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Iain Banks' 'Stonemouth'

Horns by Joe Hill. Dark, dirty, brilliant.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Tight, fresh, unexpected, and beautifully written. The ending seems to divide readers, but I loved it - and so did my non-fiction-reading husband.

Hemingway's Boat by Paul Hendrickson is an absolutely stunning book, i thought - a retelling of all the old twoddle about EH's life, but through a completely different lens, and with tons of wonderful tangential social history too about Long Island boatyards and aspiring young writers who got old never having published anything. superb book for any dads Ha ha

When She Woke by Hilary Jordan (I am still feeling big LOVE for this book)

Satantango by Laszlo Krasznahorkai... because it exists, and because it finally exists in English (props to George Szirtes).

And The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus for the same reason, apart from not being translated by George Szirtes, because it's already in English.

I think the book I most enjoyed this year was Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.

Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple

I'll second Gone Girl. The Twelve by Justin Cronin was a worthy follow up to The Passage, especially the first half. Broken Harbour by Tana French was a wonderful thriller, Liz Jensen's The Uninvited, and like most people I fell in love with Wonder by RJ Palacio. Katherine Boo's Behind the Beautiful Forevers was such a good non-fic too.

Another vote for Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Also Broken Harbour by Tana French for amazing atmospher, Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann for brilliantly clever structure, The Good Father by Noah Hawley, The Light Between Oceans by M L Stedman.

S May's Life! Death! Prizes! Funny and touching, also sweetly bleak. Also, I'd like Jake Arnott's House of Rumour, but we do share agents (and it needs a bloody good edit)

Two favourites from me:

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. Two girls in WW2 - a pilot and a member of SOE. A stunning achievement - I was bereft when I finished it.

The Knot by Mark Watson. Didn't expect to like it - absolutely LOVED it. Just brilliant.

I loved Hawthorn & Child by Keith Ridgway!

I'd also recommend Gwendoline Riley's novel Opposed Positions. An unsettling and merciless examination of the people we are supposed to love.

And I'm going to second Andrea's vote for Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. It's great fun.

The Wicked Girls. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wicked-Girls-Alex-Marwood/dp/0751547980

One summer day, three little girls meet for the first time. By the end of the day, two will be charged with murder.

Absolutely one of the best books I've read this year.

Life, Death and Vanilla Slices http://www.amazon.co.uk/Death-Vanilla-Slices-Jenny-Eclair/dp/1847444938/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1354358058&sr=1-1

Black humour, sharp observations, terrific plot. Can't recommend highly enough.

No surprises here: Where'd You Go, Bernadette, which had me howling from the blackberry bush incident onwards. And also Kerry Hudson's Tony Hogan Bought Me An Ice Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma. This book tripped me up with how much I loved it. It's the painful, mesmerising details & Janey Ryan's voice that have you gripped even when you want to stop.

Tell The Wolves I'm Home, Seating Arrangement, Flight Behaviour are three I loved and am still thinking about.

Oh! And in a year when I've read hundreds of short stories, DW Wilson's Once I Break A Knuckle still astonishes me. Vulnerable men and unknowable nature. It's amazing.

I liked Tuesday's Gone by Nicci French. Good, gripping psychological crime thrillers are rare.

Osama by Lavie Tidhar. A strange slipstream novel which captures the tone of a really grizzled noir novel and then takes it to very strange and dark places.

Hats off to Geoff Dyer for deliberately appealing to as few people as possible. In Zona, he has described, pretty much scene-by-scene, an obscure Russian sci-fi film from the seventies interspersed with autobiographical footnotes. Nobody will pick it up, fewer will buy it, fewer still will read it but those who do will agree, by the end, that Tarkovski's Stalker is the greatest film ever made.

Yet another vote for Gone Girl. A beautifully written, audacious and twisted peek into the dark heart of marriage. Best non-fiction for me was Moranthology; a collection of Caitlin Moran's Times columns. By turns hilarious, furious and hugely moving, proof if it was needed that Moran is consistently the best columnist we have.

I'm joining the Gone Girl chorus. Narrative gymnastics and an astonishingly powerful voice from both lead characters. But I can't ignore Megan Abbott's Dare Me - dark, stylish and brilliant, like all her work. (And if it wasn't for your same publisher ban, I'd be raving about Stav Sherez's A Dark Redemption, too!)

