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TheRejectAmidHair

Books of the Year 2010, and Reading plans for 2011

Of all the books I read this year for the first time, Daniel Defoe's Journal of the Plague Year would be my nomination mfor my Book of the Year. Defoe is known primarily for Robinson Crusoe, and also for Moll Flanders; but having now read the superb Roxana, and now, The Journal of the Plague Year, he strikes me as being up there with the very best, and is, perhaps, the most underrated of English novelists.

But if I am to include re-reads, then my Book of the Year is The Brothers Karamazov, which I have now nearly finished. Yes, I know, there is  much that is wrong with it: there is much that didn't really seem to make much sense; and also much that is crude and unpolished. (And - let's be honest - there's also much that went over my head, even at third reading.) But really - so what? I've read many novels far more refined and polished than this, and far less flawed, but they didn't affect me the way this does. Given the immense riches this novel has to offer, what does it matter that it's flawed?

Next year, I want to re-read more. There have been many books I read when I wasn't, perhaps, quite ready for them, and didn't get as much out of them as I should have done. There are also many books that  demand to be lived with, and not merely to be read once and then put away on the shelves. A novel like The Brothers Karamazov is a novel to be lived with, and there are not too many novels of which I could say that.

Among the books I want to re-read is Moby-Dick, which, like The Brothers Karamazov, is vast and craggy and flawed. This one is very is high on my list.

I shall also continue with reading the Bible (indeed, given that Moby-Dick is full of Biblical references and resonances, it makes little sense trying to read it without also having a good knowledge of the Bible).

And I also want to read something by Walter Scott because, despite being not to modern taste (which really ought to count as a plus-point for me!) he was vastly influential in European literature, and I'd like to know why. Amongst his admirers was Dickens, and even Austen, that most un-Romantic of authors (Austen once said something to the effect that she shouldn't really like Scott, but couldn't help doing so). Perhaps one of his major novels - e.g. Old Mortality - would be a good one.

PS Looking through the Amazon reviews for Moby-Dick, I find this little gem: "It seems to be another of those massive tomes such as ‘War and Peace’ or ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ that the reader convinces themselves to be a ‘masterpiece’ on completion, simply because they cannot bear to admit that they have been duped into wasting such a massive amount of time and energy." Well - that's me told!  Very Happy
Mikeharvey

Next year I must read the one remaining Dickens I haven't read 'The Old Curiosity Shop'. Its reputation isn't very great but I neeed to read it for completion.  And, yes, this is the year for 'Middlemarch'!  And (blushes) 'Anna Karenina'.
TheRejectAmidHair

Oh, and that reminds me ... I also want to read the various bits of Dickens I haven't got round to yet. I've read all the Dickens novels & novellas, but have yet to read all the short stories, Sketches by Boz, American Notes, Pictures From Italy, etc.

I have the complete works in thise green-bound Heron Books series, except for the 2 volumes of Miscellaneous Papers, and I'm still scouring 2nd hand bookshops for these.
Mikeharvey

And there's the Complete Journalism collected in a splendid four-volume edition from Dent.
Hector

Himadri - and there was me thinking your favourite would be To the Lighthouse...

As always, it's difficult to settle on a pick of the year as most of the reads have been pretty good. I can't remeber if I finished Saul Bellow's Herzog in 2010 or the end of 2009 but if it is this year then it would certainly be in the reckoning.

Whilst I also especially enjoyed (if that is the right word) Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance, I think my choice would go to Patrick White's Voss. I've not read anything like it before.

Regards

Hector[/i]
Evie

I think my book of the year would be A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor - unusual for me not to choose a novel, but it really is an extraordinary book.

It may also mean that it hasn't been an outstanding year for me in terms of novel-reading...but I loved Penelope Fitzgerald's Gate of Angels, Don DeLillo's Point Omega (even better on a re-read), Robert Silverberg's Dying Inside, EH Young's Chatterton Square, and there is probably something glaringly obvious that I have forgotten about...but it's the Leigh Fermor that really stands out as a superb book.

