Reading Round Up – Yearly Edition

to read

It is [was] the final day of the year and time for all sorts of retrospection, leading to introspection and, hopefully, action. There’ll be a big post tomorrow from me with all I’ve learnt in the last year and everything I hope to achieve in the next. Today though, it’s the Yearly Reading Round Up. Every book I’ve read in the last year, with a one line review and recommendation. [I meant to finish and post this on the 31st, but hey, this isn’t The Casual Art of Procrastination for nothing.]

December

The Four Hour Work WeekTim Ferriss

Seriously, don’t read this unless you want to quit your job. I stayed up all night devouring it and then wrote pages and pages about setting up an internet business or two and how to implement them. A very thorough guide about how to live the way you want, and make money from the internet! Read it.

Pandaemonium– Christopher Brookmyre

I have read almost every novel this man has written and I love them all…except this one. He usually writes crime novels which are funny and interesting, like The Sacred Art of Stealing which should be on everyone’s ‘to read’ list or The Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks which totally pulls apart psychics and ghost hunters, and there’s a murder mystery. Pandaemonium focus on theoretical physics – the idea that there are innumerable universes only an atom’s breadth away from ours and some scientists have inadvertently created a portal to a demon dimension. In a nearby retreat, a bunch of school kids work through the issues pertaining to a bunch of generic school kids and also the prior death of a classmate. It’s basically a vehicle for SCIENCE VERSUS RELIGION and while it is full of interesting arguments and weird science at the start, it then turns into a daemonic rampage and then…ends. Not highly recommended.

Independant PeopleHalldor Laxness

This novel is all about sheep. Icelandic sheep and small farmers, their trials, tribulations, downfalls and sheer independent spirit. It’s amazing, and totally kicked my arse. It took me four months to get through this! Definitely read it. Bjartur is a sheep farmer in Iceland, determined to live on his own two feet and be beholden to no person. The novel charts his story through two wives, the world war, his dealings with Kolumkilli – the resident devil, and his relationships to his children. I love Iceland as a country (their Parliament is a corrugated shed in a beautiful bay!) and this novel really evokes the beautiful but unforgiving landscape that built the nation. Allow a lot of time to get through this, but DO get through this.

The Thirteen Curses – Michelle Harrison

Sequel to The Thirteen Treasures which I haven’t read; Rowan is trapped in the fairy realms and must rely on her wit to rescue her baby brother from the courts. The Seelie and UnSeelie fairy courts join together to curse the thirteen charms from Tanya’s bracelet and then scatter them across the mortal realm. Why yes, this is a children’s book. Good fantasy romp with strong female characters, I’d get this for my eight year old cousin. If any of my cousins were eight.

Tollins: Explosive Tales for Children – Conn Igulden

Yeah, the guy that writes those Gates of Rome books (which I also recommend). I flicked through this one on a slow afternoon at work in order to write a ‘recommends’ card for it, and it’s really cool! Tollins are like fairies, but more awesome, they dabble in science and fly hot air balloons, make fireworks and escape from Tollin prison! The illustrations are awesome too. Definitely good for the 5-8 crowd, if your little brother has a birthday coming up, or you just don’t have anything better to do behind the till at the bookshop…

AND NOW, onto the rest of the year…

January

In Watermelon Sugar – Richard Brautigan

Strange little tale, different colour days and talking tigers. Short read, worth picking up,

The Kreutzer Sonata – Tolstoy

Don’t read this if you’re a romantic, man HATES his marriage. Not a cheery read at all.

The Sunday Philosophy Club – Alexander McCall Smith

Brilliant little mystery novel, with some philosophy thrown in for laughs.

The Carpet People – Terry Pratchett

Co-written with his seventeen year old self, it’s the story of, well, carpet people! Their tribe is in danger and they must go on the adventure of their lives to save it.

The Oracle – (I can’t read my own writing here)

One of the worst books I have ever read. Not even proofread properly!

