It’s that time of year when the papers are full of round ups of the best books of 2012, and we hope that you’ll indulge us if we sum up the books that we have read and loved in the last twelve months. Hopefully you’ll find something here that I’ve picked out six of my absolute favourites, and then we’ve a full list of recommendations from the Eason books team for you to enjoy!
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
Absolutely and unequivocally my favourite book of the year, and one that features on the lists of almost all of our book buying team (credit for discovering this one must go to our colleague Stephen Boylan, who was the first to spot it!). Set in a small American college, following the fortunes of talented outsider Henry and his baseball team, it’s a book that takes in a huge sweep of human experience. Forget the fact that it’s about baseball (unless, of course, you’re a baseball fan, in which case read it immediately): this book is about hopes and dreams and striving to win – or even to keep going – when things are tough. It’s a huge and satisfying novel but nonetheless I literally read it in one sitting, absolutely spellbound.
Broken Harbour by Tana French
We all have our favourite genres and I must confess that I’m not much of a crime reader, but a new Tana French is always a forsake-all-other-books event for me, and Broken Harbour did not disappoint. A deserved winner of this year’s Irish Book Award for Crime Fiction, this is a superb piece of writing. Opening with the brutal murder of a family of four in a ghost estate in north Dublin, the book is in turns gripping and unsettling but always compelling and insightful. Tana captures the hopes and aspirations of the Celtic tiger and the dire disappointments of its aftermath in a way that no other writer has.
The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
This is ‘the one that got away’ for 2012: a brilliant book that didn’t sell nearly as many copies as it deserved to! The premise of the book is simple, but very chilling: the earth has begun to slow. Days and nights start to last longer. Birds fall out of the sky, confused by the change in gravitational pull. Crops slowly fail. Society divides into those who observe the old clock, and those who try to keep pace with the new one. Suspicions grow and communities divide. In the midst of this slowly creeping dystopia, teenage Julia is struggling with her new life as well as the usual challenges of that stage of life. A brilliant, thoughtful and atmospheric book: definitely worth a read!
The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan
The outstanding Irish literary debut of 2012, without a doubt. This book became an instant word-of-mouth favourite in the Irish bookselling world, and we were all delighted when Donal won the Best Newcomer Award at the Irish Book Awards this year. Set in small town Ireland, centred loosely around one violent event, it has huge emotional range. The many voices of the community tell the story, and the scope of Donal Ryan’s writing talent is showcased as each voice is honest, powerful and unique. Disturbing and at times brutal, but with an underlying warmth and understanding of human nature, this really is a magnificent book. We look forward to hearing more from Donal Ryan.
The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling
This was certainly one of the most hyped books of the year – would it live up to the magic of Harry Potter? I must confess, I read it more out of a sense of duty initially: the machinations of a small town English residents’ committee didn’t seem like the most appealing subject matter! But a few pages in and I was hooked. All of human life is featured in the small town of Pagford and its community: from petty vanities and rivalries to the depths of grief, and the complexities of love and obsession. The book explores social class and snobbery with a sharp and critical eye. A very satisfying read, and one that establishes JK Rowling as an adult writer to follow.
Wonder by RJ Palacio
Warm, wise, funny, inspiring and heartbreaking, this is a gorgeous ‘crossover’ novel – one that works for both adults and kids. Ten year old Auggie is born with a serious facial disfigurement, and it is in his voice that the story is told. Loved and supported by his parents, he makes the decision to move from home school to high school, where he is met with a huge range of responses: from kindness to cruelty, embarrassment to attention, encouragement to avoidance. Auggie’s voice is brave and honest, and stayed with me for months after I put the book down.
Our Eason Team Favourites
Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
The House of Memories by Monica McInerney
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
Before Bella and Edward and Sookie Stackhouse, before Buffy, Interview with a Vampire and before Christopher Lee and even Bela Lugosi, there was one iconic book which defined a genre and inspired a myriad of books and movies: Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Of course Stoker didn’t invent the vampire – a pervasive mythical figure that has stalked the imagination of cultures throughout history – but his 1897 novel is certainly responsible for the vision of the vicious but misunderstood and often romantic figure that has remained a constant in the world of books and popular culture to this day.
As Hallowe’en approaches and the nights draw in, there is a great opportunity to explore and celebrate Dublin’s very own master of the macabre at the inaugural Bram Stoker festival. The event, which is the work of Dublin city council Dublin City Council in association with Dublin UNESCO City of Literature and Dublin City Public Libraries, has something for every vampire fan from teen to tourist to academic. Some of our favourites include:
- A visit from legendary crime writer Patricia Cornwell, who will talk about ways in which the serial killer has become, in some sense, a modern-day equivalent of the vampire
- A horror and fantasy writing workshop with award-winning Irish teen author Celine Kiernan (who knows, maybe a budding Bram Stoker might be in the offing!)
- Derek Landy, Will Hill and Oisin McGann will be telling tales and revealing what scares them in a special ‘Nightmare at Smock Alley’ event
- Journalist Edel Coffey will be chairing a panel event exploring the dark romantic appeal of the vampire.
In addition to this there will be walking tours, theatre, film and musical events to choose from, culminating in an amazing Spraoi street spectacle in Dublin Castle on Sunday night. Find out more at www.bramstokerfestival.com
And if you’re interested in reading Bram Stoker’s original work, or investigating a whole host of vampire works, try some of our recommendations below…
The classic: Dracula by Bram Stoker.
The thriller: The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.
The cult: A True Blood Omnibus “Dead Until Dark”, “Living Dead in Dallas”, “Club Dead” by Charlaine Harris.
The romantic: Twilight by Stephanie Meyer.
The horror: Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice.
The illustrated: Dracula the Graphic Novel by Bram Stoker, Jason Cobley, Staz Johnson and James Offredi.
Children’s 9-12: Cirque du Freak by Darren Shan.
And for the youngest readers: Horrid Henry and the Zombie Vampire by Francesca Simon and Tony Ross.
And some background reading: The Lost Journal of Bram Stoker: The Dublin Years by Dacre Stoker and Elizabeth Miller.