The Twelve by Justin Cronin was even better than The Passage - a huge, Stand-like blockbuster that had me sitting up through the night. Favourite crime novel was A Dark Redemption by Stav Sherez because it has everything you could want from a thriller and is even better-written than his tweets. And I would choose James Smythe's The Testimony but we share an agent and publisher so am not allowed.

Yet another vote for Gone Girl, which I had to read in one sitting. I also loved Tell The Wolves I'm Home, Tigers in Red Weather and The White Lie by Andrea Gillies.

Three stand-outs in my 2012 reading, two in fiction and one non-fiction:
Alex Marwood – The Wicked Girls
Incredible tension and reflecting issues we are not comfortable with in society today: rehabilitation and media manipulation.
Stav Sherez – A Dark Redemption
Outstanding and a fresh eye is cast over London, from an immigrant’s POV.
Books to Die For – John Connolly and Declan Burke (editors)
An essential text for the crime aficionado to luxuriate in. Kept me reading to 3am too!

Slaughter's Hound by Declan Burke (no relation). A suitably twisted, darkly humorous noir novel with a uniquely Irish twist. Crime novel of the year and a great read

Best overall read - 'Any Human Heart' by William Boyd. Best new book - 'Pig Iron' by Benjamin Myers. Both wonderful and brilliant and both are books I look forward to re-reading.

In this order:

Pig Iron - Benjamin Myers
99 Reasons Why - Caroline Smailes
The Tattooist - Louise Black

I loved 'Codename Verity' by Elizabeth Wein and am buying copies for Christmas presents. Other YA books that I enjoyed: 'Second Chance Summer' by Megan Matson and 'Torn' by Cat Clarke.

I have read so many great books this year, so hard to narrow them down (and I usually refuse to do this sort of thing until 31st December but as Scott asked so nicely...).

Novel: The Testimony by James Smythe - clever use of multiple narratives to explore differing beliefs when the world hears a voice in the sky.

Short stories: Diving Belles by Lucy Wood - beautiful and enchanting stories combining Cornish mythology and every day life.

Non fiction: The Violinist's Thumb by Sam Kean - fascinating and immensibly readable history of DNA.

Young adult: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry - what sounds like yet another girl meets bad boy story turns out to be raw and realistic story-telling tackling mental illness and custody issues with the overriding desire to be normal.

Please correct "immensibly" to immensely if you're going to quote that. Brain fail!

The Light Between Oceans by M L Stedman. Emotionally draining but so, so good. Loved it so much that it's going to be the Portsmouth City Read in 2013, with free copies across the city!

Also, Wildwood by Colin Meloy. Big fan of The Decemberists do was bound to like this, but was really satisfying to read a book for young people that didn't talk down to them.

For me, The Good Father by Noah Hawley deserves mention. From the first line – ‘He bought the gun in Long Beach’ – I was hooked into the story of a father’s quest to save his son. Emotional and compelling, it stayed with me long after I’d finished. (A book I wouldn’t have read had it not been for a recommendation whilst browsing in Goldsboro Books.)

Gifted by anonymous.


The story behind the 10 anonymous book sculptures which appeared in various Edinburgh arts institutions over a period of a year. £8.99 at Amazon, £10 elsewhere, and a present you could give to almost anyone.

In no particular order, my favourite new reads of 2012 were:

Everything’s Fine by Socrates Adams.

Captivity by Lander Hawes.

Weirdo by Cathi Unsworth.

Jubilee Hitchhiker (a biography Of Richard Brautigan) by
William Hjortsberg.

Dirt by David Vann.

The White Goddess: An Encounter by Simon Gough.

Nod by Adrian Barnes.

Skagboys by Irvine Welsh.

Grow Up by Ben Brooks.

The Adult by Joe Stretch.

Swimming Home by Deborah Levy.

Copendium by Julian Cope.

Burning Bright by Ron Rash.

My favorite 2012 book was Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter. A young man in the 1960s tries to attract tourists to his family's small resort in a sleepy Italian town. One day, the outside world arrives in the form of an actress from Hollywood. The novel travels from past to future amd back, tracing the ripples this chance meeting have made. Beautiful writing, masterful construction. Loved it.

I’m going to select a self-published book: Wool by Hugh Howey. This may not be the best book of 2012, but it’s one of the better self-published novels I’ve ever read. It’s a post-apocalyptic novel, where people are forced to live underground in a gigantic silo. It’s my choice, not for the sci-fi aspects—because the feasibility (in my mind) of some of it is questionable—but because of the writing and the characters. (It was picked up by the director, Ridley Scott, to be made in either a TV series or a movie. I hope it’s a hit.)

