Best Books of 2012

What?  The world hasn’t ended?  Well, for Author Attic’s sake, and the sake of our readers, this is an especially serendipitous non-Apocalypse.  All winter the gears have been turning, letters have been flying, and pens have been chewed as we behind the scenes have attempted to compile and present for you the Best Books of 2012.  The list will definitely feature some favourites, some surprises, and some complete unknowns – 2012 was an absolute firecracker of a year for literary releases.  Featuring the 31 best, most anticipated, and most acclaimed publications of the year, we’ve finally (after much debating, arguing and general bickering) hammered out the final order of those vying for the prestigious position of Best Book of 2012.  Thus, without further ado…

32

Sweet Tooth

Author: Ian McEwanPages: 400Publisher: Anchorthumbnail

 

From the author of the heartbreaking masterpiece Atonement comes another suspense-filled emotional thriller, Sweet Tooth.  In the midst of the Cold war, the world of espionage is as alive and active as it as ever been; MI5 is initiating a cultural propaganda operation called “Sweet Tooth”, in an attempt to subvert the minds of the people by secretly supporting a number of ‘targeted’ writers.  The protagonist, the characteristically beautiful and clever Serena Frome has been recruited by MI5 and assigned to infiltrate the literary circle of one potential candidate for the program: author Tom Haley.  What follows is a mixture of romance and suspense, as Serena becomes compromised emotionally while still attempting to maintain the objectivity of her mission.  McEwan weaves a tale of classic romance that will appeal to lovers of the traditional genre, but perhaps not to those whose particular tastes tend towards more modern fiction.

31

The Racketeer

Author: John GrishamPages: 352Publisher: Doubledaythumbnail

A federal judge has been murdered.  In classic John Grisham style, it is of course no random convenience store robbery-type murder; in the world of political intrigue, it is safe to say that nothing is ever what it seems… except this novel, of course, which is exactly what it seems.  That’s not to say it isn’t a quality release – it absolutely is – but it contains exactly what the package describes.  John Grisham displays his technical ability to manipulate plots and characters, and he must be admired for the ability to churn out solid releases year after year in the same genre without repeating himself.  In any given Grisham novel, the main protagonist is either completely lovable or repugnant – and this case is no different; and personally I found Malcolm Bannister to fit in the former category, as much as a too-clever convict can.  Fans of John Grisham will undoubtedly love this book, and those who dislike this genre of legal fiction will likely not have their minds changed by The Racketeer.

30

Insurgent

Author: Veronica RothPages: 592Publisher: Katherine Tegen Booksthumbnail

The plot is no more or less complex than the first book, and those who found Divergent to their taste will undoubtedly be just as satisfied with Insurgent.

Veronica Roth is back with the much-anticipated sequel in her Divergent series.  A dystopian future fiction, Insurgent again sees young heroine Tris Prior kicking ass and taking names in her usual style.  We last left her with the Five factions in utter disarray after the purging of the Erudite, and of course some particularly strong and ambitious people are looking to establish order in the chaos – their own order.  Featuring more grounded romance than the first novel, it doesn’t take the limelight as did in Divergent.  The well-defined societal structures that framed the last book are no longer present, and Roth does well to avoid the traditional ‘second book-syndrome’ after such a successful debut.  She is able to keep her characters, especially Tris, consistent without being predictable, and to keep their relative development seem a natural progression from the first book.  The plot is no more or less complex than the first book, as well, and those who found Divergent to their taste will undoubtedly be just as satisfied with Insurgent.

29

Cinder

Author: Marissa MeyerPages: 448Publisher: Square Fishthumbnail

Another future sci-fi creation, Marissa Meyer provides 2012 with something sorely needed: cyborgs.  Seriously – cyborgsMeyer engages in some traditional future world building, complemented by some excellent character scripting.  It’s difficult to prescribe just how beings such as androids and cyborgs would act in any given situation (mostly because AI is still so conceptual), but the author in this case does a satisfying, if not always agreeable, job of mapping out character roles, and providing believable and enjoyable character interactions between the non-humans (or non-fully humans).  The downside?  I’m not fully sold on the Cinderella interpretation.  I think Meyer probably conceived of this story with a Cinderella backdrop in mind, so it’s completely context-less to say the characters deserved their own original storyline, but I’ll say it nonetheless.  Either way, this will not be a book anyone regrets reading, and there is a fair amount of enjoyment to be had along the way.

