It’s odd to believe that we have two weeks left of the year to go. It is especially irksome when I look at my shelves and see the wonderful books that came out in 2009 that I simply haven’t read yet. I feel most shameful. Then I think hang on a second I have two weeks to go, I can probably polish off another five or six of them by then and that is where you will be coming in shortly!
Last year I did a list of the books at the end of the year that I had meant to read but hadn’t and ten seemed a huge amount to me then. I think this years list will exceed that, we will see when I compile it below, which is odd considering I have read more books this year than I have any other year. I blame a new love of all classics in particular sensation novels partly and the fact that I still had so much I wanted to read at the end of 2008. From my should have read list last year I have only read two of the books I intended to in 2009 (though lots more I didnt intend to), it’s not promising is it?
So now I will hand it over to all of you as you were so helpful with my Gran’s list last week. Which of the following books published in 2009 that I have on the TBR must I really try and read before the year is through?
- The Devil’s Paintbrush – Jake Arnott
- All The Nice Girls – Joan Bakewell
- The Death of Bunny Munro – Nick Cave
- War on the Margins – Libby Cone
- The Solitude of Prime Numbers – Paolo Giordano
- The Lieutenant – Kate Grenville
- The Other Half Lives – Sophie Hannah
- The Believers – Zoe Heller
- A Beginners Guide To Acting English – Shappi Khorsandi
- Pretty Monsters – Kelly Link
- Hells Belles – Paul Magrs
- One Day – David Nicholls
- The Angels Game – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
- The First Person and Other Stories – Ali Smith
- Noah’s Compass – Anne Tyler
- Legend of a Suicide – David Vann
Actually that’s not as bad as I thought it would be. So over to you… which of these books must I try and devour by the end of the year and why? Which books published in 2009 have I missed and should have tracked down? I am looking forward to your thoughts as ever.
What I love about Booking Through Thursday is that it always makes me think. I generally end up waffling on (as I am sure I will do today) and find varying tangents to discuss. It makes me think out the box though and this weeks question “Which is worse… finding a book you love and then hating everything else you try by that author, or reading a completely disappointing book by an author that you love?” has not only made me think more about books and what I have read but also how I read.
Out of the two I don’t think I could say which is worse because of some ‘reading rules’ I have, in fact I think I may have to do a blog in the near future on reading and reviewing rules I have, though they aren’t set in stone. If I read one book I absolutely love by an author I will undoubtedly pick another of their books up but it might take me weeks, months even years for me to read another of their books or for them to write another if it’s their debut. If I couldn’t wait (very rare that that happens) and the next one was rubbish I would sadly probably write them off. There is a clause in that statement though in respect of if someone whose opinion I trust raved about another of their works I would possibly give them a second chance.
So what about an author I love who releases a dud book? Well in order to love an author I have to have read more than three/four of their books. If one of them was a dud before that the rule above would apply so they wouldn’t be an author I love. I only at present have authors like that Daphne Du Maurier, Ian McEwan, Stella Duffy, Tess Gerritsen and Susan Hill all who so far with all their varying writing styles and genres haven’t failed me once.
I do get nervous reading the next of their works though that it might be the one book by them that will really bad or put me off them (in my head for some reason I am thinking of McEwan’s ‘Saturday’ instantly which I haven’t tried yet but worries me in advance) as yet none of them have written a bad word. If one did… I would be disappointed but I would forgive them. It has happened with one author who would have made my favourite readers amount to six not five and that is Kate Atkinson whose books I love only I had a really, really hard time with ‘Behind The Scenes At The Museum’ which was the second book I read of hers after ‘Human Croquet’. I didn’t get on with ‘Behind The Scenes…’ and so much so, though I am going to try again, I was tempted not to bother with her again. Luckily three people recommended ‘Case Histories’ to me and my oneside relationship with Kate has never looked back.
So not only has today’s blog made me think about my reading in a different way its also made me look at my reading pattern (is that what you call it) as I have noticed I have quite a lot of books I have absolutely loved and either not read another word by that author yet or (like Margaret Atwood) read the second one a year or so down the line. I am thinking maybe I need to start reading the whole works of some authors such as Margaret Atwood, Anne Tyler… oooh who else? Any recommendations, what about all of you?
…And so onto the penultimate of the Richard and Judy Reads 2009. I knew very little about December or its author Elizabeth H Winthrop before this book was placed on the list and when the lovely people at Sceptre sent me a copy. I looked and saw that it has received slightly mediocre reviews on Amazon and in some ways I can see why and in others I can’t.
December tells the tale of a winter and in particular the lead up to Christmas Day for the Carter family. Husband and wife Wilson and Ruth are concerned with their daughter Isabelle who has not spoken for over nine months. There seems to be no reason as to why Isabelle has put herself under a self imposed silence that they can see. They have tried many different psychiatrists who have been unable to work out what is wrong and now Isabelle’s school are thinking of letting her go.
