Rounding off our first week of festive reading on The Reader Online, The Reader Organisation presents the last set of Best Reads from 2012. There’s just too many wonderful books out there to whittle down, but hopefully we’ve given you some ideas for some literary treats to stuff into your Christmas stockings – and don’t forget, you can also choose from our Reader publications – including this year’s magical mix of stories and poems in A Little, Aloud for Children and some true classics to last a lifetime in Brian Nellist’s poetry selection Minted.
Stay tuned here on the blog all next week to find out about the books we’re hoping to unwrap under the tree come Christmas morning….
“I first read this in proof in 2011 and was knocked out by the hugeness of the idea and David Almond’s brilliant writing.
Provenance: A Child Called It crossed with The Divine Comedy or The Bible and Russell Hoban’s Ridley Walker.
I have reread it recently as part of my quest for the best in children’s books. But this isn’t a children’s book – it was simply that once I’d reopened it, I had to keep reading. That doesn’t happen often enough to me, so Billy Dean has become one of my 3 reads of the year. Massive, dark and compelling, the novel takes the form of a sort of meditative autobiography from its eponymous hero, a boy brought up in secret, in one room. His life is something like the development of human consciousness or biblical history, or perhaps a life told without the usual trappings of external cultural life: he knows nothing and has to make everything up from within himself. Thus, being picked up as a baby:
O the feel of his breathin agenst my body & his breth agenst my skin.
My son, he siys. O my dere son.
And his body vibrayts & eckos with the words & so dos mine.
My son. My dere son.
And he sways with me in his arms almost lyk hes dansin with the stars.
No point in me telling you anything about the story. It’s epic. if you like epic, universal, the stars and human danger, this is one for your Christmas list.”
(Jane Davis, Director)
“I chose this when I was asked to chair the Dickens: A Writers’ Contemporary and wanted to immerse myself in his writing. To open its pages is to step through a door into Dickens’ world. The streets of London have never been darker, the riverside at Twickenham never leafier. The rushing bustle of so many lives spills out, made real by tiny observations, familiar mannerisms, recognisable voices. I relished the time I spent with these people – particularly Arthur!”
(Amanda Brown, Criminal Justice Projects Manager)
“This debut novel is stark and not at all merry, as this festive season should be. However, in its unapologetic portrayal of Robyn – a child from a tenement block forced to go “on the rob” by her parents – it is impossible to not recommend. It offers a glimpse into a life and situation that is, arguably, ignored.
Where its major strength lies is its vivid depiction of era, with nods to Merseyside locations unchanged and long-gone alike. And this little girl’s home is so claustrophobic and unrelenting that I could almost smell it on the page.
The most honest and real piece of fiction I read in 2012.”
(Ian Walker, Get Into Reading Wirral Project Worker)