Sunday, December 16, 2007

Favourite Books of the Year

The end of the year is coming and I'm not reading anything too exciting right now so I think it's safe to comment on my favourite reads of 2007. None of them are particularly current as I rarely read new releases, but I loved all of the following:

The Orchid Thief (Susan Orlean): This work of non-fiction was a real revelation to me. I don't read much non-fiction and I had no interest in orchids so I was surprised at how much I loved Susan Orlean's tale of, well, just about everything to do with orchids. The book is a brilliant character study of the collector John LaRoche and a fascinating description of Florida. It's also ten times more interesting than my description of it. Just trust me on this one.

Cold Mountain (Charles Frazier): I raved about this book at the time and it has stayed with me. Just thinking about the ending has me on the verge of tears. Don't let the dodgy film version put you off. Wonderful writing and a beautiful story. An incredible first novel.

Mrs Dalloway (Virginia Woolf): I've just written about this so I won't say much other than Woolf is a genius and this is deservedly a classic.

Special mentions also go to I Capture the Castle, the classic young adult novel by Dodie Smith, American Pastoral by Philip Roth and Disgrace by JM Coetzee.

It's a strange list of quite disparate books but probably a good reflection of what I've been reading this year. There are some big holes though, such as not reading many pre-twentieth century novels, so now I'm off to formulate my next post: reading plans for 2008...


Stephen said...

Apart from "Mrs Dalloway", I haven't read any of these - although I'm looking forward to picking up both the Roth and "Disgrace".

kimbofo said...

The Orchid Thief is excellent, isn't it? I read it many years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it.

There's a similar book on the same subject which is just as good: Orchid Fever by Eric Hansen.

Condalmo said...

I've heard so much about "I Capture the Castle" - think it's time I pick it up -

Dorothy W. said...

The Orchid Thief certainly sounds interesting -- I do love good nonfiction.

Stephanie said...

I've had Cold Mountain on my book shelf forever - I really should pick it up!

jess said...

Thanks for all your comments.

Kimbofo, I'm glad you agree with me on The Orchid Thief, and Dorothy, I'm sure you'd like it too!

Stephen, both the Roth and the Coetzee are brilliant, insightful books, even though both cover confronting and difficult terrain.

Condalmo, I fell in love with I Capture the Castle. It's so sweet and funny and somehow not dated at all.

And Stephanie, I can't rave about Cold Mountain enough. I'm currently in the process of trying to make all my family and friends read it by buying it as Christmas presents for them. Hope my zealousness doesn't put them off!

Melanie said...

The only books I've read on your list are Mrs. Dalloway and I Capture the Castle, and I agree, they are both wonderful.

Carl V. said...

I rarely read nonfiction, but when I do and it turns out to be a great book it is always an extra special pleasure.

I Capture the Castle is a book that has been on my to read list for a few years now. I have yet to see the movie, either. Have you?

Sarah said...

I agree with you about Cold Mountain . The movie was a travesty! I enjoyed the novel so much that I'm reluctant to read Frazier's second novel (Thirteen Moons) as I so desperately want to love it as well.

I love I Capture the Castle and am glad you did as well.

As for Mrs Dalloway and Disgrace, I've been meaning to read both of these for a while now. I must read Mrs Dalloway early in '08.

The Orchid Thief sounds strangely appealing too.

jess said...

Carl, I haven't seen the film of I Capture the Castle but I've heard bad things about it. I love the book so much that I don't want to risk a bad movie version!

Sarah, I feel the same way about Thirteen Moons. I've had it for a while now but can't quite bring myself to start it. Will definitely give it a go this year though.

Smithereens said...

Great list! What a memorable year to have read Mrs Dalloway, Disgrace and Cold Mountain!
Did you watch the movie Adaptation? It's actually adapted from the book Orchid Thief (or better, on the difficulty to adapt such a book). It's quite funny, none of the pompousness and stuffiness of the movie Cold Mountain.