It is interesting for the reader to see this from all three parties’ sides. Winthrop looks into the minds of all three and how they each cope very differently with the situation and really gets into each of these peoples heads without melodrama which could have been quite easily done. The pressure put on the marriage and how it affects Wilson and Ruth is an interesting subject as they both have moments of denial, anger and unbound love about the whole situation. The voice I didn’t feel I quite got as much as I would have liked was Isabelle herself which was slightly frustrating as the story does in essence evolve around her.
I agree whole heartedly with two comments made by Farmlanebooks One was that it is a ‘gentle’ novel and that is an absolutely spot on word for this novel. This is a very delicately written novel that doesn’t pull out all the stops to dramatise or go over the top. The writing takes you a long without it ever being a page turner. That style leads me to another review that said it was in some ways very ‘like Anne Tyler’ and that is also spot on. In fact after reading Breathing Lessons and Anne’s writing about family issues earlier this year I was reminded of it again with this book. Winthrop looks at real life and writes about real people and situations and maybe that is why some people have found this a slightly underwhelming read.
I didn’t personally find it underwhelming, I actually quite enjoyed it without being blown away. In fact overall I would say it was an ‘enjoyable gentle’ read, even though really very little happens I still wanted to know more. For those who love a book with a punch and want to get lost in a great tale this is possibly not for you. Those of you who like books that looks into families and how they deal with things, observations of people and how they behave or just love Anne Tyler like I do then you will enjoy this I would imagine.
We’ve all seen the lists, we’ve all thought, “I should really read that someday,” but for all of us, there are still books on “The List” that we haven’t actually gotten around to reading. Even though we know they’re fabulous. Even though we know that we’ll like them. Or that we’ll learn from them. Or just that they’re supposed to be worthy. We just … haven’t gotten around to them yet… What’s the best book that YOU haven’t read yet?
Hmmm this question from Booking Through Thursday
has really made me think, literally all day, hence why the slightly late blog from me (that and trying to finish Netherland). I couldnt decide what one best book I havent read yet as there were so many so I thought I would do a top ten instead. How id I decide what made it on the list? Books that I have always wanted to read, books I have always been told I must read and books by my favourite authors I havent gotten round to yet!
1. The Blind Assassin – Margaret Atwood
2. Madame Bovary -Gustave Flaubert
3. The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver
4. Crime and Punishment – Dostoevsky
5. The Accidental Tourist – Anne Tyler
6. My Cousin Rachel – Daphne Du Maurier
7. The Well of Loneliness – Radclyffe Hall
8. Love in a Cold Climate – Nancy Mitford
9. The Secret Scripture – Sebastien Barry
10. A Handful of Dust – Evelyn Waugh
Please note: this list is technically subject to daily change as my mood for what I want to read and what someone might recommend me tomorrow may become the next best book I have never read!
So what are yours?
I vowed last year that I would read much more Anne Tyler after reading Digging To America, and only read that novel. So when Cornflower said that I could join the Cornflower Book Group and that they were reading an Anne Tyler I was thrilled. You can read everything everyone else thought here, as for some reason I am not allowed to upload any comments onto any blogs at the moment. Naturally I am doing the review for you anyway here.
Anne Tyler won The Pulitzer Prize in 1989 and twenty years on you can still see why, her writing style is superb. She writes the whole novel in third person and yet through the characters thoughts you can hear their voices in first person and it’s incredibly effective. Breathing Lessons tells a day in the life of Maggie Moran. A woman nearing fifty whose own daughter asks her ‘when did you become so ordinary?’ As fifty nears she is looking at the lives of her children, husband and herself as she heads for the funeral of her best friends wedding.
Not the storyline for many laughs, though there is humour because it’s Anne Tyler, but it isn’t meant to be a happy book. It looks at how satisfied people are with their own lives and the lives of their family. Maggie feels her husband Ira thinks she is fat and worthless, clearly how she perceives herself, that her daughter Daisy can’t wait to leave her ‘ordinary’ mother and her son whose wife walked out on him with their daughter feels much the same. On the journey and on the way back Maggie’s journey takes several surprising detours, mainly through Maggie’s interfering. Through these detours Anne shows us Maggie’s family past and why she is in the state she is in, you never hear about her childhood much, a mystery I thought might have solved many questions to her deeper personality.
