December 2012 books and 2012 books roundup

This is the latest post in a series I started in late 2019, anticipating the twentieth anniversary of my bookblogging which will fall in 2023. Every six-ish days, I've been revisiting a month from my recent past, noting work and family developments as well as the books I read in that month. I've found it a pleasantly cathartic process, especially in recent circumstances. If you want to look back at previous entries, they are all tagged under bookblog nostalgia.

The BBC commissioned a piece from me that I am really proud of – outside my usual area of commentary, but a topic close to my heart: the nineteenth-century Irish politician Arthur McMurrough Kavanagh, who was born without arms or legs.

At work, it was a bit quieter after the excitement of my November trip. I went to Geneva with intern MG for two days. Very sadly, a Serbian friend took his own life in dramatic circumstances. In the outside world, Patrick Moore died.

At home, after a failed effort in November, I managed to get a good picture of all three kids at the Paterskerk in Tienen for our Christmas letter:

Anne's brother R and his wife V came for New Year, and we had oysters:

Also the glorious Belgian state issued us with a tandem bike for little U, which was tried out by everyone:

I read 17 books that month.

Non-fiction: 4 (2012 total 52)
The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain, by Ronald Hutton
My Old Man: A Personal History of Music Hall, by John Major
The Bible
The Comic Strip Companion: the Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Doctor Who in Comics: 1964-1979, by Paul Scoones

Fiction (not sf): 3 (2012 total 45)
The Ten Word Game, by Jonathan Gash
Bleeding Hearts, by Ian Rankin
War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy

SF (not Who): 2 (2012 total 62)
Non-Stop, by Brian Aldiss
The Year's Best Science Fiction, 25th Annual Edition, ed. Gardner Dozois

Who: 6 (2012 total 75)

The Colony of Lies, by Colin Brake
Sanctuary, by David McIntee
The Burning, by Justin Richards
Scream of the Shalka, by Paul Cornell
Devil in the Smoke, by Justin Richards
Doctor Who Annual 2006, ed. Clayton Hickman

Comics: 2 (2012 total 21)
Ōoku: the Inner Chambers, vol 6, by Fumi Yoshinaga
Aldébaran 2: La Blonde, by Leo

~7,200 pages (2012 total 77,800)
1/17 (2012 total 65/259) by women (Yoshinaga)
1/17 (2012 total 12/259) by PoC (also Yoshinaga)

Tes best of these were the completion of my two big reading projects for 2012 – War and Peace, at a chapter a day, and The Bible. But I liked most of the books I read that month; I'm going to single out John Major's history of music hall, and the companion to Doctor Who comics, as especially noteworthy. I did not expecially enjoy the Who novel Colony of Lies, or Rankin's Bleeding Hearts, both from authors whose other work I have enjoyed.



I failed to do a 2012 books roundup at the time, so this is a reconstruction.

Total books: 259 – ninth highest of the 17 years I have been keeping track, so firmly in the middle.
Total page count: ~77,800 – seventh highest of the last 17 years, so a bit above average.

Diversity:
65 (25%) by women – higher than any previous year, lower than any subsequent year, augmented by 10 Agatha Christie novels.
12 (5%) by PoC – more than any year before 2009, less than any year since 2015.

Most books by a single author:
2012: Jonathan Gash (11), Ursula Vernon (6), Ian Rankin (5), Alison Plowden and Justin Richards (4 each); though the Ursula Vernon and Alison Plowden books could be considered as component parts of a single work in each case.

Doctor Who fiction

Novels, collections of shorter fiction, etc excluding comics
2020/ 2019/ 2018/ 2017/ 2016/ 2015/ 2014/ 2013/ 2012/ 2011/ 2010/ 2009/ 2008/ 2007/ 2006/ 2005/ 2004/
18 32 32 51 39 43 59 72 75 80 71 71 179 27 28 5 1
7% 14% 12% 21% 18% 15% 20% 30% 29% 27% 26% 21% 48% 11% 14% 3% 1%
All Who books including comics and non-fiction
2020/ 2019/ 2018/ 2017/ 2016/ 2015/ 2014/ 2013/ 2012/ 2011/ 2010/ 2009/ 2008/ 2007/ 2006/ 2005/ 2004/
25 43 42 55 42 54 68 81 76 87 78 81 180 49 32 5 1
9% 18% 16% 23% 20% 19% 23% 34% 29% 29% 28% 23% 49% 21% 15% 3% 1%

Third highest tally and pecentage ever.

Top Doctor Who book of the year:
Shada, the long awaited novelisation by Gareth Roberts from Douglas Adams' script. Shame that Roberts turned out to be a bigot. (Reviewget it here.)

Honourable mentions:
All-Consuming Fire
, by Andy Lane (reviewget it here)
Doctor Who: The Brilliant Book 2012, ed. Clayton Hickman (reviewget it here)

The one you haven't heard of:
The above-mentioned Comic Strip Companion, by Paul Scoones (reviewget it here)

The one to avoid:
Torchwood: Into the Silence, by Sarah Pinborough; disposable autistic character (reviewget it here)

Non-Whovian sff

2020/ 2019/ 2018/ 2017/ 2016/ 2015/ 2014/ 2013/ 2012/ 2011/ 2010/ 2009/ 2008/ 2007/ 2006/ 2005/ 2004/
114 77 108 68 80 130 124 65 62 78 73 78 54 75 68 79 76
43% 33% 41% 29% 38% 45% 43% 27% 24% 26% 26% 23% 15% 32% 33% 55% 51%

Second lowest tally and third lowest percentage ever.

