Farm Lane Book Awards 2012

I’ve already listed the best books published in 2012 and my favourite reads of the last year, but there were many other books that stood out for different reasons. Here are the other books that deserve a special mention:

Lost Memory of Skin

Best treatment of a difficult subject: The Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks
This book looks at the way sex offenders are treated in American society. It is eye opening and thought provoking. Just a shame the ending wasn’t very good.

Author I’m most excited about discovering: Melvyn Bragg

Most Memorable Scene: The one with the cat and the piano in Care of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles


Most surprising book: Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
I thought this book would be really dull, but it captivated me.

Best premise: The First Century After Beatrice by Amin Maalouf

Best ending: The Cook by Wayne Macauley

Tell the Wolves I'm Home

Most memorable character: June from Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

Best audio book: Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Green

Worst book: Lionel Asbo by Martin Amis

Best writing: A Death in the Family by Karl Ove Knausgaard

HHhHThe Street Sweeper

Most thought provoking book: It’s a tie! The Street Sweeper by Elliot Perlman and HHhH by Laurent Binet
These books both deal with a similar subject matter. Both will make you think about the way history is recorded and what it is important to remember. They are my favourite books of the year and I highly recommend them.

Most gruesome scenes: The Cow by Beat Sterchi

Book which has improved the most since reading:  The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng
I wasn’t that impressed with this book when I was reading it, but on completion everything slotted into place and it went up in my estimation. Several months down the line my appreciation of this book continues to grow.


Book of the year: HHhH by Laurent Binet

HHhH is one of those rare, faultless books. It is thought provoking, ground breaking and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Do you agree with my choices?

Would you like to suggest any more categories for me to place books in?

This will be my last post of the year as I’m taking a short blogging break to celebrate Christmas/New Year.

Have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year!


My Favourite 2012 Reads

I’ve read lots of amazing books this year. I’ve already posted my list of favourite books published in 2012, but what about the older ones?

Here are the back-list titles that impressed me the most:

Native Son (Vintage classics)

Native Son by Richard Wright 

An American classic that deserves more attention. This gripping story is one of the most insightful books about racism I’ve ever read.

People Who Eat Darkness: Love, Grief and a Journey into Japan's Shadows

People Who Eat Darkness by Richard Lloyd Parry 

True crime doesn’t get better than this.

Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea

Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick 

North Korea is a fascinating country. This book reveals the shocking truth about what life is like for the residents of this oppressed nation.

The First Century After Beatrice 

The First Century After Beatrice by Amin Maalouf 

What would happen if women became rare? This frightening vision of the future deserves to be more widely known.

Astonishing Splashes Of Colour :

Astonishing Splashes of Colour by Clare Morrall 

Morrall has created some of the best dysfunctional characters in literature. This wonderful story is packed with emotion.

The Death of Grass (Penguin Modern Classics)

The Death of Grass by John Christopher 

What would happen if all the grass died? This scary concept comes to life in this modern classic.

The Half Brother

The Half Brother by Lars Saaybye Christensen 

This wonderful Norwegian epic is packed with vivid characters. People who ignore literature in translation are missing out on a fantastic read.


Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks 

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this modern classic. I’m looking forward to trying more Faulks in 2013.


Zeitoun by Dave Eggers 

This shocking story about one man’s ordeal during Hurricane Katrina is gripping. I really hope the police have learnt lessons from these horrific events.

In Defence of Dogs: Why Dogs Need Our Understanding

In Defence of Dogs by John Bradshaw 

A fascinating insight into the canine mind. Essential reading for all dog owners.

Have you enjoyed any of these books?

Are you tempted to give any a try?

Come back later in the week to see my 2012 book awards!

….including the book with the best ending, the book that surprised me the most, and the worst book of the year!

2012 Books in Translation

Doppler by Erlend Loe

Doppler Translated from the Norwegian by Don Shaw and Don Bartlett

Five words from the blurb: father, live, forest, elk, existence

Doppler is a lovely little book. It gripped me from the very first page and I read the entire thing in a single day. It was unusual in that it was both powerful and entertaining; a rare combination that is difficult to pull off.

