Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Top 10: Novels Read (2012)

December means time to take a look back on the previous 12 months. Being a multimedia blog these days I have more than film to consider. First up I take a look at my literary experiences, which will be followed by the end of year mixtape (technical issues not withstanding) and then some movie lists before we start logging new things again in January.

2012 was a crazy year of reading for me. After logging only 46 novels in 2011 I started by challenging myself to read 100 books this year but that quickly changed to 200, a target which I managed to reach in September and 250 became my new aim. Incredibly very few of these books were awful, I guess I just pick safely the majority of the time. From those 250 here's my ten picks for most enjoyable read of the year and for the rest of the week there will be a full review of some titles not yet reviewed here on blahblahblahgay.

Moving Toyshop Mystic Arts Grifters Game Suddenly a Knock Player One Savages Snuff True Grit Eyes Open End Everything

10. The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin (1946)

That such a quirky self referrential novel was written in 1946 astounds me. It reads like a modern day farce that Jasper Fforde or even Stephen Fry would be proud of, the quality of writing and humour is that high. There aren't many laugh out loud moments but the entire book is filled with joy that will keep a smile on your face.

9. The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death by Charlie Huston (2008)

The character of Web is so real, his voice addictive and funny and his adventure in to the world of crime scene cleanup is a highly entertaining surface for the emotional journey he takes.  

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8. Grifter's Game by Lawrence Block (1961)

A brilliant piece of noir fiction with an ending that makes Nightmare Alley feel like a unicorn ride through a flowery meadow to the end of the rainbow where the dame of your dreams is frolicking in the gold as she awaits your arrival.

7. Suddenly, A Knock On The Door by Etgar Keret (2010)

Keret is completely unlike anything else I've read. His stories are often strange and slightly fantastical, funny, dark, impressive and affecting. This is a serious work that apparently exhibits all of Keret's usual trademarks in it's study of the human condition.

6. Player One by Douglas Coupland (2010)

So oil is expensive, people go crazy, strangers lock themselves in to an airport hotel cocktail bar to survive the fallout, Douglas Coupland documents this scenario in 'real time' and helps you take a long hard look at yourself and what it is that you are doing, what we as a species are doing.

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5. Savages by Don Winslow (2010)

This is an American novel that analyses post 9/11, post Obama America in such a way as to bathe it in bright flourescent light, all it's failings and weaknesses shown as plain as day. It is a bold move for an American to write this stuff, almost constantly bashing every little detail of the 21st century American dream gone wrong.

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 4. Snuff by Terry Pratchett (2011)

This is the best and most enjoyable Discworld book in quite some time, I think perhaps you have to go back to Thud! before you come across anything quite like it in terms of completeness of vision, storytelling and literary heart, I don't think it's a coincidence that it too was a Sam Vimes book.

3. True Grit by Charles Portis (1968)
Mattie Ross is a compelling narrator, with a strong, unique voice. Her travelling companions are equally compelling and conflicted characters, two very different men who Mattie doubts over the course of the novel but all three of them demonstrate the meaning of the title of the novel in spades by the climax. The adventure is occasionally tense, quite violent at times, graphically depicted and wonderfully told. The denouement is one of the most excitingly written pieces of fiction I remember reading.

Full Blahblahblahgay review

2. He Died With His Eyes Open by Derek Raymond (1984)

A remarkable work from a very talented man, it makes you care for somebody whose name you never hear mentioned, his clear affection towards the drunken mess of a man at the centre of the mystery is evident and if you don't care for Charlie Staniland or his life you will at least care that there is somebody out there desperate to bring his killers to justice.

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1. The End of Everything by Megan Abbott (2011)

Megan Abbott is not in this game to provide catharsis, she wants to twist your insides in to knots and steal your breath away.

Full Blahblahblahgay review

All ten picks get the full 5 star rating from me as first time reads and if you're looking for interesting stories written by talented authors then I can't recommend any of them highly enough. What were your favourite novels this year? Got any recommendations for me? Has anyone read any of these already? Leave all that and more in the comments below.


  1. I plan on reading True Grit for my monthly feature. (I'm using the Coen Brothers' film as the other half for the post.)

    1. Fantastic adaptation, not tempted to look at movie vs book vs movie this time? I'm sure you'll love the book, it's virtually impossible to dislike. Full review here on Friday I think.

    2. You mean both the John Wayne film and the Coen Brothers film? It's tempting, but I'm sticking with the latter. (That adaptation I heard is more faithful to the novel.)

    3. It's certainly more watchable for a modern audience. I think the John Wayne version requires an appreciation for the western as a movie genre whereas the Coen Brothers made a movie for all.

  2. I'm completely jealous. I never have time to read. Between work, kids, the wife and my movie obsession, reading always gets the shaft. I think I read about 25 books last year. I wish I could read more. I'm putting your top ten on my list :-D

    1. 25 books is a total I think I'd be proud of if I was as busy as you. Next year I plan to read a lot less, maybe 100 instead, save my energies for my own writing and perhaps some books with more than 300 pages.

      I hope you find the time to read some of these and that my recommendations don't disappoint.