Top SF book of the year:
Among Others, by Jo Walton – like most of the Hugo and Nebula voters, I found that the author had somehow got inside my head and shared my memories. (Reviewget it here.)

Honourable mentions:
Assassin's Apprentice, by Robin Hobb (reviewget it here)
The Testament of Jessie Lamb, by Jane Rogers (reviewget it here)

The one you haven't heard of:

Revise the World, by Brenda W. Clough (reviewget it here)

The one to avoid:
Dagger Magic, by Katherine Kurtz (reviewget it here)


Non-fiction

2020/ 2019/ 2018/ 2017/ 2016/ 2015/ 2014/ 2013/ 2012/ 2011/ 2010/ 2009/ 2008/ 2007/ 2006/ 2005/ 2004/
50 49 50 57 37 47 48 46 53 69 66 94 70 78 70 42 42
19% 21% 19% 24% 17% 16% 16% 19% 20% 23% 24% 27% 19% 33% 34% 29% 28%

Eighth highest tally of 17 years, firmly in the middle; tenth highest percentage, also fairly average.

Top non-fiction book of the year:
The Hare With Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance, by Edmund de Waal – brilliant story of heirlooms, Proust, the Holocaust and Japan. (Reviewget it here.)

Honourable mentions to:

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Written by Herself, by Harriet Ann Jacobs (reviewget it here)

A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years, by Diarmaid MacCulloch (reviewget it here)

The one you haven't heard of:

Pawns of peace: evaluation of Norwegian peace efforts in Sri Lanka, 1997-2009, from NORAD, the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (reviewget it here for free)

The one to avoid:

The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, by Emile Durkheim (reviewget it here)

Non-sfnal fiction

2020/ 2019/ 2018/ 2017/ 2016/ 2015/ 2014/ 2013/ 2012/ 2011/ 2010/ 2009/ 2008/ 2007/ 2006/ 2005/ 2004/
40 45 36 26 28 42 41 44 48 48 50 59 24 33 35 9 19
15% 19% 14% 11% 13% 14% 14% 19% 19% 16% 18% 17% 6% 14% 17% 6% 13%

Third highest tally and joint highest percentage ever.

Top non-genre fiction of the year:
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Anne Brontë – I came to it late, but much my favourite Brontë novel – seems somehow a bit more in balance than her sisters' books. (Reviewget it here.)

Honourable mentions:
The Portrait of a Lady, by Henry James (reviewget it here)
Goodnight Mister Tom, by Michelle Magorian (reviewget it here)

The one you haven't heard of:

Lust, Caution: And Other Stories, by Eileen Chang (reviewget it here)

The one to avoid:
The Vatican Rip, by Jonathan Gash (reviewget it here)


Comics

2020/ 2019/ 2018/ 2017/ 2016/ 2015/ 2014/ 2013/ 2012/ 2011/ 2010/ 2009/ 2008/ 2007/ 2006/ 2005/ 2004/
45 31 28 29 27 18 19 30 21 27 18 28 6 20 6 8 8
17% 13% 11% 12% 13% 6% 7% 13% 8% 9% 6% 8% 2% 8% 3% 6% 5%

Eigtht highest tally and eighth highest percentage, firmly in the middle.

Top comic of the year:
Digger, by Ursula Vernon, a deserving winner of the Hugo. (Reviewget it here.)

Honourable mention:
The Unwritten Vol 3: Dead Man's Knock, by Mike Carey (reviewget it here)

The one you haven't heard of:
The Countdown Annual 1972 (reviewget it here)

The one to avoid:
Bounced off vols 5 and 6 of Ōoku: the Inner Chambers, by Fumi Yoshinaga (review v5, review v6get v5 here, get v6 here)


Making up the numbers: Walt Whitman and Sophocles.

My Book of the Year

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Anne Brontë: Helen is an early feminist heroine, rushing into what rapidly turns out to be an unsuitable marriage and then making the tough choices facing any woman attempting to navigate their own course in a small-minded, small-town society. It's interesting that New England is her preferred haven of liberty. I was captivated by it.

Other Books of the Year:

2003 (2 months): The Separation, by Christopher Priest.
2004: The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien (reread).
– Best new read: Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self, by Claire Tomalin
2005: The Island at the Centre of the World, by Russell Shorto
2006: Lost Lives: The stories of the men, women and children who died as a result of the Northern Ireland troubles, by David McKittrick, Seamus Kelters, Brian Feeney, Chris Thornton and David McVea
2007: Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel
2008: The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition, by Anne Frank (reread)
– Best new read: Vanity Fair: A Novel without a Hero, by William Makepeace Thackeray
2009: Hamlet, by William Shakespeare (had seen it on stage previously)
– Best new read: Persepolis 2: the Story of a Return, by Marjane Satrapi (first volume just pipped by Samuel Pepys in 2004)
2010: The Bloody Sunday Report, by Lord Savile et al.
2011: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, by Edward Gibbon (started in 2009!)
2012: see above
2013: A Room of One's Own, by Virginia Woolf
2014: Homage to Catalonia, by George Orwell
2015: collectively, the Arthur C. Clarke Award shortlist, in particular the winner, Station Eleven, by Emily St John Mandel. However I did not actually blog about these, being one of the judges at the time.
– Best book I actually blogged about: The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft, by Claire Tomalin
2016: Alice in Sunderland, by Bryan Talbot
2017: Common People: The History of an English Family, by Alison Light
2018: Factfulness, by Hans Rosling
2019: Girl, Woman, Other, by Bernardine Evaristo
2020: From A Clear Blue Sky: Surviving the Mountbatten Bomb, by Timothy Knatchbull

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