Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Sunday Telegraph Books of the Year 2012

Critics and guests choose their favourite books of the year

Photo: Neil Webb
Antonia Fraser Writer; her next book, 'Perilous Question: The Drama of the Great Reform Bill 1832' (Orion), is out in May

It has been a rich year for royal biography. I have enjoyed two in particular: Anne Somerset’s Queen Anne: The Politics of Passion (HarperPress) takes a monarch generally perceived as much less exciting than her Stuart forebears and, with a great deal of literary panache, demonstrates that something like the reverse was true. Queen Anne emerges as intelligent and sympathetic despite the cruelty of her gynaecological history: 17 children born and only one surviving to a proper childhood (he then died). Jane Ridley’s Bertie (Chatto & Windus) paints the story of Edward VII and his long, hectic life as Prince of Wales in vivid colours: no scandal is left unturned, and yet the depth and authenticity of the research make it clear that this is a serious, even magisterial work.

Andrew Roberts Historian and author of 'The Storm of War' (Penguin)

Martin Amis’s Lionel Asbo (Jonathan Cape) is gloriously funny and incisive about Britain’s feral underclass. Anne Applebaum’s Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-56 (Allen Lane) brilliantly exposes precisely how the Soviets extended their power eastwards in the period of supposed peace between the end of the Second World War and the brutal suppression of the Hungarian uprising. James Stourton and Charles Sebag-Montefiore’s The British as Art Collectors (Scala) is as learned and well-written as it is sumptuously illustrated.

Jan Morris Writer, whose Pax Britannica trilogy has recently been reissued by Faber

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