Happy 2013! (And a belated goodbye to 2012)

Happy 2013 everyone! I hope you had a wonderful New Year’s Eve and that 2013 may bring you everything you wish it to be.

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Looking back

As you might have noticed, I have not been active on this blog for a short while. After returning from London I caught the flu, and I spent Christmas and the days after on the couch and in bed at my parents’ home, together with the rest of the family who was also ill. Now that I can comfortably sit behind a computer screen again, I cannot resist but give you a short overview of 2012 in reading, even if only for myself.

2012 was not a great year for me during the first 8 months, during which I was unemployed. I was lucky enough to be accepted as a PhD student from September onwards. This meant an end to months of fretting (and beginning the dream job I had wanted for years!) but it also meant far less time for reading, which is something I am still getting used to. Because reading was one of the few comforts during my months of unemployment, however, I read far more than I usually do. 2012 then is the year I set a new record of books read: 160. Normally, I feel lucky to reach 100, and in the upcoming years I think I will have to settle for far less, so I am guessing that this number will be something I look at in amazement for the upcoming years (even if I know most bloggers read far more).

I, predictably, failed at most of the challenges I set myself. Which is why I am not going to bother to join any (for now, because they always tempt me!) – even if I have a few personal “ideas” that I’m hoping to stick to. But let’s not dwell on my failures and instead focus on all the wonderful books I read in 2012. Because even if the first half of the year was suck-y, my reading was not.

Favourite books of 2012

I read so many books that I absolutely loved that making a selection has proven quite difficult. Apologies if the list is a little long! Oh, and these are in no particular order. As always, I list books read in 2012, which means they need not have been published during that year.

I have talked about my discovery of fantasy books in 2012 over at The Book Smugglers, where I also talk about the books listed above.

Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness
How could I not mention this concluding book in the Chaos Walking Trilogy? A series I still think about very often, and that I want to push on everyone. Even though I think the second book in the series, The Ask and The Answer is my particular favourite, Monsters of Men was still a favourite of 2012.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
To stick with the same author, his book about a boy who learns to face his biggest fear surrounding his mother’s illness (cancer) is so incredibly powerful, warm, and reduced me to tears.

Dotter of her Father’s Eyes by Mary M. Talbot and Bryan Talbot
A high-quality graphic memoir telling both the life of Mary Talbot and Lucia, the daughter of James Joyce. This was such a great read, with lots of room for reflection on gender and life writing.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
This classic absolutely captivated me. I fell in love with Cassandra, as well as with the setting of the story. I cannot wait to reread this in a few years time (or right now!)

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Although the beginning of this novel was a little slower than my favourite reads usually are, it still captivated me. And then.. the midway twist happened and I fell head over heels in love with Verity and Maddy.

The Book of Everything by Guus Kuijer
I have gushed, and gushed, and gushed about this book. This wonderful tale of a boy who faces his abusive father, helps his mother, and learns to make friends features reflections on courage, gender patterns, and religion. I do not think I have ever enjoyed a book by a Dutch author this much.

Tea with Mr Rochester by Frances Towers
I never wrote about this short story collection published by Persephone Books, but it was a favourite of this year. It was gentle, but also very sharp. Most of the stories were small jewels in their own right. And I am not just saying that because the title features a small literary crush. No, actually, the story after which the collection is named is a very reflective one about such crushes.

Mio, my Son by Astrid Lindgren
I always say The Brothers Lionheart is my favourite Lindgren, and that is true. But Mio is a very strong contender, and might share that spot from now on. It has all the ingredients I love about Lindgren books.

Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende
My first Allende was perhaps not perfect (although parts of it definitely were), but it had such an impact that I keep returning to it in my mind.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
This book! I cannot discuss it, because it is so difficult and intelligent. I still feel as if I missed at least half its allusions, but those last pages! I was completely blown away upon finishing this book. I have yet to see the movie, however.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
So readable, so addictive. I never anticipated that a retelling of a myth could be this good. I almost did not include it in this list, because I still cannot shake the feeling that this might not hold up in the end, but I was so impressed upon reading it that I simply had to mention it.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Is there anyone left that needs converting to this book? If so: go read it, now. Or perhaps wait for autumn, as that seems the perfect setting for it. Such a wonderful tale. I cannot wait to read more by Gaiman in the upcoming year.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë
As someone mentioned on twitter when they saw I was reading this “Anne Brontë was the brave one when it comes to the Brontë sisters”. This book is brave in so many respects. I cannot yet quite wrap my head around it. No, it wasn’t a case of head-over-heels in love, as it will always be with Jane Eyre. This is more a case of awe, that this book was written, by a woman, at that time.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
I know that this is not Atwood’s favourite among bloggers, but it was the first Atwood I really, really enjoyed. The utopian setting, the overarching theme of gender and power. A great first introduction to Atwood, and one that I think I will remember for some time yet.

