Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: My Reading Year

So, it's the 31st December and time to for me to add up all the books I've read this year (courtesy of Librarything).  The number seems to be eighty-one, which I consider to be a worthy number for someone who reads at the pace of a snail. Scrolling through the list I notice that most of what I've read is non-fiction, and  a lot of the fiction has been 'read' through audiobooks.

It was a year I made some happy discoveries: notably the work of Simon Mawer (The Glass Room, The Girl Who Fell From The Sky and Mendel's Dwarf) and T.C. Boyle (The Women, Wild Child, The Tortilla Curtain and When The Killing's Done).   Both of these authors have backlists which I am greedily anticipating.  

I also learnt a lot more about China through books on its history, literature and a couple of memoirs (Peter Hessler's River Town and Fuschia Dunlop's Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper), and started to learn about the remarkable Indus Empire of five thousand years ago (Finding Forgotten Cities by Nayanjot Lahari, The Indus Civilisation by Sir Mortimer Wheeler and The Ancient Indus by Rita P Wright).  Another period and subject that interested me was Berlin during the second world war, and apart from reading Roger Moorhouses's excellent text on the subject, Berlin at War, learnt a lot through some more engrossing memoirs, including The Past is Myself by Cristabel Bielenberg.

Apart from China, the West coast of the United States, ancient Pakistan, wartime Germany and Czechoslovakia, I also 'visited' Greece: both ancient in guides to ancient Athens and Debra Hamel's fascinating books  The Mutilation of the Herms, and Reading Herodotus, and modern in Jason Manolopoulos's  also very interesting Greece's 'Odious' Debt.  Throughout my reading I kept noticing recurring themes: the way men attain power and how they keep it, and how we are so often like sheep: keeping our heads down, concentrating on following the rest for our own piece of the pasture - and if we can, try our hardest to snatch a mouthful of that claimed by the sheep next to us.

So somehow, after setting out to read more comedy or at least light-hearted in 2012, I have ended the year reading about capitalism and how to solve crimes.  It was lucky for me then that through 'Kindle delivers' (which I signed up for after my own book was included in the deal) that  I also discovered a little ebook by Robert McCrum called On Reading: Notes on the Literary landscape, 1995-2012.  Apart from being highly entertaining on the subject of book reviewing, his recommendations in another article led me to order Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos - which looks just the sort of thing to start the new reading year.


Blogger Anne S said...

I highly recommend Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, if you're after a light frothy and amusing book. Anita Loos was quite a wonderful writer and led an interesting life. The Robert McCrum book sounds interesting, so will endeavour to download it to my Kindle, if it's available on

Happy New Year to you Clare - may 2013 be splendid for you in many different ways.

Tue Jan 01, 04:17:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Thanks Anne - a happy new year to you too! Really looking forward to the Loos book now.

Tue Jan 01, 08:34:00 am  
Blogger jem said...

Glad you've discovered Simon Mawer - I was wowed by The Glass Room (I can still picture that house!) when I read it from the Booker list a few years back and I recently read his The Gospel of Judas - which seems to have gained lots of poor reviews but I think readers were hoping for a Da Vinci Code, of which it's not. Sensitive and powerful throughout but clearly a work by a less experienced author than his later novel. I'm eeking his others out, as I do!

Wed Jan 09, 03:13:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

I recommend the other two Mawers I read - the audio of version 'The Girl that Fell From the Sky' (Trapeze in the US, I think) was the editors' choice on Audible for 2012, and I was much impressed by Mendel's Dwarf...lots and lots of layers. Writing this it strikes me how different all three books are - in subject, style and structure. I like that in a writer.

Wed Jan 09, 03:25:00 pm  

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