2012 in books

Hello, friends! If you celebrated Christmas yesterday, I hope you had a blissful, delicious, festive day. This year, I included brussels sprouts in the meal (using this recipe) and they were superlative – the highlight of the meal for me. Unlikely, but true.

But I’m not here to talk about cruciferous vegetables. I wanted to share my absolute favourite books of 2012 with you:


You saw this one coming, didn’t you? I’ve already blogged about Charles Dickens: A Life twice (once at the start, and again on finishing), and raved about Claire Tomalin many, many times. It was splendid. Highly, highly recommended.


May I jump on the Hilary Mantel bandwagon? And yes, isn’t it a rather crowded bandwagon? Nevertheless, my favourite two novels of 2012 were Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. Each book haunted me for weeks after reading it, and every time I casually open the book to a random page, my eye lands on a perfectly pitched, devastatingly good sentence.

Picture book

Am I the only person in the world who hadn’t heard of Jon J Muth? Nick picked out his telling of Stone Soup quite by chance, in a busy bookstore a couple of days before Christmas. It’s the Stone Soup story you already know, transposed to historical China, featuring three Zen monks. The illustrations are profoundly beautiful – this cover image I grabbed doesn’t begin to do justice to the light in the paintings – and the story is deeply, solidly rooted in a love for China and Zen Buddhism. It’s one of the few picture-books I want to gaze upon for a long, long time.

And these are my end-of-year selections. What were your favourite books of 2012?


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7 Responses to “2012 in books”

  1. Mara A. says:

    I remember reading “Stone Soup” when I was younger – it’s on my “picture books to buy” list. :)

  2. Alicia says:

    Love Stone Soup (esp. that version!)

  3. Sean B. says:

    Will have to check out the Dickens bio. It took a bit for me to get into the narrative voice of Wolf Hall, but once I made the adjustment I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m reading Bring Up the Bodies now. I agree with you about her prose. One of my favourite book-like artifacts of 2012 is Chris Ware’s Building Stories which comes in a gorgeous box and consists of 14? posters, books, broadsheets, tabloids etc that follow the lives of the residents of a particular apartment building. A very different reading experience, and Ware captures quotidian details and silences really well–not typical comic-book stuff.

  4. Ying says:

    Stone Soup is such a haunting story, isn’t it? I still remember the first time I heard it as a child. Mara, I hope you’ll consider Muth’s version when you buy it. It’s truly special. And Alicia, do you find that it appeals to a wider age range than the average picture book? There’s so much to see in Muth’s paintings.

  5. Ying says:

    Thanks for the rec, Sean! Sounds delightfully different. I’ll definitely check it out. P.S. I emailed you on Facebook.

  6. Colleen says:

    I’m still rationing Bring Up the Bodies…but think I’m going to give in this month. It’s just been too long since I read Wolf Hall. Sometimes the bandwagon is right; before reading Wolf Hall, I’m not sure I would have said that.

  7. Ying says:

    Colleen: it’s a galling admission, isn’t it? And I hope you enjoy the final last roller-coastery section of Bring Up the Bodies!

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