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31 December 2009

My 2009 Bookshelf

Actually, as most of the books I read this year were borrowed from the library or from other people, it's somewhat misleading to refer to these books as my bookshelf. As I start to run out of the books available in my library that I would actually want to read, I've had to rely increasingly on ordering books in from other libraries in the system. As this costs only 50p, it's still a lot cheaper than buying the books, even second hand or from Amazon. I read 182 books this year, well over double last year's count of 74; however, this year I had 12 months' worth of commuting (prime reading time), compared to only two months last year, so it is to be expected. As my commuting time will be decreasing again next year, I expect my book list to drop in size again.

I didn't keep track of fiction vs non-fiction this year, mainly because the vast majority of the books I read were fiction--my former problem of not being able to find enjoyable fiction has now been reversed. In fact if you took out the categories of "Tudor history" and "popular economics," I suspect my non-fiction reading list this year would look pretty empty.

These are my favourite five books of the year:

  1. A Happy Marriage--Rafael Yglesias (very beautiful and very sad)
  2. What I Loved--Siri Hufstedt (Mrs Paul Auster has a similar style and similar protagonists to her husband: this is the story of two friends, the women they love and the lives they lead; like Iglesias's book, What I Loved gets bonus points for being set in New York)
  3. The Year of the Flood--Margaret Atwood (although I like a lot of Atwood's novels, especially Cat's Eye and The Handmaid's Tale, I was decidedly "meh" about her penultimate foray into science fiction speculative fition, Oryx and Crake; The Year of the Flood is Oryx and Crake's prequel and works much better, perhaps because the former has female protagonists, which Atwood seems to write a lot better)
  4. American Wife--Curtis Sittenfeld (the story of a woman a lot like Laura Bush and a family a lot like the Bushes; I didn't know very much about Laura Bush before and while this is, clearly, fictional, the Laura character was portrayed very sympathetically and highlights the dangers of judging a woman by her husband...) 
  5. Matter--Iain M. Banks (I wanted to choose The Girl at the Lion D'Or as my fifth choice but as I included a Sebastian Faulks novel last year and as there is another weepie in this year's shortlist, I included Matter instead, which is my favourite IMB novel to date)
Token non-fiction: The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser. I read so many books on Tudor history this year and it is, after all, the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII's coronation. I thought Fraser's book was much better written than the David Starkey version.

Token mini-series: The Red Riding Quartet by David Peace. None of the books in this mini-series were strong enough on their own to make my top five (or, at least, it was hard to pick one of the four) but as a whole, I really enjoyed reading them and watching the three-part TV drama. It sure was grim up north in the '70s...

The full library of 2008; as usual, both the sublime and the ridiculous are covered:

