Saturday, December 31, 2011

Books in 2011: Part two

Until about a week ago I would have said that my favourite novel of all time (not just 2011!) was My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult. I loved it against my will; everyone seemed to like this book and to have to agree with them seemed predictable and boring. Alas, I was hooked and impressed from very early on until the end of the final chapter (during which I bawled), and had to admit that all of the positive reviewers of this book obviously had superb taste.

But I’m currently reading Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis, and the writing is so brilliantly vivid that I feel as though I’m watching a film, albeit very slowly, rather than reading the book. It has the potential to knock My Sister’s Keeper off the top of the list, although I won’t speak too soon - it could all go horribly wrong in the second half. The author was recommended by Marieke Hardy, whose writing I also have a little crush on. I used to love reading her blog, and since somehow discovering her Twitter handle I’ve been known to check in on her... well, let’s just say regularly. It’s the closest to stalking I have the energy and resources for.

This year I reserved a copy of Hardy’s first book You’ll be Sorry When I’m Dead at my library just after it was released (despite my speed, I was the third in line), and then, when my turn didn’t come around fast enough, I joined another library and was the first to read their new copy when it arrived a week or so later. Unfortunately, I didn’t love the book with the same passion I’d put into procuring a copy to read. As much as I love Marieke Hardy’s writing (I’m convinced I’d find her shopping lists inspiring), the book as a whole wasn’t completely satisfying. It was a collection of short autobiographical articles, told in no obvious order, some of which I enjoyed and some of which I didn’t, and I couldn’t help but think that she was wasting her stories on this format when she could have saved them for a novel instead. I’ve no idea if she’s planning to write one, but she should.

How I Became a Famous Novelist by Steve Hely wasn’t as tidy a story as My Sister’s Keeper, or as wonderfully told as Lucky Jim, but I have fond memories of it; it’s the book from this year that comes to mind most quickly when I’m asked for a recommendation. I think I was in just the right mood for it at the time; it kept me happily distracted throughout one not-fun hospital visit and was the friend with whom I shared my first Max Brenner hot chocolate in a hug mug.
I’ve already reviewed others that I’ve loved this year (A Praying Life by Paul Miller and Things the Grandchildren Should Know by Mark Oliver Everett, to name just two), as well as some I didn’t. The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas was by far the most talked about book in my world this year, coming up almost weekly in our Bible study group and sparking a lengthy debate on Ben’s blog (that I totally missed - boo!). I’ve given up telling people not to read it because I've noticed the prohibition seems to make them want to read it more.

So that was 2011 for me in books. I’m looking forward to a book-filled 2012!


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