Top Ten Favorite New-To-Me Authors I Read In 2012

 So we are getting closer to Christmas and it shows in the Top Ten topics as well. Last week, we listed the books we wished Santa to bring us and this week, we’re looking back on 2012 and listing the best new-to-us authors we’ve read this year. Looking back over the year, I think I’ve read some really excellent  books, I have read some not so good – and I’ve read books by authors, I haven’t read before or even in some cases, haven’t heard of before. So it was relatively easy for me to put together this list. As always, the Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

  1. Yiyun Li. The Vagrants was the first book I finished in 2012 and it was amazing. I just looooooved it. It was a wonderful book and it made me feel so sad. Both people and animals are hurt in it but it’s so worth reading. Yiyun Li is definitely an author that I will keep an eye out for.
  2. Lionel Shriver. We Need To Talk About Kevin freaked me out. It’s one of those books where you stay up reading it because you have to know what happens, you have to finish it – even though you have to get up early in the morning. It was such a nasty read but also very much worth reading.
  3. Dan Simmons. After finishing Drood, I knew I wanted to read more books by Simmons – especially The Terror because he mentions the story in Drood, and it sounds so fascinating.
  4. Wilkie Collins. Like Simmons, Collins was part of my Dickens-and-Drood reading this year. I grew to really like both Dickens, Simmons and Collins. The Woman in White is such a good book, I just sat there and read and read and read to finish it and find out what happened and I’m so looking forward to  reading The Moonstone.
  5. Jonathan Carroll. Almost all Carroll’s books sounds amazing. I enjoyed The Ghost in Love so much and I just want to read more, more, more. I think Carroll might end up on my favorite authors list some day in the future!
  6. Jonathan Safran Foer. Before reading it, I was convinced that Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close would be good, but I had no idea how good. I already own Everything is Illuminated, which is supposed to be even better, and Eating Animals so I hope to get around to reading these next year.
  7. Mark Helprin. I had never even heard of Mark Helprin before finding Winter’s Tale in a secondhand bookstore. I bought it – and loved it. It’s an incredibly journey you take when you read this novel and the love story and the characters just stay with you afterwards. It’s a huge novel but amazing.
  8. Ken Follett. Of course I had heard of Ken Follett before. Over and over and over. And I really had no desire to read anything by him but a friend had gifted me The Pillars of the Earth years ago so this year, I challenged myself to actually read it. And guess what, I loved it! Despite a weak ending, the novel was so so good and I’m hoping on Santa bringing me World Without End this year.
  9. Iris Murdoch. A friend challenged me to read Murdoch’s The Message to the Planet – and I liked it quite a bit. It’s a novel that makes you think and challenges you and I think some of Murdoch’s other novels will do so even more. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more by her.
  10. Victor Hugo. Les Misérables is one of those classic novels which are rather intimidating. But I had challenged myself to reading it this year and it was an amazing book. It’s huuuuuge but the story of the two lost souls at the center of the book is just beautiful. Hugo can write about sewers in a way that makes you think it the most pretty poetry. Sometimes you feel he has completely lost it but he always manages to bring it all together. And he’s even funny at times.

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August 2012 – Monthly Wrap Up

August has been bad. Plain and simple. I simply haven’t read anything. Or – only two books. Two books. And not very thick ones at that.

Sighs. For the first time this year, I’m behind. 2 books behind. So I need to read quite a bit more in the next months. I only read 894 pages – which is only about half of what I hope to do each month. I did read about half of The Mists of Avalon but didn’t finish it so that doesn’t really count – and even if I did count those 500 pages, it would still not be a lot of pages read. And the worst part is that I don’t know why I didn’t read more. I want to read a book a week, give or take. That is, some books take a bit longer, some I can finish quicker. And even though I read every day, I just don’t read enough. I have to try and figure out a way to read more in September! Especially since this monthly complaining about not reading enough, is getting rather repetitive!

As mentioned above I made it through 2 books this month… Yes, I still don’t know how to explain that!

  1. Paul Kropp: How to Make Your Child a Reader for Life. Excellent, although a bit old-fashioned, book about getting your child to read. Luckily, your own reading helps! 4 stars.
  2. Iris Murdoch: The Message to the Planet. My first Iris Murdoch and what a fascinating author she is. Great book about a group of friends, a maybe miracle and how much you should accept in your marriage … Or more accurately about the relations between people and how we make sense of our lives. 4 stars.

I finished the Mount TBR Reading Challenge. I challenged myself to read 25 books bought before January 2012 and I’ve done it. 25 books read from my shelves. Nice! So now I need to finish my Neil Gaiman Challenge, the Clarissa read-along and my private reading challenge. I’m definitely going to finish the first two – my own challenge is the one I’m struggling with. I still need to read 20 books more this year, 10 from my list as well as making sure that my to-read list dips below 181 – it’s currently at 187… So this is the tough one. (And now, Tyler Hamilton has published his book, The Secret Race, and since I read several books about professional cycling and Tour de France earlier this year, I really want to read this one too… Sighs … One more!)

