Thursday, 4 February 2010

Books of 2009

Last year was not so good for me in the book reading department. Out of my goal of 52 books, I only managed 41, down from 2008's total of 46. Also, I only read 5 books from the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list. Must try harder!

As I mentioned last time, I keep a notebook of all the books I read, with a short description (so I can remember what they were about) , some comments, and a rating out of five stars. The books I gave five stars to last year were:

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - lovely older children's book about a little boy who is brought up by the ghosts in a graveyard after his parents are murdered. Sweet and scary.

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George - written in 1959, it tells the story of a teenage boy who leaves home and goes to live in the Catskill mountains. I adored this book when I was a child, and it is full of little drawings and explanations of how he hollows out a tree for his house, makes deer-skin clothes, traps animals, etc. Gorgeous.

The Town House by Norah Lofts - beginning in the 1480's in England, it follows the fortunes of a family who live in a medieval house, starting with the man who built it, and going down the generations. Each character has a wonderfully distinctive voice, and it is meticulously well-researched. Most delightfully, this is the first book of a trilogy about the house, and although written in the early 60's, they haven't dated.
Thank you to meegan for recommending this author!

Dog Boy by Eva Hornung - this is definitely my favourite book of the year, and once I had started it, I had to stay up until four in the morning to finish it in one sitting! A four year-old boy is abandoned in an empty apartment block by his uncle, in a freezing Russian winter. Desperate to survive, he follows a dog home to her den, and is brought up along with her puppies. The bonds between the dogs, and between the boy and the dogs is beautifully explored, without any sentimentality or anthropomorphism, and the way he fits into the pack is so clever and realistic. Amazing.

The City and the City by China Mieville - very clever detective story set in a fictional Eastern European city that is actually two cities superimposed upon each other.

Handling the Undead by John Ajvide Lindqvist - Swedish horror-ish story about what would happen if the dead came back to life. Sad and thought provoking as well as scary.

Some other books I enjoyed:

Stardust by Neil Gaiman - lovely fairy story about a man who meets a fallen star

The Darkness of Wallace Simpson by Rose Tremain - clever short stories

What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt - the friendship between an artist and an art historian, and how their families intertwine over 25 years

The Seance by John Harwood - a ghost story set in Victorian England

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters - another ghost story, this time set after WWII, about a country doctor who forms a bond with a family living in a run down mansion.

The Boy with the Topknot: A Memoir of Love, Secrets and Lies by Sathnam Sanghera - interesting story of a Seik childhood growing up in Wolverhampton, by a man who has only recently discovered that his father is a violent schizophrenic.
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver - a missionary takes his family to the heart of the Congo in the 1950's.

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness - a older children's book about a boy who lives in a future settlement where all the women have died, and all the men can hear each others thoughts.

A friend of mine, who is absolutely obsessed with superhero comics, has been kindly lending me selected titles, so I've read Batman: The Dark Knight (ok), Batman: Hush (lovely art), Batman: Year One (interesting), The Watchmen (amazing), and Kingdom Come (ravishing looking paintings by Alex Ross). There were some others that I didn't like so much, and I much prefer DC to Marvel.

Jitterbug is hosting a Book of the Month Club over at her blog, Destination 1940. This month the book is The Grapes of Wrath, which is also on the 1001 list, so that's what I'm off to read!

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