Top 3 Books of 2012 (fiction)

Like most people, I read fiction from across the years, rather than – with some exceptions – as they are released.

Thus, these are essentially the best books I read in 2012. Another contributing factor was that a couple of new releases by reliable authors were a bit disappointing (Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan & The Chemistry of Tears by Peter Carey).

3. A Visit from the Goon Squad – Jennifer Egana-visit-from-the-goon-squad

A unique series of short stories following a collection of characters across several decades. The ‘goon’ is time and its effect on the life of the characters, most of which have some connection to the rock industry.

Soon to be a HBO TV series, it’s the kind of book which creates its own unique world. It has some gold passages and characters, including one presented as a powerpoint. Totally fresh, bold and interesting.  Could be a good one for people who love rock music, and don’t usually read.

2. Housekeeping – Marilynne Robinson9780312424091

At the other end of the spectrum, this is a pithy, perfectly worded small story of two sisters growing up in the house of their aunt in Idaho, narrated by Ruth, one of the sisters. I read it in one day on holiday, and kept doubling back to read out insightful lines and unintentional axioms to Sil.

Robinson is a read wordsmith, and her writing unfolds like a song by Neil Finn, nothing pretentious, everything solid, sounding like it has always been.  Wait to read this when you won’t be interrupted.

1. Oracle Night – Paul Auster

oraclenight

Housekeeping has been named as one of the best English novels of the last century, so why have I put it second to this? I even read them both on the same weekend away at Carickalinga.

My reason is the story. Robinson is the better writer of words, but Auster shapes them into stories I can’t resist. Oracle night follows similar themes of his (a writer in New York, philosophical questions, time) but it’s just so darn interesting, and is a perfect example of why he’s probably my favourite author.

At one stage in this we read a story written by an author who is a character inside the main character’s book. Yep, lovely.

BTW, a list of Australian’s Top 10 Books to Read before You Die was released this week with, predictably, Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet at the top.

Now is the time to admit I’ve never read Cloudstreet, and frankly, the only thing of Winton’s I’ve actually got through is That Eye The Sky, and his liner notes to Midnight Oil’s Best Of.

My favourite book on the list is AB Facey’s A Fortunate Life which I read at school, and found totally absorbing. It’s more bio than novel, but it opened up an era of Australia’s history of hardship and fortitude to me for the first time.