Saturday, 8 January 2011
Books of 2010
Every year I try to read 52 books (one a week), and each year I fail! In 2010 I managed 44 books, which is slightly better than the previous year's total of 41. I only read 6 books from the 1001 Books You Should Read Before You Die list. Apparently I should be reading 17 a year to complete the list before I die, so I must try harder.
I keep a notebook of the books I read, with the details of the title and author, a brief description of the book (so I remember what it's about), my comments, and a rating out of five stars. For 2010, these were the five star books:
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (1939)
Although this starts slowly, I was soon wrapped up in the story of the Joad family, farmers who are forced off their land during the Depression, and make the arduous trip to California to find work. Powerful and heartbreaking.
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (1955)
Another classic, I had been put off this novel for years by the creepy premis of a middle-aged man having a relationship with a 12 year-old girl. The sheer beauty of the writing makes it very readable, and I was impressed by the way Nabakov forces the reader to sympathise with both Humbert and Lolita, neither of them particularly likable characters.
Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell (2006)
This novella, set in the Ozarks, has just been made into a film which is rather good. The book is infinitely more bleak and beautiful, and some of the phrases are so clever and evocative that I just had to stop reading for a moment and roll them around in my mind and marvel at them.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett (2009)
A novel about African American maids in Mississippi in the early 1960s, and the women they serve. I was completely ignorant of the fact that segregation was still in force at that time, and found this book fascinating. The author, who is white, was brought up by a black maid whom she adored, and the book is in a way a tribute to the woman who cared for her as a child.
Some other books that I enjoyed were:Elizabeth's London by Liza Picard - A fascinating look at all aspects of life in Elizabethan London. Chatty and amusing.
Under the Dome by Stephen King - my first Stephen King novel! A complete potboiler about a small American town that is suddenly placed under a giant transparent dome by unknown forces. Great characters.
The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness - The sequel to The Knife of Never Letting Go, about a pair of children living on a planet where all the men's thoughts can be heard outloud. One of the best series for older children I have ever read, easily comparable to Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy.
Butterfly by Sonia Hartnett - Set in suburban Australia in the 80s, Plum is 14, full of self-loathing and uncomfortable with her family, herself, and everything. Sonia Hartnett is a genius, and this is a dark and delightful read.
Fatelessness by Imre Kertesz - a largely autobiographical story about a teenage Jewish boy from Budapest who is sent to Auschwitz and Birkenau. Horrifying but strangely matter-of-fact, remniscent of Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.
All in the Blue Unclouded Weather by Robin Klein- I love this book when I was a child. It's about four poor sisters growing up in a rural Australia town in the 1940s.
Horns by Joe Hill - A man wakes up to find he has grown horns, which makes the people he meets act on their deepest desires, and tell him their darkets secrets. Strange and touching, and quite sad.
The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory - A novel about the imprisonment of Mary Queen of Scots, and her jailors, the Early of Shrewsbury and his wife, Bess Hardwick. The voices are very authentic, and it's an interesting take on Queen Mary, who is so often portrayed as rather stupid.
I also have to confess that I enjoyed reading the Luxe novels! Written by Anna Godbersen, the are like Gossip Girl for the 1890s. Set in Manhatten, they follow a group of wealthy teenagers as they scheme and generally behave badly. They are not particularly well written, and the plots are fairly obvious, but there is a lot of description of clothes and houses, and Godbersen has obviously done research into the times. Complete froth.