Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Year-End Book Wrapup

Here is last year's wrapup and I did a top and bottom five, so I will do that again. This year I read 55 books, 33 of which were by women and 22 by men. The list is skewed towards women mostly because I went on an Agatha Christie spree at the beginning of the year; other than that, it was actually pretty balanced. Again, I wish I'd read more books, but since I was reading Finnegans Wake at a crawl all year, I'll cut myself some slack.

Top five books of the year:

1. I Capture the Castle. It may not be as skillfully written as the books I've picked for number two, but in terms of pure love for a book and pure enjoyment, you can't beat it. I loved it so much… I don't know what else to say about it. If I hadn't loaned it out, I'd be reading it again right now.
2. Black Swan Green and Ghostwritten by David Mitchell, who is a genius. Black Swan Green is the better of the two; it's a near-perfect book, in my opinion. A modern day Catcher in the Rye, and good in such a different way from his brilliant Cloud Atlas. A great place to start, if you haven't read Mitchell, is with these two books.
3. We Have Always Lived in the Castle. I apparently like books with the word "castle" in the titles! This one had to sit with me for a while, and I liked it better and better the more I thought about it. (It was the same with The Remains of the Day, which I was initially lukewarm about but is now one of my favorite rereads.) It might be the unreliable narrator thing, which you know I always love.
4. There's no way I can leave off Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which I stayed up all night to finish. What a great ending to the series. I am still feeling post-Potter letdown. This is an experience you either had or you didn't, right? The midnight book sale, reading under the covers until dawn…
5. Love in the Time of Cholera is a beautiful book, but I'm actually torn between that and Thursday Next: First Among Sequels. If you want to go by pure fun, the latter would win. Which book I think is more enduring and masterful, obviously, you go with Marquez. Or should I put Finnegans Wake on here? I should, if I'm going based on literary merit. Or maybe I should just make it a three-way tie. Jasper Fforde and James Joyce—basically the same thing, right?

Bottom five of the year. In contrast to last year (boy, did I hate me some books last year) I didn't really read much that I hated. So this is a list of one that I hated, one that I didn't like, two that were kind of at the bottom of the list of eeeh, and a terrible musical. (I reviewed it in this blog so it counts.)

1. The Tin Drum. Oh god, the bodily fluids. This book was just an unpleasant reading experience with lots of bodily fluids and I will be very happy to never have to read it again. What else can I say?
2. Louisa May Alcott. Totally disappointing biography, which left out key information and details at every turn. All it made me want to do is read Alcott's letters, which I bet are actually interesting and in-depth, as opposed to this kind of superficial skimming of her life.
3. Summer. I had to look up my review of this Edith Wharton book in my archives, because I'd forgotten what it was about. I don't know; it is fine, I guess. Very bold about sexuality and womanhood, and I'm sure at one point it was scandalous and ballsy. However, it's very "of its time" which makes it, these days, quite predictable.
4. How to Be Good. Mediocre and not quite convincing novel by Nick Hornby. Maybe I should read High Fidelity before I give up on him completely. I didn't hate this; I was just unimpressed by it.
5. Legally Blonde Colon The Musical. Last year when I wrote that I loathed Look Homeward, Angel, someone called me a twat. The response to my bad Legally Blonde review was not quite as good but still funny. "Hating this musical is like hating Mozart!" Good times.

How about you?


Blogger jen fu said...

I am so excited you loved We Have Always Lived in the Castle. It was also one of my very favorite books of the past year. Shirley Jackson is really an overlooked genius. Yay!

6:24 PM  
Blogger mo pie said...

Oh, I lent it to h and L. and L. apparently psychotically loved it. They both liked it, but L. especially. So thanks from her too!

7:08 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Melinda and I just purchased I Capture the Castle and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, so I'll be reviewing both of those in 2008.

For me, my Top 5:
1. A Dirty Job (Christopher Moore)
2. Never Let Me Go (Kazuo Ishiguro)
3. Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell)
4. The Sirens of Titan (Kurt Vonnegut)
5. Murder on the Orient Express (Agatha Christie)

And Bottom 5:
1. Wide Sargasso Sea (Jean Rhys)
2. Lolita (Vladimir Nabokov)
3. Make Love! The Bruce Campbell Way (Bruce Campbell)
4. Operation Shylock (Philip Roth)
5. Cell (Stephen King)

I didn't quite match your pace, reading only 25 books last year... my Bottom 5 were the only one- and two-star rated books; the other twenty were all three-, four- and five-star books. So like you, I had a good book year.

11:37 AM  
Blogger mo pie said...

I am going to hopefully get to "Never Let Me Go" this year. But COME ON, LOLITA IS GENIUS!!! YOU ARE INSANE!!!!

11:39 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Sorry, I guess I need to sit in the "literary heathens" section. I'll always be of the opinion that Lolita is a 40-page story bloated to 300 by Nabokov's florid prose. Eventually I'll check out Pale Fire from the library and give Nabokov another shot but, even with as beautifully written as it was, Lolita bored me to tears because I never gave a rat's ass about Humbert or Dolores.

1:55 PM  
Blogger Miss Rachel said...


Just kidding of course... I haven't read many of these books, but I did read Summer and quite loved it. Very depressing ending, but then, that's what I've come to expect from Wharton. Tell me, have you ever read The Custom of the Country? Now that one is really good and even a bit humorous in places.

8:23 AM  
Blogger Laurie said...

I read 91 books this year
(includes 5 audio books I listened to). I also listened to the Harry Potter books on audio for a refresher (Jim Dale is amazing).

I read the Outlander series this year which overall I enjoyed (book 5 was a low point). also, read the Little House on the Prairie series all the way through - it is fun to revisit books you loved as a child.

I capture the Castle was definitely one of my favorite books I read this year.

8:41 AM  
Blogger mo pie said...

Kevin: I see your point about Lolita I GUESS, but if you hate Pale Fire, don't ever tell me about it.

Miss Rachel, I have never read the Custom of the Country. Is it Wharton? I'll have to check it out; it's probably an eText somewhere.

Wow, Laurie, 91 books! Pretty good! I count audiobooks the same, although I don't count rereads... I reread my favorite kids' books over and over.. it would be like, "I read 500 books this year, including Where the Red Fern Grows, Franny and Zooey, and The Black Stallion's Filly 10 times each."

11:11 AM  

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