Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Shall I Tell You What I Liked, What I Really Really Liked?


I must be on the road to Curmudgeonville. When I did my stats for 2010, I talked about the books I didn't finish and the books that annoyed me to no end until their ends, but never once did I give a hearty shout out to the reads that made me smile, made me think, made me miss my subway stop, made me growl at people to piss off, I'm busy reading and just all around made me happy I'm a bookworm. Let me fix that now.
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1. Wild Swans - Jung Chang. This memoir of one family's life under Mao Zedung's rule both educated and horrified me.
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2. Frozen In Time: The Fate of the Franklin Expedition - Owen Beattie & John Geiger. At least once a year, a book engrosses me so much that I miss my subway stop. This was the book and I had to backtrack 3 stops.
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3. Virginia Woolf: A Biography - Hermione Lee. Woolf finally got a biographer who was perfectly attuned to her sensibilities. The chapter about her reading life is the showstopper.
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4. Flashman and Royal Flash- George MacDonald Fraser. The cowardly, unrepentant bastard has stolen my heart and left me laughing while all the while giving me a good dose of history.
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5. The Killer Inside Me and The Getaway - Jim Thompson. This is the noir I've been waiting for. This is bleakness worth embracing.
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6. You Gotta Have Wa - Robert Whiting. Change Japan to Korea and professional baseball to teaching English and you've pretty well got the story of my life --and my coworkers' -- right now.
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7. The Giver - Lois Lowry. I love how the dystopian society is revealed slowly, layer by layer.
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8. The Lost City of Z - David Grann. The life and disappearance of explorer Percy Fawcett is skillfully written and illustrated with dozens of excellent photos. And the ending? Nothing but net.
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9. True Grit - Charles Portis. Beautiful use of antiquated language coupled with a rawboned adventurous plot. As Donna Tartt pointed out in her fabulous afterword to this novel, Mattie Ross is no Huck or Scout. She's more like Captain Ahab's little sister.
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10. The Women - T.C. Boyle. Famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright and his series of mistresses and wives are an endless source of fascination to a shocked and scandal-hungry American public. Their stories are told in a florid, blustery style remininscent of Wright himself, coupled with a series of hilarious passive-agressive footnotes by an older Japanese architect who, in his youth, was one of "Writeo-San's" minions.

Paring this list down to 10 was difficult, because it was such a great reading year for me.

12 comments:

Jeane said...

I've been curious to try another TC Boyle since reading The Tortilla Curtain. Everyone keeps saying good things about The Women!

Brenna, said...

Both The Women and the Virginia Woolf biography sound fascinating. Thanks for the list! I'm glad you didn't overlook your favorites.

Dave and Tami said...

We obviously have wildly different taste in reading material, but your post had me rolling on the floor. Great wrap-up! I may even check out a couple of the books.

Lesley said...

OK, first off - curse you for getting that Spice Girl song stuck in my head! (Or is it just me that thought of that with your post title?)

I will have to look into Frozen in Time - I have a strange affinity for books about arctic exploration. Perhaps a nice pairing with The Terror, which is on my TBR shelf ...

Regarding The Women, have you read Loving Frank (I think they both came out the same year) and if so, how did they compare?

Happy Reading in 2011!

Michele at Reader's Respite said...

Well you know how I love Flashy, so I won't go there. But I've added Wild Swans to my list now, officially!

Choco Pie said...

I agree about Wild Swans!

(I'm Sandra...new identity)

Bybee said...

Jeane,
I'm eager to check out more of TC Boyle's work.

Brenna,
I kept thinking my stats seemed unusually sterile, then it finally hit me that I had complained but not complimented. Doh!

Dave and Tami,
I know...my reading tastes are strange.

Lesley,
Guilty about the Spice Girls song! Sorry! I had wanted to read Loving Frank but now I'm shying away from it because I'm under the impression that it won't be as good as The Women.

Michele,
I've got Flashy pencilled in for several book dates in 2011.

Choco Pie,
For some reason, I have this urge to run to the store and buy up a bunch of choco pies.

Sam Sattler said...

I've been meaning to find a copy of True Grit; the new movie looks great and has made me curious about the novel.

Bookfool said...

I've got True Grit sitting beside my bed (but I'd like to add that I bought it before anyone mentioned a new movie version, 2 years ago). Haha, love what Lesley said. I had that song stuck in my head, too, then I went down to look at your 2010 summary and now I've got, "Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, goodbye," on the brain. :)

Bybee said...

Sam,
When I was in Missouri a couple of weeks ago, the book and the 1969 movie were selling out like crazy.

Bookfool,
I'm sorry about those earworms. Read True Grit. The dialogue will give you lovely cadenced earworms.

Eva said...

I loved Wild Swans and Lee's Woolf biography. :D The Giver was one of my very favourite books as a child, which is hilarious since nowadays I don't play well with dysption lit. Maybe subconsciously, none of them measure up to that one? Anyway, True Grit sounds awesome!

Anna said...

I haven't read any of those, but you've made me curious about them. Wishing you a great reading year in 2011!