Here is the annual award for my book of the year. It is totally subjective, based on my own peculiar reading habits.
Last years Book of the Year was deservedly taken by 'The Case for Working with your hands, or why office work is bad for us and fixing things feels good' by Matthew Crawford. The long title alone gives it kudos - but the book is even better than the title!
I've read lots of great fiction this year, and an honourable mention goes to the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. Just because something is a mainstream bestseller for teens and gets a movie franchise doesn't make it bad fiction - don't be a book snob! I also really enjoyed reading Brother Andrew's 'God's Smuggler' again, 25 years on from the first time.
If there was a golden raspberry award it would go to 'Last Train from Liguria - Christine Hickey. I persevered for a couple of hundred pages but was so bored waiting for something to happen in her depressing world that I would have thrown myself under her train....if it had ever come!
So to the list of great books- In descending order.
5/ Glocalisation - Bob Roberts Jr.
Is this a book on missions, on the gospel, on church leadership, on culture, or is it just a new joined up way of thinking for 21st century believers? This stirring book ticked so many of my boxes for how our nations work is evolving and should be read widely.
4/ Stanley. Africa's Greatest Explorer - Tim Jeal
Everyone should read at least one exploration epic biography a year, and Jeal's masterpiece on Stanley is magnificent. Setting the record straight on much of what has been written about him, but pulling no punches still, this book is magnificent boys own tough stuff, but with a surprisingly soft centre.
3/ Plague Child - Peter Ransley
A brilliantly crafted historic adventure set around the time of the English Civil war. This is more than run of the mill historical fiction, there is a superb story rooted in a well researched setting. If you enjoyed Hilary Mantel's epics, you will love Ransley.
2/ Sacred Causes - Michael Burleigh
What a stunning book, charting tyrannical politics and dictators through the 20th Century up to the present day, looking in particular at the impact on culture. If you want to understand more about why we are the way we are, read this book. Burleigh lets himself down in his chapter on Ulster and the troubles there. Obviously well researched, he betrays some prejudice perhaps, and for a few pages adopts the tone of the crazed bigot. After that it all calms down, and is worth buying regardless!
1/ Blood on the Altar - Tobias Jones
This remarkable true story account is stranger than fiction and has to be read to be believed. With a backdrop of the city of Potenza in southern Italy, Jones follows the plot of the disappearance of young Elisa Claps and the subsequent cover up that rocked the established church and the political hierarchy.
Jones also wrote the outstanding 'Dark Heart of Italy' and is a master of these tales as well as a great writer. He truly unlocks the mystery of southern Italy which is like a hall of mirrors to the uninitiated.
The fact that his story is based in a city where we are working, impacting the lives of people we know lends it extra gravitas, but it stands alone rightly as my Falling with Style Book of the Year 2012!