I've been tracking my books on Goodreads (please follow or friend me there if you'd like!) and had set myself a goal of 85 books for 2012. Until this recent holiday break, I wasn't sure if I'd make it, but a last-minute reading sprint put me over the top at 89. With the library closed over most of the last two weeks, I haven't done much aside from read, proofread (the Historical Novels Review's Feb reviews are due soon), eat, sleep, and write. With some shopping and one very slow day at the reference desk mixed in. I wrote up four reviews for HNR, mostly of UK titles I'd bought and which the publishers didn't send, and will be reprinting them here after they're published in February. It's been nice... I don't usually have this much time available at a single stretch.
During the last year, I completed the Chunkster Challenge with many titles to spare - at least a dozen in all. Although I don't plan to sign up again next year (I want to give myself a break!) I thoroughly enjoyed participating and am pretty amazed I managed to get so many 450-plus page books read.
I've also gone back and forth about activating/deactivating the captcha for blog comments. Personally I think it's a pain, but I turned it off for a time and was getting dozens of spam comments a day. It was too much, so I added it back (sorry; I hope people will still comment anyway).
Instead of publishing a Top 10 (or Top 17 or whatever) list, I thought I'd mention some novels I read in 2012 and didn't end up reviewing here, but which I'd highly recommend:
Enid Shomer, The Twelve Rooms of the Nile. I reviewed this for Booklist; it's an exquisitely written intellectual adventure about Florence Nightingale, Gustave Flaubert, and what might have happened had they met while journeying down the Nile separately in 1850.
Amanda Coplin, The Orchardist. Set at the turn of the 20th century on a large orchard in central Washington State, "Coplin’s mesmerizing debut stands out with its depictions of uniquely Western personalities and a stark, gorgeously realized landscape that will settle deeply into readers’ bones" (quoting from my Booklist review).
Selden Edwards' The Lost Prince, which I also covered for Booklist. The entire review isn't online, but it's a very worthy sequel to his excellent, time-bending The Little Book. From my review: "Moving from America’s Gilded Age through WWI’s aftermath in Europe, Edwards’ delightfully imaginative second novel follows a courageous woman’s singular accomplishments and their far-reaching effects on history."
James Long, The Lives She Left Behind. If you read and loved Ferney but haven't picked up the sequel yet, what are you waiting for? It continues the story of Gally, Ferney, and Mike some 16 years later, answering the question posed by the final, devastating line of the first book (the title is apropos). I won't say more than that, other than I felt badly for Mike, finding himself enmeshed once again in the same painful triangle, but it's a very satisfying read.
Christopher Tilghman's The Right-Hand Shore. In 1920, a prospective heir to Mason's Retreat, a once-prosperous Maryland estate, learns about his distant relatives, the Masons and Baylys, and their complex relationship with the land and the black families who lived and worked alongside them over the previous 60 years. Beautiful and elegiac, it addresses the perennial topic of race relations in American history but is not your typical plantation novel. You don't need to have read Mason's Retreat first (this is a prequel)—I hadn't—but it's on my list now.
What's up for next year? Well, I've nearly made it through the to-be-reviewed pile, at last, but plan to approach the next year somewhat differently... reviewing more of my own books and making requests from publishers myself. I also hope to diversify my selections, featuring more books set outside Europe and America, and from non-Western writers. I have the 12 titles from the TBR Challenge to look forward to, and I'm also debating doing something for Small Press Month in March, maybe focusing on reviews of small press titles.
What books are you looking forward to the most in 2013? If you need ideas, check out the Historical Novel Society's forthcoming books list, newly updated through next fall (compiled by me and Sarah Cuthbertson).
Thanks for following this blog and reading along with me over the last year! I wish you the very best for 2013, with lots of good reading ahead.