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie – Muriel Spark

Girls at school, heavily influence by Miss Jean Brodie. Examining social roles and relationships. Pretty good.

The Unicorn Road – Martin Davies

About women in China and their familial relationships once they were married – starts off about a search for mythical creatures!

The Fan Man – William Kotzwinkle

Awesome novella, weird protagonist, strange style, funny variations in voice. Read it, read it now.

February

The Last Dickens – Matthew Pearl

Literary historical mystery, murder, mayhem and poor plotting. Pick up The Dante Club instead.

The Prestige – Christopher Priest

A lot different to the film, same basic plot. Interesting angle on the main themes.

Pnin – Nabokov

Lonely Pnin bumbles along in America; read it for Nabokov’s inimitable way with language.

Baking Cakes in Kigali – Gaile Parkin

Sweet novel about a woman who solves her neighbourhood’s problems with cake and a swift polish of her glasses.

Good Behaviour – Molly Keane

Social satire about rich families in Ireland, written from the daughter’s point of view, but can she be trusted?

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test – Tom Wolfe

Awesome, wonderful, brilliant; the bio of Kesey and the other mischief makers who propagated acid back in the day. The Furthur Bus! I want one.

Mr Toppit – Charles Elton

Creepy tale of the decline of a family based around the main character in the father’s novel.

Mr. Maybe – Jane Green

A good beach read…

Man or Mango – Lucy Ellman

My Creative Writing tutor, weird post-modern ‘breaking the fourth wall’ type novella. Worth a peruse.

Smoke and Mirrors – Neil Gaiman

Short stories from the twisted fantastical mind of Mr Gaiman. Read everything he’s done. Now.

March

river book

Good to be God – Tibor Fischer

Funny book about a con man who pretends to be the Messiah, up to and including a ressurection.

Practically Perfect – Katie Fforde

Middle-aged woman refurbishes house, finds love.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie – Alan Bradbury

Wonderful mystery novel, protagonist is eleven year old Flavia de Luce, who also poisons her sister and breaks into libraries. Set in the 1950’s, it’s a little bit awesome. Five stars, A++.

Special Topics in Calamity Physics – Marisha Pessl

Read something else. The Secret History by Donna Tartt, perhaps?

Factotum – Charles Bukowski

Good. Really good. Twisted. Good.

DragonSinger – Anne McCaffrey

Dragons! Time Travel! Dragons! I need to read more of this series.

The Ringmaster’s Daughter – Jostein Gaarder

About books, stories, lies and tales, and how far they can take you.

Love is a four letter word – Claire Calman

Is it? I don’t remember the plot of this.

Hammer – Sarah Stockbridge

A(n inadvertantly) hilarious mystery/crime novel set in the Victorian era.

Glamour – Louise Bagshawe

Friendship, fashion, power, Princesses, love, men, money – chick lit with brains.

April

The Magician’s Guild – Trudi Canavan

Magic, intrigue, a world of castes and rules, the few out to challenge them – good stuff.

Café Tropicana – Belinda Jones

Travel chick lit! Anything by this woman is gold.

Chasing Harry Winston – Lauren Weisenberg

Not that great, shallow characterisation, man-chasing plot. Bleh.

The Enchantress of Florence – Salman Rushdie

The man has done better. Read Midnight’s Children instead.

Out of the Blue – Belinda Jones

Yeah, we like her. Greek Islands, sun, sea and octopi. Pure escapism.

Fingersmith– Sarah Waters

The mistress of lesbian historical fiction, nothing short of perfect, with enough twists and turns to satisfy the most pernickety of wine connoisseurs.

The Personal Shopper – Carmen Reid

Middle-aged woman can dress other people but doesn’t know what she wants. Lazy beach read.

May

The Secret History – Donna Tartt

One of my favourite books; a group of Classics students at a small American college attempt a bacchanal, and succeed. Gripping, tense and beautifully written.