  • Peyton Place--Grace Metalious
  • The God of Small Things--Arundhati Roy
  • The Corrections--Jonathan Frantzen
  • The Woman in the Fifth--Douglas Kennedy
  • Lady Chatterley's Lover--D.H. Lawrence
  • Possession--A.S. Byatt
  • The Kingdom by the Sea--Paul Theroux
  • Everyman--Philip Roth
  • Interpretation of Murder--Jeb
  • The Name of the Rose--Umberto Eco
  • A Brief History of Secret Societies--David Barrett
  • Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man--James Joyce
  • Crime and Punishment--Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • Bomber--Len Deighton
  • My Cousin Rachel--Daphne Du Maurier
  • Uneasy Money--P.G. Wodehouse
  • Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves--P.G. Wodehouse
  • The Postman Always Rings Twice--James M. Cain
  • Gossip, Grooming and the Evolution of Language--Robin Dunbar
  • The Mind of the Market--Michael Shermer
  • Slaughterhouse 5--Kurt Voneghaut
  • Why Do People Believe Weird Things?--Michael Shermer
  • Jamaica Inn--Daphne Du Maurier
  • A Good School--Richard Yates
  • The Last Tycoon--F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Logic of Life--Tim Harford
  • False Impression--Jeffrey Archer
  • Everything Bad Is Good for You--Steven Johnson
  • The Reader--Bernhard Schlink
  • The 19th Wife--David Ebershoff
  • Descartes' Baby--Paul Bloom
  • The Human Story--Robin Dunbar
  • Mistress of the Art of Death--Ariana Franklin
  • 1974--David Peace
  • The Age of Innocence--Edith Wharton
  • 1977--David Peace
  • 1980--David Peace
  • 1983--David Peace
  • The Death Maze--Ariana Franklin
  • Q&A--Vikas Swarup
  • Foucault's Pendulum--Umberto Eco
  • In Search of the Perfect Language--Umberto Eco
  • The Outcast--Sadie Jones
  • The Valley of the Dolls-Jacqueline Susann
  • Trainspotting--Irvine Welsh
  • Eleanor of Aquitaine--Alison Weir
  • Henry: Virtuous Prince--David Starkey
  • The Other Queen--Philippa Gregory
  • Cult of the Amateur--Andrew Keen
  • Innocent Traitor--Alison Weir
  • The Six Wives of Henry VIII--Antonia Fraser
  • Children of Men--PD James
  • Arbella, England's Lost Queen--Sarah Gristwood
  • The Infamous Lady Rochford--Julia Fox
  • Cityboy--Geraint Anderson
  • Nudge--Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein
  • Vile Bodies--Evelyn Waugh
  • Chéri--Colette
  • Fatherland--Robert Harris
  • Couples-John Updike
  • Do Androids Dream of Electic Sheep?--Philip K. Dick
  • How to Travel with a Salmon and Other Essays--Umberto Eco
  • The Sorrows of an American--Siri Hustvedt
  • The Man in the High Castle--Philip K. Dick
  • Sovereign--C.S. Sansom
  • Mary Tudor--Anna Whitelock
  • Perfume--Patrick Suskind
  • Presumed Innocent--Scott Turlow
  • Living with Teenagers--Anonymous
  • On Green Dolphin Street--Sebastian Faulks
  • True Tales of American Life--Paul Auster
  • The Crimson Petal and the White--Michel Faber
  • The Yellow Wallpaper--Charlotte Gilman Perkins
  • The Last of the Mohicans--James Fenimore Cooper 
  • The Witches of Eastwick--John Updike
  • Revelation--CJ Sansom
  • Last Exit to Brooklyn--Hubert Selby Jr.
  • Matter--Iain M. Banks
  • Afterwards--Rachel Seiffert
  • The Girl at the Lion D'Or--Sebastian Faulks
  • The Sixth Wife--Suzannah Dunn
  • The Anglo-Files--Sarah Lyall
  • The Queen's Sorrows--Suzannah Dunn
  • The Hours--Michael Cunningham
  • Zodiac--Robert Graysmith
  • What I Loved--Siri Hustvedt
  • The Post Office Girl--Stefan Zweig
  • Hoax--Clifford Irving
  • Under the Skin--Michel Faber
  • Public Enemies--Brian Burrough
  • The Golden Notebook--Doris Lessing
  • American Wife--Curtis Sittenfeld
  • Dark Fire--CJ Sansom
  • The Other Hand--Chris Cleave
  • Captain Corelli's Mandolin--Louis de Bernieres
  • The Robber Bride--Margaret Atwood
  • The Importance of Being Trivial--Mark Mason
  • The Sisters Who Would Be Queen--Leanda De Lisle
  • The Algebraist--Iain M. Banks
  • Down Under--Bill Bryson
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy--Douglas Adams
  • Fahrenheit 451--Ray Bradbury
  • Super-Cannes--JG Ballard
  • Swimsuit--James Patterson 
  • The Abortionist's Daughter--Elisabeth Hyde
  • Outliers--Malcolm Gladwell
  • The House at Riverton--Kate Morton
  • Minority Report--Philip K Dick
  • World Without End--Ken Follett
  • Pillars of the Earth--Ken Follett
  • I See You Everywhere--Julia Glass
  • Treason in Tudor England--Lacey Baldwin-Smith
  • The Road--Cormac McCarthy
  • War and Peace--Leo Tolstoy
  • My Sister's Keeper--Jodi Picoult
  • The Suspicions of Mr Whicher--Kate Summerscale
  • Leaving the World--Douglas Kennedy
  • Pompeii--Robert Harris
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls--Ernest Hemingway
  • An Education--Lynn Barber
  • Flat Earth News--Nick Davies
  • The Accidental--Ali Smith
  • The Pact--Jodi Picoult
  • Illegal Action--Stella Rimington
  • The White Queen--Phillippa Gregory
  • Hideous Kinky--Esther Freud
  • The Things We Do for Love--Imogen Parker
  • The Wasp Factory--Iain Banks 
  • The Time of Our Lives--Imogen Parker
  • Change of Heart--Jodi Picoult
  • Love in the Time of Cholera--Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • A Week in December--Sebastian Faulks
  • The Lady Elizabeth--Alison Weir
  • The Associate--John Grisham
  • The Tenth Circle--Jodi Picoult
  • Salem Falls--Jodi Picoult
  • Inherent Vice--Thomas Pynchon
  • Mercy--Jodi Picoult
  • Nineteen Minutes--Jodi Picoult
  • Wolf Hall--Hilary Mantel
  • Perfect Match-Jodi Picoult
  • Vanishing Acts--Jodi Picoult
  • Julie and Julia--Julie Powell
  • Dante's Numbers--David Hewson
  • Crash--JG Ballard
  • Handle with Care--Jodi Picoult
  • Wuthering Heights--Emily Bronte
  • My Trade--Andrew Marr
  • The Murders in the Rue Morgue--Edgar Allen Poe
  • The Widows of Eastwick--John Updike
  • Mary, Queen of Scots--Antonia Fraser
  • The Liar--Stephen Fry
  • Second Glance--Jodi Picoult
  • The Year of the Flood--Margaret Atwod
  • The Damned United--David Peace
  • Plain Truth--Jodi Picoult
  • The Bostonians--Henry James
  • Lancaster and York--Alison Weir
  • Rivals--Jilly Cooper
  • Appassionata--Jilly Cooper
  • Engleby--Sebastian Faulks
  • A Happy Marriage--Rafael Yglesias
  • Superfreakonomics--Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
  • This Little World--Imogen Parker
  • Grave Goods--Ariana Franklin
  • Gate of Air--James Buchan
  • Alice in Sunderland--Bryan Talbot
  • The Watchmen--Alan Moore
  • Last Night in Twisted River--John Irving
  • Catch 22--Joseph Heller
  • London Fields--Martin Amis 
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo--Steig Larsson
  • Elizabeth's Women--Tracy Borman 
  • The Audacity of Hype--Arnando Iannucci
  • Black Dogs--Ian McEwan
  • A Fool's Alphabet--Sebastian Faulks
  • Scottsboro--Ellen Feldman
  • Invisible--Paul Auster
  • The Girl Who Played with Fire--Steig Larsson
  • Como Agua Para Chocolate--Laura Esquivel
  • Jolly Super Too--Jilly Cooper
  • Suite Française--Irène Némirovsky



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