The book focuses on Doppler, a man who has become frustrated with the modern world. He has decided to camp in the forest where he tries to lead an existence free from money and the irritations of television and grumpy people.

The novella begins with Doppler killing an elk in order to have something to eat. Unfortunately the elk had a calf, so feeling guilty for killing its mother, Doppler ends up looking after it. But Doppler’s wife is frustrated and wants him to return home in order to look after their children and bring in some money. The interaction between the couple was enlightening. Loe’s skill as a writer meant I had sympathy for both sides of the argument and I think this means it will appeal to a wide range of people, no matter how strong their environmental views.

The writing was simple, but effective and I found myself laughing out loud on several occasions. As a parent I understood all the cultural references and this added to my enjoyment:

I spend the entire day enthusiastically humming a melody I can’t place. I’m feeling on top of the world as I cheerfully chip away at the bark on the totem pole. Bits fly off into the forest as I work my way around the trunk, lost in my own world, humming and whistling all the while. Snatches of the lyrics begin to emerge by the evening, and I sing them quite uncritically for quite a time before I realise, in a cold sweat, that what I’m churning out is the signature tune to an Australian TV show, Bananas in Pyjamas. Not even out here in the forest am I spared the poison dart of children’s culture.

The book covered many important themes, including commercialism and our reliance on technology, but it addressed them in an entertaining way. I agreed with Doppler’s thoughts on the simple pleasure of being outdoors and think our society might be a little richer if we all followed some of Doppler’s advice.

The brevity and number of talking points make it the perfect book club choice.

Recommended to anyone looking for a short, entertaining read.


2009 Books in Translation Other Prizes

Jerusalem by Gonçalo Tavares

JerusalemTranslated from the Portugese by Anna Kushner

Five words from the blurb: lonely, together, pain, human, impulses

I hadn’t heard of Tavares until Stu listed him as one of the best writers alive today. I decided to investigate and discovered that Saramago, one of my favourite authors, was also a fan, saying:

Tavares has no right to be writing so well at the age of 35. One feels like punching him! 

That was enough evidence for me. I immediately ordered myself a copy of Jerusalem and am very pleased that I’ve now discovered this amazing author.

Saramago was right. Tavares is an extremely good writer. The quality of the prose oozes from every sentence and it is possible to find beautiful quotes on every page. The writing was simple and engaging, but the clarity made every statement somehow seem profound.

The book focused on four characters: Ernst, who is about to commit suicide; Mylia, who is terminally ill; Hinnerk, who is walking the streets with a gun, and Theodor who is studying the relationship between history and atrocity.

…my greatest fear isn’t that the end of horror might mean the end of history, like the flatline of a man who’s just died, but rather that the graph doesn’t run to either of these extremes, but instead shows nothing but stasis, a terrifying consistency of horror over time, a sustained continuo of atrocity that leaves us no hope whatsoever.

The book was quick to read, with short chapters encouraging a fast pace. There was no central plot thread, but instead the details were woven together as the characters met and revealed their connections to each other.

I loved reading the entire book, but I’m afraid it wasn’t perfect. The ending felt a bit contrived and there were times when I felt the book was trying to be too clever.

I also found that the plot had no lasting impact on me – after just a few weeks I had forgotten almost everything about it.

Luckily these were minor problems. Tavares is clearly a very talented writer and Jerusalem contained lots of original ideas. I’m keen to read the rest of his books.



Have you read any Tavares?

Are all his books this good?


The Best Books of 2013? Part 2: Debut Authors

Last week I posted: The Best Books of 2013? Part 1: Authors We Know and Love

This time it is the turn of new authors. Here are the 2013 releases that caught my eye:

Note: UK release month shown, date may be different in other countries.

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis

Hutchinson, January

This book has been getting lots of praise in the US, with Oprah picking it as one of her books of the year. It is about one woman struggling to raise her children in 20th century America. It sounds like an emotional read.