As an aside, (and maybe going against the point of this post, so I apologize in advance), I see a few people selected Tell the Wolves I’m Home. I just finished this book and, while I think it was well done and worth reading, I had a problem with some of the characters. Interesting how readers can have such a different reaction to the same book.

To end on a “best of” note: I just finished Black Bread White Beer by Nivan Govinden last night, and I am still thinking about it this morning.

Artful by Ali Smith and Swimming Home by Deborah Levy - two beautifully written and strikingly unusual books, that I wanted to start again as soon as I'd finished.

I loved The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and The Testimony by James Smythe. Two very different books but with such original construction, ideas and stunning execution. I also loved John O'Farrell's The Man Who Forgot His Wife - great characterisation and a surprisingly touching storyline.

I really enjoyed Forge of Darkness by Steven Erikson, the first volume in his new Malazan trilogy, and totally fell in love with Madeline Miller's The Song of Achilles. Both Chinaman by Shehan Karunatilaka and The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng deserve mentions for being beautifully written too.

The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot by Robert Macfarlane. A series of sketches of his walks from Cambridge along the various "old ways" of this country, evoking the peoples, times and places, the stories and the songs, the poems and the poets. Beautifully written by this most thoughtful of men, I haven't read anything finer this year.

Winter Journal by Paul Auster. It's a really good read. It caused me reflect on my life and made me think about the many things that have happened during my lifetime. It's an excellent and very well written book, which I would thoroughly recommend. Auster once wrote that the purpose of a book is to entertain. It certainly does that.

This "no logrolling" rule of yours is tough, Scott. I'll try. Suzanne Treister's "Hexen 2.0" is a beautiful and sinister art project - a tarot deck remastered for the internet age - released as a book by Black Dog. It absolutely blew me away. Jonathan Meades' "Museum Without Walls" is erudite and hugely entertaining. Verso had a good year: David Harvey's "Rebel Cities" and Daniel Trilling's "Bloody Nasty People" were both fascinating and troubling. I also enjoyed John Jeremiah Sullivan's "Pulphead" but for me Mark Dery's "I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts" was stranger and more satisfying. William Gibson's "Distrust That Particular Flavour" was another great collection in a very good year for essays.

Gone Girl definitely deserves a place as one of the best I've read this year - it's clever, different, sharp and insightful - but actually, I wouldn't say I enjoyed it. Where'd You Go Bernadette is excellent in all ways. But my favourite discovery this year is Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson, found in a charity shop - I had no idea what to expect, and was astonished on almost literally every page.

Without a shadow of doubt, my book of the year has been the wonderful Me Before You by JoJo Moyes. A beautiful love story that had me at hello.

Pulphead by John Jeremiah Sullivan is the best non-fiction I've read in a long time. Then, May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes and Hawthorn and Child by Keith Ridgway are both fantastic books, but Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner deserves the highest praise, I think.

My fav read of this year has been Pig Iron by Ben Myers. Just stunning. I also really enjoyed the stories translated from German collected in Crime & Guilt by Ferdinand von Schirach. The graphic novel Habibi by Craig Thompson completely held my attention at the beginning of the year - beautiful artwork. Other special mentions to Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller and Life! Death! Prizes! by Stephen May.

Novels: What's Left of Me by Kat Zhang. The Age of Miracles - Karen Thompson Walker.

Poetry: little armoured by Rebecca Perry.

Short Stories: Sweet Home by Carys Bray.

Seconding Amro's vote for Robert Macfarlane's The Old Ways, a book best enjoyed over several months, my goodness it's beautiful. (As is he. Although, we're readers, we'e not meant to care about that sort of thing *coughs awkwardly*).

No one has yet mentioned Billy Lynn's Long Half-Time Walk, which I did not expect to like, mainly because I never really properly warmed to Catch-22 and that book is ALL OVER the cover. But by about 2 pages in, I was totally hooked. Yes, there is a bit of wish-fulfilment ending. Yes, there is a hot cheerleader. And Beyoncé (briefly). Yes, Billy seems more articulate than his background and education might lead you to expect. But as a snapshot of the insanity of domestic reactions to war in the States, it's unbeatable. Best enjoyed before watching 4 episodes of Homeland back-to-back.

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