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Archive for the ‘Year of Reading’ Category

I had a not-so-good reading year in 2016. I read only 18 books. That is not not-so-good. That is bad. I left some of the books half-read. Not because they were not good, but because I was distracted or got into a reading slump. I could finish reading only 18.

That is the bad news. The good news is that I liked most of what I read. Actually loved most of them. That makes me very happy. That means, my list of favourites will contain most of the books I read 🙂 I don’t have to differentiate between them and choose some over others for arbitrary reasons. That is one of the great pleasures of reading less number of books. That makes me very happy.

So, without much further ado, here is the list of my favourite books from 2016, in no particular order.

Short Stories / Short Prose Pieces / Novellas

(1) A Game of Chess and other stories by Stefan Zweig

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My first proper book by Stefan Zweig. The title story was exceptional – it had some of the best passages I have read. There was also a beautiful description of the Riviera in another. Loved the whole book. I can’t wait to read another Stefan Zweig book.

(2) The Steppe by Anton Chekhov

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Chekhov’s love letter to the Russian Steppe. Also his longest story. My most favourite of his.

(3) A Dreary Story by Anton Chekhov

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One of Chekhov’s longer short stories. Loved it.

(4) The Walled City by Zeenat Mahal

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One of my favourite discoveries this year was author Zeenat Mahal (the nom de plume of Faiqa Mansab) and her novella The Walled City. It is a love story set in the beautiful city of Lahore and evokes the sights, sounds, smells, people and culture of the city so brilliantly. It also had one of my favourite passages :

“Saqib watched his work with forced detachment. He’d put his dreams to sleep on canvas after canvas, crystallized in a vice of color and form. Some had emerged as twisted nightmares, others as singed vestiges of shattered hopes.
     This painting was both.
     Like the woman, it had exacted much from him. He could almost feel the weight of the palette knife in his hands again, as he’d mixed and smeared, brushed and stroked in a frenzy of ecstasy or despair, until she’d emerged out of its blankness in the arms of another man, a faceless lover. But her almond shaped eyes that had held him captive for so long, gazed out at him, even now. He wasn’t just the painter; he was voyeur and conspirator, sinner and judge, plunderer and savior. The man in her arms didn’t matter, not to her, not to him.”

If you want to read ‘The Walled City‘ online, you can find it here.

Faiqa Mansab’s new book “This House of Clay and Water” is coming out in May. I can’t wait to read it.

(5) Strange Tales from the Make-Do Studio by Pu Songling

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There is a story plot which I have been fascinated by. In this story, a character from a book jumps out into the real world. (Or conversely a real world character jumps into a book or a painting). When I first heard this story, it gave me goosebumps. I discovered that Jasper Fforde has written this. Jodi Picoult has also written this. Then I discovered that Cornelia Funke has written this before them both. I was amazed to discover that Woody Allen wrote a story with this plot in the ’70s. (In his story Madame Bovary jumps out of the book into the real world and falls in love with the reader). Then I further discovered that Raymond Queneau wrote this in his book ‘The Flight of Icarus’. I thought this must be the earliest form of this story. I let it be. Imagine my surprise, when I discovered that Pu Songling had written similar stories. In the late 17th century! He seemed to be saying from the distant past – “Experimental writers from the 20th / 21st century – Take that! All these innovative plots that you think you invented (or copied from others without acknowledgement) – it has all been written and done and dusted.” Songling’s book is made up of ghost stories and stories of the supernatural written for grown-up mature readers. There are probably 500 stories of his. I probably read around 30 in this book. Many stories involve the main character, who is a scholar, who falls in love with a beautiful woman, but who turns out to be a ghost or a fox fairy or flower fairy. In many stories, the beautiful woman loves our scholar back, they get married and have children and live happily everafter 🙂 It is the kind of ghost story that I have never read before. This book deserves a proper review. Highly recommended.

(6) Contemplations by Franz Kafka

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I read ‘ The Metamorphosis‘ and many other stories by Kafka this year. My favourite was this one – his first ever published collection containing short one or two page prose pieces. Very beautiful.

Novels

(7) A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler

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A novel about an introverted, shy man whose life story it tells. Very beautiful. It got into many award shortlists. Wish it had won some.

(8) The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

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I got this book years back when it first came out. I finally read it. It is a retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet set in post Second World War America. The difference though is that our American Hamlet cannot speak and his parents rear dogs.  So, while we are expecting Hamletian madness to happen, we get one of the most beautiful dog novels ever written. Almondine is one of my most favourite dog characters ever and Easy is another favourite. There is a black pup (of which animal we never know) which our Hamlet’s dad saves from the flood. It refuses to eat or drink anything and the part of the story where it comes is beautiful and heartbreaking. I really should have written a proper review of this beautiful book.

