Happy New(ish) Year!

Slightly belatedly, Happy 2013! I hope it is off to a good start for you all.
Once again, December proved to be a shamefully bad month for fiction reading and/or blogging; this is only partly because I have been diving back into novel research and reading lots of random non-fiction books on German colonialism and the like, which I won’t bore you about. Yet.
Research aside, the festive fun meant that I only managed to limp through two novels last month: Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God (1964) and Kate Atkinson’s Started Early, Took My Dog. Arrow of God is the final book in what is sometimes known as ‘The African Trilogy’, which also includes Things Fall Apart, and No Longer at Ease. It deals with the colonial policy of indirect rule, and provides another fascinating portrait of Igbo life in Colonial Nigeria. Atkinson’s novel is also part of a series; it is her fourth novel featuring Detective Jackson Brodie. I have been a fan of Atkinson’s writing for a long time (check out her weird and wonderful short story collection Not The End of the World), but she has really come into her own since turning to crime (novels, that is). She doesn’t confine herself to the more sterile, predictable rules of the genre, and her prose is sparky and fresh. Brodie is a likeable protagonist, and Atkinson’s strategy of interweaving the narratives of different characters at various points in their history means that we build up the full picture in pieces, echoing the way a crime is solved.
 My new year’s resolution is to set achievable goals for myself. In view of the fact that I’ve got a fairly full teaching timetable at the moment, I am trying to avoid making sweeping statements like ‘By the end of this year, I will have finished my novel,’ or ‘I have to read more books than last year.’ I am currently working out how to carve out a little bit of time each day for writing (and reading) – I have a feeling this is either going to involve switching off the TV in the evenings, or giving up my morning snooze on the commuter train. Possibly both.
In the meantime, I’ve had a bit of a spree on Amazon, and am very excited about getting started on the first batch:
Recommendations of which one to start with once I have finished my current read (The Master and Margarita), as well as any other reading suggestions for 2013, are very much appreciated. What was the best novel you read last year?
Here’s to another good year of reading and writing!