Thursday, December 02, 2010

Every book I read in 2010 reviewed

This is a list and short review of every book I read this year - mostly on trains, tubes and planes. Each review was mostly written a few days after I read it and has only been touched up slightly here. Some books got reviewed on this blog during the year and I have linked to them as and where relevant. I had hoped to reach 50, after last year managing 52, but fell just short - probably because I read some very long books this year

This list is not meant to be any sort of bragging or anything about 'how many books I read' but more an interesting insight into the books I have read, what I thought of them and possibly as a helpful series of mini-reviews of well-known and lesser known-books out there that a real person has read and had a reaction too (me) that may help other real people decide whether or not to read that book.

1 Focoults Penduleum: Incredibly detailed historical comedy taking the piss (sort of) out of holy grail stories and other such nonsense.

2 Harry, Revised: Disappointingly bland book about a rich doctor who cheats on his wife, causes her to have unnecessary breast surgery that leads to her death that we're supposed to root for. Rubbish.

3 Old Patagonian Express: For many years had I wanted to read Mister Paul's book of travelling south, and I did, and it was worth the wait. Funny, insightful, angry and rude, everything you'd want from a travelogue

4 Ghost: Second of Banville's Frames trilogy, equally as dense and wordy as the first, can't claim to be a fan but for some with wordy aspirations will be a must read.

5 Invisible: Paul Auster's (at the time) newest work ploughs themes he's covered throughout his life. Good read and interesting, but nothing new to rave about.

6 Rites of Passage: Disappointingly labourious read of a ship's crew heading for Oz in the 1800s. Lots of social and religious issues.

7: 39 steps: RUBBISH (read my full review of why the 39 Steps is rubbish here).

8 Never Let Me Go: I re-read this and it's still one of the saddest, most moving and well put together books I have read. Film out early next year.

9 The Great Railway Bazaar: Mr Paul does it again with this his classic, fame finding book of travelling across half the world by train in the 1970s. A must read for anyone with a passing interesting in travel writing

10 Midnight's Children: Finally picked up this tome to see what all the fuss was about and man was it worth it! Read reviews by me here for more...

11 Remember Me: Hugely disappointing Melyvn Bragg effort. Full review here.

12 Artist in the Floating World: A very enjoyable (as all Ishaguro's are) piece detailing post WWII Japan and society coming to terms with the defeat, through the eyes of an artist (hence the title...obviously)

13 Buddha of Suburbia: Fun and different book of life growing up in London with a strange family of misfits and weird friends too, worth the read.

14 Waterland: A very, very good book. sad, profound, moving, touching and all put together with tremendous panache and style. Swift's best that I've read.

15 Born to Run: Very interesting book about running (something I know a bit about) that fuses a fascinating history of a Mexican running tribe with the rise of ultra running races. Recommended to runners

16 Brighton Rock: Disappointed by this book, way too much catholic nonsense towards the end and hard to really believe any of it in 2010.

17 Ghost Train to the Eastern Star: Theroux re-trace's his steps of Great Railway Bazaar some 30 years later and the results are equally as compelling and amusing. Definitely worth reading if you've read the first. Don't let thought of retrace put you off.

18 Orwell Diaries: Full review here.

19 Wolf Hall: A big read! very complex, hard to keep with if mind fliting around, but full of wit, character and style.

20 Ever After: Swift does it again with a sad, moving tale combining history and education (seems to be his style it turns out)

21 The Noughties: A dull book really. lists of things that happened in various segments of the world in the noughties.

22 The English Patient: Set in Tuscany and I read it in Tuscany, which was a nice coincidence, this was a gift from my girlfriend and nice one at that. highly romantic and yet set among the horrors of war (ohhh, such juxtaposition!) it was a moving tale that I gather is a popular film too

23 Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep: Some sci-fi now, a gift from little bro, this was an enjoyable tale, a ripping yarn if you may, about robots and sheep and humans in a future planet where all is not as it seems...worth reading if your a non sci-fi fan but just want to try something a bit different etc.

24 Birdsong: Ohh, so much is said about Birdsong, namely, "You aven't read Birdsong deary? My word, lar de dah and fancy that." I enjoyed it and the first world war is always a moving setting for any dramas of the heart and the head (my god what a stupid war), but I found it to be nothing more than a satisfactory read. I felt Faulks has somehow been overplayed as some literary great when, on this book alone admittedly, he seemed just perfectly ordinary.

25 The Art of Travel: Du Botton gets heavy on a plane. We've all had thoughts sitting in plane window seats staring down at the earth below of, "Argghhh, what the hell am I doing up here". But Du Button applies some philosophical grounding to this and dissects what it is about travel that is so good for the soul, man. He then goes off about art for a bit.

