Review of 2012: Books
Boyd Tonkin is Senior Writer and a columnist at The Independent. An award-winning journalist, he was formerly Literary Editor at The Independent, and before that Social Policy Editor and then Books Editor at the New Statesman magazine. He has broadcast extensively for BBC arts and current affairs programmes and has judged the Booker Prize, the Whitbread biography award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the David Cohen Prize. In 2001, he re-founded the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize for literature in translation, and serves on its judging panel every year.
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.
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 2 Michelle Obama highlights harsh restrictions faced by Saudi women after meeting King Salman without wearing a headscarf
- 3 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
- 4 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 5 Isis publicly behead man in Syrian town square for 'insulting Allah' as he screams for help
Heavy metal producer's corpse to be mutilated by models as per his dying wish
The Jump 2015 line-up: Joey Essex, Mike Tindall, Jodie Kidd and co take to the slopes
Game of Thrones: Grey Worm actor Jacob Anderson is all for more male nudity – as long as he can keep his clothes on
Roald Dahl letter warning student to 'eschew beastly adjectives' goes viral 35 years later
Our fascination with the Arctic from Greek myths to Sky Atlantic's new drama Fortitude
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures