Rebecca’s favourite books of 2012

Inspired by other entries on the blog I’ve done my own list.  It’s a strange mix of nature writing and fiction.  

The Wild PlacesMountains of the Mind and The Old Ways by Robert Macfarlane

For me 2012 has to be dedicated to the author Robert Macfarlane.  I find his writing beautiful and his interest in landscape, place and people contagious.   The Wild Places charts his hunt for the remaining wildness in our small island and his realisation of “the undiscovered country of the nearby.” Mountains of the Mind I started with some trepidation because I’m a Fenlander with no interest in the vertical, however, this book is another treasure.  Its chapter on Mallory is incredibly moving.  In The Old Ways he follows old pathways discovering how people have and do interact with landscape.

We need to talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver

The story of a high school killer narrated by his own mother in letters to her husband.  You know from the start that this story will not end well.  Eva Katchadourian’s story, a one-sided tale of nature vs nurture, is compelling.  I was firmly on Eva’s side: Kevin is evil from conception but read it and see what you think.

The Rings of Saturn by W G Sebald

Sebald’s narrator, easy to think of as Sebald himself, has a depressive tone that is surprisingly enjoyable.  As he walks through the county of Suffolk he tells stories of the land or of far off places somehow connected to it.  Is it truth or fantasy?  It doesn’t really matter because it’s sublime storytelling and that’s what counts.

The Peregrine by J A Baker

A beautifully written account of a winter following a pair of Peregrine’s over the countryside near Chelmsford.  Baker’s prose is all but poetry, with sublime descriptions of the Peregrines and the other wildlife he encounters.  By the end of the book Baker the man has almost morphed into a Peregrine himself.  It’s a slender book but one to savour.

Smiley’s People by John Le Carre

The third book in Le Carre’s Karla trilogy.  Smiley is still in pursuit of his nemesis the Russian spy-master Karla.  Will he get his man?  Well that would be telling!  Smiley is the anti Bond, quiet, retiring and cerebral but his tradecraft is second to none.  Le Carre’s writing is very spare, every word and every detail is essential.    

The Wings of the Sphinx by Andrea Camilleri

I am hooked on Camilleri’s detective Montalbano and this is just one of the eleven books I have read or listened to this year.  These books are a joy: Montalbano and his team are a great bunch of characters, there are mouth-watering descriptions of food and a detective story to intrigue you.  Each book is a mini holiday to Sicily.

The Book of Dave read by Will Self

Will Self was at first someone I found an annoyance: opinionated, overly verbose and out to provoke.  Then I started listening to more than the sound bite and I was intrigued enough to want to read his work.  However I did think an 18 hour audiobook maybe a little bit more than I could stand.  I was wrong, Will Self reading his own work is a joy.  The Book of Dave is the story of a dystopian future and how one man’s unhinged ravings begets a new religion.  I disliked most of the characters but it’s provocative and unexpectedly funny and I couldn’t stop listening.

 The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff

Former Roman officer Marcus Aquilla and his British freed ex-slave Esca Mac Cunoval undertake a perilous journey north of Hadrain’s Wall.  They are seeking the Eagle of the Ninth standard lost 17 years before when Marcus’s father legion mysteriously disappeared.  A classic adventure story but also a story of friendship and family complete with interesting details of historic Roman Britain.  

Library Manager, Swaffham Library


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