books, I also have 2 left over from 2012.

  8. Athira says:

    I haven’t read any of your favorites, but The Sense of an Ending is one that I hope to read this year. Happy New Year!

  9. Jenners says:

    Well, we didn’t have the same reaction to A Sense of An Ending but that is what reading is all about. 11/22/63 is showing up on a lot of lists. And King’s On Writing is fantastic, isn’t it? You should also try (if you haven’t already): Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and So You Want To Write by Brenda Ueland.

    • Delia says:

      True, sometimes different tastes lead to interesting discoveries.
      On Writing is great, but too short! 🙂 I can’t wait to get my hands on his latest Dark Tower novel, The Wind Through the Keyhole.
      I haven’t heard of those 2 books but I will definitely look for them, thanks for the recommendation, it is much appreciated!

  10. Elisa says:

    I have quite a few books to add to my TBR now – thank you. I loved The Historian too – was wonderful and epic. And The Yellow Wallpaper is amazing, I should read other short stories by Gilman…Congrats on a wonderful 2012, it makes what is to come in 2013 even more exciting. 🙂

    • Delia says:

      The Historian was great but I wished there were more scenes with Dracula. He barely made an appearance.
      Gilman is a another writer whose works I’d like to explore. Here we go, that TBR pile is ever growing!
      Have a great 2013, I hope it’s going to be filled with great books!

  11. Pingback: A Widow for One Year – John Irving | Postcards from Asia

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