12 Books in 12 Months

writing books and blogging about it



Weekly Photo Challenge – Masterpiece

The latest photo prompt from the Daily Post is Masterpiece – so naturally the entries thus far include things like architecture, awesome geological features, and smiling children.  Mine is more reflective of my reading habits, which I think is legitimate because the prompt in full reads:

‘No matter where you are (and where you’ve been), I’m certain you’ve stumbled upon something extraordinary: a place that blows your mind; a work of art or object that speaks to you; or even a location or scene that’s special, unusual, or even magical in some way.’



I bloody love a good dystopia, and there are plenty to choose from – but The Handmaid’s Tale is probably my favourite – and may actually have started the whole thing, now I think about it.  I first read it as a teenager and it just tapped into something in my brain, or ‘spoke to me’ if you prefer.  It felt frighteningly plausible, which a lot of these books do – a good dystopia essentially speculates on possible fallout from the introduction of new technology, so is generally grounded in recognisable science and social situations.

The Handmaid’s Tale may have the edge for me because it was my first dystopia, or because of Margaret Atwood‘s prose, or perhaps because of being from the perspective of a female protagonist; comparatively rare given the others I considered photographing were Oryx and Crake (also by Atwood, also awesome, but with a male narrator), Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, and 1984 by George Orwell.

I strongly suggest you read them all, and an honourable mention must also go to  The Passage by Justin Cronin, which I read in February this year.  It was never really in the running for this photo because I read it on kindle, which is not as aesthetically interesting as a paper book – but if you like dystopia it’s a damn good read.

I Have Questions

Further to Monday’s shout out for guest bloggers, for the rest of this week I am answering the queries of Andrew Blair, an Edinburgh-based writer of comedy and other things.  You can see some of his work on this website, or follow him on Twitter @aagb1884.

Tuesday 26/4/11, 08:00


I have been reading your blog sporadically. I have questions.

Number 1. You are writing in 12 different genres. This is not a question. What genres of books do you predominantly read and have you enjoyed the experience in researching others? That is a question.


Tuesday 25/4/11, 13:01


I don’t really have a favourite genre, although I lean towards books with a sense of humour and quite like things with a fantastical element.  I also like a lot of YA and kids books, and Scottish fiction.

To give some examples: some of the best and funniest books I’ve ever read are the Mr Gum series by Andy Stanton, which I’d recommend to anyone (even though they’re really aimed at 8 year olds).  Meanwhile in fantastical terms, I go from the very dense prose of Isabel Allende to Neil Gaiman‘s Sandman graphic novels with a bit of future dystopia from Aldous Huxley or Margaret Atwood along the way.

In terms of YA, I’ve recently enjoyed stuff by Holly Black and Gemma Malley, as well as The Gates by John Connolly who started out writing adult crime novels.  You can read the first chapter on his website, and I think it’s awesome.

Great kids books I’ve read lately include The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forrester and The Secret Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart.  I’d also recommend Steve Augarde‘s ‘Touchstone Trilogy’ which is suitable for 11+.  Good Scottish novels include The Ossians by Doug Johnstone and The Incredible Adam Spark by Alan Bissett, and anything by Muriel Spark…  Essentially I like to think I’ll give anything a go, and as such my ‘to-read’ list is very, very long.

In terms of research for 12 books, so far I have probably enjoyed the romance month the most because the genre is often unintentionally very funny.  It’s quite rare to find a romance book that is genuinely romantic, I think partly because a lot of authors tend to get caught up in sex scenes – one of the reasons why I decided to go for unrequited love, actually – and these are notoriously difficult to write well.


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