Friday, 10 December 2010

How strange ... none of the Sunday papers have asked for my books of the year. I can't think why not. Maybe I read the wrong kind of books. On this year's Observer list I scored a staggering nul points; the Telegraph's is a bit more reader-friendly, don't you think? I haven't much desire to read Jonathan Franzen's Freedom. I find it tragic that our so-called culture secretary - I couldn't have put a name to him last week but he is now lodged in my mind forever as Jeremy *unt - can't think of anything he has enjoyed more than Tony Blair's memoirs.
But I would like to read Philip Larkin's Letters to Monica and I would be delighted to find Romantic Moderns, by Alexandra Harris, under the Christmas tree. (I hold out little hope. I have to do my duty by the bath products industry. I know. I'm ungrateful. I am difficult to buy for. There are starving children who would be glad of my shower gel. And a scented candle.)

So here they are, my books of the year 2010 ...
No surprises that top of the list are Wolf Hall (I know, it's last year's book, I'm always behind the times) and The Hare With Amber Eyes, as well as Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner (a brilliant discovery, thanks to Cornflower's book group) and Olive Kitteridge.
Other books that I've really enjoyed were Still Missing by Beth Gutcheon and Death Comes for the Archbishop (but anything by Willa Cather soars to the top of any list).

The most powerful book of the year was Beside the Sea by Véronique Olmi. I meant to post about this but I was too gutted after I read it. It's no secret what it's about but I won't tell you here because the drip, drip of clues increases the tension. You know how it will end but the ending, when it comes, is so much worse than you can possibly imagine. But don't read this if you are in any way fragile; it is so powerful, a Greek tragedy of a story that you can't get out of your head.

My easy, enjoyable wallow award goes to Norman Collins for London Belongs To Me, the only book that's ever got a unanimous thumbs-up from our book group.

Maybe it's a sign of age (and fading memory) but I find that I'm returning to novels that I've read before ... and it was well worth a return visit to The Go-Between by LP Hartley and my favourite Elizabeth Taylor, A Game of Hide and Seek, which I'm still reading. (Thanks again to Cornflower for the push.)

And although it seems to be blog protocol not to give bad reviews ... what the hell. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is vile, pornographic tripe fit only for the dustbin. Which is where it would have gone. Except it was a library book.

14 comments:

Sue said...

I'd like to find Romantic Moderns under my tree too.

Poor old Jeremy Hunt -bet he (and James Naughtie) wishes he was health secretary.

mary said...

I think I'll have to buy my own, Sue. And that perfume book by Luca Turin.
I've been browsing Amazon this afternoon thinking that I ought to make a start on buying some presents but have made more headway choosing things for myself!

Sue said...

I've just looked at the Observer list and discovered I have actually read two of them -both food books though. I'm not sure that really counts.

mary said...

I'd count food books, Sue - if it's The Flavour Thesaurus, I'd love to have that; and the new Nigel Slater.
I notched up two on the Telegraph list. But I've read considerably fewer books this year than I usually manage, suspect it's something to do with all the time I waste blogging!

Cornflower said...

So glad the CBG produced some winners! I, too, want Romantic Moderns, and I must read The Hare ...

mary said...

I've been noting your books of the year with great interest, Karen - you're a very reliable chooser!

kristina said...

Must move Still Missing and London Belongs to Me up the to-read list. And I don't think I scored any points on either newspaper list--ack.

K x

mary said...

Still Missing is a real page-turner, Kristina. And I can't imagine that anybody could resist London Belongs To Me. I've got another Norman Collins waiting on the pile. (The pile that I vowed at the start of the year that I wouldn't be adding to!)

rachel said...

How refreshing to read a review that says a book was vile! I find that I dislike more books than I enjoy these days; the heap of unfinished (some barely begun) novels is growing. Maybe it's one of the effects of growing older.....

Lucille said...

You can have my copy of Romantic Moderns when I've finished it. I'm going to look for London Belongs to Me. I'm too fragile for Beside the Sea.

mary said...

Oh Lucille, what a very kind offer ... I would be thrilled, especially as there is such a long waiting list for it at the library! Beside the Sea should come with a warning; it's beautifully written but it leaves you reeling.

And Rachel, I know what you mean about barely begun books. (There's my 'I'm reading' list for starters, all but one of which have lingered there for months and I doubt that I'll ever get started on them again, they simply didn't hold my interest.)
I don't often find that I loathe a book, because I do know what I like; only sometimes they disappoint. That dreadful Dragon Tattoo was a book group choice that maybe I should have opted out of; life's too short!

Darlene said...

For booklovers like us, this time of year is extra special. New books stacked high at the shops, lists in the papers, recommendations on the chat shows and year-end reviews.

Thanks for doing your bit to increase my tbr list, Mary!

I clicked on your link to Beside the Sea...I'm feeling queasy already!

alice c said...

I am usually very intimidated by book blogs but I see that you have read 'Fattypuffs and Thinifers' this year so I feel as though I am friendly territory. Happy New Year Mary, and may your TBR pile remain deliciously high!

And now off to bed to curl up with The Honourable Schoolboy.

mary said...

Happy New Year, Alice ... and it's good to welcome a fan of the Fattypuffs! (I'll be intimidated if you tell me you're a Thinifer!)
Hope you're enjoying John le Carré ... I love his Smiley books. Is this a re-read inspired by the Tinker Tailor movie?