Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Thoughts on Reading in 2008

We're a good way into the first month of 2009 and finally I get around to writing my post on reading in 2008. Oh well, diligent posting does not seem to be the way for me...

2008 was a great year for reading at this delicious solitude. I read 39 books, which is ok for me, but I'd love to read more this year (and I really think I should be able to count Jonathon Strange and Mr Norrell as more than one book!). There was lots of contemporary fiction on the list and not many classics. As usual, then, I'll vow to read more classics this year. It's just that I get swept up in those shiny new books!

The discovery of the year for me was Michael Chabon. I read and loved The Yiddish Policemens Union and went on to read The Wonder Boys and Maps and Legends. The Wonder Boys is the book I now count as my favourite novel and I heartily recommend it. My newfound love of all things Chabon is strange because I read The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay a couple of years back and was not overly impressed. Was it a matter of the other books being better? Or had I changed? Ah, the eternal mysteries of reading!

My other great discovery of 2008 was Australian crime writer Peter Temple. I have given copies of his excellent novel The Broken Shore to so many people now, that I keep forgetting who has and hasn't received a copy from me. I went on to read another Temple crime novel, Black Tide, which I am yet to review in these pages but which was also outstanding. Temple is brilliant at evoking a sense of place and the rhythms of Australian speech. He also writes a bloody good story.

In brief, I also loved reading Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, a great big crazy Dickensian fantasy of a novel, and I loved Graham Greene's The Quiet American for its contemporary resonances. My favourite young adult novel of the year was Scott Westerfeld's Peeps which is the vampire novel that should be selling more than Twilight. I'll take cool New York vampires and sassy, tough female characters over the vapid Bella and vacant Edward any day. Still, the 14 year old girls that I teach would beg to differ...

So overall 2008 was a another great year for reading. It looks like 2009 is also shaping up well if William Boyd's excellent novel Restless which I've just finished is anything to go by.


kimbofo said...

I've always wanted to read Graham Greene's The Quiet American... you've reminded me to track down a copy.

Have you read Chabon's Final Solution? It's the only one of his books that I have read -- and I quite enjoyed it.

jess said...

I haven't read Final Solution but will have to get my hands on a copy very soon. Thanks for the recommendation!

Sarah said...

I'm with you on diligent posting not being the way for me!

Graham Greene is someone I want to read this year, starting with Our Man in Havana and his collected letters. I should try Chabon too.

I've been very impressed by the Peter Temple books I've read (The Broken Shore, An Iron Rose, Shooting Star). I still have the Jack Irish books to look forward to. Also, I believe his new novel Truth should be out this year.

I've still got Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell in my TBR pile, and can only admiring you for getting though it. I'm sure it is good but the length puts me off.