Review of 2012: Books
Boyd Tonkin is Literary Editor at The Independent. An award-winning journalist, he was formerly Social Policy Editor of the New Statesman and has broadcast extensively for BBC arts and current affairs programmes. He has judged the Booker Prize, the Whitbread biography award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the David Cohen Prize for a lifetime's achievement in literature.
Saturday 22 December 2012
Tubes by Andrew Blum
No book this year told us more about how modern life really works than Blum's global tour “behind the scenes at the internet”. From cable-layers to data farms, from Docklands to Oregon, this unique travelogue exposed the physical infrastructure behind our digital world.
Pure by Timothy Mo
British fiction's prodigal son, Mo still writes with terrific verve and panache. With trademark chutzpah, he made a Bangkok ladyboy-turned-Islamist militant the irresistible heroine of this spectacular romp through questions of flesh and faith in Thailand and Indonesia.
Country Girl by Edna O'Brien
From the grande dame of Irish letters came a classic autobiography. Not just a scintillating record of a life rich in scandal and stardust, her memoirs tracked a changing Ireland, conjured an amazing cast of A-list friends, and let readers share the joys – and burdens – of a literary vocation.
Dominion by CJ Sansom
Popular blockbusters don't get smarter or richer than this. Sansom, doyen of the Tudor mystery, here re-booted the “alternative history” genre with a superb dystopia-cum-thriller set in the defeated Britain of 1952: Nazism victorious abroad, and smogbound semi-fascism at home.
A Death in the Family by Karl Ove Knausgaard
The first volume of the Norwegian writer's grandly titled novel sequence, “My Struggle”, proved a revelation. Using the everyday material of family tension and dysfunction, Knausgaard out-Franzens Franzen in a virtuoso chronicle of youth – ruthless, hilarious, unbearably well-observed.
Discovery of the year: Spitalfields Life by The Gentle Author
The anonymous Author began blogging about his – or her – East End neighbours in 2009. Now a beautifully designed book, these portraits of Londoners old and new build into the Olympic year's finest book about the capital: wry, respectful, fabulously diverse and utterly charming.
Turkey of the year: Total Recall by Arnold Schwarzenegger
Talk about the Terminator. Pompous, musclebound, grindingly dull, the super-heavyweight memoirs of the hunk-turned-governor forgot that the Arnie we love is a camp self-parodist. Instead, the official version plods on from Austria to LA with skin-crawling smugness.
Arts & Ents blogs
Sherlock's Benedict Cumberbatch 'first sexy Holmes', says Mark Gatiss
Jared Leto: Best Supporting Actor Oscar sparks backlash from transgender community
In Kony's shadow: Shocking photographs reveal brutality of Lord's Resistance Army
Jessica Alba interview: From Hollywood superwoman to household product CEO
Captain Phillips actor Barkhad Abdi struggles financially despite Oscar nomination
Apple's Tim Cook: Business isn’t just about making profit
Thousands of young people forced to go without food after benefits wrongly stopped under 'draconian' new sanctions regime
Ukraine crisis: New navy chief 'defects' and surrenders Crimean HQ as Putin claims ultranationalists forced intervention
Britain's top vet sparks controversy with call for ban on slashing animals' throats in 'ritual' slaughters for halal and kosher meat products
Ukraine crisis: Russia dismisses '3am ultimatum' as 'total nonsense'
If you're horrified by a flame-roasted dog, you should be shocked at a hog roast
- 1 The future of sex: The first female condoms were derided, mistrusted and shunned - but will their modern counterparts catch on?
- 2 South African rhino finally put down after roaming Kruger park for days with horn hacked off and bullet in brain
- 3 Channel 4 announces two-hour TV show to be broadcast 'Live from Space' later this month
- 4 Man stabbed with Legend of Zelda Master Sword in serious condition
- 5 Study suggests that 'gaydars' are real - at least for women