2012 was the first year in which I challenged myself with the Goodreads reading challenge. Helped along by my brand new Kindle (bought in post-Christmas excitement) that I took literally everywhere with me, I was able to really get down to reading again, which I hadn’t done quite so much since I’d started university (although still more than most of my fellow students, it seemed). However, I did need to read a fair amount of light books, as I couldn’t take anything too serious alongside academic research at the same time, and at least I was able to cram in eleven books over the three months I worked in the summer (it feels like a lot when you’re working 8:30-4:30 every weekday, anyway). I thought it would be good to have a sweeping look over these 34 books before it was too far through 2013.
John Green’s The Fault in our Stars: This was easily the book that affected me the most this year, and if reviews and other readers are to go by, it was emotional all-round. With Hazel and Augustus meeting whilst both dealing with cancer in some way, they travel all the way to Amsterdam in the name of meeting their favourite author and tackle so many ups and downs the reader has a hard time keeping up with the alternating tears and laughter. I am not one to cry at books, but this nearly got me after a marathon session of most of the second half of the book.
Kathryn Stockett’s The Help: This was a rare occasion in which I saw the film before I read the book, which meant that I had Emma Stone as Skeeter stuck in my head throughout, although that’s no bad thing! Another emotional story set around the racism of 1962 and Skeeter’s efforts to make the voices of the black maids heard, this is wonderfully written and leaves you grateful that so much has moved on in the last fifty years.
Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: This and the next one were both books I’d heard a lot about and decided I’d better just read them in the first few months of the year. This is an extremely clever, although at times quite disturbing, book that is better than its two sequels (although they are worth a read too). After seeing the US film, I can’t help but think that Daniel Craig embodies Blomkvist perfectly, but the book allows us, crucially, to get inside these complex characters’ heads more easily.
Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games: Considering this (along with TFIOS) is “just” defined as a young-adult book, it holds quite complex themes, with a future society forcing children to compete to the death. As above, the two sequels didn’t blow me away quite as much as the first book, although I did also give Catching Fire five stars on Goodreads and Mockingjay left me and many of my friends feeling broken and emotional… so really this one has to be read as a series to get the full effect. I read this very quickly on holiday, and couldn’t get enough of it. The film adaptation lived up to the book, but it was still an enjoyable ride.
E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey: I wasn’t going to read this, but when almost everyone you know is reading or has read it and are still talking about it, it is hard to resist its gravitational pull. I went along with it because I thought it would be funny, which it was, but what I took away from it most was its terrible, terrible writing. There are much better fanfic writers than James- maybe we should’ve heard their Twilight spin-off instead of hers. Admittedly, it was fairly easy to get into the plot, but when that keeps getting interrupted by very cringey and badly-written sex the flow is stilted somewhat.
George Grossmith’s The Diary of a Nobody: This is number 186 on the BBC’s top 200 reading list that I am slowly getting through, but it is the only one that I haven’t understood why it’s on there. A diary of suburban life in 1892, LITERALLY NOTHING HAPPENS.
McFly’s Unsaid Thing… Our Story: If you aren’t a fan of McFly you won’t and shouldn’t care about this, but it is a brilliant insight into the life of the band that we have rarely been given before, and thus was a great read.
Jon Richardson’s It’s Not Me, It’s You: A completely amusing but also serious book about Jon, his obsessiveness and his subsequent inability to find a partner or even friends to live with peacefully.
The Best of the Rest (all 3 with excellent recent adaptations!):
Sebastian Faulks’ Birdsong: Already a classic WWI story, Stephen Wraysford stole my heart when I was reading this (which was only multiplied when I saw Eddie Redmayne’s perfect interpretation of the role immediately afterwards), both in his charming early days and heartbreaking war times. The only bad thing was the annoying woman in the modern day.
Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower: Painful on the heartstrings, especially if you’re young enough to remember the feelings of being an outsider at school… however, there is more serious drama here than in most high school-set fictions.
Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin: I have little to say about this except how relevant it feels regarding everything going on in America at the moment, and how that makes this book so much more fascinating and poignant to read.