(9) The Memory of Things by Gae Polisner

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This much awaited novel from one of my favourite writers is set in the aftermath of 9/11 and tells the story of ordinary people who show extraordinary courage. Gae Polisner says that the manuscript of her next novel has gone out already. I hope that novel comes out this year. We readers are always greedy!

(10) A True Novel by Minae Mizumura

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The longest novel of the year for me (862 pages). The longest novel I have ever read on the Kindle too. It has been called the Japanese Wuthering Heights. It was long and epic and I loved it.

Graphic Novels / Manga

(11) A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin (graphic novel – part 1)

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I got this because I was planning to watch the TV show. Before long the show took over. But till then, the graphic novel version of the book was good, very good.

(12) Barakamon (part 1) by Satsuki Yoshino

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A Manga comic about a young calligrapher who goes and lives in an island and his friendship with the islanders. Very charming! Can’t wait to read the next part!

Science

(13) The Universe in your Hand : A Journey through Space, Time and Beyond by Christophe Galfard

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Stephen Hawking’s former student gives his own version of the history of the universe. And I can confidently say that the student has excelled the master here. Galfard’s book is very readable. (Hawking’s book is unreadable after the first chapter – believe me, I tried). He uses storytelling techniques and science-fiction-movie-style narration to bring the most complex concepts alive. Probably the finest book on physics written for the general reader. One of the wonderful things that I learnt from this book was about the things we don’t know and which we will never know. This is a book that I will be reading again.

(14) The First Three Minutes by Steven Weinberg

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Weinberg’s book has been called the finest account of the Big Bang theory ever written. Weinberg being a Nobel Prize winner himself, this book has been well respected. I have wanted to read it for years. Finally got to read it. The initial few chapters are easy to follow. The book then gets more challenging. The thing I loved about the book though was reading Weinberg’s thoughts on physics and why it is important and why we should be doing it. Weinberg’s humility as a person and as a scientist shone through when he talked about the larger issues in science and his confidence as one of the great scientists of the 20th century shone through when he talked about the science we knew and could predict. It made me fall in love with him. I will be reading those parts of the book again.

(15) Mr Tompkins in paperback by George Gamov

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One of my friends has recommended this for years. I finally got around to reading it. It has two parts  – Mr.Tompkins in Wonderland and Mr.Tompkins Explores the Atom. Beautiful book on relativity, radioactivity, structure of the atom and quantum mechanics. It has one of the finest descriptions of radioactivity that I have ever read. The book also has a foreword by one of my favourite scientists Roger Penrose. That doubled my pleasure! Great book to gift to your young ones at home. I wish I had read this when I was in school.

Have you read any of these? Which are your favourite books from 2016?

Happy New Year! Hope you have a wonderful year filled with great books and beautiful reading moments 🙂

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I am coming to the party nearly a month late, but here I am finally. Here are my favourite books and my favourite reading moments from last year – books which were amazing, writers who were fascinating and everything in between with some fun facts thrown in along the way.

First a small description of how my reading year went. I started off quite well, but at some point after a month or two, I got into a reading slump. And this led to a blogging slump, and though I managed to recover from the reading slump during the second part of the year, with the exception of German Literature Month, I couldn’t come out of my blogging slump. I have never had a blogging slump like this since I started blogging more than seven years back. I hope the worst is over and I hope I will be a better blogger this year.

Fun Stats

I read fifty books last year. I thought because of my reading slump, I hadn’t read much, and so I was surprised when I discovered that it was not as bad as I thought – it was a typical reading year by my standards 🙂

The breakup goes like this : Novels : 17; YA : 3; Short Stories : 7; Fairytales : 1; Plays : 1; Graphic Novel : 2; Comics : 10; Anthology : 1; Poetry : 6; Memoir : 2. That is pretty diverse – not bad.

I read 33 books by male writers and 15 books by women writers – I aim for a 50-50 split and so that was bad. It was probably because all the comics I read were by male writers. There were two books that I didn’t count here – one was an anthology which had excerpts, stories and poems by different writers and the other was a poetry collection.

With respect to the countries from which the books were from (that is the nationality of the author – not the country where the story happens), the breakup went like this : America : 10; Britain : 7; Germany : 7; Belgium : 5; Italy : 3; Switzerland : 2; Chile : 2; Japan : 2; Canada (French) : 1; Canada (English) : 1; Russia : 1; France : 1; Finland : 1; Norway : 1; Lebanon : 1; Austria : 1; China : 1; India : 1; Greece : 1; Romania : 1.

I considered Vladimir Nabokov Russian, Rabih Alameddine Lebanese (though both of them probably were / are American citizens and wrote their novels in English) and Zoë Jenny Swiss (though she has started writing in English now and might have a British passport).  I also included Canada (French) and Canada (English) as separate categories because French literature from Canada is so ignored these days. Even Canadian readers don’t seem to know their French authors. It is so sad, because French-Canadian authors are so wonderful. (Nicole Brossard is my favourite.)

