Friday, 31 December 2010

The year's books

What have I read this year?
  • 177 read
  • 9 non-fiction
  • 10 Kindle (since late September when Quoodle-the-Kindle arrived)
  • 28 re-reads
  • and 1 graphic novel
  • 112 by women; 65 by men*
At least 94 of the above involved violent death or murder! The ratio of fiction to non-fiction looked dreadful, until I thought about it: not included here are the books I have read, often several times over, because I have been copy editing or typesetting them. In the course of the year I've worked on various books on the Middle East, on literature and, most satisfying, landscape photography. Since I have another job for four days a week, and freelance in my "spare" time, that's a lot of non-fiction reading, and it occurs to me that I don't really need to feel guilty - as I had been - for doing so little "serious" reading. So 2011 is going to be guilt-free as far as books are concerned and  if, at the end of a day spent poring over a work written by someone for whom English is not a first language and trying to reconstruct their sometimes tortured sentences into elegant prose, I can only face nefarious doings in rural settings, that's okay.  (That was a pretty tortured sentence of my own, for which I apologise - and some of my authors write very well, and just need a bit of tidying up, it's the subject matter which is grim.)

The finds of the year have been:
  • Elly Griffiths, with her series about archaeologist Ruth Galloway - I'm really looking forward to the next one;
  • Alan Bradley - I read The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie at the beginning of the year and fell for Flavia de Luce, and I'm just finishing The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag, which had been sitting on the TBR pile for months because I couldn't bear to read it yet;
  • and thanks to Callmemadam, O Douglas - she sent me Priorsford, which I loved, though I haven't found time to write about (perhaps on the next reading) and since then, I have added a couple more to the waiting pile, including two, I think, on Quoodle. Not new, but new-to-me.
The year's other find has been Quoodle itself. Along with everyone else I know who has bought a Kindle this year, I shall still be buying books, but in three months it has effected a small transformation and is one of the best birthday presents I've ever had. I won't go so far as to say that travel has become a pleasure, but it's wonderful to be able to carry such a choice of books with me and to suit my reading to my mood. 
    My "best of year" list is limited to five, only one of which I've managed to write about here, sadly (memo to self: must do better next year). These are ranked (!) - number 5 being my book of the year:
    1. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger. I didn't like the much-vaunted The Time Traveller's Wife, and approached this book with some trepidation.
    2. Dark Angels by Katherine Langrish - this was  a delight, I ordered it from the library and liked it so much that I've bought it, and also the first in a series, Troll Fell. I promise a review when I've read both.
    3. Thursbitch by Alan Garner.
    4. The Android's Dream by John Scalzi - a birthday present, and another wonderful discovery, this book reminded me of several other authors, including Connie Willis. Scalzi's another I shall be reading more of during the year.
    5. The City and the City by China Miéville - this was wonderful. Again, it was a library book, but I bought it for younger son for Christmas (and his more recent Kraken for elder son), and I'll be reading it again soon. It  just squeaks ahead of Scalzi on the grounds of technical fireworks.

      Honourable mentions to Rosy Thornton's Tapestry of Love, for sheer pleasure, Helen Grant's young adult novel The Glass Demon and Nick Lake's The Secret Ministry of Frost. The last gets my award for best cover.

      Finally, I've also had lots of fun reading along with the Angela Thirkell group on Yahoo (mostly composed of members of the Angela Thirkell Society from both the UK and the US), where we read a book a month. The year started not with her Barsetshire novels, but with Ankle Deep, a loosely autobiographical work, then moved on to her delightful memoir Three Houses, about her childhood homes. I haven't managed to keep up completely but, along with these two and Margot Strickland's biography, Portrait of a Lady Novelist, I've read/re-read six of the Barsetshire books. The group spends quite a lot of time off-topic (we are much exercised by the weather, as befits Thirkellites!) but it's an excellent source of recommendations, since we're not only interested in reading around the subject but also tend to like a range of similar authors, old and new.

      The list of the year's books is here, for anyone who is interested. I'll try to put in links to reviews at some point. I update the list at the end of each month, so I now have a constant record of the year's reading, instead of having to go back through the monthly round-ups. Tonight I'll finish The Weed that Strings... and then it's on to a whole new year's reading.  I hope it's as good as this one has been.

      Happy New Year everyone!

      * Edited later to add this information


      1. Happy New Year to you, too! And don't ever feel "guilty" - there's certainly nothing wrong with reading for entertainment.

      2. Wonderful books on your lists. I'm so glad you discovered Alan Bradley and John Scalzi. The Flavia books are treasures. I'll be diving right into the third book when it comes out in February, despite the fact that I'll be in the middle of my sci fi reading. Its just that good.

        And John Scalzi is one of my top favorite authors. The Androids Dream is brilliant, funny and adventurous. I would suggest starting with Old Man's War and read them in this order:

        Old Man's War
        The Ghost Brigades
        The Sagan Diaries (track it down, its free online if you cannot get it elsewhere. This little novella is worth it)
        The Last Colony

        and then follow that up with the YA book, Zoe's Tale, which retells the events of The Last Colony from a teenage girl's perspective. It is very good, not at all a rehash of the previous novel.

      3. Happy New Year - I've only read one of your top 5 (Niffenegger), but did enjoy it. I loved the Secret Ministry of Frost - shame the sparkly bits on the cover don't show up as it was a great one.

      4. I love Elly Griffiths, too, that wonderful narrative voice, so quietly ironic. The new one is out this month, I think. I know I've already got it on my library list and the weekend after it arrives will be blocked out for nothing else.

      5. >>At least 94 of the above involved violent death or murder!

        Hahahahaha, that made me laugh. When I was doing my wrap-up post, I tried to decide on a best book with death and dismemberment, and there were just too many choices to choose from, so I gave it up. :p

      6. Lovely review of books, Geraniumcat! I discovered John Scalzi last year, reading Old Man's War, and have Zoe's Tale on my TBR pile. I love Elly Griffiths too - am impatiently waiting for The Janus Stone to come out in paperback so I can read it. I gave a copy of the Crossing Places to my mother for Christmas, and she read it already and really enjoyed it. I really want to know about the Fell series now, please post your review soon so I can know what it's about! Happy New Year! and I have China Mieville on my list of books to buy, especially The Kraken.

        I am really impressed that with everything in your life, you read so many books. I must do better! lol I have to get to 100, this has been a goal for a few years now. I like how you describe how your Kindle-version e-book lets you carry a selection of reading books so any mood, there's a book at your fingertips. you make me almost want to try one!