Sunday, 30 December 2012

Books of the year, not published by Five Leaves

This is the third year I've posted my top ten books of the year. This has no particular link to Five Leaves as, of course, our own books are excluded but, in the welcome absence of a personal blog this site will do. Having said there is no link to Five Leaves, I doubt I'd have read so many books to do with Soviet Jewish history this year if it had not been for the Five Leaves' commemoration of Soviet Yiddish writers held in the summer. Top ten out of how many? I have, this year, read 61 books (compared to 64 last year and 61 the previous year). I'm not sure if that is a lot - back in bookselling days I would read about 100 books a year but reading, editing, re-reading, second editing, proof-reading etc Five Leaves titles takes up a lot of time out of reading for pleasure, in addition to what sometimes appears to be an unstoppable flow of magazines and newspapers coming into the house and office. I exclude short collections of poetry from the numbers as I do book length spined journals though each can take as much time as a "normal" book. But what the heck. Here's the list. They are not in order of preference and most were not published in 2012.

The Heather Blazing, fiction by Colm Toibin (Picador)
Adrian Mole - the prostrate years, fiction by Sue Townsend (Penguin)
Soviet and Kosher: Jewish popular culture in the Soviet Union 1923-1939 by Anna Shternshis (Indiana)
Heavy Sand, fiction by Anatoli Rybakov (Viking)
Bundist Counterculture in Interwar Poland by Jack Jacobs (Syracuse)
The Old Ways, travel meditations by Robert Macfarlane (Hamish Hamilton)
Moscow 1937 by Karl Schlogel (Polity)
Autonomy, the cover designs of Anarchy magazine by David Poyner (Hyphen Press)
Singing Men, short stories by Derek Gregory (Iron Press)
Jerusalem: chronicles from the Holy City, a graphic travel/politics book by Guy Delisle (Chatto)

Eight out of ten this year were by male writers, half were from independent presses. There were a few books I read that disappointed, including the most recent Ian McEwan. I don't think I read enough fiction this year but I will give an hon mensh to Anne Zaroudi, Stephen Booth and Sam Bourne for their latest crime/thriller novels and Alison Moore whose The Lighthouse was the small press success story of the year.

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