In terms of the language in which the books were originally written, this is how it went : English : 20; German : 10; French : 9; Italian : 3; Japanese : 2; Finnish : 1; Norwegian : 1; Chinese : 1; Tamil : 1; Greek : 1; Romanian : 1.

Most of the books were from the four big European languages – so, Hello, need more diversity here 🙂

Books I Loved

These are my favourite books from last year – books I absolutely loved. I couldn’t review many of them because of my blogging slump, which is unfortunate.

(1) The Pollen Room by Zoë Jenny – The story of a teenage girl and how she copes when her parents break up. The prose is beautiful and haunting, the story is moving and sometimes heartbreaking with some happy moments.

The Pollen Room By Zoe Jenny

(2) The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman by Denis Thériault – A beautiful epistolary love story between a Canadian postman and a Guadeloupe woman, this book is also a love letter to the Haiku poetic form.

The Peculiar Life Of A Lonely Postman Denis Theriault

(3) The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (graphic novel version) – The graphic novel version of Gaiman’s classic story of a boy who is brought up by ghosts in the graveyard. The story is beautiful, and in this edition the galaxy of artists assembled deliver a stunning work of graphic novel art. A must read for graphic novel and Gaiman fans.

TheGraveyardBookByNeilGaimanPart1TheGraveyardBookByNeilGaimanPart2

(4) New and Collected Poems by Mary Oliver – Mary Oliver is one of my favourite poets and this collection has poems from many of her books. Beauty in the form of poetic art.

NewAndCollectedPoemsMaryOliver

(5) The Summer Book by Tove Jansson – Tove Jansson’s love letter to the Finnish summer, it is also the story of a young girl and her grandmother and their experiences in an island. Though it is a whole book, it can also be read as a collection of individual short stories. My favourite story was about Moppy the cat. It is one of the finest evocations of summer that I have read, alongwith Ray Bradbury’s ‘Dandelion Wine’.

SummerBookToveJansson

(6) An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine – The narrator of the story is a woman who used to work in a bookshop (and who is now retired). She is shy and introverted and spends most of her day reading. Every year she translates one or more famous world classics into Arabic. While telling her story and sharing with the reader what she does everyday and stories of her past, the narrator also shares her thoughts on books, reading, literature, writers, the art of translation and everything else that booklovers love to talk about and think about. This book is a love letter to reading, books, literature, translation and everything in between. I am so glad that I discovered it.

AnUnnecessaryWomanRabihAlameddine

(7) Cassandra by Christa Wolf – A retelling of the Troy legend from the perspective of Cassandra the prophet, it makes one realize how different things are when we see them with a new perspective. Wolf’s stunning prose leaps out of every page and I couldn’t stop re-reading my favourite passages again and again after highlighting them. One of my alltime favourite books.

Cassandra

(8) A Time to Love and a Time to Die by Erich Maria Remarque – There are a few scenes in Remarque’s ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ in which the main character goes home on furlough for a few weeks. Remarque takes this small part, moves the setting to the Second World War and expands it into a whole book. After a slow start, Remarque’s trademark prose flows beautifully, the plot moves smoothly and the main characters’ thoughts on war are quite fascinating. And the heroine of the story – Elizabeth – is one of the most fascinating heroines from any war novel. This is not just a wonderful war story but is also a beautiful love story. I can’t wait to read more of Remarque’s books. I read this for the Literature and War Readalong hosted by Caroline from Beauty is a Sleeping Cat. I promised myself that I will write a proper review of this book one of these days and I hope to do so soon.

ATijmeToLoveRemarque

(9) Wild Words : Four Tamil Poets – This book has poems by four Tamil women poets who first came to prominence more than a decade back, because the patriarchy threatened them. Our heroines, of course, defied them, and have published many wonderful poetry collections since. I loved this passage from the introduction to the book – “It is perhaps useful to remember that the traditional values prescribed for the ‘Good’ Tamil woman were accham, madam and naanam (fearfulness, propriety, modesty or shame). Our poets have chosen instead, the opposite virtues of fearlessness, outspokenness and a ceaseless questioning of prescribed rules. It is surely significant that at different times and variously, they have claimed as their foremothers, role models and equals, Avvai, Velliviidhi and Sappho; Anna Akhmatova, Sylvia Plath and Kamala Das. And Eve, above all, who defied divine authority to pluck the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. Bad Girls indeed, all of them.”

WildWords

(10) Letters of a Peruvian Woman by Françoise de Graffigny – It is the story of a Peruvian princess who is abducted by Spanish invaders who take her to their ship, but who is later rescued by a French ship and taken to France. There her rescuer takes her to his home, tries to teach her French language and culture and treats her like family. Our Peruvian heroine becomes best friends with her rescuer’s sister. The whole story is told as a series of letters that our Peruvian heroine writes to her fiance, who is the Peruvian king. Her observations on the differences between the two cultures are very insightful and humorous, Graffigny’s prose is beautiful and the surprise in the end takes us unawares – must have been stunning when it was first published in 1747. This books deserves to be more widely read, because it is so good.

