Top Reads 2012

A near impossible task. I read so many fabulous books this year and hate to choose, however there was one outstanding read for me, that pushed all my buttons in terms of use of language, enticing me into the story, reading in wonderment at the writer’s ability to exceed my greatest reading desires.

Outstanding Read of the Year

123112_1428_TopReads2011.jpgThat book was Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child and coincidentally, just today our Scottish friend over at TheOnlyWayIsReading wrote a magnificent review, especially poignant for male readers. Inspired by a Russian fairytale of an older childless couple who cut family ties and move to the Alaska wilderness, it is a journey of navigating the internal elements and external forces in life, where love, hope and the imagination are equally necessary for survival as the more practical resources.

Top Fiction

010212_1323_CuttingforS1.jpgThe year started on a high note and I’ll never forget New Year’s Day 2012 gripped by the powerful and realistic storytelling of Abraham Verghese, in his epic Cutting for Stone, absolutely brilliant.

123112_1428_TopReads2013.jpgEden’s Garden is a wonderfully inspired novel set in Cornwall and Wales, following the lives of two women a decade apart, Carys returns to her hometown in Wales to take care of her mother and becomes drawn towards the garden and statues of Plas Eden and a man from her past, while Ann in Victorian London, is at a turning point in her life, destitute, far from her aristocratic past.

123112_1428_TopReads2014.jpgProdigal Summer was a fantastic and hot summer read, I can’t believe this book sat on my shelf for years and circumnavigated the globe with me before I finally turned its pages.

In the Shadow of the Banyan, is a fictionalised account of a period in the life of Vaddey Ratner, difficult childhood years in Cambodia under a tyrannical regime, losing members of her family, she recalls them in this heart-breaking but uplifting story which pays tribute to those who never made it and shows tremendous compassion in doing so.

Rebecca was my classic treat of the year, thanks to Joanne at The Book Jotter who sent me a copy as part of World Book Night, this has to be the most compelling, page turning classic I have read and I look forward to following it up with watching the Hitchcock film sometime soon.

Top Non-Fiction

Red Dust Road crossed my path after reading a captivating interview about the poet Jackie Kay in The Guardian, inspiring me to read this memoir about the discovery of her birth parents, who could not have been more different from the liberal, Scottish open-hearted parents she was raised by. A fabulous story, so eloquently shared and a joy to learn that it has made the World Book Night list for the UK in 2013.

The Black CountThe Black Count was a surprise read, as I prefer historical accounts fictionalised, they tend to be more compelling and the learning aspect easier to remember than non-fiction accounts, however Tom Reiss keeps the reader interested and has written an excellent account of the revolutionary hero, General Alex Dumas – the son of a San Domingan(Haitian) slave and French nobleman. Sold into slavery himself by his father, he eventually makes it to France and rises to become a General in the French revolution, a contemporary of Bonaparte (though no friend of his), his story inspiring his son to write countless novels, including The Count of Monte Cristo.

123112_1428_TopReads2019.jpgWhen Women Were Birds – Fifty Four Variations on Voice was my introduction to the work of Terry Tempest Williams, recommended by Cassie (whose review was so great, it prompted a response by the author), and gifted to me by my best book buddy and very dear friend CKC. The author is 54, the age her mother was when she passed away and left her daughter her journals. In this book, Tempest writes 54 short vignettes, trying to understand the enigma of that maternal gesture.

123112_1428_TopReads20110.jpgIf This Is A Man: A Truce – it seems appropriate to finish with this book, recommended by our Scottish friend who has just finished The Snow Child, he wrote a moving review, that left me with no other choice than to get hold of this book and read this all important humane work by Primo Levi, writing of that inhumane experience, a concentration camp and leaving us with much to think about.

There were so many memorable others, La Petite Fille de Monsieur Linh, my first read of an adult book in French; Murakami’s trilogy 1Q84, the Titanic anniversary books, my late discovery of the joys of John Steinbeck and Ray Bradbury, the tribute to Edith Wharton’s 150th anniversary with Ethan Frome and Summer, a couple more from firm favourites Susan Hill and Irène Némirovsky.

