I’ve dived into 2009 with a delicious orgy of reading. The kids are still on holiday, it’s minus bloody something outside and I’ve got a blankie and a pile of Christmas books to work through. Luxury! So far I’ve read both of Barack Obama’s books (Dreams from my Father and Audacity of Hope) and Elizabeth George’s latest massive tome, the 530-page Careless in Red. I have also read and cooked from my wonderful birthday present, Nigella Lawson’s latest recipe book Nigella Express. (I can recommend the fudge.) Now I am reading Mary McCarthy’s The Group, which I bought in New York last year, and which promises to be delightful. More time under the blankie is predicted. Pity the fudge is finished though.
But before I get carried away with this year’s reading, and before 2008 dissolves completely, I thought I’d better review last year’s books. My total for the year was 53 books, which my old self finds disappointing since she fondly imagined she always read at least 100 books a year. Turns out I don’t: in 2007, I read 81 and this year 18 books fewer. My new self knows why – I spent more time writing than reading in 2008, and I hope that 2009 will be the same. I don’t subscribe to reading goals, though I admire those who do, but found that I consciously avoided literary fiction and books set in South Africa because I wanted to avoid any crossover with what I am writing. I read a lot of memoirs, some chick lit, some thrillers and a couple of books from the start of last century. Turns out, though, that my favourite reads of the year were litfic, so that probably is my natural reading home.
Here are the stats:
Fiction: 34 (64%)
Non-fiction: 19 (35%)
Short story collections: 1 (1.8%)
Memoirs: 11 (20%)
True crime: 1 (1.8%)
Books on AIDS: 3 (5.6%)
Thrillers: 5 (9.4%)
Books by women: 36 (67%)
Books by non-Anglo American writers: 10 (18%)
Dry stats aside, here are my awards:
Book of the Year:
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimimanda Ngozi Adechie – superb prose, wonderfully drawn characters and a history lesson all in one package. A wonderful book, destined to become a classic.
Runner-up: Richard Ford’s trilogy, of which I have only read The Sportswriter and The Lay of the Land. Ford deserves all the paeans and praise he receives for he is a wonderful writer. The surprise for me in both books was his characterization of the Tri-State area: in Ford’s skillful hands, it becomes a protagonist itself.
Find of the Year:
Geraldine Brooks! I read all three of her novels this year and was most impressed. She has a facility with bringing a specific historical period to life, be it Civil War USA, plague-ridden England or post-war Serbia.
Blogging Recommendation of the Year:
Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres, recommended by Litlove. I loved this novel for its powerful, tragic story and rushed off to present it to my book club only to discover that all US members had read it either in high school or at university. Not so new to them though, but a wonderful find for me.
Thriller of the Year:
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson – a gripping plot and ace characterization. I look forward to reading his two other novels.
Most Disappointing Thriller of the Year:
PD James’s The Private Patient. Oh dear, the master of the art was off-form with this one: plot didn’t gel, characters weren’t clearly or thoroughly realized and the motive for murder was vague, at best.
Most Hard-Hitting Non-Fiction:
A Woman in Berlin by Anonymous. This had strong contenders in The Gifts of the Body and Sizwe’s Test, but its frank telling of Berlin in the dying days of World War II was brutal.
Most Spectacularly Annoying Protagonist:
Undine Spragg of The Custom of the Country – what a grasping, power-hungry and superficial woman. A fascinating portrayal of avarice by the stylist extraordinaire, Edith Wharton. (I did I envy Undine’s wardrobe, though.)
Memoir Writer With Whom I Would Most Like To Have Dinner:
Anthony Bouraine, without a doubt. Especially if he’s cooking.
Protagonist I Most Wanted to be Friends With:
The Girls of Riyadh! What a fabulous bunch. Of all the chick-lit books I read, this one stands out the most in my memory (they often melt into a messy, love-stricken whole).
Book that Brought on Landscape Envy:
The Voluptuous Delights of Peanut Butter and Jam by Lauren Liebenberg. Despite the irritating title, it made me long for Africa.
Right now, with temperatures sinking and snow outside, I’m still longing for Africa. So my plan is to burrow further under my blankie and read some more. My reading resolution for 2009 is write more than I read, and post more frequent reviews. To kick-off, I will review one of my 2009 books – vote in the comments for which one you would like me to review.
Wishing you a wonderful reading year!