28

The Age of Miracles

Author: Karen Thompson WalkerPages: 304Publisher: Random Housethumbnail

Walker is a talented storyteller, whose talent for atmospheric composition and creation of event structures is clear for all to see.

Debut author Karen Thompson Walker comes now with a solid fiction in The Age of Miracles, a coming of age story concerning life’s struggles, and the need to overcome them.  The author brings together wildly fantastic situations such as the slowing of the Earth’s rotation in a bizarre combination with similarly destructive events such as dissolving marriages, the death of loved ones, and puppy love.  The result is a strange complement of conflicts and struggles, leaving the reader both completely removed from our conventional reality, but strangely reminiscent of the struggles many of us face day-to-day.  Walker is a talented storyteller, whose talent for atmospheric composition and creation of event structures is clear for all to see.

27

Deadlocked

Author: Charlaine HarrisPages: 352Publisher: Acethumbnail

Another dark addition to the ever-growing Sookie Stackhouse novel collection, if you are a huge fan of HBO’s True Blood series and haven’t turned to the books yet, then you must! In Deadlocked, Sookie deals with an investigation concerning a young girl at a vampire party who is drained and murdered – the worst thing is, Eric was the last to be seen feeding on her. The lovely, yet very sinister Eric swears he didn’t do it but the police are not convinced, so Sookie must take the murder investigation into her own hands.  For those fans of the series, Deadlocked delivers the same style of plot structure and writing that you will have come to expect; there is nothing new or unexpected. If you enjoy the Sookie Stackhouse series, there is no reason not to pick this one up.

26

I Heart London

Author: Lindsey KelkPages: 336Publisher: Harpercollinsthumbnail

I Heart London is the 5th edition to the I Heart book series, conveniently released just in time for the British Jubilee and the London Olympics. This time round we join soon-to-be-deported Angela Clark as she is forced back to her hometown of London.  Returning to London for the first time since she escaped to New York was always going to be a tricky adventure; waving goodbye to, Angela returns home to unfinished business with her cheating ex-fiancé, her best friend who has just had a new baby and her mother who still talks to her like she’s fifteen. With another hellish wedding on the cards, can the arrival of her charming boyfriend Alex and sassy eccentric best friend Jenny save her from another humiliation? Kelk writes in an accessible and light-hearted style, making Angela’s adventure easy to read, and tantalizingly addictive.

25

Jennifer E. Smith

Author: The Statistical Probability of Love At First SightPages: 272Publisher: Poppythumbnail

Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?

This book will divide opinion, no doubt about it.  Unfortunately (for some), the author’s extreme talent at narratives and manipulating character interactions is marred only by her decision to apply it in a predictable manner.  Love at first sight and fairly predictable subsequent events may serve to turn some fiction lovers off by the description alone, but that would be an injustice.  Smith does create stimulating and heart-warming interactions between the two mains, Hadley and Oliver, while achieving a bittersweet love story that, while predictable, still achieves the goals of ALL love stories – to make the reader smile.  The Statistical Probability of Love At First Sight is not going to blow any minds or win any prizes for originality, but it is a very charming and enjoyable read, and more than deserving a place on this list.

24

Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir

Author: Jenny LawsonPages: 384Publisher: Berkley Tradethumbnail

Forget slow-built plots and gripping event structures: some authors simply have talent for providing pure, witty entertainment with sharp and clever writing.  Jennifer Lawson, blogger queen and Internet author, has produced an entertaining semi-true autobiography with the perfect balance of truth and embellishment.  The author composes her thoughts and describes her actions in such a way that endears herself to the reader, both with funny anecdotes about her taxidermist father and brutally honest descriptions of her battle with depression.  A genuinely heartfelt read that contrasts the brittle fragility of life with the unbending fortitude of a powerful spirit.  Very funny and tantalizingly honest, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir is a highly recommended easy read.

23

Zona: A Book About a Film About a Journey to a Room

Author: Geoff DyerPages: 240Publisher: Vintagethumbnail

In a brilliant combination of fiction and criticism, author Geoff Dyer tries to describe and explain his own connection to one of the greatest films of all time: Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker.  Beginning with a clever interpretation of this work of horror, Dyer then moves into analyses and explorations of life and belief, and how we interact with each of these concepts individually.  A metaphor for self-discovery, Zona is an introscopic journey into desires, motivations, and personal philosophies.  The author writes in a very intelligent, nuanced style, with sharp observations and a convincing perspective.  Not for everyone, this is a thinker’s book, definitely one for those with a concrete pretentious side.