LettersOfAPeruvianWomanGraffigny

(11) Making Movies by Sidney Lumet – The director of such masterpieces like ’12 Angry Men’ and ‘Network’ shares his thoughts on how to make a movie and the challenges involved. Though the technology he talks about is dated (because the book was published in the 1990s and Lumet mostly worked in the pre-digital era), his insights are wonderful. This book is a wonderful education in the art of film-making. A must-read for all movie lovers.

Making Movies By Sidney Lumet

Honourable Mentions

The following books deserve special mentions. It is really an extended list of favourites.

(1) Dylan Dog comics – This is a comics series which I discovered last year and which was originally published in Italian. The stories are mostly set in England and the characters are supposedly English, but our hero Dylan Dog wears stylish Italian suits and it is so hard to believe that he is anything but Italian. The artwork is stunning and the stories are interesting – mostly murder mysteries or strange happenings, some of which have logical explanations and others which seem to have supernatural causes. Umberto Eco says this about Dylan Dog – “I can read the Bible, Homer and Dylan Dog for several days without being bored.” Well, I am in good company 🙂

DylanDog

(2) A Little, Aloud – It is an anthology of prose and poetry for reading aloud to someone we care for. I didn’t read it aloud though and I read it to myself. It has poems, short stories and excerpts from novels and memoirs and other books. This was the book which got me out of my reading slump and so I have a lot of affection for it. My favourite from the book is a story by Saki called ‘The Lumber Room’ – it is so beautiful and the main character is an adorable and charming naughty boy and we love him from the first page and the ending made me smile 🙂 If you are interested you can read it here.

ALittleAloud

(3) A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness – A beautiful story about love and loss and how a boy copes with it. And there is a monster in the story, which teaches him the truths of life. What is not to like? I have to thank Claire from ‘Word by Word’ who recommended this beautiful book to me.

MonsterCallsPatrickNess

(4) The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart – It is the story of a young boy who is suffering from cancer. He discovers that the cancer has come back and there is no escape this time and decides to leave home, take his dog with him and climb Mt.Rainier. It is beautiful, charming, happy, sad and has a wonderful ending. A book I read in a day.

TheHonestTruthDanGemeinhart

(5) Poems that make grown men cry – The ‘men’ in the title made me hesitate (what about poems that make grown women cry) and most of the poems in the collection were by male poets and that also put me off, but I browsed the book and the poems were wonderful and I couldn’t resist getting it and reading it. It is a beautiful collection and I loved many of the poems, especially Billy Collins’ ode to his mother and Harold Pinter’s love poem. There is a companion volume which is expected this year and it is called – you guessed it – ‘Poems that make grown women cry’. I can’t wait for that.

PoemsThatMakeGrownMenCry

(6) The Death’s Head Chess Club by John Donoghue – I don’t know anyone who has read this, but the fact that it had ‘chess’ in the title made me read it. It is the story of a Jewish prisoner in the Auschwitz concentration camp who is the chess champion among the prisoners and an SS officer who is trying to start a chess club among the officers. When word of the legendary chess champion inmate reaches him, the SS officer can’t resist introducing a championship between the champion officer and the champion inmate. Of course, this can never go well. Whether they do here – you should read the book to find out. A love letter to chess and how small things like this can build bridges between people who are on opposite sides of the divide. This book deserves to be more famous.

TheDeathsHeadChessClub

(7) The Marvels by Brian Selznick – Brian Selznick brings his unique style of storytelling again, combining pictures and artwork interspersed by words which move the plot to tell the parallel stories of a family of actors and a young boy who runs away from school to stay at the home of his uncle, who turns out to be odd, and in some way connected to this actor family. The artwork is stunning and the story is nice.

TheMarvelsBrianSelznick

(8) Bluets by Maggie Nelson – I have to thank Bina from ‘If You Can Read This’ who first told me about this book. I don’t know whether to call this book a long essay or a memoir. In it, Maggie Nelson talks about love and longing, while also meditating on the colour blue and what it means to us today and what it meant to us across history. She quotes philosophers and writers who have written about everything blue and her style reminds us of Alain de Botton’s – with the book having no chapter divisions and each paragraph being numbered.

BluetsMaggieNelson

(9) Children’s Stories from Rumanian Legends by M.Gaster Delia from ‘Postcards from Asia’ told me about the Romanian legend of Harap Alb and when I thought about it, I realized that I had a collection of Romanian fairytales (which is unfortunately, out-of-print today). So, I took it out and read it and it was wonderful. I loved the fact that things were not black-and-white in these fairytales – in one story the main character falls in love with a beautiful woman (who loves him back) and then discovers that she is a demon and both the lovers run away to escape the clutches of her demon-father; in another story, there is an adorable little-devil who is always up to some mischief, creating trouble for humans. I hope to read more Romanian fairytales in the future.