For 2011, I'll be joining you with Walter Scott, Himadri, though will be reading Kenilworth, something I've been meaning to do since I moved back to the town 18 months ago.  Am hoping to take it up to the castle and read it there from time to time!  Not sure what else, though as ever I intend to work through my shelves of unread books before buying any more...but I say that every year.  Jose Saramago is someone I want to discover this year.
Claire Fifi

I discovered Penelope Fitzgerald this year and thought "Offshore" a wonderful read - although "The Bookshop" is great too.."The Beginning of Spring" I found to be rather mystifying.

As for classics, well, I am going to embark upon "Madam Bovary" shortly as one of my fellow earthly Book Club members was shocked when I told her I had not read it.  She informed me that it is one book that MUST be read in your lifetime"! Shocked
Evie

The Bookshop is very good, and The Blue Flower is excellent - I was less impressed with Offshore, though I did enjoy it.  She is quite a versatile writer.  If you haven't read The Gate of Angels, I would recommend it!

Mme Bovary is an excellent novel, look forward to hearing your thoughts, Claire.  I feel a new thread coming on...what book would we say must be read in one's lifetime...?
county_lady

Evie wrote:
[i]  I feel a new thread coming on...what book would we say must be read in one's lifetime...?


Hi Evie, I presume LOTR must be one. hiding
Apple

County Lady Wrote:
Quote:
Hi Evie, I presume LOTR must be one
 Laughing

I totally agree County Lady!! - After the hard slog you put in reading that Evie when you didn't even really like it, it HAS to make the list!!
Gul Darr

Like Himadri, re-reading The Brothers Karamazov has got to be one of the highlights of 2010 for me. Well, actually I haven't finished it yet...

Others include Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens, La Gloire de mon Père by Marcel Pagnol (nearly typed Proust!) and Dr Thorne by Anthony Trollope. But my favourite has to be Vasily Grossman's Life and Fate.

As for 2011, no doubt I'll read another Dickens novel. Maybe David Copperfield? There are still quite a number I haven't read yet. But having read all of Thomas Hardy's major novels, I decided to try some of his short stories this year and was disappointed. Perhaps I'll read one of his minor novels instead in 2011.

Then they are a couple of Zola novels sitting on my shelf. I'd like to read at least one of those. And I still have Parts III, IV and V of Les Misérables to read in translation.

The rate I'm reading at the moment, that should keep me going for most of the year...
MikeAlx

I think my favourite book of 2010 was Samantha Harvey's The Wilderness, a very accomplished debut. I also enjoyed Ann Quin's surreal Berg and Sarah Waters' The Little Stranger.

I found much to admire in A.S. Byatt's The Children's Book, though felt it didn't quite deliver all it promised. I didn't manage to get through Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, a book which demands time and concentration that I just didn't have this year. I will make a renewed effort with it next year. I'm also determined to read Great Expectations next year, though mostly I will be catching up with recent genre fiction, especially Paolo Bacigalupi's The Wind-up Girl and China Mieville's The City and The City. I will also be exploring some classic ghost stories courtesy of a complete collection of M.R. James.
TheRejectAmidHair

MikeAlx wrote:
 I will also be exploring some classic ghost stories courtesy of a complete collection of M.R. James.


I'll be re-reading them over Christmas, as they really are my kind of thing. I do wish I had the pleasure of reading them for the first time!
TheRejectAmidHair

Hello Gul, I take it you know that this laste year, Robert Chandler has published two more volumes of translations of Vasily Grossman. The first is The Road, which is a collecion of essays, short stories and journalism (and includes Grossman's report from Treblinka: Grossman was the first journalist to report from the death camps after the liberation). And the second is Everything Flows, Grossman's other novel. Both are out in hardback editions only so far. I got tired of waiting for them to come out in aperback, and spent a voucher I had for the LRB bookshop to get myself The Road. I'm looking forward to reading both books.
Chibiabos83

I'll work out my top 5 books of the year, as has been my wont of late, when I've finished reading for the year. No ideas at the moment, so I'll have to look over my records. It's been a decent one, though.