22

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

Author: Susan CainPages: Broadway BooksPublisher: 368thumbnail

A different kind of book, in Quiet, author Susan Cain attempts to provide perspective on the nature of introversion and extraversion in an honest attempt to gain acceptance for those who prefer their own company.  It is unbelievable that in society introversion is often viewed as an ‘affliction’ or a ‘condition’ that one ought to remedy.  In this explanatory and subjectively argued book, Cain attempts to justify the value in accepting those whose best contributions are those made by those behind the scenes, out of the spotlight, and otherwise independently minded.  She addresses questions of dominance, the ‘alpha’ mentality behind modern-day success, and the definitions of mental health and balance.  Very unique as compared to other books on this list, this is an intriguing read with a solid mix of passionate writing and well-argued expertise.

21

Ninety Days: A Memoir of Recovery

Author: Bill CleggPages: 224Publisher: Back Bay Booksthumbnail

For those who have read Bill Clegg’s previous work (Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man), his latest release Ninety Days is a direct and natural continuation of this tale of hardship and addiction.  A story of darkness and temptation, of desire and repulsion, and of hopelessness and determination, it tracks one man’s struggle to regain control over his life in the face of never-ending craving.  Bill Clegg attempts to achieve (or survive) ninety days of sobriety in order to recover from his past addictions.  This story is as painful and heart-rending as it is honest, as the author covers the darkest depths of his dependence in a compelling and all too realistic depiction of his struggles.

20

The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell

Author: Chris ColferPages: 448Publisher: Little, Brownthumbnail

 

A fun new take on a fairytale adventure by one of the stars of hit American TV show Glee, The Land of Stories is the debut novel by multifaceted Chris Colfer. Targeted for young readers, the story follows two twin brothers, Alex and Connor, whose grandmother gifts them with a mysterious and powerful book, unexpectedly bringing them face-to-face with classic fairy tale characters. However, these fairy tale characters are incredibly different from the ones they have read about; Alex and Connor rather quickly find out that just because they know all the stories, doesn’t mean they have all the answers. Colfer cleverly weaves together both the original fairy tales by the brothers Grimm and the later adaptations by Hans Christian Anderson to deliver a deliciously modern take on the fantasy genre. With inspired insights such as a pregnant Queen Cinderella and Goldilocks as an outlaw, The Land of Stories is a good-natured and sometimes surprising children’s book that transcends its target audience.

19

The Hunger Games

Author: Suzanne CollinsPages: 384Publisher: Scholasticthumbnail

Although not strictly published in 2012, The Hunger Games cheekily finds its way on to this list following a highly successful cinematic remake.  The nation of Panem is ruled from the wealthy Capitol, which has twelve surrounding, and subjugated, poor and starving districts. As punishment for a past rebellion by the now destroyed District 13, the annual Hunger Games take place: each district must submit all of its boys and girls between the ages of 12 and 18 for selection for a mandatory tournament. This involves a lottery process in which one boy and one girl are selected at random to compete to the death.  The world Collins has created is one of the strong points of this series; Panem has the perfect combination of fantasy world building and heavy, realistic satire. Not that The Hunger Games should need much recommending by this point, this is one hell of an opening to an amazing trilogy.

18

The Fault In Our Stars

Author: John GreenPages: 336Publisher: Dutton Juvenilethumbnail

Perspective: when it’s a miracle that you’re alive, but the machine keeping you alive is what holds you back.  Hazel Grace should be dead – at least, that’s how lung cancer usually works; as it is, at 16-years-old, Hazel has finished high school and currently spends her days reading whilst attached to the oxygen tank that is keeping the cancer at bay.  She doesn’t believe in embracing social interactions; the miracle of the life that she has been granted feels shallow and paper-thin, as she dangles by a thread from her lifeline.  However, one day she meets Augustus Waters at her support group; suddenly, Hazel is no longer sure what defines her.  The Fault In Our Stars is an honest, heartfelt story; it conveys the ‘realness” of life and death, and the people caught somewhere in between.  Hazel Grace is an attractively written character, and there is a very real sensation behind her hilarious take on such a tragic subject.  Author Green really does capture young love and the almost incomprehensible feelings of a teenage girl who knows that one day very soon she may have to leave her loved ones behind.