RumanianLegends

So, that is the long (and hopefully not boring) account of my reading year in 2015. How was your reading year in 2015? Which were your favourite books?

 

 

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It has been nearly three weeks into the New Year. So, it is time for me to write about my favourites from last year and also see my reading year in perspective. 

First the perspective part. 

I read 46 books last year. It was not as many as previous years, but I had bad reading slumps throughout the year, especially in the second half, and also family emergencies and so considering that, I think I read a good number of beautiful books. Here is a brief overview of my reading year. 

The first book that I read was ‘In the Land of Punctuation’ by the German poet Christian Morgenstern. It was actually a visual, artistic representation of a poem of the same name by Morgenstern. It defied classification – I didn’t know whether to consider it as poetry, or a book of art or a graphic novel.

In The Land Of Punctuation By Christian Morgenstern

The last book I read was ‘Blue Horses’ by the American poet Mary Oliver. It was one of my favourite books of the year. It was nice to start the year with a poem and end the year with a poetry collection. 

The thickest book that I read during the year was this one.

JS And MrN Spine

Can you guess which book this is? Yes, it is that chunkster, the 1006-page long ‘Jonathan Strange and Mr.Norrell’ 🙂

JS And MrN Spine With Title

The thinnest book that I read was ‘In Berlin : Day and Night in 1929’ by Franz Hessel.

In Berlin By Franz Hessel

Now for some numbers.

I read 21 books by women authors and 22 books by men authors, which was nearly perfect. I read three books which featured both women and men authors – they were all anthologies – one was a poetry anthology and two were short story anthologies.

I read 24 books which were originally written in English, 6 books written in French (5 of them were Belgian comics :)), 10 written in German, 1 written in Russian, 2 written in Spanish, 2 written in Swedish and 1 written in Tamil. Except for the Tamil book which I read in the original, I read the other non-English books in translation. My English : Non-English reading was 24 : 22. Which is not bad.

Sometimes it is difficult to tell which country a book is from – because the author is from one country, while the characters in the story are from another and the story happens in a different country. But looking at it from the perspective of the author’s nationality, I read 4 Austrian books, 6 German books, 5 Belgian books, 1 French book, 1 Chilean book, 1 Spanish book, 6 English books, 1 Irish book, 16 American books, 2 Indian books, 1 Russian book and 2 Swedish books. No Middle-eastern, East Asian, African books – I need to work on that.

It was supposed to be the year in which I read a lot of French and Russian literature, but it didn’t turn out that way. I read just 1 French and 1 Russian book (and 5 Belgian comics written in French). I need to learn to stick to my reading plans – atleast an approximation of them.

In terms of genre, I read 7 Children books, 4 YA books, 6 Comics, 1 Fantasy, 3 Memoirs (one of them was a graphic novel memoir), 1 Essay, 2 Plays, 6 collections of Poetry, 2 Short Story collections, 1 book on Science, 1 Science Fiction novel and 12 books of Literary Fiction. I loved the fact that I read 6 collections of poetry – I don’t remember having read so many collections of poetry in a year before.

My Fiction : Non-Fiction reading was 41 : 5 (I considered poetry as fiction here, though some readers tend to consider it as nonfiction.).

My Narrative Stories : Others reading was 33 : 13. (In addition to novels, I included Children books, Comics and Short Story collections under the ‘Narrative Stories’ category. I included Plays in the ‘Others’ category.)

I participated in seven reading events – Angela Carter Week, German Literature Month, Romain Gary Month, Once Upon a Time and three readalongs – the Literature and War Readalong, the ‘Jonathan Strange and Mr.Norrell’ readalong and the ‘Lolita’ readalong. I loved all of them and I am hoping to participate in more reading events this year.

That is all about numbers.

Now for my favourite books of the year. Here are my favourite books of the year, in no particular order, with links to my reviews.

Poetry

Selected Poems by Marina Tsvetaeva – My first experience of reading Tsvetaeva’s poems. Very beautiful collection. Unfortunately, Tsvetaeva doesn’t seem to be as popular among English readers as much as Boris Pasternak or Anna Akhmatova. She deserves to be better known and better read.

Selected Poems By Marina Tsvetaeva

101 Great American Poems – One of the finest poetry collections that I have ever read. In a slim book, the compilers have packed a lot of beautiful poems. I have a whole new love for American poetry after reading this book. All the classic poems are there in this book.

101 Great American Poems

Blue Horses by Mary Oliver – Mary Oliver’s new collection. Each poem is beautiful and different and the book refuses to let you go till the end. A must read for Oliver fans.

