Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Favourite 2009 Reads

The last days of December mean looking back at my reading year. What have been the standout books for me.

Number One picks itself. The Outlander by Gil Adamson was one of Canada Reads choices but it does not seem to have made a big impact here, yet, but the paperback is not released until January.

The story grips from the start as you travel with The Widow being chased by revenging brothers across the Rocky Mountains in 1903. This first novel by Gil Adamson, it is full of adventure, history, characters and vivid descriptions. Happening on some photographs of this part of Alberta after reading this book it was as though I had seen it already. The book was nearly not published as it was pushed away in a drawer for some time (article and profile here). Go read it you won't be disappointed. I blogged it here
Number Two is Haruki Murakami's 'Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World', another adventure but one of the mind. Set in both an alternative Tokyo and a place called The End of the World. It is both a 'noir' mystery, fantasy and philosophical riff on the nature of self. I blogged it here Everybody raves about Murakami and this was my first experience of his work so I have lots more to discover.

Both these books were early year reads so I'm hoping that next year will be as lucky. Now for my two non fiction reads which were read at the end of this year which is a neat coincidence.
Number One.
I bought 'Miracles of Life' by JG Ballard when trying to add another book to complete the trio necessary to bag a book bargain in The Works. Like I have not enough books waiting for me on my To Read shelf/s. This is a fascinating short memoir of growing up in China and internment by the Japanese in Shanghai during the war, an experience he used as a basis for his novel 'Empire of the Sun' . He arrives back in a grey post war England and then writes about his life from then on and his reason for writing. The book illuminates the reading of Ballard's novels and makes me want to return to some of his work. I think I remember reading he knew he was dying when writing this autobiography and here he seems to be leaving us some of his memories.

Number Two is an old book but one I read after seeing a few of I've Been Reading Lately's musings. 'The Proud Tower. A portrait of the world before the war 1896-1914' by Barabara Tuchman is great and entertaining exploration of the shifts in power and society that led to the First World War, explored through various themed chapters. This is a page turning book about an age that was looked back on, after the carnage of WW1, as a golden era, this shows us with humour and learning how wrong this view was.

The only quibble I have is about the anarchists chapter which only concerns itself with the tabloid view of bomb throwers, but would guess this was an editorial decision to make a point about the violence and paranoia of the era. For a more rounded view of the anarchists George Woodcock's 'Anarchism' is a better starting point.

Series I've Only Read One of So Must Read the Rest

Fred Vargas's Adamsberg series. I read 'Wash This Blood Clean from My Hand' , set in both France and Canada, and thought this was a fresh take on the detective genre. I blogged it here and have another on my shelves waiting to go.

Like it seems the rest of the world I've read the first of Steig Larsson's Millennium trilogy 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' and have been bought the second one so I've cracked that open today.

Happy reading.

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