As for my resolutions for 2011, I had decided several months ago not to make any, but I will make two:

1. To read ten novels from the Time list of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923

2. Not to buy more than 12 books all year (presents excluded)

Easy? We shall see. I need to make inroads into the TBR.
Evie

I was quite impressed that Time might have chosen the 100 best English language novels from 1923 - it seemed an intriguing date, and I was curious to see which 100 novels were published that year...but I see it's from 1923 to the present day, which seems to allow a little more scope, but is not as intriguing!
Chibiabos83

Oh, yes, that might have been rather more interesting. Well, why don't we compile a list of books from 1911 and choose one for a centennial group read next year?
TheRejectAmidHair

Chibiabos83 wrote:
Oh, yes, that might have been rather more interesting. Well, why don't we compile a list of books from 1911 and choose one for a centennial group read next year?



I take it this is not an elaborate plot to get me to read The Secret Garden?
Caro

Wikipedia has a list.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1911_in_literature

Not sure which I would choose (well, it would be Chesterton's Father Brown stories, but perhaps a novel would be better.  Conrad and Edith Wharton don't appeal to me, but I suppose they are most highly thought of novelists here.  DH Lawrence perhaps?  Or someone more obscure?  

My favourite books this year was Bel Canto by Ann Patchett.  I have read about (ad infinitum) elsewhere.  Loved it.  Others - The Book Thief and Old Filth.  From NZ Limestone by Fiona Farrell and Edwin and Matilda by Laurence Fearnley.  Non-fiction Heaphy by Iain Sharp.  

For next year: well, I have a lot of unread books peering at me, but do tend to read library books.  Chesterton's Father Brown stories, Dombey and Son or Great Expectations perhaps.  And I would like to get into Hardy again.  Also would like to get back to Narayan's Malgudi stories that I have.  Life and Fate sits on our library shelves. And there will be ten book club books.  

Also like to read quite a bit of NZ history.  And as ever some crime novels.  More Kate Atkinson, Henning Mankell.  

Cheers, Caro.
Caro

This year from 1910 we could have read (and some of us did) Howard's End, Dracula, The History of Mr Polly, Gora by Tagore, Flaubert's November or Ibsen's A Doll's House (among many others).
Chibiabos83

TheRejectAmidHair wrote:
I take it this is not an elaborate plot to get me to read The Secret Garden?

Foiled again...

I'm not massively inspired by that list, but there must be good books that have been missed off. Arnold Bennett's The Card has to be worth a look, and I ought to read Ethan Frome, if only for the name.
TheRejectAmidHair

Conrad's Under Western Eyes is a cracker.
Chibiabos83

If none of the fiction appeals, there is always the eleventh edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, which came out in 1910-11. It's in 29 volumes, so there's a certain time commitment required, but of all the books on the list it's surely the only one that contains something for everybody.
Evie

Very Happy

Do read Ethan Frome, it's excellent.  I think, despite the connection with your home town, it's pronounced to rhyme with 'dome'.  (I was going to say 'home', then realised that Alec Douglas did not pronounce Home to rhyme with dome and further confusion might ensue...why is English pronunciation so complicated?!)
MikeAlx

Gareth, my father has that edition of the Britannica. It's notoriously full of errors, a fact which Borges comments on in his story Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius.
Chibiabos83

Evie wrote:
I think, despite the connection with your home town, it's pronounced to rhyme with 'dome'.