And for you? What books stood out for you in


53 thoughts on “Top Reads 2012

  1. Also loved In The Shade of the Banyan and Prodigal Summer. All the best for a happy, healthy, safe and peaceful New Year. It’s been great chatting with you. Looking forward to more of the same.


    • Thanks Fransi, I wish you all the nest too for 2013 and completing your challenge, I am much in admiration of it and will continue to follow and contribute 🙂 Hope you find a recommendation from the list that suits you too.


  2. I have just finished The Snow Child and was captivated and utterly bewitched by it. So my choice too!! Big xxxx

    Sent from my iPhone


  3. Your reviews have put me on to so many great books this year so thank you. I absolutely loved The Snow Child so I’m glad I could return the favour of putting you on to Primo Levi. I loved your books of the year post – I will look forward to more of your blog in 2013. Happy New Year!


    • Likewise, so glad you are back and sharing those memorable reading moments on the tube and elsewhere and practising your wonderful talent for writing – did we not make it clear how much we appreciate your views and thoughts previously, please do continue!!


  4. What a great list and thank you for reminding me about Eden’s Garden which had disappeared off my wish list for some reason. I really want to read The Snow Child and heard part of The Black Count on Radio 4, it sounded fascinating. I too loved The Prodigal Summer, it was one of those wonderful chance books which you pick up not knowing anything about it and find yourself completely rivetted.


    • Eden’s Garden was fabulous and you absolutely must read The Snow Child, I am sure you will love it. My Uncle mentioned hearing that reading on Radio 4 too and it reminded me of a wonderful podcast interview I heard with the author, the story of how he uncovered the research, as intriguing as the story itself!

      Totally know what you mean regarding Prodigal Summer couldn’t believe I’d been carrying that around without realising the gems that lay within.


  5. In the Shadow of the Banyon was one of my very most favorite reads of the year! Opened up new worlds, new understanding, and was written in the most beautiful lyrical language ever. A true delight!


  6. Great list, Claire! Thanks for doing this – I trust your judgment, and am eager to put more additions on my “to-read” list. (That list is getting AWFULLY long… Don’t think I’ll really get to catch up on until I go back out to sea!)

    A couple of my favorites from this year… The Chronology of Water (Lidia Yuknavitch), Wild (Strayed), and fathermothergod (Lucia Greenhouse). Some older gems that I was late to discover: Ordinary Wolves (Seth Kantner), and Oryx & Crake (Margaret Atwood).

    BTW, thanks for being such a great resource on the quotes! Best New Year’s wishes to you and yours.


    • Thanks for stopping by Tele, I thought Wild was wonderful too and I admire your list, the older gems are exactly that, will add them to my ever growing list as well. I’m looking forward to uncovering a few more less shiny gems this year. Happy New Year to you and all the best for what it brings to you.


  7. A lovely list. I’ve only read and loved The Snow Child (+Rebecca many moons ago). Glad to hear that In the Shadow of the Banyan is good too as I have that one in my TBR.


    • I hope you enjoy it, it is a wonderful book and written with such compassion and wisdom, I love that the author has lifted her own tragic experience out of the realm of drama and created a work of artistic beauty which I am sure will endure. Tragic yes, but refreshing to read.


  8. I don’ know if I could craft such an inspiring list of books. I’ve only read Rebecca – love this one, and Juliet’s book, which I enjoyed a great deal. You have my interest piqued with the Prodigal Summer. The closest I have to a favorite author, Susan Isaacs, has a new book out, which is where my nose is going to be the rest of the day. Wish you a wonderful new year, Claire.


    • I don’t know Susan Isaacs but I love her quote below found on Goodreads Brenda, I hope it was a good read. I think you might enjoy Prodigal Summer and do read The Snow Child if you get the chance, read it as a writer if for no other reason, it has it all.

      “Keep in mind that the only person to write for is yourself.Tell the story you most desperately want to read.”


