So now comes the hard part--choosing a few favorites from the books I've read over the course of the year. I've decided on a baker's dozen (so I can squeeze in as many as possible), all of which I thoroughly enjoyed reading (okay, will admit that Anna K. took me a while, but was well worth it in the end--how could I possibly leave it off the list?). Some may not be without flaws, but for me they were particularly good, and in a few cases really amazing reads. I've linked back to my original post and have left a little teaser here to give you an idea of my thoughts on each book. Titles are listed in the order they were read.
Thursday Night Widows, Claudia Pineiro - "This is a crime novel with little attention paid for the greater part of the story, to the actual crime. It opens with the deaths of three men, but there are no detectives, no investigation and almost no concern with who perpetrated the crime. Rather this is a dissection of the small, tight-knit community where the deaths took place."
The Crimson Rooms, Katharine McMahon - "Katharine McMahon's writing is sophisticated and her storytelling complex, creating characters who are fully formed yet whose personalities elicit varying responses from the reader as the story unfolds. It's not just that she tells this interesting story set in an interesting period of history with lots of little bits to make it feel authentic, but you really inhabit the space and are exposed to the not always pleasant attitudes of the era."
A Room with a View, E.M. Forster - "The story is about many things but for me it is at its most basic a young woman's awakening to life and love and learning how to grasp them passionately and wholeheartedly."
Someone at a Distance, Dorothy Whipple - "This is the story of the destruction of what appears to be a happy and successful marriage. It's a common enough theme in literature, but in the hands of a gifted storyteller, and that's what Dorothy Whipple is, it becomes an engrossing character study and morality tale yet Whipple never preaches at her reader." A little note--I think I actually like Greenbanks a tad bit more, but she pulled Someone at a Distance off so well that it earned its place on my list.
The Ripening Seed, Colette - "It's a short novel and a simple coming of age story, perhaps deceptively so, about two young friends whose families have vacationed on the coast of Brittany for the better part of their young lives."
The Go-Between, L.P. Hartley - "The novel is filled with nostalgia, a longing for a simpler way of life when things were more certain."
My Antonia, Willa Cather - "This is a really lovely story--subtle in its message yet powerful in its telling." I dragged my feet on reading this for a very long time, only to discover what a marvelous story it is! Never say never, I guess.
The Likeness, Tana French - "I thoroughly enjoyed The Likeness. This is a novel best read with the knowledge going into it that it might require a certain amount of suspension of disbelief. I'm entirely willing to give an author leeway, if she's a good storyteller. And Tana French is a good storyteller. She's not only good at story, but her prose is smooth and elegant and her characters are fully formed, too."
Crossing to Safety, Wallace Stegner - "I tend to consume books, but this is one that consumed me. In some ways it was emotionally draining, but ultimately it was a profoundly moving experience. How often do you come across books like that? Stegner was truly a master storyteller, someone who gets into the hearts and minds of his characters and portrays them so sympathetically and sensitively, even when they might drive you mad by their actions. These are people we know, people we recognize in ourselves."
A Time of Gifts, Patrick Leigh Fermor - " It's an amazing book and an amazing reading experience and one that is hard to describe. I love nonfiction but I can only read it slowly, and this is a book you will want to read slowly in order to savor it, so packed is it of all sorts of knowledge and wonder."
A Kind of Intimacy, Jenn Ashworth - "Not only does Ashworth write in the same vein as Rendell with her razor sharp psychological insights but her story is really well written and tautly plotted. She moves around in time seamlessly, and trust me, by the time you've finished reading it's like a 'pop' between the eyes."
How Many Miles to Babylon?, Jennifer Johnston - "I thought it was a beautifully executed and heart-wrenching novel. It was a hugely sad book, but the friendship between these young men was rendered quite beautifully."
Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy - "This was truly a panorama of nineteenth century Russian life." Okay, so not a great teaser but I've yet to write about it properly and may never be up to that, though I still want to read more about it. This is an amazing story and one I gave a huge sigh for upon finishing.
If I had to pick just one book as the best of the year it would have to be Wallace Stegner's Crossing to Safety. It absolutely floored me when I read it. For me it was a story that was almost perfect in every way and has stayed with me since finishing it.
And just because I can't help myself--a few notable mentions: The Man of Property by John Galsworthy (so much for reading the entire Forsyte family saga, but there's always next year), Angel by Elizabeth Taylor (an intensely difficult character, but Taylor is adept at pulling it off), My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier (no one does Gothic like DdM and always with a really interesting and good subtext--this was better the second time around) and An Air That Kills by Andrew Taylor (wonderful mystery series set post-WWII, very atmospheric and believable--will be reading more!). Last year's favorites can be found here. Now, onwards to 2011 and more good books.