Blue Horses By Mary Oliver

Sandhya’s Kiss (Sandhyavin Mutham) by Kavitha – I didn’t review this book, unfortunately. It is one of my favourite discoveries of the year. I love reading Tamil poetry, and Kavitha is one of the talented, young poets. I will look forward to reading more of her poetry during the coming year.

I know that this is a list of favourites, but I have to mention this here. My biggest disappointment of the year was Pablo Neruda’s ‘Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair’.

Twenty Love Poems And A Song Of Despair By Pablo Neruda

I loved Neruda’s ‘Odes to Common Things’ when I first read it a few years back. It is one of my favourite poetry collections. When I read that, I heard from Neruda fans that ‘Twenty Love Poems…’ is a more critically acclaimed book and is more beautiful. I loved the title of that book and so, I went in with high hopes. As often happens when we go with high hopes, it ended in disappointment. There were beautiful lines in the book, of course, like this – “Love is so short, forgetting is so long” – and this – “Like a jar you housed the infinite tenderness, and the infinite oblivion shattered you like a jar” – and this – “Oh let me remember you as you were before you existed” (this line made me remember the lines from a W.B.Yeats poem – “I’m looking for the face I had / Before the world was made.”). But, despite these beautiful lines, the book was a song of despair for me. The poems didn’t have the impact that I expected they would, and I came off feeling underwhelmed. I am wondering why that happened. Maybe the collection didn’t fit my poetry taste. Or maybe it is just me – maybe I didn’t understand the poems, the way they were supposed to be understood. Maybe I should give it a chance again later in life. Have you read this collection? What do you think about it?

Children’s Books

Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter by Astrid Lindgren – I have wanted to read Ronja’s story for years. I finally got to read it and it was as wonderful as expected. Ronja is one of the great adorable heroines in children’s literature and this is a book that I will be reading again.

Ronia The Robbers Daughter By Astrid Lindgren

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster – I have been trying to get this book for years after one of my friends highly recommended it. Finally got it and read it and loved it. I wish I had read it when I was a child – I would have loved it more.

The Phantom Tollbooth By Norton Juster

East of the Sun, West of the Moon by Jackie Morris – A beautiful, contemporary retelling of a famous fairytale. Jackie Morris’ writing is the very definition of purple prose and the illustrations in the book are gorgeous and that ending, which is very different from the traditional ending, will make you think.

East Of The Sun West Of The Moon By Jackie Morris

Comics

Le Survivant by Jean Van Hamme, Thierry Cailleteau and Christian Denayer

Le Survivant Wayne Shelton

La Vengeance by Jean Van Hamme, Thierry Cailleteau and Christian Denayer

La Vengeance Wayne Shelton

I didn’t review these two books. I am a big fan of Belgian comics and Jean Van Hamme is one of my favourite Belgian Comic writers. He has worked on literally every comic genre and they are all excellent. These two are from the Wayne Shelton series – Shelton is a retired armyman in his fifties. He has grey hair and looks his age, but he is cool, stylish and sophisticated, he is frequently hired by bad guys on mercenary projects and most of the time he turns against his employers and his adventures are gripping and thrilling to read.

Memoirs

Promise at Dawn by Romain Gary My first Romain Gary book. Though it is Gary’s memoir, it is more a love letter to his mom. Beautifully written, humorous and insightful in equal measure, it made me want to read more of Gary’s works.

Promise At Dawn By Romain Gary

Relish : My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley – A beautiful graphic memoir of Lucy Knisley love affair with food. It has many recipes and I loved reading all of them.

Relish By Lucy Knisley

Science

Infinite Ascent : A Short History of Mathematics by David Berlinski – I didn’t review this book. It is a slim, beautiful gem and the finest introduction to mathematics that I have read. I wish it was around during my student days – I would have loved it more.

Infinite Ascent By David Berlinski

YA

Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones – The dogstar gets convicted in the celestial court and ends up being born a dog on earth. His mistress is kind but can’t always protect him. Will he regain his lost glory and become a star again? And if he does, how can he bear to part from his mistress, whom he loves so much and who loves him back? One of the most beautiful fantasy tales that I have ever read. Vintage Diana Wynne Jones.

Dogsbody By Diana Wynne Jones

The Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner – Gae Polisner’s second book. It is about love and loss and family and about being a teenager in today’s complex world. With each new book Gae Polisner keeps getting better and better. I am torn between deciding which one I like more – this one or Polisner’s first book ‘The Pull of Gravity’ – they are both beautiful. I can’t wait to read her next book.

The Summer Of Letting Go By Gae Polisner

So You Want to be a Wizard by Diane Duane – Has been lying in my bookshelf for years. Finally read it. A bookish girl while hiding in the library from bullies, discovers a book there on how to become a wizard. And before she knows it, she is plunged headlong into a world of magic and things go out of control. My favourite character in the story was a white hole which talks. One of the great discoveries of the year for me.