That's how most people from outside the South-West pronounce it too, I should think. There was a website in the early days of the internet about the town that began "Frome is pronounced Froom as in broom, not Frome as in phone", which as a teenager I used to think, snobbishly, probably told you a lot about the kind of people who live there, but why shouldn't they use an imperfect rhyme? I apologise to them.
Gul Darr

TheRejectAmidHair wrote:
Hello Gul, I take it you know that this laste year, Robert Chandler has published two more volumes of translations of Vasily Grossman. The first is The Road, which is a collecion of essays, short stories and journalism (and includes Grossman's report from Treblinka: Grossman was the first journalist to report from the death camps after the liberation). And the second is Everything Flows, Grossman's other novel. Both are out in hardback editions only so far. I got tired of waiting for them to come out in aperback, and spent a voucher I had for the LRB bookshop to get myself The Road. I'm looking forward to reading both books.


Yes, thanks for the reminder Himadri. I'll be interested to hear what you make of The Road and I'm definitely planning to read Everything Flows at some point.
Chibiabos83

Time to choose my top five books of the year. A tough decision from a good selection, though a low yield of what I would deem absolute masterpieces. Ruling out rereads means I can dispense with a handful of my favourites (Great Expectations, The Wind on the Moon and First Love, Last Rites), and in a year of great plays read I have vowed to choose only one, so the final five are these:

Henry de Montherlant - La Ville dont le Prince est un Enfant
John Updike - Rabbit, Run
Josef Škvorecký - The Cowards
Philip K. Dick - Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said
Anthony Trollope - Framley Parsonage

Brighton Rock and Double Indemnity just miss out on the final cut.

All books by men - what can that mean? Probably that I'm an irredeemable misogynist. Apologies.
Gul Darr

Nice to see the Trollope in your top five, Gareth. I'm hoping to read it in the next year or so.
My reading is horrendously biased in favour of male authors. At least this year I did read Muriel Spark's Mandelbuam Gate, but I can't think of any others off the top of my head... Embarassed
Sandraseahorse

I'm afraid my reading list for 2011 bears a strong resemblance to my reading list for 2010 as I got only about half way through it.

Still on my TBR shelf are:

The Towers of Trebizond by Rose Macaulay.  I read the first two chapters and was enjoying it when I put it to one side to read "The Laodicean".  I have put  "The Laodicean" to one side half read (again I was enjoying it) for my Christmas indulgence of ghost stories.

Le Grand Meaulnes by Alain-Fournier.  Abandoned one third of the way through.  Will I discover in 2011 the charm which so eluded me in 2010?

Count Belisaurius by Robert Graves.

Hunger by Knut Hamsun.

The Black Sheep by Balzac.

Money by Emile Zola.

On top of my monthly read for my book club - which this year is exploring literature from different continents -  I had thought about making 2011 a Dickens-a-thon and working my way through his works.  I've now decided to leave Dickens to 2012 and any spare reading time I shall devote to P.G. Wodehouse as it is the 130th anniversary of his birth this year and there is a festival to celebrate being held here in Emsworth in October.
Marita

Sandraseahorse wrote:

 I had thought about making 2011 a Dickens-a-thon and working my way through his works.  I've now decided to leave Dickens to 2012


Originally 2010 was going to be my Charles-ton year but early on decided to postpone this until 2012. That will make 2012 a Dickens of a year for both of us, Sandra.

For 2011 I have a few books already lined up.

Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

An Equal Music by Vikram Seth

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak


Marita
Mikeharvey

2012 would seem to be a suitable year for a Dickensathon as it's his Bi-Centenary.
As for me 2011 I hope to read some books glaring at me from my list of the Great Unread. I hope it will be the year of 'Middlemarch' and 'Tristram Shandy' and 'Anna Karenina'.
TheRejectAmidHair

Mikeharvey wrote:
As for me 2011 I hope to read some books glaring at me from my list of the Great Unread. I hope it will be the year of 'Middlemarch' and 'Tristram Shandy' and 'Anna Karenina'.


My! - That's some threesome!
TristansGhost

(Yes I'm make up for lost time).

2010 was probably 1) Were Eagles Dare - Maclean 2) Falling Angels - Tracey Chevlair = 3) e2 - matt Beumant =3) The Hut Six Story - Welchman

2011 plan is to read 10 book I've been given as presents or loaned.

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