Y by Marjorie Celona

Faber and Faber, January

This book follows a baby abandoned on the steps of the YMCA. It promises to uncover the true meaning of identity, family and the place we call home. I love books that provide more questions than answers!

The Universe Versus Alex Woods

The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence

Hodder and Stoughton, January

This quirky book about a teenage boy sounds very entertaining. It questions our moral judgement and claims to be “one of the funniest, most heartbreaking novels you’ve ever read.” I hope it lives up to my expectations!

The Mussel Feast

The Mussel Feast by Birgit Vanderbeke

Peirene Press, February
I am a massive fan of Beside the Sea, so when Meike from Peirene Press let me know that The Mussel Feast should also appeal to me I added it straight to my wishlist. It is described as a poignant yet hilarious narrative with a brilliant ending. Perfect!

Amity & Sorrow

Amity & Sorrow by Peggy Riley

Tinder Press, March

A story about God, sex, and farming. It is described as having dark shades, similar to Room, and has been getting a lot of positive early reviews. I’m looking forward to giving it a try.


Butter by Erin Lange

Faber, March

This YA novel about an over-weight boy who pledges to eat himself to death live on the Internet sounds like a cutting edge analysis of our society. I hope that it has cross over appeal to the adult market as it sounds very intriguing.

The Coincidence Authority

The Coincidence Authority by JW Ironmonger

W&N, March

I’m always attracted to authors that are compared to David Mitchell. This book is said to combine Mitchell’s ideas with the warmth of David Nicholls. It also deals with coincidence. Sounds perfect for me.

Ghana Must Go

Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi

Viking, April

Taiye Selasi is a protégé of Toni Morrison and Salman Rushdie, so this multi-generational drama spanning three continents has a lot to live up to. I hope it meets my high expectations.

Telling the Bees

Telling the Bees by Peggy Hesketh

Oneworld Publications, April

An eighty-something beekeeper discovers the murdered body of his neighbour. This sounds as though it could be a very entertaining book.

The Hive

The Hive by Gill Hornby

Little, Brown, May

Set around a school this book concentrates on the relationship between the mums. It is said to be a fascinating and subtle story about group politics and female friendship. I see complex interactions taking place every time I drop my boys off at school so am interested to see how this story pans out.

Dirty Work

Dirty Work by Gabriel Weston

Jonathan Cape, June

Last year I listened to (and loved) the dramatised version of Direct Red, Gabriel Weston’s memoir of the years she spent pursuing a surgical career. Dirty Work is her debut novel and it centres on a doctor who performs abortions. I can see this being controversial, thought provoking and emotional – just the way I like them!





Kiss Me First by Lottie Moggach

Picador, July

This book has an unusual concept that grabbed me straight away. It revolves around a woman who wants to commit suicide, but doesn’t want anyone to know she is dead. In order to keep her secret she hires someone to maintain her online profile. This person must first learn everything there is to know about her and then keep the secret for as long as possible. It isn’t going to end well, is it?!

Other books to look out for:

How To Be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman Picador, January

First Novel by Nicholas Royle Jonathan Cape, January

Intermission by Owen Martell William Heinemann, January

White Dog Fell From the Sky by Eleanor Morse Fig Tree, April

Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole Hutchinson, August

Do you like the sound of these books?

Which 2013 books are you looking forward to?


The Best Books of 2012

2012 has been an amazing year for fiction – I think the quality of the books published this year has exceeded that of 2011 by a long way. I’ve recently updated my list of the Best Books of 2012 and will continue to do so if I read anything worthy of inclusion in the final few weeks of the year.

Kim from Reading Matters is also compiling a list of blogger’s favourite books of the year. She’ll be adding new books each day so it is worth popping over to see the wonderful range of books selected.

Me and My Big Mouth also has a fantastic list of 2012 books, selected by bloggers, authors and readers.

I hope that these lists enable you to discover some wonderful new books to read!