17

Rush of Blood

Author: Mark BillinghamPages: 400Publisher: Spherethumbnail

Whodunit! Crime fiction author Mark Billingham is back again, this time departing from his bread-and-butter Tom Thorne series and providing for us a standard, but excellently written crime thriller in Rush of Blood.  The thing about meeting couples on vacation, is that 1 in 3 are always either swingers or murderers.  In this case, it’s the latter; three couples meet on vacation and seem to hit it off brilliantly, until the teenage girl gets murdered with no one able to identify the killer.  What’s a little death in the face of real friendship, right?  The couples keep in touch upon returning home, and by the time the second girl disappears, everyone knows something is up.  Grisham-esque in its conception, Rush of Blood is a well-structured thriller that goes deeper than a simple ‘find the killer’ novel.  Billingham is adept at event structuring, and may surprise more readers with his twist ending than you might assume.  An excellent page-turner, and highly recommended for all crime drama fans!

16

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Author: Deborah MoggachPages: 336Publisher: Random Housethumbnail

While originally published in 2005 as These Foolish Things, due to the success of the cinematic remake, Random House decided to republish this title again in 2012 under the film title.  This is enough of a reason to include The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel on this list, in my opinion, primarily because it’s a delightful read.  A motley crew of British retirees is enticed by advertisements of a newly restored palatial hotel in India.  They leave England with the promise of leisure, relaxation, and a retiring vacation, but arrival at the hotel shows them something very different: the palace is hardly restored and the innkeeper seems completely out of his depth!  Soon, however, they succumb to the sights and sounds this new country has to offer, and with the help of the eccentric staff, they begin a raw journey of self-discovery.  Moggach brilliantly develops sincere and engaging characters through witty observations and shows that even in the afternoon of life, true love can still be round the corner.

15

The Patchwork Marriage

Author: Jane GreenPages: 416Publisher: Penguinthumbnail

A story focused on the realities of life, Green conjures up a heartbreaking novel about values, family, and the trials of acceptance.

Jane Green is a stand-out author in Chick Lit, and her latest novel, The Patchwork Marriage is another true-to-style publication in that genre.  Newly-weds Andi and Ethan gain custody of Ethan’s two children from a previous marriage.  Andi has always wanted the perfect fairytale, a husband and a ready-made family, but all is not what it seems, and becoming a stepmother is a lot harder than she ever could have imagined.  Tensions rise until Andi, reaching her breaking point, decides to pack up her things and leave for good… until Emily drops a bombshell that puts all past conflicts into perspective.  A story focused on the realities of life, Green conjures up a heartbreaking novel about values, family, and the trials of acceptance. The author skilfully juggles the narratives of Andi, Ethan, and Emily to deliver a wonderful kaleidoscopic view of family life in all its raw detail.

14

The Best of Me

Author: Nicholas SparksPages: 320Publisher: Grand Central Publishingthumbnail

Published at the end of last year, The Best of Me is a nostalgic love story from renowned screenwriter and author Nicholas Sparks.  For those of you familiar with his other works (The Notebook, A Walk to Remember), the author’s method of character portrayal and plot structuring will be extremely familiar, and no less heart-rending.  The book follows the story of two school sweethearts, Dawson and Amanda, as they re-unite years after their young relationship to find (naturally) that love is slightly more persistent than either of them knew.  In a tale of passion, loss, and discovery, Sparks ticks all the boxes one would expect him to, without really delivering something brand-new or unexpected.  However, in playing to his strengths, the author displays excellent narrative skill, especially in his ability to create vivid character interactions.  Yes, it’s a love story, and the reader will have a fairly good idea about how things are going to develop, at least in general, but Sparks still manages to contrive a certain amount of attachment between the reader and the characters, and that is the driving force behind this author’s popularity.

