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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July 2012 – Monthly Wrap Up

So July has been dominated by our vacation and watching various sports – especially Tour de France (and the Olympics now, of course). This has also influenced my reading – three books about professional cycling and Tour de France this month. Vacation time also meant a bit more time to read – in one of our three weeks of vacation at least – so I devoured Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth. This means that I read 4 books this month. As always, I’m not completely satisfied with this.

So as it can be seen, I’m still on track for reading 52 books this year – especially since I have read 70 % of Clarissa as well. I’ve read 2054 pages which means that I’m back reading 2000+ pages/month like in the early months of this year and Im very happy about that.

As mentioned above I made it through 4 books this month:

  1. Jørgen Leth: Den gule trøje i de høje bjerge. Denmark’s best cycling commentator writes about what he loves the most – Tour de France. Beautiful writing – but went a bit far back in history for me. 3 stars.
  2. Lance Armstrong: It’s Not About the Bike. Interesting account of Lance Armstrong’s battle with cancer and his way back to professional cycling. 4 stars.
  3. David Millar: Racing Through the Dark. Very interesting account of a young, rather idealistic rider’s descent into the dark side of professional cycling – and his way back out. 4 stars.
  4. Ken Follett: The Pillars of the Earth. Excellent book about the building of a cathedral in the Middle Ages. Well-drawn characters that will stay with you. 4 stars.

I have almost finished the Mount TBR Reading Challenge. I challenged myself to read 25 books bought before January 1st, 2012 – and so far, I’ve read 24 so I will probably finish this one next month. I’m more or less on target with Clarissa and I am definitely going to get this done. I need to read at least one book by Neil Gaiman – but I have one book by him on my own challenge list so that will get done too. The challenge I’m struggling the most with, is the one I’ve set for myself (together with two friends – the one where my boyfriend has bet me a book because he don’t think I’ll finish it…).

This month, I only read one book from the list of books I’ve challenged myself to read this year. This means, that I still have 12 books to go – and 5 months to go. So in August, I have to get some of these read. I hope to read at least two from this list – hopefully three. This doesn’t sound like much – and it isn’t. Except that all the books – almost – I have left on the list are very long books – books like Les MisérablesUnderworld and The Kindly Ones. So you don’t just fly through them in an afternoon. The other thing is that I have bought so many new books this year that I just want to sit down with and dive into. So I have to keep focus, get some of the challenge books read – and reward myself with some of my pretty new books!

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Ken Follett: The Pillars of the Earth (review)

Middle Ages. 12th century. The building of a cathedral. People struggling, starving. Knights fighting for power. Monarchs and monarchs to be fighting over who get to rule. Historical fiction. So not my thing.

I was given this book as a gift, years ago. It has stood on my shelf ever since. For the first several years, I really didn’t care to read it. I just wasn’t interested. But slowly, I became more interested. I must admit that Oprah saying she loved it, was a push for me to read it – mostly because she said it wasn’t her thing either. Also, the publication of the first volume of his Century Trilogy peaked my interest in Follett’s work. So I put The Pillars of the Earth on the list of books I definitely wanted to read this year. I must admit I have been dreading it a bit but finally, it just felt right to start reading it – and well, now I  kind of regret not having read it earlier.

Tom the Builder has a dream. A big dream. A dream which makes him drag his family all over trying to achieve it. Tom wants to build a cathedral. He wanders from place to place, building site to building site, trying to find somewhere where a cathedral is being or going to be built and where Tom can be Master Builder. So he, his pregnant wife Agnes and their two children Alfred and Martha, wander in search of Tom’s dream. But a series of bad luck follow them and leads to Agnes giving birth to a baby boy in the forest in the winter. She dies and Tom leaves the baby to die on her grave. Luckily, a priest finds him and takes him to a chapel in the forest where the priest’s brother, Prior Philip, is the leader. Philip decides that the boy should grow up in the monastery, just as he and his brother did, and he names the boy Jonathan.

Jonathan is the first link between Tom and Philip. After Agnes’ death, Tom begins a relationship with Ellen, a woman who has been living in the forest as an outlaw with her son Jack. Prior Philip becomes leader of the Kingsbridge Priory and takes Jonathan with him. Together with Tom, he makes a plan to build a cathedral and Tom begins the work – happy to be close to his baby boy.

At the nearby castle of the Earl of Shiring, his daughter Aliena is supposed to marry William Hamleigh. She refuses him however, and William takes this rather hard. So hard, that he eventually rapes her and cuts off a part of her little brother Richard’s ear after their father has been thrown in prison. William and his family takes over the castle and Aliena and Richard are homeless, struggling to find a way to survive.

When Prior Philip first became a prior, he did so by striking a deal with Waleran Bigod who then becomes Bishop of Kingsbridge. But Waleran Bigod is a man who wants power and he’s ready to do a whole lot to get more of it. He supports the Cathedral in Kingsbridge just as longs as it’s in his best interest. He has ambitions for where he wants to go and he struggles with Prior Philip, both wanting a cathedral – but for very different reasons.

All these characters weave in and out of each others’ lives. They support each other, they hurt each other, they kill each other. They fight, they starve, they suffer, they dream and build and create. They dream big and they strive to achieve it, no matter what setbacks they encounter. The ways the plot twists and turns and the various strands weave together, only to separate and then come together in some other way, is impossible to recount. The characters are fleshed out, lifelike and you get to care so deeply about them. However, although I do enjoy a good villain, you have to be careful not to make him so evil that he gets almost cartoony. I’m quite okay with William Hamleigh raping, burning, killing, slaughtering his way through the book. But there’s a scene where he wants to stone a cat just for the fun of it – and it just gets to be a bit much. I get that he’s evil – you don’t have to spell it out!

For the largest part of this novel, I just loved it. I devoured it, I read for hours each night, 100-200 pages a day. But – then something happened. Ken Follett likes to wrap everything up neatly and that’s fine, I don’t mind that at all. But it seemed that he maybe had difficulties wrapping up one of his characters –  and therefore, he introduces Thomas Beckett to the mix. Now, for most of the book, the historical facts have been sort of the canvas, Follett painted his characters on. The facts are the background Prior Philip, Tom the Builder, Jack and all the other can live and strive on. But towards the end, the facts and especially Thomas Beckett and his fight with the king and then tragic ending become the foreground of the novel and the characters we have followed and cared for during the first 900 or so pages of the book, suddenly becomes bystanders to the events. This does mean that Follett gets to wrap up all his story lines very neatly – but it also means that the story looses it’s momentum and becomes a bit less compelling towards the end.

By the way, there’s a board game based on this book. It sounds like it could be a great game. Anybody tried playing it?

  • Title: The Pillars of the Earth
  • Author: Ken Follett
  • Publisher: Pan Macmillan
  • Year: 1999 (original 1989)
  • Pages: 1076 pages
  • Source: Own Collection
  • Stars: 4 stars out of 5