Top 10 Reads of 2012 (Part One)

10. If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller, Italo Calvino

A wonderfully inventive novel, which manages to experiment with form without sacrificing substance. Alternating between first and second-person narrative, If on a Winter’s Night is a truly immersive read. This sense of reader participation is captured perfectly in the novel’s opening lines: ‘You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s new novel, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller. Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought.’

Calvino Cover

9. Kick Ass, Mark Millar and John Romita

Having watched the film before reading the graphic novel, the amount of differences between the two came as a surprise. I rate the film highly, and think the changes made to the story for its adaptation all work well, but the graphic novel appears a far more subversive piece of story-telling. The vigilantism of Hit Girl and Big Daddy is politically charged:  Hit Girl rants against the idea of showing mercy to criminals, believing a soft-touch to be ineffective. Without the happy ending of the film, the overarching sense of bleakness in the original story is somehow more discomforting than its graphic violence.

Kick Ass

8. Princess Bride, William Goldman

Like Calvino, Goldman experiments with the story-telling form in this quasi-fairytale. The novel is framed by the interjections of its editor, who draws the reader’s attention to sections that have been cut out, and interrupts the story with notes similar to Pratchett’s brilliant asides in the Discworld series. This self-referential novel is every inch as enjoyable as its film version.

Princess Bride Cover

7. Rebellion, Joseph Roth

Roth’s deceptively simple prose conceals the moving story of a WWI veteran’s struggle to reintegrate himself back into an increasingly brutalised society. I must confess to still being a little bit heartbroken about poor Mooli the donkey…

Joseph Roth Cover

6. Beijing Coma, Ma Jian

A profoundly unsettling tale of one student’s involvement in the Tiananmen Square protests, Beijing Coma has a cyclical structure. I understood the central concern of the novel to be the potential for growth in China, which is continually blocked by the destruction and violence of its past. This dichotomy is encapsulated in the moment when *spoiler alert* Dai Wei wakes from his coma to find his home crumbling around him, as China attempts to modernise its cities and bury its dark past beneath the rubble.

Bejing Coma

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