With Maggie’s endless interfering and severe swaying of the truth it did leave you feeling you were seeing life through slightly unreliable eyes. The dialogue both external and internal is fantastic. I found the writing sparse, I have to admit I was shocked Ira and Maggie were still married and the rare signs of closeness and emotional contact between the two of them somehow felt false. I didn’t like Ira, but then again I didnt like anyone in the book particularily, not even Maggie and I normally love that sort of character but playing with peoples lives to such an extent isnt that likeable. It doesn’t paint a promising or fulfilling picture of married life as it goes on. I was shocked to see this in the ‘love’ volume of The Guardians 1000 Novels Everyone Must Read. I would have thought this would have been much more at home in ‘Family and Self’ out later in the week. More on that tomorrow.
All in all I found this a great read, though not possibly one of Tyler’s best I do think that it is a great read and one that everyone should give a try. I haven’t been put off Tyler from this which reading many reviews people were, I wonder what they were expecting. I will definitely be putting many more of her books on my TBR within the next few months.
As you may have read one of my resolutions in book terms this year was to read more varied books and in doing so join a few more book groups. I am already doing Rogue Book Group with Novel Insights which is fantastic as we have known each other for over twenty years and have a fairly similar taste in books. We are slowly but surely working our way through books we have always wanted to read and also books by authors that we both really enjoy reading and want to read more of. Currently our choice for this month is Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina as this has been a book that has been on both of our TBR piles for quite some time and is a book that we have both been told ‘we simply must read’ over the years. So far so good though I have to admit I am reading a part a time, keeping furious notes of characters and sub-plots, and reading a different book between each part. So many bonuses to this book group, but one slight drawback being that it’s varying our reading but in our own comfort zone, not making me read fiction that I wouldn’t think to pick up otherwise.
So I went on the hunt for more. I decided I should do a book group or two where I didn’t know anyone else to start with, this meaning the choices would be more varied and I get out and meet more people who love books. Now you would think finding book groups in central London would be fairly easy… not so. After hunting for many, many hours I found ‘Thingbooks’ which ticked all my boxes; I don’t know anyone, they meet in a Waterstones in London (spending wise could prove lethal with all that temptation) and seem to have a possible TBR that I wouldn’t pick myself. The first book that we are doing (the book group is new so its not a clique yet) is Brett Easton Ellis’ American Psycho and I managed to find an almost new copy for 50p so was chuffed that my spending hadn’t gone crazy, well not yet anyway. This one is happening on Sunday so will divulge all about it afterwards.
Whilst looking at some of my favourite book blogs I saw that Cornflower Books
has an online book group. After the initial worry that these people would be way ahead of me on book knowledge and I might come across as a bit of a wally I thought ‘don’t be silly’ and emailed. I had a lovely reply from Karen the same day saying she was really pleased I had emailed and that the book group is quite informal and ad hoc so you can come and read as you like. It didn’t think it could have been more ideal until I saw they were reading Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler as this month’s choice and I have wanted to read much more by her since Digging To America was such a hit with me last year. So that’s it, all sorted. The only thing is they are doing theirs on the 17th so I now have all three of these to read by the end of next week. Mind you that’s hardly a hardship is it? I better dash off and get cracking, though not spine cracking as I cant stand it when people do that!
I know I probably don’t know half of the good book blogs out there in the ether. I have found some I love and there are several I subscribe to or drop in on, which have become favourites of mine and which you can see on the left under Bookish Blogs. What I haven’t really done which I think I will change is added Authors blogs. I don’t know about you but I do love a good blog regardless of the reason, ones by authors telling us how they create their craft and what they are all about sounds like heaven.
The blog that has got this blog started (is anyone else confused by that) is Not Writing But Blogging by the delightful Stella Duffy which I saw when catching up with Dove Grey Reader. Having only used minimal internet time whilst in Barcelona over New Years I had missed the launch of this, and I am sure an invite to the launch party. I have read a fair bit of Stella over the last twelve months and though a new find she is becoming one of my fav’s. Her, Kate Atkinson and Anne Tyler, who I don’t think have blogs sadly. If I am wrong please let me know and I will get reading them pronto. Without sounding sychophantic Stella is also just bloody lovely and her latest novel ‘The Room of Lost Things’ is out in Feb in paperback, do order it now! Anyways authors and their blogs… where are they all?
I know there was a slight snobbery towards book bloggers but authors I like such as Tess Gerritsen, Augusten Burroughs and Neil Gaiman have started them and I read avidly. I was a big fan of Susan Hill’s blog which one day was there and one day wasn’t and so if you know of any please wing them my way and I will get adding them. So that’s all really welcome to a new blogger, and let me know of any more author or just book wise that I am missing out on.
After arriving back from the joys of Spain I am too shattered to write more so apologies. I will say I had an amazing time I didn’t read anywhere near as much of Anna Karenina as I intended and I know its bad but am taking a break from her as had a lovely pile of new books from Vintage when I got home and one I have been wanting to read for ages… so off to bed with it now!