chasing bawa’s 2012 picks

14 December, 2012

So this year I read about 60 books, much less than last year, but a girl’s got to have a social life, right?

This year it’s been especially hard to choose my top ten because I’ve read some incredibly sublime, engaging and enjoyable books so I’ve added a few extra. They’re listed in alphabetical order by title and covers a range of genres, and I do hope you’ll try some of them.

Buddha in the Attic

The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka – I don’t think I’ve read anything like this before and wasn’t sure whether it would work. But it does. Amazing.


Chinaman by Shehan Karunatilaka – a very polished debut. Incredibly funny, punchy story narrated by an old soak. A cricket book that’s more than just about cricket.

Forge of Darkness

Forge of Darkness by Steven Erikson – new Malazan series. ‘Nuff said.

The Garden of Evening Mists

The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng – sublime, finely balanced tale of WWII, Malaysia and the Japanese.

The Night Circus

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – imagination explosion. I need the Night Circus to come to me.


The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood – Atwood is genius.

The Possessed

The Possessed by Elif Batuman – if you love and want to read Russian literature but can’t take the next step. Will make you want to pick up Tolstoy fo sho.

The Secret History

The Secret History by Donna Tartt – still amazing second time around. And still my favourite book ever.

Shadow of Night

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness – a brilliant sequel.

The Song of Achilles

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller – possibly my favourite book of the year. Achingly beautiful tale of Achilles and Patroclus which took me completely by surprise, even though I knew how it would all end.

Wide Sargasso Sea

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys – spicier than Jane Eyre. Didn’t make me hate Rochester though.

Wolf Hall

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel – Thomas Cromwell is certainly a man to watch. Who would’ve possibly thought that his financial and political shenanigans could be so sexy?

There are still a number of reviews I haven’t posted yet because I’m always a bit behind and you really want to do justice to the books you love (yes, I’m talking about The Secret History here).

In the meantime, why don’t you go and have a gander at what others have chosen?

26 Responses to “chasing bawa’s 2012 picks”

  1. Vindi Says:

    Wonderful list. Also wasn’t the Penelopiad so great? Loved it.

  2. Carl V. Says:

    The Night Circus will be on my list this year as well. I didn’t review it when I read it and really should try to go ahead and do so. It was such a lovely experience reading that book.

    Erikson is someone that my friend Jeff and I often talk about needing to try. Gardens of the Moon seems to crop up in a few conversations I have every year.

    I was down last year, reading only 50 books, and I’ve just passed that with a pace to maybe hit 60 this year. I didn’t read much at all during the summer…or rather I read a TON but it was all running and exercise magazines and related online articles…and I’m making up for that now.

    • sakura Says:

      Oh, I hope you do give Gardens of the Moon a shot, Carl. Erikson is one of my favourite authors! And I can’t wait to see what Morgenstern will produce next.

      I think you achieved a lot this year, reading 60 books plus all the running ones and doing a half-marathon – very impressive!

  3. gaskella Says:

    I need to get my act together and read The Night Circus, A Discovery of Witches and its sequel, Wolf Hall and its sequel, and The Song of Achilles. I’ve had copies sitting on my shelves for ages. I’d like to re-read The Secret History too – too long since I read it – I can’t remember enough about it. Your list is turning into a must-read-soon one for me! 🙂

  4. Inspiring list, so looking forward to reading Night Circus at Christmas. Hope you too have something great lined up for the break.

  5. I’ll definitely take quality over quantity! Lots of great-sounding books that I still have to read. I really loved Julie Otsuka’s When The Emperor was Divine and need to get my hands on her latest.

    • sakura Says:

      You know, I don’t think I’ve read Otsuka’s first book but I’m definitely going to give it a go as I think she is a first class writer. What she did in The Buddha in the Attic is really amazing, Ana.

  6. kimbofo Says:

    That’s a great list. I’ve read several from it, and agree that Buddha in the Attic was quite amazing. Was less sure about The Night Circus, although I admired what the author was trying to achieve. The Garden of Evening Mists was rather beautiful, Wide Sargasso Sea was brilliant and The Secret History is an all-time favourite (I read it circa 1993!!) I have Chinamen and Wolf Hall in my TBR, so will look forward to reading them now that I know you liked them so much.

  7. I have tried most of the books on your list, but the only one I loved was The Garden of Evening Mists. Many of the others, especially Night Circus, were great reads though. I haven’t tried Wide Sargasso Sea yet. I’ve had it on my shelf for far too long 😦 Will have to give it a go next year.

    • sakura Says:

      Oh do, Jackie. Wide Sargasso Sea is one of those books that will provoke a strong reaction whether positive or not so I’m very curious to see your reaction!

  8. mee Says:

    Great list! As I told you earlier, I’m going to make my best effort to read The Secret History next year. Also Wolf Hall, and possibly the Song of Achilles. My number has been so down since I came to London (I wonder what that says about London? :), it’s not even worth mentioning, but it doesn’t bother me much anymore.

  9. Michelle Says:

    I love the fact that Tan Twan Eng is on your list. His first novel has made me a fan, but I’ve still yet to read his second.

    I’ve heard so much about Donna Tartt and The Secret History that I know I simply have to read it one day.

    Myself, I haven’t read that many books this year, but Norwegian Wood is definitely somewhere up there.

    • sakura Says:

      I love Norwegian Wood and was planning to re-read it and since The Secret History was such a pleasurable re-read, I will try and do another one this year. Tan Twan Eng is a wonderful writer, his prose is SO beautiful.

  10. winstonsdad Says:

    garden of evening mist was wonderful book I found ,all the best stu

  11. Alex Says:

    Wolf Hall also made my top list back in 2010. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel next year, when it comes out in paperback. The Song of Achilles seems to be in everyone’s best of 2012 lists.

    • sakura Says:

      I’m planning to read Bring Up the Bodies when it comes out in paperback too, hardbacks are just too cumbersome! And do try The Song of Achilles!

  12. Simon T Says:

    I’ve actually read some of these! The Atwood, Rhys, and Tartt, all of which I liked. I can never make my list until the last minute, lest something wonderful crop up in the final days of 2012…

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