So You Want To Be A Wizard By Diane Duane

Literary Fiction

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque – One of the finest war novels ever written. I am glad that I finally read it. Every page has quotable passages and my highlighting pen didn’t stop working. If I have to choose just one favourite book for the year, this might be the one.

All Quiet On The Western Front By Erich Maria Remarque

The Awakening by Kate Chopin – I have wanted to read Kate Chopin’s only novel for years. Finally got to read it. Chopin’s prose is exquisite and her sensitive portrayal of a woman who yearns to be free is beautifully told. A book which I will be reading again.

The Awakening By Kate Chopin

The Millstone by Margaret Drabble – A surprising discovery for me. I have never heard of Drabble before and I got this book in a sale. This is about a twenty-something woman in ‘60s London who gets pregnant and decides to have the baby. The challenges she faces are told in the rest of the story. Very realistically and beautifully told. I can’t wait to read more books by Drabble.

The Millstone By Margaret Drabble

Three Paths to the Lake by Ingeborg Bachmann – In her novella, Bachmann is as insightful as ever as she describes the life of her fifty-year-old heroine and her life and her loves. Probably my most favourite Bachmann story yet.

ThreePathsToTheLakeByIngeborgBachmann

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker – The story of a woman’s quest for her father which leads her into the interior part of Burma. Beautiful prose, quotable passages and a sensitive story.

The Art Of Hearing Heartbeats By Jan Philipp Sendker

Short Story

Letter to the Lady of the House by Richard Bausch

The Stories Of Richard Bausch

Though I read two short story collections, my favourite short story of the year was not from them. It was a story by Richard Bausch, an author who my friend M—–l (from Outgoing Signals) highly recommended. The Richard Bausch story I loved was called, ‘Letter to the Lady of the House’. It was featured in the collection ‘The Stories of Richard Bausch’. It is the story of a man who on the eve of his seventieth birthday writes a letter to his wife. It is now one of my alltime favourite short stories. If you like, you can listen to Richard Bausch reading it here.

So, that was my reading year in 2014. How was your reading year in 2014? Which were your favourite books? Have you read any of the above books?

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It is the second day of the New Year and it is time to look back on the old year. From a bookish perspective, I had fun looking back at my reading experience the previous year and thinking about which were the books I liked the most. Here is what came out of my thinking.

 

I had an interesting reading year. I read some beautiful books by authors whom I hadn’t heard of before and in the process discovered some wonderful new writers. I celebrated ‘My Year of Reading French Literature’ and in the process read my first Balzac, my first surrealist novel (Andre Breton’s ‘Nadja’), my first French-Canadian writer (Nicole Brossard) and my first Marguerite Duras book, read my first novel-in-verse, my first book by a fictitious author (Richard Castle), my first Swedish novel, the latest book by Barbara Kingsolver, Dan Brown, Neil Gaiman and Julian Barnes and re-read ‘The Three Musketeers’ after a long time. I also participated in RIP VIII and German Literature Month.

 

My most favourite book of 2013 was ‘The Wall’ by Marlen Haushofer. It is my most favourite German book ever and it is one of my favourite books of alltime. If you haven’t read it yet, get it now and read it today 🙂

 

This is the complete list of my favourite books from 2013. There are lots of them, and that is because I like most of the books I read. I think I have reached the stage, where I instinctively pick books that I will end up liking. For the picture books I have written a brief description, because I haven’t reviewed most of them. For the rest, I have linked the titles to my reviews of the books.

 

Picture Books

 

(1) Frogs by Nic Bishop – This is a photo essay on frogs and how they live. There are stunning, colourful photos of different types of frogs throughout the book – bullfrogs and red-eyed frogs and yellow-coloured gliding frogs and strawberry and blue-coloured dart poison frogs and glass frogs which have transparent skin. I never knew that frogs came in so many different bright colours. The book also talks about how frog parents take care of their children – how African bullfrogs fiercely defend their eggs and tadpoles, how the marsupial frog carries its eggs and tadpoles in its pouch, how the strawberry dart poison frog takes care of each of her tadpole babies individually and feeds them – she looks almost human. The author Nic Bishop is not just a photographer but is also a proper biological scientist with a doctorate in biology. I have been indifferent to frogs till now, but after reading this book, I have fallen in love with them. I will look forward to reading my next Nic Bishop book. If you have young children at home or you want to gift books to your nephews / nieces or your friend’s children, gift them this one. Thanks a lot to my favourite friend for seeing the child in me and gifting me this beautiful book.