And I haven’t even glanced at Clarissa this month … Next month, I promise!

It’s going to be a bit of a fight from now one  to reach my goals and read all the books I want to, since I’m starting a new job on Monday. Luckily, I can commute by train and that means, I’ll have about an hour a day of commute time, i.e. reading time! I’m crossing my fingers that it will all work out so I’ll still have some reading time – and blogging time!

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Iris Murdoch: The Message to the Planet (review)

If you saw someone perform something that seemed to be a miracle, would you believe it to be a miracle or would you try to find some rational way of explaining it? When days, weeks, months had passed, would you still be convinced you had seen a miracle or would you instead think that you must have been mistaken?

Patrick is dying. He has been sick for a very long time and now, the doctors have given up on him. He is lying in Jack and Franca’s house and Franca is taking care of him while trying to come to terms with the new woman in her and Jack’s life. But more on that later. Patrick is sick because he has been cursed. By Marcus, an old … friend.

Ludens, another one of this group of friends, have taken it upon himself to find Marcus. He was always very impressed with Marcus and luckily, he’s able to locate him. When he visits him, Marcus and his daughter Irina are living in a small cottage and Irina is more than willing to leave the place. Marcus comes, sees – and he brings Patrick back from the (almost) dead.

Or does he? Even though a lot of this group of friend saw him do it, they are not all sure about what they really saw – or what he did. Did he cure a physical disease? Or did Patrick so firmly believe that Marcus had cursed him, that he almost died from this belief and did Marcus lift the curse and thereby bring Patrick back to life?

Afterwards, Ludens goes to live with Marcus and Irina and desperately tries to grasp what Marcus thinks because he is convinced that Marcus has found a great truth. He begins a relationship with Irina but is constantly struggling with finding his place. The other main storyline is focusing on Franca’s marriage to Jack and his insistence on having affairs with other women – and finally, on actually marrying one of these other women while stile retaining his relationship with Franca.

It feels strange trying to sum up this book by talking about what happens. Because that’s not really what’s important. At least not for the most part. Towards the end, it does become somewhat important but for most of the book, the talks and discussions between the characters are what matters. How they react to events, what they think and feel, why they feel compelled to do certain things – not what really happens.
And then again. This is a strange book, hard to come quite to terms with. It’s definitely not a book where everything is tied up neatly with a pretty bow. You are somewhat left to decide what really happened – and what will happen. Did Marcus really bring back Patrick from the dead? What will happen with Jack and Franca? How will Ludens go on?
And what about Irina? Irina is a character who I never really got a hold on. The entire novel through, she confused me. I never really knew what she really felt and wanted. After finishing the novel, I’m still a bit confused about her. And that fascinates me. I’m still pondering why she made the choices she did – and that’s a big compliment to Murdoch’s writing. She lets her characters live on even after the book is closed, by not concluding their lives but by leaving it open-ended.

Overall, this is a book about relations. Relationships not only between lovers or married couples but also between friends. How far do you wish to let yourself be pushed by the one you love? How much will you accept? All the characters in the book are searching for some king of meaning, for love, for faith – and they are all unsure about what to do. And the book is like this too. There’s no easy answers and even though it does come to a very satisfactory, you are still left with questions. As you are in life.

Iris Murdoch was a British author and philosopher. She wrote her novels in longhand – and they are printed as is, without being edited! She wrote both non-fiction and fiction but her fiction is heavily influenced by her philosophical thinking – which for me makes it even more interesting. With her focus on the importance of inner life on moral action, it is clear why she – at least in this novel – chooses to focus so intensely on the thoughts and feelings and not so much on the actions. As she does in this novel, she apparently often writes about intellectual men caught in moral dilemmas and about enigmatic male characters, who swipes other people along with them and convinces them of the truth of things – even though this might not actually be true. Jack is such a person. Charismatic, artist, persuasive. Marcus, although powerful, seems to be more just swept along of events, searching so after some kind of meaning that everything else fades – with Ludens at his side as a eager puppy, desperately trying to grasp the meaning of what Marcus says and does, and through that get a sense of meaning in the world and his life.

Although I really felt for Franca and her attempts to continue to love her husband no matter what, even when he wants to live in a committed menage a trois relationship with her and another woman, Ludens and his struggle to find meaning in the world by both listening to Marcus and persuading Marcus to think and talk and by his relationship with Irina, is the tragic hero of the novel. A man lost without past, a confusing present that constantly leaves him frustrated and without a sense of direction for his future. And yet, he has to go on.

I guess that’s how it is for all of us. That we each have to find our own meaning in life, our own purpose. And just go on.

  • Title: The Message to the Planet
  • Author: Iris Murdoch
  • Publisher: Penguin
  • Year: 1989
  • Pages: 563 pages
  • Source: Borrowed from my friend Henrik
  • Stars: 4 stars out of 5