It’s a known thing that I like to read. But, as if I am somehow programmed to adhere to Twain’s principles, I love to read good books. Now I know the definition of a good book is very subjective. So to me it has got to have three very prominent characteristics; be very well written, have relatable characters and feel as if it were written for me, in other words – make an impression. The first of my prerequisites are not all that hard as most forms of literature these days are exquisitely written and feature the most captivating characters; however that last little one, well it isn’t all that easy.
Thankfully, 2012 was a very good literary year for me. I must say, I generally lean more towards a book written, or set in, pre-1980 and the past 12 months have been full of them. To show some well-deserved appreciation, hopefully fuel your reading lists and give you a taste of pending reviews to come, here’s a little peak into my bookshelf.
One of my favourites of 2012 and in fact, all-time, is The Group by Mary McCarthy. Written in the mid 1960’s, Mary set her adorable story in 1930’s New York and tells us a tale of eight friends living what can only be thought of as the Sex and the City life, pre-Carrie of course. So I guess it is no surprise that the forward is written by non-other than Candace Bushnell herself.
In a not so different setting, 30 years later, Louise Levene’s first novel A Vision of Loveliness follows the tale of Janey searching for a new glamorous life. Facing the seedy truth of London in the 60’s, Levene gives you style, society and sisterhood like no other. In my opinion, it should definitely be on all stylish reading lists for 2013. And for something a little more heart-warming, I’d definitely add Beth Hoffman’s Saving CeeCee Honeycutt where the sweetest of little girls tries to escape a crazy future with something a little more colourful, sugary and southern.
You may start to notice a theme in my reading choices. You know that vintagesque genre I mentioned I was a little partial too? Well here is just a little more of it…
This time last year, I picked up what I thought was a little novel based in 1950’s New York. Boy how I was wrong. The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe, like the The Group, is one of the originals. Written in the late 1950’s, Rona gives you real emotion through four females fighting for love, recognition and a voice. And just when I thought I wouldn’t want any more New York, I found Amor Towles and the Rules of Civility. Again, set in one of my favourite eras, the 1930’s are shown through the eyes of Katey Kontent and her adventures with an ambitious Midwestern gal and a certain gentleman that might just not be what he seems. Are you dying to read them just yet?
Jumping back across the pond, next we have an English Rose looking for excitement in the big City set in 1950’s Soho. But that’s not all, Maggie O’Farrell’s The hand that first held mine juxtaposes Lexie’s bohemian adventure with one man’s present day mission to uncover the seeds on his life story, that were sown by his parents way back when.
To add in a little diversity and certainly a little charm, I was taken to Paris and East Coast America with Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife. Chicago, 1920 and that charming jazz age that was Paris are the settings for Hemmingway’s most famous years, fictitiously told by his then wife, Hadley Richardson. With a lot of gossip and glamour, there is no other word to describe this novel than gripping; which is why I will be shortly moving on to Hemmingway’s actual account of this period, A Moveable Feast.
And to top it off, I find I always need to throw in a classic or two to mix it up a little. My favourite read of last year, and one that I was yet to discover, was Jane Austen’s Emma. Ah Emma, what an adorable, playful and charming creature you are. Although Austen was known for suggesting Emma was not a likeable character, I’d have to disagree. Her imagination reminded me much of my own so I was drawn to discover where her games would lead to.
What did you most enjoy reading in 2012?