26 The Kingdom by the Sea: Theroux returns with vengeance. He attacks all things British, the seedy seaside camps, the crap B&Bs, the British take on the ongoing Falklands war, popping in to see artists and writers on the way. Miserable and not trying too hard to write all that brilliantly (but still being somewhat brilliant anyway), I really enjoyed this.

27 The Five People you meet in Heaven: Saccharine sentimental schtick that tries to hard to make people feel wonderfully wonderful about everything and everyone, not really worth reading, but it's so short I managed it in a day

28 Persopolis: A comic, sorry, graphic novel here now (Isn't that Stephen King's forte?) this is a fantastic tale of the pathetic Iranian revolution in which a free thinking state of liberalism and mixed schools become a stupid backward country run by men who fear everything for no good reason (I am basing this polemic on the book alone, pretty much). It seemed to lose it's way somewhat in the middle as the girl's story of adolescence and finding herself seemed to get too convoluted, but overall a fantastic read.

29 All my Friends are Superheroes - A short, fun read about a man who's not a superhero but all his friends are. one of the books that's worth reading but if you paid £6.99 for it you'd feel a touch ripped off.

30 Essays in love - Back to Botton and we're in love this time - not me and him, obviously - but he is talking, in great, minutiae, about what it's like to be in love. quite interesting throughout, although with one or two moment that felt a bit silly, this is otherwise a worthwhile read if you're predisposed to overly analytical readings of life.

31 The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner - A short, sharp shock of a read about a kid deciding to defy authority, through the medium of running. yes, it can be done.

32 Stewart Lee -How escaped my certain fate: Mr Lee explains all his jokes from his last three shows in the form of footnotes on transcripts of the shows from the live DVDs. If you're a fan, it's a must read.

33 Light of Day: I like old Swifty and this is my third read of his, but it was undoubtely the least good (Note, still good) of the three. sad, tragic and full of the same themes again as his other works, this one lacked and final push in the final-third/quarter to really raise it up to the same heights as Waterland (which really is stunning).

34 I Believe in Yesterday - I was told Moore was good so got the first (only) book of his I found in the library. I should have waited as while this was perfectly good to read the subject matter is just not me - historical reenactments, bleugh.

35 Adrian Mole aged 13 3/4: I've never read this so got it from the library. Fun, silly, and short, great. Man in the library gave me a funny look when I handed back in. The cheek.

36 The Perfect Fool: Lee's only novel is a fantastically wordy world of weirdos and winos all converging on the Holy Grail - I am sure Lee was challenging the spirit of Dan Brown when he wrote this book, a man he has oft criticised, so perhaps this was why he chose this subject.

37 Flat Earth News: see review.

38 The Mango Orchard: An enjoyable tale of a man setting off to find his lost family in Mexico.

39 Sex and Bowls and Rock and Roll: one of those books of a man being A Bit Useless at Everything in his life, yet somehow having a perfect life and a wife who supports him. Enjoyable enough but not worth the time.

40 Wuthering Heights: I had a an ereader so started reading this Bronte classic and actually really enjoyed it. Longer post here.

41 Superfreakeconomics: I saw the two authors talk on stage about this book and a friend lent it to me about two weeks later. Very interesting, one of those books you read and think "Wow, I'll remember all these facts and impressive people on this hot topic debates like global warming" and then promptly forget everything a day later.

42 All at Sea: A book about a man who rowed acros the English Channel in a bath. Fun and at times a bit funny but also a bit linear narraitve - what did I expect though, eh?

43 Do Not Pass Go: I lost this book after two chapters, but I was enjoying it a lot more already than I Believe in Yesterday, so it gets on the list. I had to pay a fine of £8 from Putney Library for the privilege too. Damn it.

44 Kawlang Tong: Paul Theroux's first fiction work for me and a very enjoyable jaunt through Hong Kong during the run up to the handover back to the Chinese it was too.

45 Washing Dishes in Hotel Paradise: A series of short stories set in Argentina that were nicely evocative but also a bit hard to really get in to in much detail due to their very nature and the slightly dream-like way characters flitted in and out of stories.

46 White Tiger: A sort of poor mans Midnight's Children. A rag to riches tale, showing up the huge dichtomoies that exist in India, and how it's changing as Western influences, namely technology enter the nation, but it was a bit linear and somewhat light on detail of some of the characters, which made it hard to really care or hate anyone. Still, not bad overall.

47 Give Me a Chance: A woman (the author, funnily enough) recounts her eight-day stay with the Lennons in their bed-in in Montreal. Short and sweet and I think purposefully written in a 16-year-old girl tone of voice (Which she was at the time), it gives a brief and quite interesting insight into the people she comes across and of course the Lennons themselves. Perhaps just a bit sparse on vivid descriptions of the room, the people, the Lennons, but for a short jaunt through an amazingly random life experience it was enjoyable.

1 comment:

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