13

No One Is Here Except All of Us

Author: Ramona AusubelPages: 416Publisher: Riverhead Tradethumbnail

If the last entry could be described as fiction ‘written for the heart’, then No One is Here Except All of Us would definitely qualify as fiction ‘written for the mind’.  Instead of solely playing on the raw and brutal emotions associated with the horror of WWII and the crimes that took place, Ausubel attempts to intellectualize the Jewish response to the external, violent pressure they were subjected to in the late 1930s – 1940s.  The novel focuses on a remote Jewish village in Romania that is suddenly caught up in the genocidal storm of anti-Semitism.  One day the villagers hear the noise of air planes  as they fly over and drop bombs on the other side of their town. Within a few short hours a woman from the bombed village arrives in a river of debris and explains that soldiers have invaded her home.  In reaction to this, the villagers decide that today will be the day that they start anew; they completely erase the idea of history from their minds and begin today as if it were the first day of Genesis.  While it may sound pretentious, Ramona Ausubel has constructed a very detailed and poignant allegory for isolationism and tribal mentality, wrapped up in the rather blunt packaging of a Holocaust-based fiction.

12

Gone Girl

Author: Gillian FlynnPages: 432Publisher: Crownthumbnail

It’s Nick and Amy Dunne’s anniversary, and they are preparing to celebrate five years of married life when suddenly Amy goes missing from their Mississippi house. Nick begins to torture himself with images of his wife’s body, and his odd behaviour has even the police questioning his involvement in Amy’s disappearance. Amy’s parents, the media and the police all add pressure to Nick’s life, and he reacts by weaving an incredibly tangled web of deceit.  It is not long before all of the couples in North Carthage begin to question how well they know their loved ones.  Gillian Flynn delivers a first-rate psychological thriller, both fast-paced and darkly humorous, as the author captures the dark and twisted mind of a damaged person. Gone Girl is addictive to an almost unhealthy point and is one book you will not be able to put down.

11

The Secret Keeper

Author: Kate MortonPages: 496Publisher: Atria Booksthumbnail

This is Kate Morton’s fourth novel and it is completely and utterly as refreshing as the first. The novel pans from the 1930’s – 1960’s, right to the present day and depicts Laurel’s quest to find out about her frail mothers mysterious past. It has a fantastic opening chapter which sets the scene of a 1960’s summers day on a picturesque farm in the English countryside. Sixteen year old Laurel, an aspiring actress, is dreaming of what her future has in store for her when she witnesses a tragic crime which changes everything. The novel flutters back in time to 1930’s wartime London and introduces Jimmy, Dorothy and Vivien, 3 strangers who meet by chance and whose lives become entwined in a tragic triangle of love, loss and betrayal. It follows Laurel’s journey of discovering more about her family history and takes many unexpected turns and corners until ultimately she is left with the truth.

It will have you page turning vigorously  second guessing and you know the ‘lump in your throat’ feeling? expect to get that too. A story to treasure for years to come with an unpredictable twist; read the Secret keeper.

10

11.22.63

Author: Stephen KingPages: 880Publisher: Gallery Booksthumbnail

What if you could go back in time and change the course of history?  Not a humanities student alive can deny the countless hours they’ve spent considering the depth of this question, that which makes up the plot of Stephen King‘s latest book 11.22.63. King takes his readers back to the assassination of JFK, an unromantic choice, but a scene that caused tremendous rippling in the global geo-political pond.  Protagonist Jake Epping, a high school English teacher from 2011, embarks on an intriguing journey back to 1958 and is dropped in the midst of the events that led to JFK’s death.  A renowned author, Stephen King’s ability to engage with pseudo-historical setting in a way that maintains any level of plausibility is astounding.  His ability to create an interactive atmosphere is on display yet again, and the depth of character displayed, not only by the protagonist, but also by other significant and much-maligned historical figures (no spoilers intended) is superb.  A chilling, yet completely engaging read, this is one of my personal favourites.

9

The Lone Wolf

Author: Jodi PicoultPages: 438Publisher: Emily Bestler Booksthumbnail

If there’s a theme absolutely familiar to readers of Jodi Picoult, it’s that of family, and the immense pressures, both negative and positive, that come with blood bonds.  Luke Warren is involved in a car accident that leaves him in a coma; his estranged, fractured, and otherwise dysfunctional family gathers around him in mixed spirits. Facing them, a decision: his daughter and his estranged son must decide whether to keep Luke alive or to let him go forever. Cara is desperate to give her father hope, whereas Edward wants to terminate the life support right away, for reasons not entirely clear.  In Lone Wolf, Picoult tackles family politics with extremely well-balanced character interactions and well orchestrated plot developments.  Although Luke Warren is in a coma, his narrative voice permeates through in the undertones of this story in an eerie, poetic manner, and Picoult’s descriptive voice is a pleasure to be immersed in.