Honourable mentions:

–  –  –  –  –

I hope 2013 will bring us another long list of wonderful books read!

31 thoughts on “Happy 2013! (And a belated goodbye to 2012)

  1. Tanya Patrice

    Now I’m even more excited to finish The Chaos Walking trilogy! I read the first book, but have heard it only gets better. And I read A Monster Calls too – such a small but powerful book! Now you’ve got me adding even more books to my reading pile!!!

  2. Teresa

    Happy new year, Iris! You’ve listed several of my favorites (Jonathan Strange, I Capture the Castle, Fire and Hemlock, Tenant of Wildfell Hall) and so many others that I want to read.

  3. therelentlessreader

    You did read some wonderful books in 2012, and good for you for focusing on that! Here’s to an even better 2013😀

  4. Elena

    I had no idea you had started a PhD, Iris! Huge congrats, I wish you the best in 2013 and that you stay away from fretting and anxiety.

  5. Lisa Hill

    You’ve got some of my favourites there, Iris. I loved Cloud Atlas too, and you know, I’m rather glad I read it before I started my blog because there’s no way I could have discussed it either, too brilliant for words!
    Congratulations on being accepted for your PhD and the job. It must have been hard not to get discouraged, but now you are on your way. All those of us who have been enjoying your blog are thrilled for you, and quite understand that you will need to cut back a bit now that you have exciting new commitments.
    Happy new year!

  6. Simon T

    happy new year – so sorry you’ve not been well, how miserable. But what a rich reading year! Lots I love there – you remind me how good Tea With Mr. Rochester was. Maybe I’ll have a mini-project of trying to read (or re-read) more short stories in 2013.

  7. parrish lantern

    Got the Ness books on my Kindle but have yet to read, love Cloud Atlas. Best wishes for the new year, may it be shiny bright & new.

  8. Chris

    Happy new year to you as well Iris!!! I hope 2013 sees tons of your dreams coming true🙂 You deserve it. And you read quite the awesome bunch of books this year😉 I REALLY need to read Seraphina!

  9. Care

    I didn’t realize you loved Cloud Atlas that much! I am SO glad I read it and I am so VERY glad I read it with others. I have yet to find the movie. I’m hoping it goes to video quickly. I can’t wait.

    1. Iris Post author

      You know, for parts of the book I did not love it that much. But the last pages changed my whole perspective. I , of course, waited too long to write down my thoughts which makes me feel I should reread those last pages to make sense of that feeling again. I have yet to see the movie too. I find I don’t really like the voice over in the trailer, and I’m not sure if I want to see it for that reason.

  10. afictionhabit

    Wow, 160 books, that is phenomenal! There was (inevitably) some cross over between what you read and what I managed. Song of Achilles, I Capture the Castle and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Good luck with your studies and reading in 2013!

  11. Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness)

    This is a great list. I have had Code Name Verity on my radar all year, but I want to wait and read it until some of the “OMG amazing!” dies down so I have fewer expectations. But it’s on the list. A very belated congrats on being accepted into a PhD program, if I haven’t said that before. I was in grad school my first two years of blogging, so I know it’s possible to do both — the biggest thing is to set limits for yourself and give yourself a break when you need it🙂

  12. Jenny

    Happy happy New Year! I didn’t know that Handmaid’s Tale was in disfavor among bloggers — it’s the only Atwood book I’ve ever been able to (gosh this is embarrassing and needs to change) get all the way through.

  13. alitareads

    I still need to read A Monster Calls. I know it will be wonderful, but ugh the sads. And speaking of sads, I love that Code Name Verity has popped up on nearly every top of 2012 list I’ve seen. It’s so very very wonderful.

    Happy new year!!

  14. Pingback: Bookish links for Saturday, January 5, 2013 | BOOKS AND MOVIES

  15. Alex

    Tea with Mr. Rochester was also one of my favorites of the year and I’m surprised its name doesn’t pop up more often. I’m with you on Anne Bronte – she was the brave one and although Jane Eyre is special and more easily lovable, The Tenant really pushed some Victorian limits.

  16. Lu

    Happy New Year, Iris! I’m glad that things really started to improve for you toward the end of 2012 and here’s to an even more amazing 2013! I think my personal goal for 2013 should be to read a book by Diana Wynne Jones.


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