  9. I love it at this time of year when everyone is rounding up their reading experiences. It creates my list for the year to come. I loved ‘Prodigal Summer’ and you’ve reminded me that I have Kingsolver’s new book on my shelves waiting for me to pick it up. I might just wander upstairs right now.


    • Me too, I’m putting together a good list from this roundup of the year, especially some of the titles I already have on my shelf, lying unread, will make those a priority for sure. Will be interested to learn how you like the latest Kingsolver, I loved The Lacuna, hearing mixed reviews of Flight Behaviour, on account of the strong environmental messages.


  10. I love your book blog and I am particularly delighted to read your top recommendations for the year. Delighted to see you enjoyed Eden’s Garden as much as I did. Juliet is such a lovely, lovely writer and person, very encouraging to wannabes like myself! Also pleased to see we share quite a few favs for the year xxx


  11. Ooh, I love your new blog layout! It looks like you have read some great books this year, I plan on reading a few of your picks next year. It’s really hard for me to pick which was my favourite read this year but one that stood out for me was Alan Lightman’s Einstein’s Dreams.

    All the best to you in 2013! Thanks so much for encouraging me to start writing:) Lots of love xx


    • Thanks for the tip and the compliment on the blog makeover, I just love seeing your reads pop up on Goodreads and am in awe of how much you manage to get through. So glad you are sharing in the blogosphere as well and connecting with like-minded souls out there.

      All that reading, it was the natural next step to share it with your own words and now you can watch them develop and improve, while being enjoyed by us all.

      All the best to you too Rowena for 2013, look forward to reading you encore!


  12. The Snow Child came up top almost on everyone’s list. I have it at home now so I’ll read it soon. Looks like a great year. Here’s for another wonderful year in 2013!


    • It might not have won the prizes, but certainly has been the reader’s choice, I am sure you are going to enjoy it, always good to have one on the shelf that is a guaranteed great read. I am in awe not just of the story, but of her ability to write and can’t wait to see what she comes up with next. Enjoy and all the best for 2013!


  13. Your 2012 reading was FAB! I’m definitely putting Rebecca, Cutting for Stone, and Black Count on my 2013 reading list. Cutting for Stone should be coming at the end of the month. I’m reading it in my book club. Happy New Year! 🙂


      • No the size never puts me off. I just try to pick good reads and I’ve heard nothing but good about it. I was invited to join a challenge called the Big Book challenge of 2013 where you have to read books that are over 400 pages. I committed to 5 big books although I hope to read a few more. You should come over and join.


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    • It’s a wonderful tribute to her mother, without sentimentality and a great book to dip in and out of, each vignette equally able to stand on its own as well as making up a wonderful book. I hope you enjoy it, it really was quite unlike anything else I read in 2012. I was very fortunate to have been given a beautiful hardcover copy by my very good book loving friend.


  16. Thank you, Claire! I’m honoured that Eden’s Garden made it to your top reads of 2012. That was an inspirational way to begin 2013 – I’m now all fired up to get the next book done. Plus read my way through the rest of your top reads!


    • So pleased to hear you are inspired and motivated to get that next book finished. I know what a hard slog Eden’s Garden was for you, but what fulfillment for you to complete it and what joy for us who’ve been on the journey of reading it. I am sure you have learned much and this next one will get there soon.


  17. Claire,

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. I will keep your recommendation of The Snow Child in mind. I read a review on Amazon and found it interesting. However, I have a decided to do a reading resolution for 2013. I will try to follow a reading plan and see if I can stick to it for the entire year. Wish me luck! LOL!!

    Here’s the reading resolution:



    • Thanks for so many great suggestions. This year I loved ‘The Colour’ by Rose Tremain, an engrossing story of a young English couple going to NZ in 1864 to prospect for gold; actually I love all her books! Also enjoyed ‘Brooklyn’ by Colm Toibin. My favourite biography was ‘Cézanne’ by Alex Danchev, a stonkingly good read, especially for those of us who love Aix.


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