Sunday, December 26, 2010

Year in Review Part Two

Yesterday I posted a giant post about two of my loves: movies and video games. Today, I'm going to post about the third: literature. I read 94 books by the 26th of December. I don't expect to finish what I started today by New Years, so I'm going to call it as the end. 94 books is quite a feat! It's definitely the most I've ever read in one year. Let's take a look:

The White
Tiger by Aravind Adiga

Last Orders
by Graham Swift

In A Free
State by V. S. Naipaul

The Ghost
Road by Pat Barker

Conservationist by Nadine Gordimer

Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

Holiday by Stanley Middleton

Possession by A. S. Byatt

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

Saville by David Storey

The Spectator
Bird by Wallace Stegner

Beloved by
Toni Morrison

The Great
Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Things Fall
Apart by Chinua Achebe

The Virgin in
the Garden by A. S. Byatt

Still Life by
A. S. Byatt

The Children's Book by A. S. Byatt

Daniel Martin by John Fowles

Babel Tower by A. S. Byatt

The Wapshot Chronicle by John

in Samarra by John O'Hara

White Noise
by Don Delillo

V by Thomas

The Crying of
Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon

Inherent Vice
by Thomas Pynchon

Vineland by
Thomas Pynchon

Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively

Last Orders by Graham Swift

Staying On by Paul Scott

The Siege of Krishnapur by J.
G. Farrell

Heat and Dust
by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala'

Rites of
Passage by William Golding

Sacred Hunger
by Barry Unsworth

The Jewel in
the Crown by Paul Scott

Troubles by
J. G. Farrell

The Robber
Bride by Margaret Atwood

The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers

Blind Lake by Robert Charles Wilson

Lady Oracle by Margaret Atwood

To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip Jose Farmer

End by Arthur C Clarke

Darwinia by Robert Charles Wilson

The Jewels of
Aptor by Samuel R Delany

The Wanderers
by Richard Price

The Einstein
Intersection by Samuel R Delany

Nova by
Samuel R Delany

Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon

High Rise by J. G. Ballard

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

Elsewhere by
William Peter Blatty

August by
Gerard Woodward

Hell House by
Richard Matheson

Clara Callan by Richard Wright

The Flanders
Panel by Arturo Perez-Reverte

The Long Home
by William Gay

Lie Down in Darkness by William Styron

Provinces of Night by William Gay

Twilight by William Gay

From the Terrace by John O'Hara

Atlantic by Adam Haslett

Hope of
Heaven by John O'Hara

Nocturnes by
Kazuo Ishiguro

The Thin Man
by Dashiell Hammett

Grifter's Game by Laurence Block

Swag by
Elmore Leonard

Burnt Offerings by Robert Marasco

The Underground Man by Ross MacDonald

Nightfall by David Goodis

The Doomsters by Ross MacDonald

The Killer
Inside Me by Jim Thompson

Down There by
David Goodis

At End of Day
by George V. Higgins

The Man with
the Getaway Face by Richard Stark

Horns by Joe

The Keeper by
Sarah Langan

The Caretaker of Lorne Field by David Zeltserman

The Power of the Dog by Don Winslow

The Missing by Sarah Langan

The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V Higgins

The Risen
Empire by Scott Westerfeld

Unknown Man
#89 by Elmore Leonard

The Killing
of Worlds by Scott Westerfeld

The Day of
the Scorpion by Paul Scott

The Towers of
Silence by Paul Scott

The Snow
Queen by Joan Vinge

Nineteen Seventy-Four by David Peace

Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín

Skippy Dies by Paul Murray

Offshore by Penelope Fitzgerald

Boyhood by J.
M. Coetzee

Seventy-Seven by David Peace

Eighty by David Peace

A Whistling
Woman by A. S. Byatt

Eighty-Three by David Peace

What did I think of them? Well you know. I reviewed most of them for this blog. You already know which books I loved and which I hated. But let's do what everybody else does and rank them! Nothing like putting an arbitrary system on things as diverse as novels! Without further ado, the top ten books I read in 2010.
10 The Power of the Dog
9 Twilight (William Gay, not the vampire book)
8 Blind Lake
7 White Noise
6 V
5 Still Life
4 Freedom
3 The Siege of Krishnapur
2 The Red Riding Quartet
1 The Raj Quartet (or at least the first three)
So I definitely cheated with spots 2 and 1. That's seven books instead of 2. But whatever it's my blog. Surely someone could argue that both quartets are meant to stand as one singular work each.
The Power of the Dog was an amazing book. It was long, epic, fast, fierce and read like Ellory on speed, if that's possible. While it's not the deepest or most literary of all my choices, it represents how to do genre fiction properly. It's doesn't have to be stupid.
Twilight by William Gay was a spectacular surprise. I just randomly picked up his three novels from the library because I wanted to read some Southern fiction, and I was blown away.
Every time I read a Robert Charles Wilson book, I'm pleased as punch. Blind Lake was a typical Wilson book, but typical is not really a good word to describe the experience. Again, it's genre fiction done properly.
I can't believe I hadn't read White Noise until this year. It was astonishing good. I even lent it to a friend, and I never lend books, that's how much I thought of it.
V was a great ride, funny, accessible, giant, epic and always entertaining. I read a bunch of Pynchon this year, and I think V might be his best novel I've read by him. Also a book I lent out.
Still Life is Byatt's best novel, of which I've read 6. Byatt is a writer's writer, for sure. She throws everything she can into the pot, and sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn't. Still Life however, manages to be human, emotional, intelligent and gripping.
Freedom was a great read. And it's going to be read over and over again by the literati. It's a big important book and it was really good. I really liked it.
The Siege of Krishnapur would have totally dominated this list if it wasn't for the two quartets. I had no idea what I was getting into when I started it, but I absolutely adore this book. I think of it from time to time and always with fondness, a true sign of quality.
The Raj Quartet, even though I haven't finished it, manages to loom over all of 2010. It's a fascinating byzantine and crystalline work of art and it's truly criminal that people don't give Paul Scott the recognition he deserves.

General thoughts:
My desire to keep with classics petered out rather quickly as I strayed from genre to genre throughout the year. As always, genre fiction remains a go-to book for me, be it noir or science fiction or what have you. However, reading classics and classics of genre seemed to be a winning formula, considering there's only maybe 5 books that I hated throughout the year.

Using an arbitrary scoring system of 1 to 5 with half-steps between, here's a chart that took me ages to make that shows that there is no Bell Curve. Since I tried to read classics, scores ended up being closer to 4 than anything. In fact, the average is 3.63 out of 5 for the entire year. Not bad! As you can see, only 5 books ended up with 1, the lowest score I could give.

What is up next for 2011, you ask? Well, let's take a look at my to-be-read pile.

I want to continue with the Bookers, of course. I'm over halfway, but that doesn't mean I should slack. I kind of left some clunkers on the list left to read, and it's going to be difficult reading the more esoteric or controversial choices.
In no particular order, here are the top novels I'd like to complete in 2011
A Division of the Spoils by Paul Scott
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
GB84 by David Peace
Anathem by Neal Stephenson
Sophie's Choice by William Styron
Spin by Robert Charles Wilson
Moonlight Mile by Dennis Lehane
Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
Blood's a Rover by James Ellroy
Wish me luck!

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