Thursday, 20 December 2012

Best books of 2012

I didn't read so many new books this year. To be honest I've been content to fritter away most of my time reading Augustine and Shakespeare, Shakespeare and Augustine. So the best book I read this year I guess was Antony and Cleopatra, maybe The Tempest. But there were some terrific new books published in the past year, including some experimental works that altered the usual forms of scholarly writing. Here's my selection of the best of the year:

Marilynne Robinson, When I Was a Child I Read Books (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). If you only want to read one religious book this year, read this one.

Paula Fredriksen, Sin: The Early History of an Idea (Princeton) 

Robin Jensen, Baptismal Imagery in Early Christianity (Baker)

Medi Ann Volpe, Rethinking Christian Identity: Doctrine and Discipleship (Wiley-Blackwell)

Prayer and spirituality
Anne Lamott, Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers (Riverhead). If you don't want to read even one religious book this year, read this one.
Louise Glück, Poems 1962-2012 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Mary Oliver, A Thousand Mornings (Penguin)
Literary criticism
Maureen McLane, My Poets (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Actually this book defies genre: it's a unique concoction of literary-critical memoir-poetical writing. Very good it is too. Perhaps my favourite new book overall this year.
Ali Smith, Artful (Penguin). Or maybe this one's my favourite: another genre-bending book, a wondrous quartet of fictionalised essays. This easily wins for cover of the year too (pictured above).
Joan Didion, Blue Nights (Vintage)
Hilary Mantel, Bring Up the Bodies (Henry Holt). All right, it's a big book and I've barely even started. But I know a good book when I see it. Though as a rule I prefer small books to big ones.
Short stories
Alice Munro, Dear Life: Stories (Knopf). These small stories, for instance.

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