Reading List 2012


56. The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart. An exquisite re-imagining of the origins of Merlin. If you liked Bernard Cornwall’s Enemy of God trilogy, you’ll love this.

55. Waterlight by Kathleen Jamie. A stunningly beautiful  poetry collection. Will be dipping into this forever more, I think and will definitely be reading more of this lady’s work in 2013.

54. The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse. Read this on my Kindle in two sittings . An atmospheric mystery told in taut prose interspersed with quirky little line drawings. Plot a little predictable, but so well written it was a pleasure to read.

53. Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman. Mind bending fiction based on Einstein’s theories of time. Really interesting stuff that makes you think.


52. Malkin Child by Livi Michael. The story of the Pendle Witch trials told from the point of view of a child of a ‘witchy family’ captured, tried and executed. Read this in one sitting and loved the distinctive voice of the narrator. I haven’t yet read Jeanette Winterson’s, Daylight Gate, which focuses on the same subject, but I’m sure Malkin Child alternative point of view will make it a fresh read for those interested in the history of the Pendle Witches.

51. The Book of Fire by Jane Borrodale. Borrowed this debut from the library on a whim. A well researched fictional tale of a young country girl who leaves her village to find a new in London and falls in with a firework maker during the birth of fireworks. Beautifully told in rich, lyrical prose, particularly her descriptions of landscape. A real ‘find’ and will definitely be reading more Borrodale in 2013.

50. The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton. More time-slip mystery from the master storyteller who once again managed to keep me guessing right until the very end. Felt a little padded out at times and the characters in this book weren’t half as likeable as others in previous books, but still, a compelling read, expertly plotted.


49. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. A fantastical story with a romance at its centre set in a magical circus that only opens at night. An intoxicating read that I was really sorry to finish. Totally loved it. Would make an excellent film.

48. The Lighthouse by Alison Moore. Read the hype, then read the book. Extremely sad and depressing story told in amazingly taut prose. Can’t say I liked it, but could admire the writing skill.

47. The Gift by Carol Ann Duffy. Read this for the illustrations as much as anything. A poignant short story beautifully illustrated by Rob Ryan. One to read with the kids or on your own.


46. Swimming Home by Deborah Levy. Lived up to the hype. Expertly written. Terrifying characters with a whole other story written between the lines. Remained in my mind for months. Read it!

45. The Painted Drum by Louise Erdich. My first Louise Erdich novel borrowed from the libarry told the haunting story of a drum bewitched by the American Indian Ojibwe tribe passed down from descendent to descendent to focus on three of the lives that it touched. Extremely atmospheric writing that reminded me a little of Charles Frazier. Loved it.

44. The Picture Book by Jo Baker. A generational saga stretching from 1914 through to 2005 which charts the legacy of a family in a gorgeous lyrical style. One to re-read and re-read.

43. Life Before Man by Margaret Atwood. I picked this up in an auction room for 99p. Best 99p I’ve ever spent. Life before man narrates the  aftermath of a disintegrated marriage between a ‘Type A Tracey Flick’ woman called Elizabeth and Nate, a walkover of a man. Brilliantly observed.  Another lesson in how to write.

42. The Children’s Book by AS Byatt. This had been sitting on my bookshelves for ages. Why did I wait so long to read it? A fairytale wrapped in late 19th century / early 20th century reality with true darkness at its heart.


41. The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. Well written, but I didn’t like any of the characters.

40. Snake Ropes by Jess Richards. A devastatingly beautifully written book that put me in mind of Shane Jones’ Lightboxes in its dreamy dystopian style. Whimsy at its very best.

39. The Last Summer by Judith Kinghorn. An absorbing read full of heartbreak.

38. Wild Geese: Selected Poems by Mary Oliver. Gorgeous nature inspired verse.

37. New Selected Poems 1966-1987 by Seamus Heaney. *Sigh*. A wonderful collection of poetry. ‘Bog Queen’ is one of my favourites.

36. An Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Armin. Wonderful book that I cannot believe I haven’t read before now. Now I need to go to Italy.


35. I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith. Re-read just because I love it.

34. Ragnarok by A.S. Byatt. Couldn’t get into this at all, except for the bits about the Thin Child.

33. The Silver Dark Sea by Susan Fletcher. Just out. Had to buy it. Awe inspiring, brilliant writing. Why are this woman’s books not on more bookshop shelves? Had to order this in and it’s a brand new release. Shame, shame on you booksellers. You can read a partial review of The Silver Dark Sea in my post about meeting Susan Fletcher at the Edinburgh Book Festival 2012.

32. A Life In Books by Julian Barnes. An essay in miniature book format on his love for books and an argument for the physical book and the power of reading. Reaffirming.

31. An Honourable Estate by Elizabeth Ashworth. A re-imagining of Lancashire history based on the legend of Mab’s Cross in Wigan. Read my review of this here.

30. On Writing by Stephen King. The man behind the monster(s). Interesting account of how he became a writer. Persistence and routine are key.