8

Before I Go To Sleep

Author: S.J WatsonPages: 363Publisher: Harperthumbnail

Ad memoriam perpetuam… nihilis

We as functioning people rely so much on the resilience of our own memories; we base feelings, actions, and knowledge of the world around us on a foundation of memory, believing that fundamental facets of our reality remain as we remember them.  What if that foundation were suddenly removed, casting us adrift in a sea of uncertainty with no context or perspective available other than the now?  Before I Go To Sleep is a compelling thriller dealing exploring this concept: Christine begins every new day having lost all previous knowledge or memory of past events; her identity and the identity of her loved ones are lost overnight.  She is encouraged by her doctor to keep a journal documenting her past, that she might remind herself every morning of who she is, but even that structure provides little solace.  She has two weeks’ worth of journal entries reminding her not to trust her husband, but she has no idea why.  An excellent read, Before I Go To Sleep chillingly provokes the reader into questioning his or her own memories and instincts.  If push came to shove, would you trust those around you, or your own instincts? How reliable is the world you have constructed, the world you take for granted?

7

The Casual Vacancy

Author: J.K RowlingPages: 512Publisher: Little, Brownthumbnail

After the phenomenon that was Harry Potter, J.K Rowling is back and exploring new territory in her first major publication for adults (or, at least, specifically for adults). Set in Pagford, an idyllic rural English town, The Casusal Vacancy focuses on small town politics and mentalities.  It begins with the sudden death of Barry Fairbrother, a prominent member of the city council. This means that there is a seat on the council waiting to be filled, just as a war breaks out before the election. Pagford becomes the battleground for all sorts of social tensions, as this novel covers all the darker aspects of societal conflicts. Rowling’s strengths have already been well established: her character profiling and development are first-class; and unsurprisingly the strength of this novel lies in the development of her teenage characters. This is a close look at “Broken Britain” and steers clearly away from the magical realism of Harry Potter, though there are many recognizable aspects of her writing that are still present. Although maybe it will be difficult for Rowling to match the success or acclaim of the Harry Potter series, The Casual Vacancy is a solid release.

6

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared

Author: The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and DisappearedPages: 400Publisher: Hyperionthumbnail

With a beautiful front cover and quirky book title, The Hundred-Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared tells the impressive story of Allan Karlsson, who on the morning of his one-hundredth birthday, whilst sitting quietly in his room and waiting for the big birthday party that he did not want, Allan decides to slowly, but surely climb out of the window of his old-folks home to go on a wild adventure. His first stop is a bus station where he encounters a strange young man wearing a leather jacket with the words “Never Again” embroidered on the back, who asks Allan to please look after his suitcase while he quickly pops into the bathroom. Allan politely agrees, but while waiting for the young man, notices that a bus has arrived. Allan impulsively decides to get on the bus without waiting for the young man, and takes the suitcase with him. Once the young man realises what had just occurred, he was understandably not very pleased and furiously goes on the chase of the foolish old man. And so begins the latest unlikely adventure of Allan Karlsson, involving hardcore criminals, hilarious characters and incompetent police.

After all, you’re never too old to have an adventure.

As this adventure unfolds, you learn about Allan’s remarkable life and how he was involved in the creation of the atom bomb, became friends with various communist leaders, the president of the United States and was a key figure in some of the most important events of the 20th century.
The Hundred-Year Old Man Who Climed Out Of The Window And Disappeared is a quirky, hilarious and original story which makes for a light read. A must-read.

5

Narcopolis

Author: Jeet ThayilPages: 304Publisher: Penguinthumbnail

In Old Bombay, opium dens are plentiful and the streets are violent. Stray dogs travel in packs, the opium smokers mutter in the darkness, lost in their own delusions, and prostitutes lure customers behind bars. In the dark underbelly of the city, bodies are appearing – those of the low, the poor, the unknown and the uncared for. Narcopolis tackles the hallucinogenic world of 1970s Bombay in a rich and powerful way. Author Thayil achieves something truly brilliant as he stitches together a vast tapestry of small narratives with the main voices being those of an opium addict, a prostitute, and a troubled artist/poet. The style is beautiful and lyrical and Thayil captures the atmosphere of Old Bombay with effective language that becomes as addictive as the opium. Sensory imagery overloads this wonderfully original story and evokes the almost forgotten world of Victorian London.

