I love this time of the blogging year, when the "favorite books" lists start appearing. For blogs that I've only recently discovered, it's a chance to see what I've missed in earlier postings, as well as get a better sense of the reader behind the blog. For those I've been following all year, it's a great review and reminder of books I meant to add to my own lists (and quickly, before the TBR Double Dog Dare kicks in January 1st). I also enjoy looking back over my own year of reading. It's such fun mulling over the list, dithering over which books to include, wondering how many I can get away with listing. As I mentioned last year, I've never had a place to do this before, or frankly anyone who was interested! I'm still enjoying the novelty of that.
So here are my favorites of 2012, in the order in which I read them:
The Heir of Redclyffe, by Charlotte M. Yonge. I'd already read Yonge's The Daisy Chain, but The Heir made me see why she was one of the most popular authors of her day (and why Jo March was crying over the book in her attic)
Love, by Elizabeth von Arnim. I wasn't sure what to expect in this account of a May-December romance. It turned out to be a touching and sympathetic if unsentimental story of love in many forms.
Up the Country, by Emily Eden. Eden's letters chronicle a fantastic journey in the suite of her brother, the Governor General of India, on an official two-year tour of India, beginning in 1837.
Please Look After Mom, by Kyung-Sook Shin. A harrowing story of a family dealing with the disappearance of their wife and mother, it is also the first book I've read set in South Korea, which for me added to the story's interest.
The Oaken Heart, by Margery Allingham. This account of her small Essex village in the early years of World War II was written at her U.S. publisher's request, to tell American readers "exactly what life has been like down here for us ordinary country people during the war."
The Makioka Sisters, by Junichiro Tanizaki. I loved this saga of four sisters in 1930s Osaka, struggling to uphold their family's place in society and to find suitable husbands for two of them. It reminded me of both Jane Austen and Anthony Trollope.
The Innocents Abroad, by Mark Twain. His account of the first organized American tour of Europe and the Holy Land in 1867 is by turns satirical, cynical, sentimental, and xenophobic, but always entertaining. I enjoyed it so much that I've added some of his other travel writings to the TBR stacks.
No More Than Human, by Maura Laverty. This story of a naive but good-hearted Irish girl who travels to Spain in the 1920s as a "miss," a combined governess and chaperone, is (to borrow a phrase from Teresa's list over at Shelf Love) one of the books I most wanted to hand out on street corners, or at least buy for all the readers I know. If I had to pick a single favorite, it would probably be this one.
The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher. This extraordinary story of how a family in the 1920s copes when the father is injured and the mother goes to work is the second of my "street corner" books (and only the second Persephone I've added to my shelves). I also loved Fisher's Understood Betsy, and I know I'll be reading more of her work in 2013.
Jane Austen and Marriage, by Hazel Jones. I so enjoy books like this, which explore a particular aspect of life in Austen's time through her writings, including her letters and the Juvenalia, as well as incorporating her own experiences (see also Jane Austen and Crime, by Susannah Fullerton).
Isabel and the Sea, by George Millar. An account of a voyage by boat through the canals of France and along the Mediterranean coast to Greece just after the end of World War II, and an eye-witness account of the devastation and slow recovery.
Vanity Fair, by William Makepeace Thackeray. Why did I wait so long to make the acquaintance of Becky Sharp and William Dobbin? Probably because I don't know anyone outside the blogging world who has read this, so I had no one to tell me, "You need to read this."
Slowly Down the Ganges, by Eric Newby. This was the year I discovered Newby's entertaining and idiosyncratic travel writings, and of course I immediately started collecting them (a couple of which are still on the TBR stacks). I feel like I should mention Love and War in the Apennines, his account of life as a prisoner of war in World War II, but then I also have to include his wife Wanda Newby's parallel account, Peace and War.
Red Pottage, by Mary Cholmondeley. A Victorian pot-boiler, with wonderfully-drawn characters and a lovely friendship at its heart. Simon so aptly described it as "sensation fiction which is also very moving and also funny."
Seward, by Walter Stahr. A brilliant biography of a master politician, who lost the 1860 presidential nomination to Abraham Lincoln but accepted a place in his Cabinet, and became arguably America's greatest Secretary of State.
I've read so many great books this year, and I've thoroughly enjoyed sharing them here and on your blogs. Thank you again for reading along. I hope that 2013 brings us all just as many wonderful books, and friends to share them with.