Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Notable books in 2012: yours and mine

Writer and Universal Heart Book Club co-host Stephanie Dowrick

Stephanie Dowrick, writer and co-host of the Universal Heart Book Club, shares a favourite list of "Notable books" and also asks for your favourites - from any year.

One of the (many) greatest things about reading is that we can literally read across time. Your favourite author could be currently 25, or have been born 2500 years ago. With quality translations available, we are also not bound by language or culture and in fact I never fail to feel the awe of the time-and-place travelling that reading allows, simply by sitting still and turning pages.  (You may be reading on a screen; you are still turning pages!)

The books we love most usually meet a need that perhaps we didn't even know we had. They also often have a timeless quality to them, even when they are firmly rooted in or reflective of a particular time. They improve with age; or perhaps we - as readers - improve with age. Most of us have a few precious, beloved books we've read and re-read at different stages of our lives. And perhaps we have appreciated increasingly what those writers are giving us in a direct sharing from their inner world to our own.

Has this been a rich, adventurous "year of reading" for you?  I do hope so. It's been a year of lots of reading…and writing…for me. Plus the establishment of this Universal Heart Book Club with my friend and fellow reading activist, Walter Mason.

"Ancient" can be very fresh
We would love to hear what books have moved, entertained or enlightened you most this year. We would always welcome your suggestions about which books we should be recommending or highlighting among the almost countless possibilities. One of the ways I most enjoy this Book Club design is that you are not limited to any one month's reviews; the prompts across the bottom of each of our posts so easily take you deeper into the archives where more treasures are to be found. Don't overlook Mark S. Burrows' review of Christian Bobin's writing, Jane Goodall's wonderful writing on Hare with Amber Eyes, Joyce Kornblatt on her writing book favourites - including my own perennial favourite: Annie Dillard's The Writing Life, Ros Bradley's review of what I regard as the political novel of the year, Drusilla Modjeska's The Mountain, and the utterly endearing Buddhaland Brooklyn reviewed by Walter Mason. Walter also named Michelle de Kretser's brilliant, absorbing Questions of Travel as his "book of the year". And I am naming Barbara Kingsolver's new novel Flight Behavior - my "book of the year"! I also have her earlier Poisonwood Bible as one of my top-10-for-all-time novels. Richard Holloway's Leaving Alexandria was my memoir of this year. It will "weather" well, just as its author has.

We will keep informing you of books worth seeking. Meanwhile, I find it tremendously stimulating to look at other people's choices of "notable books". Here's a link to the 2012 list of "notable books" from the highly resourced (and variously opinionated) Sunday Book Review of the New York Times.  Our family has had several Hawaii holidays since the dollar exchange made that possible and one of my greatest joys is to be there on a Sunday, and to wander - with the delicious feeling of "all the time in the world" - into the nearest Starbucks to buy a soy coffee, a cream cheese bagel and the latest, fat Sunday edition…with hours of reading promised. And some terrific pointers for greater reading depth ahead.

That list may be a useful prompt for you - or you might disagree with it entirely and want to make your own! And don't forget: your ideas, comments and opinions will be welcomed by all those coming to these pages in the days and months ahead. Comments welcome!

You can support the Book Club by buying any book ("notable" or not!) via the book store links above right. All sales support this Book Club through a small % returned to us.

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