An Endless Year in Review

the meadows in autumn


2012 is nearly over – it’s been a year of open spaces. A year of close reading. A year of patient steps. Anticipations, damp days, wandering the city (see my love letters here)

Of writing this second novel, and hoping, still, for the first. Of making friends online (- you’ll see them on my blogroll there, though I should do a big long post addressing them) and discovering literary journals, where my work fits, or I  find what turns something in my heart.


I’ve read 44 novels this year, and I’m working on the 45th. I’m a pretty slow reader, needing to take breathers, often distracted, so I feel happy with this total. Before the year’s out, I want to say a few things about the writing that has stayed with me – I’m lucky, in that a lot of what I read this year was utterly wonderful. Not all of it was new, or even new to me. But here are my picks of the best:


I began reading Humanimals: A Project for Lost Children by Bhanu Kapil an hour before the bells rang in 2012, and its hybridity and excellent prose has haunted my imagination. If I get the chance, I’ll be seeking out more of Kapil’s work in 2013.


The Summer Book introduced me to the wiseness and gently wood-carved sentences of Tove Jansson. I’m reading A Winter Book right now, and loving it almost – though not quite as much – as the sunsoaked earlier novel.


Green Girl by Kate Zambreno – how can I begin to talk about how much this book inspired so much in me this year? I can’t possibly do the stark, girl-centred, needling thing justice. Or the many conversations it inspired across so many online platforms?  Just be glad that it sent me towards Zambreno’s blog and Heroines, which if you haven’t read it, what are you waiting for? Participate!


Glaciers by Alexis M. Smith taught me the power that can be contained in an almost-novella, written with such care, without an ill-placed word.


Zazen by Vanessa Veselka was on the other hand an explosion, an earth-scorching revelation of words. I await her next works with the eagerness of a sailor’s wife, standing on a pier, watching a maelstrom wreck the waters.


I Have Blinded Myself Writing This by Jess Stoner wins best title and Book That Made Me Cry and stare off into space thinking of it. It’s experiemental, beautiful, humane – let me just throw some more words till you decide to go investigate.


Fast Machine by Elizabeth Ellen is one of those rare collections – one that I cannot stop reading. Normally I struggle to find the energy for short stories, but each of these connects, refracts or sparks the rest, and I felt like I was in a workshop for what this form can do. It’s the second book after I Have Blinded Myself Writing This to be published by small press giants, Hobart.


Domestication Handbook by Kristen Stone, another hybrid work, charmed me with its twisty, raw-fingered deployment of memoir and textbook and poetry.


Special, rather shocked mention to 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, for being such a messy and plain and overblown thing, which nevertheless slowed me down in my own work, made me consider my audience and how to talk to them.


Not too many men on this list, but it’s down to my vowed focus on female writers. Only 11 of the 45 books were written by men. No regrets. The world of book and poetry reviews is heavily weighted in favour of men, as Vida proved true of America last year.


So what will 2013 bring?


A superstitious year. Bad luck and good ahead.


More books – the first of the new year will probably be Errantry by Elizabeth Hand. Anticipating good things, from what I’ve read around it.


More writing.

More of my work shared, I hope. I am coming on with this draft, and really think, after absorbing so much great writing, that my own has improved. Nothing can be known in advance. I am prepared to patiently keep stepping forward, honing and learning every day.


More adventures. More of the seashore and the mountains and the countryside. Glens and slopes and lochsides. Another trip to London, in mid Janurary, this time with D – a Christmas gift from my parents.


A move, at the very least out of this cramped flat. Perhaps out of Edinburgh – mysterious, but I’ll know more in the Spring.


So much more – a new camera, to replace the last. I hope to work on my photography skills bit by bit, and bring you better images, views of places that have innately such beauty that I cannot distorted it too much.



And of course, reading. A new Endless Reads – I hope you’ll let me know of what books you’re thinking of tackling, which you’ve loved, which you have great furious hopes for.


And I wish you all a raucous or peaceful and in any case charming Hogmanay – see you back here, after the bells birth 2013.



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8 responses to “An Endless Year in Review

  1. Awesome, thanks! I need some good books to read in 2013and the library lets you make a list and draw down. Will be adding many!

  2. You are always inspiring, Helen. Thank you for this list – I look forward to reading some of these. Best wishes for the new year, to both you and D. It’s going to be a good one.

  3. Provocative list. I tackled several at your recommend and was glad I did. Am starting in to read what I haven’t yet on the Morning News Tournament of Books list. Starting with Heti’s HOW SHOULD A PERSON BE.

  4. Thanks for your list. I bought Zambreno’s O Fallen Angel a wee while back (when I saw you chat about her Heroines on Twitter), looking forward to reading it. I’ve also moved Jansson’s The Summer Book toward the top of my TBR pile following that gorgeous BBC documentary!

    In 2013 I’ve signed up to The Year of Reading Proust plus I’m seriously looking forward to the second installment in English of Knausgaard’s My Struggle.

    • Ooh, I hope you enjoy The Summer Book as much as I did. I’m reading A Winter Book and not loving it as much – it’s a bit insubstantial.

      Well done for embarking on Proust – I made it through just the first 300 pages of the first volume but at some point I’d like to do the same thing and devote a year. Just…not this year. I’ll read of your progress with interest!

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