Well firstly, given the fact that new and independent authors often form virtual links through blogs, Facebook and other on-line connections, it’s also unsurprising that many of the books I’ve read have been by people I’ve met in cyber space. (And just consider for a moment that, just a few years ago, that very concept would have existed only in science fiction!). In the past, authors were remote figures. I might recognise the names, but the only knowledge I would have of the actual person was from the bio on the back cover. But now, I’m reading books written by people I’ve chatted with by e-mail or on FaceBook!
And, as a result, I've become more prolific in my reviewing and commenting. After all, a big name author will have hundreds of reviews on Amazon, and their books will carry endorsements from top literary critics. My opinion won't matter very much, one way or another. But another independent or small press author might well notice and appreciate a favourable review - and it could even help their sales.
And also, if I spot a mistake - a factual error, a serious plot hole, or whatever - if it's a an author I know I can pass that on (tactfully, I hope!) and it might help them polish up their writing. Whereas, it's unlikely that any of the top writers will be that interested in my criticisms! A pity, because a few of them need putting right, here and there!
So, e-reading has meant more contact, and more interaction, between me as a reader and some authors. It works both ways: I've also had very valuable critical feedback and considerable encouragement from other writers who've been good enough to read and comment on my writing.
Another key factor in my reading this year has been financial. Actually, that’s always been a factor, but in the past it’s meant trawling through the market stalls or charity shops for dog-eared paperbacks. With Kindle, there’s access to a huge range of free or very cheap books in all genre’s. And, although the quality of freebies can be variable, I've come across some bargains as well.
One result of all these factors is that my reading has broadened. My traditional diet of Sci Fi / Fantasy and Crime / Thriller, with the occasional historical novel added has expanded into Horror, Chick-Lit, Romance, and a few other areas, including some which defy easy categorisation. The experience has been interesting, and has brought home to me that the essential elements of a good story are the same whatever the genre (or lack of).
These being? Well, the usual suspects are Character, Setting, Plot, Conflict and Theme (or Resolution, in some lists), and I certainly wouldn’t argue with the importance of all these factors. But it seems to me that even if all those boxes are ticked, one thing is still needed – and that is the basic ability to string words together in a way that brings scenery and character and situation vividly into the readers mind. The way that the words flow, drawing the reader smoothly into another world, is even more fundamentally crucial than any other factor. I’ve read a number of books that cover all the Big Five points, but still fall short because of awkward phrasing and clumsy sentences.
Having said this, none of my 'best reads' of 2012 have been subject to exhaustive analysis to confirm that they have achieved this standard. They aren’t simply the ones which I enjoyed the most, but the ones that I found most memorable for various reasons. And I would happily recommend all of them. They aren’t the only stories I’ve enjoyed, and they aren’t all from Kindle either – but Kindle books have certainly dominated my reading list for 2012!
So, for the shortlist of my top reads from 2012, follow this link. (Or go to the 'Read, Reading or Want to Read' page on my website).
They're organised in categories, with my Amazon and/or Shelfari review attached. It’s a longer shortlist than I’d planned – I was trying to keep it down to five, but there were too many books that I couldn’t leave out. Two too many, actually!