4

The Long Earth

Author: Terry Pratchett, Stephen Baxter Pages: 352Publisher: Harperthumbnail

Terry Pratchett?  Time travel? New book?  Yes please.   Although the legendary fantasy writer’s health may be failing, it is absolutely laudable that even while afflicted with Alzheimer’s, he is still producing quality literature for his loyal fanbase to treasure.  In this case, he has teamed up with Stephen Baxter to produce an intriguing and unpredictable sci-fi release in The Long Earth.  For anyone with an imagination, who doesn’t require realism or traditional themes in order to be able to project oneself wholly into a novel, I cannot recommend this enough.  There are hundreds and hundreds of parallel Earths, ones wherein the dinosaurs have survived, where chance events either occur or fail to occur, such that something is always different.  There are as many infinite possibilities as there are chance events; the laws of physics remain the same, but anything that could possibly have happened, there is an earth to represent it.  Devices called ‘steppers’ allow travellers to transition from possible Earth to possible Earth, and there are even some people who are natural steppers, whether they realize it or not.  This is a mind-blowing work, enjoyable both in its executed manifestation, and in its ability to provoke the wonderment in the reader.

3

Umbrella

Author: Will SelfPages: 448Publisher: Grove Pressthumbnail

Psychiatrist Zack Busner has recently arrived at Ferin House, a huge Victorian mental asylum situated in North London. He is trying to keep his head down when he meets Audrey Dearth, a working class woman who was born just before the 20th century and has spent the majority of her life in Ferin House.  During her time as a munitions worker, she developed encephalitis lethargica, a sleeping sickness that has since left her in a coma.  Busner becomes obsessed with Dearth, and cases like hers, and in trying to re-awaken her, he becomes the catalyst for a series of stark and unforeseen consequences.  Will Self has produced a daring, bold and incredibly exciting to read novel. He writes in an experimental, new-age style, featuring sudden temporal and perspective shifts, which might make Umbrella a challenging read for some.  However, with some persistence, this novel constitutes a deep and moving read, and the masterfully excavates the inner self of all of his characters. A fantastic novel!

2

Bring Up The Bodies

Author: Hilary MantelPages: 432Publisher: Picadorthumbnail

At number two is the historical novel by Hilary Mantel, Bring Up The Bodies. This novel follows Anne Boleyn at a time when Henry’s obsession with her is dwindling, and with Katherine of Aragon’s death, her popularity with the English people is likewise waning. The author captures Tudor England vividly in this incredible novel that follows the events leading up to Boleyn’s trial and subsequent death. Captivating the drama and intrigue of Henry VIII, Mantel highlights the importance of Thomas Cromwell in the Anne Boleyn saga.  The plot is compelling and the style is refreshing as Mantel allows each of the characters to develop beyond their historical backdrop.  The author manages to achieve the seemingly impossible and represents the characters of English history in an original and engaging way.

1

NW

Author: Zadie SmithPages: 416Publisher: Penguinthumbnail

Zadie Smith really does achieve something incredible with her spectacular release NW, which follows numerous narratives of people living in a corner of a city, whose lives coalesce in an evocative depiction of city life.  The story begins with a woman Leah being visited by old acquaintance Shar, who appears asking for money. This unexpected event becomes the catalyst for events and hauntings of estate life in North London. This novel is a modernist masterpiece and Smith carefully brings together the chaotic inner workings of her characters with the chaotic city world they find themselves entrapped in. Smith is a brilliant writer and NW is an excellent work of fiction that captures modern life in an exciting and dramatic way.  The author’s strengths lie in her ability to balance inner and outer conflict between characters and the world around them.  An intertwining of excellent plot structures and endearing character developments makes this, without a doubt, the book of 2012.

 

We hope you’re mostly satisfied with our choices for the best books of 2012, and that you leave a comment below telling us exactly what we got wrong, and exactly what we got right.  2012 was an outstanding year for literary releases, with plenty of debuts, series continuations and sprinkled with landmark contributions from some of the best authors around.  Here’s to hoping that 2013 is an even better year.

Happy reading!

About the author

Patrick Nash

Patrick Nash

is a 24 year old postgraduate linguist and rhetor. A man of the Commonwealth, he enjoys football, croquet, death metal, Ancient Greek, and complementary infinitives.