The Colour of Magic – Pratchett

The first in the Discworld series, Rincewind the inept wizzard, uh, saves the world!

How Will I Know? – Shelia O’Flanagan

Chick-lit wherein all characters are strangely self-aware and consciously analytical. Good though.

Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie

Magical realism covering the birth of India, and the children sharing that birthday. A true epic.

Moab is my Washpot – Stephen Fry

The first twenty years of Stephen Fry’s life; ACE. Read it, do.

books

June

The Hippopotamus – Stephen Fry

Mystery novel surrounding a child with seeming mystical powers, twisty and turny.

Lady Audley’s Secret – Mary Braddon

Victorian mystery novel, nuanced but predictable.

Nausea – Sartre

Another favourite; made me go ‘Oh!’.

Mort – Pratchett

Death gains an apprentice…Another Discworld novel. They’re all worth reading.

July

The Colour of Magic – Pratchett

’nuff said.

The Light Fantastic– Pratchett

Second in the Discworld series, Rincewind…saves the world!

Assasin’s Apprentice – Robin Hobb

First in The Farseer Trilogy; dragons, magic, quests, prophecies and real people with real people problems too.

Royal Assasin – Robin Hobb

Fitz does proper assasinating, and whines about it. A lot. Good books, very gripping, but he does whine.

A Darkness at Sethanon – Raymond E. Feist

The final in the Magician trilogy; wars, demons, gods, gods warring. Good stuff.

Assasin’s Quest – Robin Hobb

Final in The Farseer Trilogy; more dragons, more assasinating and a final quest which brings into question the nature of the Skill…

Dharma Bums – Jack Kerouac

Makes you want to climb a mountain and get meditating in the woods. Gotta love Jack.

books

August

Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman

About the people who fall between the cracks set beneath and above London, the places no-one ever looks.

Foucault’s Pendulum – Umberto Eco

THE REAL DA VINCI CODE. A group of publishers start a game, creating a myth, until it becomes real. or does it? Hilarious ending.

Ship of Magic – Robin Hobb

First in The Liveship Traders trilogy, moves the focus to Bingtown and the ships which comes alive…

September

Sorcery – Pratchett

Another Discworld novel about the huge power of sorcery.

The Mad Ship – Hobb

Second in The Liveship Traders; really well written fantasy, with characters you can’t help feeling for.

The Named – Marianne Curley

Kids book! Kids have powers, kids save the world. Funtimes!

Labyrinths – Jorge Louis Borges

Awesome awesome awesome. Definite favourite. Magical realism, his words wind around you, drawing the reader into his thought mazes and illogical worlds.

October

Ship of Destiny – Hobb

The one in which everything is tied up to most people’s satisfactions.

This Charming Man – Marian Keyes

Made me laugh out loud. And I never laugh out loud. Also, about domestic abuse. Very well done.

Introducing Rousseau – The ‘Introducing’ Series

Graphic novel outlining Rousseau’s biography and main concepts. Interesting.

The Dark – Marianne Curley

More kids save the world, struggle with emotions, go on quests through time.

The Name of the Rose – Umberto Eco

A murder mystery with monks! Also gives the history of the church and all its monkish factions, plus some thoughts on the inquisition. Amazing book.

The Key – Marianne Curley

Kids save the world, for good this time. Realise you can’t have light without darkness. Yay!

reading onna train

November

The Science of Happiness – Stefan Klein

Pop science, easily accessible but not too many hard facts it seems.

Equal Rites – Pratchett

Can girls be wizards?

Imperial Ambitions – Noam Chomsky

Series of interviews with Chomsky concerning American’s foreign policy. A must read for anyone who contests the war.

The Age of Reason Sarte

Not as good as Nausea

Camera Lucida – Roland Barthes

Philosophical tract concerning the nature of photography.

That’s it! My aim for next year is to read one hundred books, which is roughly two a week.

How about you? What were your top reads for 2009? Any recommendations for my to-read list?

Amelia

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