29. Love Poems, by Carl Ann Duffy. Wonderful stuff.

28. Witch Light by Susan Fletcher. Spellbinding! Every word this woman writes seems to be sprinkled with gold dust. Now I need to go to Glencoe and see all these places she writes about One of my favourite authors, ever! Question: Why did they change the title of this from Corrag to Witch Light? Corrag is the better title, surely. Something to do with marketing, probably.

27. The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price, Purveyor of Superior Funerals by Wendy Jones. Wonderful debut. One of my favourite reads this year. See review here.

26. A Writers Life by Annie Dillard. Sage advice.

25. The Diary of A Provincial Lady by E.M. Delafield. Made me howl with laughter all the way through. Going on the list of all time favourites.

24. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf. The woman speaks a lot of sense, only she does it in a very round about way.


23.The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley. An extremely well written book. Lots of layers and hidden meanings and a great example of how a child’s POV distorts the truth.

22. The Observations by Jane Harris. This kept me on my toes until the very end. The protagonist Bessy is a great character. I’m looking forward to reading Gillespie and I.

21. What Every Woman Should Know: Lifestyle Lessons From The 1930s by Christopher and Kirsty Hudson for The Daily Mail. A gem of a book full of great background research material including lots of pictures and historical accounts.

20. A Very Great Profession: The Woman’s Novel 1914-39 by Nicola Beauman. Research reading. Was totally absorbed in this book by the founder of one of my favourite publishers, Persephone Books. Brilliant insight into how the lives of women between the wars influenced women writers of the period.

19. The Author is Not Dead Merely Somewhere Else: Creative Writing Reconceived by Michelene Wandor. Extremely informative book charting the development of Creative Writing as a teachable subject in the UK.


18. The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Can not believe that I did not read this book earlier. Not at all what I had expected. Unputdownable. Read it. Now! Am searching out the film adpatation as I write this.

17. Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively. WOW, WOW, WOW! For how to write – see this book. Brilliantly structured. Loved the Virginia Woolf-esque chopping and changing of voice and tense as well as her economy with words. A very eloquent read.

16. Twilight Sleep by Edith Wharton. So much of the plot in this book was implied and went unsaid. I’m still not entirely sure why what happened at the end happened. Brilliant characterisation. This woman is my God.

15. Madresfield: The Real Brideshead by Jane Mulvagh. Background research reading. Some interesting stuff in this book, but had to dig for it. Didn’t like the way the chapters were carved up.

14. Girl Reading by Katie Ward. Wow. This is a literary feat. Hard going in some places but the writing is masterful and the idea of seven stories inspired by seven images of girls reading works brilliantly.  Hard to pick a favourite.


13. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. Book 3. Hope the film doesn’t disappoint. Will resume normal reading now.

12. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. Book 2. Officially went into hibernation whilst reading this series.

11. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. My sister ordered me to read this this before the film came out. Great plot. Read it one sitting and now on to Books 2 and 3.

10. Me Before You by Jo Jo Moyles. This was bought for me as a birthday present. Picked it up after reading The Book of Summers for a bit of a light read. Silly me! Not a light read at all, even though it seems to start off as one. A difficult subject   choice (euthanasia)that was cleverly plotted and well executed.

9. The Book of Summers by Emylia Hall. This was an unexpected joy to read. Beautifully written. Cried for most of it. Felt quite bereft when I’d finished it. One of the best debuts I’ve read.


8. Prospecting: From Reader Response to Literary Anthropology by Wolfgang Iser. This is an interesting book about how readers respond and interpret literary texts, but the writing is so dense and academic you need a dictionary on hand to understand much of it. If it wasn’t for the thesis I might not have attempted this, but for the sake of my MA, I’m glad I did. A few well placed quotes might make all the difference.

7. Life Below Stairs by Alison Maloney. Research reading for The Empty Mirror. Don’t know about you but I find this stuff fascinating. This books includes some great pictures and historical evidence.

6. Touch by Graham Mort. This man’s writing is sometimes so beautiful it makes me want to weep. And I don’t cry easily.

5. The Snow Child by Eyowyn Ivey. Just stunning. Beautifully bound book filled with an exquistely crafted story. Am yearning for icebergs and forests.

4. Voices ed. Sarah Dobbs. A really interesting collection of poetry short stories and life writing about Blackburn by those who know it. Read my review of this here.


3. The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht. Hard to believe that this is a debut novel. The writing is so rich and detailed, but sometimes I got a bit lost in it. One too many tangential narratives made it seem a bit sprawling at times. But it hooks you in and I loved the magical realism / mythological slant to it.

2. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. Wonderful book filled with intrigue and suspense from page one. Actually, the more I think about this one, the more I realise what a genius writer Du Maurier was.  Will definitely be revisiting this story to marvel at her literary stylings.

1. The Unseen by Katherine Webb. I love this writer’s style of writing. There’s poetry in every line. This book had an intriguing plot that kept me hooked to the end. I wonder whether she needed the time slip aspect.  Could have worked just as well without the present day narrative I think. But everyone loves a time slip don’t they? Me included.

2 thoughts on “Reading List 2012

  1. Pingback: Happy New Year! | ALEXANDRA O'TOOLE

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