The year is not over yet, but here is my list of favorite reads of the past year. I usually average about a book a week or so, but so far I have only read 47 books. Do you think I can squeeze in another five books before the end of the year? It is possible--remember those 17 vacation days! Book Girl listed her reading stats today as part of a meme. She is a speedy reader! I think this is the first year in quite a while that I have read this few books. I have been keeping a reading journal since 1995. In the past I read closer to 60-ish and even a few years close to 80 (though one of those years I took a Young Adult Lit Class, and we read lots of books!). I think my decline is due to working a lot on my needlework projects this past year, and sorry, blogging! This really isn't good news as I am sure I am buying at just the same rate (or even more) as always. Scary thought....I will never get them all read!
I will limit my favorites to just ten, since I don't have that many (finishes) to begin with! I tend to like most things. Although I am only listing ten, many of the others were quite good as well! I guess I need to be more of a critical reader. Perhaps I need to read the book, How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster (which my library owns, so maybe I will check it out and read it over my break from work). If I really dislike a book I probably will just not finish it, but there are a lot of so-so books that I will read and like, though they may not be spectacular examples of "literature". And then there is the whole question of what is "literature"? I probably don't read a lot of it as defined by those who know it. But I like to think I read reasonably good books. Mostly I read because I enjoy really good stories, but I also want to learn and challenge myself as well. So you will see here a mishmash of books, and each one I personally greatly enjoyed.
In no particular order:
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins: I *loved* this book. It is considered the first detective story in English. It was a great read. Victorian literature at its finest--a heroine you cheered on, evil villains you detested, foppish uncles that exasperated you! Everything you need to keep you turning those pages!
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls: Okay this was slightly depressing--could this story possibly be true? But there were parts that were funny, too. And happily the author pulls herself out of poverty to become a successful author. Rarely do I read nonfiction as quickly as I read this book!
The Painted Kiss by Elizabeth Hickey: Vienna ca. 1900. This is the fictional life story of Emilie Floge, Klimt's muse and friend. She was an artist in her own right--a clothes designer. It has been compared with Girl With a Pearl Earring. A very good example of historical fiction that is well done.
Chocolat by Joanne Harris: I have read this one before. And I will read it again! I just love this book. It is a wonderful story (France in the fifties) of Vianne who opens a Chocolaterie in a small town during Lent. The movie is good, too (and I sort of even like the ending a bit better than the book).
Sudden Rain by Maritta Wolff: The author stowed the manuscript for this book in her refrigerator for something like 30 years (due to a tiff she had with her publisher). Set in California in the 70s it is a sort of social commentary of the times. I do admit, this has a slightly dated feel to it. Irregardless I enjoyed it--maybe for exactly that reason--it really felt like the 70s.
Eve Green by Susan Fletcher: If I remember correctly she won the Whitbread prize for this one. This is a sort of coming of age story. Eve loses her Mother, and is sent to live with grandparents in Wales. It is a story of secrets, which are slowly revealed to the reader as the story progresses.
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson: The writing in the novel is really lovely. A story of two sisters whose mother commits suicide. They go to live with their unusual aunt. She is essentially a homeless person stuck trying to raise two young girls. This is a gross oversimplification of the story--it is considered a modern classic and one I would highly recommend.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte: I like this one better than Charlotte's "Jane Eyre" (Though Jane is wonderful, too, don't get me wrong). I loved the parallel of the wild, windswept Moors and Cathy and Heathcliff's relationship. I can't believe I had never read this! Eek. Better late than never!
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro: I pretty much love anything by Ishiguro. This is a story for the times--without giving too much away--the possibilities of science, both beneficial (well, beneficial to some?) and frightening. The story is peeled away like layers of an onion, but it seems like when you get to the end, you knew all along what was happening.
Tale of Murasaki by Liza Dalby: This was not a quick read, but it was a good one. This was a lush story of the woman who wrote The Tale of Genji. Set in 11th century Japan--imagine a world where women painted their teeth black to be fashionable.
I wonder what great reads are waiting for me in 2006!