Review of 2012

2012 was the poorest year on record for reading books (records go back to 2008), a total of 61 – and the best year on record for watching films, a total of 150. This changes the pattern of the last few years, when I’ve been watching fewer films (finding them a struggle, a waste of my time), and reading more books. Now I find myself very much struggling to interest myself in books – or, I should say novels, since this doesn’t seem to apply to short stories, memoirs, or indeed anything factual whatsoever (especially books about business and the stock market). I might in fact be in the middle of a fiction-reading crisis. (The other day, I even started Proust, feeling, if nothing else, that must be worthwhile – but the 30-page description of a church steeple made me less sure).

Still, what were the best books of 2012?


  • The Leopard, by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (Italian).
  • Tristram Shandy, by Laurence Sterne (English). I’d been reading it since 2011, getting stuck for a long time somewhere between pages 200-300; but when I restarted it again it felt fairly easy-going and became a book I was ever eager to return to.
  • The Devils, by Fyodor Dostoevsky (Russian). Read mostly on holiday at the beginning of the year – I wonder if I’d have struggled more if it hadn’t been for that initial concentration. Along with Shandy, the longest novel I’ve completed in quite a while. (Will have another go at a long holiday book again this year).
  • The Aristocrat, by Ernst Weiss (German). Another book I’d been reading for a long time, perhaps since 2010. I’m less sure why I got stuck in this one. I’ve got a few more novels by Weiss, so perhaps another one in 2013.
  • Elias Portolu, by Grazia Deledda (Italian). The second Deledda novels I’ve read. An author I’m already very fond of.

Other Books

  • Measure for Measure, by William Shakespeare. I enjoyed my Shakesperian play-reading, and none more than Measure for Measure, a fascinating play about which previously I knew nothing, and which isn’t generally up there with the classics. The rest of the Shakespeare I read isn’t far behind (and more Shakespeare in 2013 no doubt, along with other playwrights).
  • More Money Than God, by Sebastian Mallaby. A book about (and largely pro-) hedge funds: their history, their notoriety, their strategy etc. Pop-finance literature is becoming a big growth area in my reading, for reasons which are outside the scope of this blog, and will only become bigger in 2013 (if only I could find a derivative based on my own reading of finance books, I’d invest everything I had).
  • Plain Tales of the Hills, by Rudyard Kipling. I’m sure it’s all been said elsewhere. I reviewed Lispeth (back in 2011) and compared him with Jorge Luis Borges.
  • The Waning of the Middle Ages, by Johan Huizinga.
  • A History of the Crusades, vol 1, by Steven Runciman. Classic, well-written account of the madness which descended on Europe for invading the holy land. Unfortunately, I’m finding volume 2 considerably more of struggle, for the simple reason than invading somewhere is fundamentally more interesting than governing it. Volume 2 is just an endless stream of conflicts and alliances between petty little “nations”.


  • Claire’s Knee, by Eric Rohmer (French). I’ve seen this before, but I’m pleased I enjoyed it as much the second time around. I watched more Rohmer this year than any other director (or so I suppose, without checking my facts). He’s generally a director people like or don’t: quintessentially French: a group of young people, some girls, some boys, are entangled in various relationships and spend most of the time talking.
  • The Goat, by Buster Keaton and Malcolm St Clair (Silent). I’m working my way through Keaton’s films (there’s a massive database of silent films here, for anyone interested), and this is the best so far
  • Cuadecuc/Vampir, by Pere Portabella (Silent)
  • Notorious, by Alfred Hitchcock (English)

Most Read Posts etc.

  • My Nabokov page once again is the most read page on the blog, pulling in approximately three-times as many views as any other page, and is followed once again by my dubious post on Synthetic and Analytic Languages. These are old posts, which have by now become well entrenched in Google.
  • The most visited post from this year was A Universal History of Infancy?, which just keeps pulling in all those people who’ve wondered enough about the writers mentioned in Vila-Matas’  Bartleby & Co. to start sticking their names in a search engine. Like the Nabakov page, this post – I like to think – succeeds because of its usefulness (unlike the rest of the blog).
  • The most read book review was my review of the short story Lispeth, by Rudyard Kipling. This was written at the end of 2011, and has succeeded, I feel, because of an “entirely-coincidental” interest in Kipling’s collection, Plain Tales From The Hills, and indeed the rest of his work in other parts of the blogosphere. From this year’s reviews, the most read was for Vila-Matas’  Bartleby & Co.
  • The most read film review was for Pere Portabella’s Cuadecuc/Vampir. Presumably this is based on the Google/esoteric factor.
  • The most searched word in the blog in 2012 was “genre” (?!) (4th was “mitchelmore”, followed in 5th by “josipovici”).

In general, the blog seems to have gained and lost readers in about equal number during the course of the year – because, I know, I don’t write posts consistently enough, and I don’t engage enough with other bloggers (besides, of course, having nothing of interest or worth to say).

3 thoughts on “Review of 2012

  1. Did you feel that your enjoyment of The Leopard was somewhat compromised by the Father Pirrone chapter? Much as I was entertained by the character, I felt that a whole chapter revolving around him was a dull and unwarranted intrusion. The Prince’s death was a little drawn-out as well. But a splendid novel on the whole. I loved the conceit of a historical novel being written from the constantly emphasized perspective of a mid-20th Century author.

  2. I find I need to re-read it already, to answer your question. I do remember it wandering a bit off the point – but then I think maybe that’s part of its construction: – the last chapter, for instance, is also fairly odd in its connection to the whole. – Salvatore Satta’s The Day of Judgement, which I’m reading at the moment, has an inordinate number of parallels with The Leopard, including the same marvellous historical conceit (though not so pronounced, I suppose).

  3. Oh, I liked the last chapter. It’s not the deviation from the main plot that was the problem with the Pirrone section, more that it was boring and clumsy.

    As with most of the authors mentioned on this site, I had never heard of Satta.

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