Frogs By Nic Bishop

(2) Portland Impressions by Steve Terrill – This is a photo album on the beautiful city of Portland in Oregon. Portland is one of my favourite cities in the world. One of the reasons is that one of my favourite friends is from there. Another reason is that it is the home of some of my favourite writers – Virginia Euwer Wolff (her ‘The Mozart Season’ is one of the great Portland YA novels and deserves to me more widely read), Ursula Le Guin, Alexis Smith. And then, of course, there is the wonderful Powell’s, the only bookshop in the world which stocked Cuban novelist José Lezama Lima’s ‘Paradiso‘. This beautiful book-sized photo essay by award winning photographer Steve Terrill, is a fitting tribute to this beautiful city and has stunning photographs which bring out Portland in all its glory. There are pictures of the city’s skyline, the snowcapped Mount Hood, the Columbia and the Willamette rivers, the Columbia River Gorge, the interesting bridges, the renowned flower gardens, the universities, the sculptural homage to Lewis and Clark, the sculpture of Portlandia, the Singing Christmas tree, the boat festivals at the waterfront during different times of the year – they are all featured there. I was hoping to see photos of the Laurelhurst pub and some depicting the literary and art scene in the city, but unfortunately they were not featured. But PortlandStateUniversity was featured and so was the wonderful Powell’s. That made me very happy. If you want to read books about this beautiful city, I would recommend two – this beautiful book and Virginia Euwer Wolff’s wonderful ‘The Mozart Season’. If you would like to watch a movie set in this city, I would recommend ‘Feast of Love’ which is mostly set in PortlandStateUniversity and stars Morgan Freeman with others.

Portland Impressions By Steve Terrill

(3) Mother’s Love : Inspiring Stories from the Animal Kingdom by Melina Gerosa Bellows – This has beautiful photographs of animal mothers and their cute babies with quotes on mothers by writers and stories on how animals mothers risked everything to save their kids. Can keep looking at the pictures all day. Most of my favourite cats are featured – lioness, cheetah, lynx, tiger, housecat, leopard – only the puma was missing. My favourite quote from the book was by author Elizabeth Stone – “Making a decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” A must for animal lovers.

Mothers Love By Melina Gerosa Bellows

(4) Let’s Do Nothing by Tony Fucile – This is a picture book and tells the story of two friends Frankie and Sal, who feel that they have done most things – having played all games including board games, read most comics, pained more pictures than Van Gogh, baked lots of cookies – and now they don’t know what to do. Sal suggests that they do nothing for a short while and Frankie agrees. But ‘doing nothing’ is not as simple as it seems. Actually it turns out to be the most difficult thing. What happens after that is the rest of the story. I found it funny and also very insightful because the book shows how difficult it is to be quiet or do nothing for even a short while, especially for our 21st century mind which is filled with a blizzard of thoughts. And it does that in a way that children can understand. The story is humorous and funny and the theme it addresses is very Zen. I totally loved it. This is a wonderful book to gift to your children or to your nieces / nephews or your friends’ children.

 Lets Do Nothing By Tony Fucile

German Books

 

(5) The Wall by Marlen Haushofer

 The Wall By Marlen Haushofer

(6) Mrs. Sartoris by Elke Schmitter

 Mrs Sartoris By Elke Schmitter

(7) The Thirtieth Year by Ingeborg Bachmann

 The Thirtieth Year By Ingeborg Bachmann

French Books

 

(8) Yesterday, at the Hotel Clarendon by Nicole Brossard

 Yesterday At The Hotel Clarendon By Nicole Brossard

(9) Père Goriot by Honoré de Balzac

 Pere Goriot By Honore De Balzac

(10) The Square by Marguerite Duras

Four Novels By Marguerite Duras 

(11) The Mark of the Angel by Nancy Huston

 The Mark Of The Angel By Nancy Huston

(12) The Lost Estate by Alain-Fournier

 The Lost Estate Le Grand Meaulnes By Alain Fournier

(13) One Hundred Great French Books by Lance Donaldson-Evans

 One Hundred Great French Books By Lance Donaldson Evans

English Books

 

(14) Glaciers by Alexis M. Smith

 Glaciers By Alexis Smith

(15) The Language of Others by Clare Morrall

 The Language Of Others By Clare Morrall

(16) A Virtual Love by Andrew Blackman

 AVirtualLoveByAndrewBlackmanSmallerVersion

YA Books

 

(17) The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

 The Fault In Our Stars By John Green

(18) Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

 Eleanor And Park By Rainbow Rowell

(19) The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner

 The Pull Of Gravity By Gae Polisner

Poetry

 

(20) The Golden Gate by Vikram Seth

 The Golden Gate By Vikram Seth

Memoir

 

(21) Somewhere Towards the End by Diana Athill

 Somewhere Towards The End By Diana Athill

(22) She Left Me the Gun by Emma Brockes

 She Left Me The Gun By Emma Brockes

Now some numbers with respect to my reading experience in 2013.

 

Total No. of books read – 70

 

Books by genre

 

Fiction – 46

Non-Fiction – 5

Comics – 4

Plays – 2

Poetry – 1

Picture Books – 6

Children Books – 6

 

Fiction by genre

 

Classics – 6

Literary Fiction – 22

Young Adult – 6

Thriller / Horror / Fantasy – 11

Science Fiction – 1

 

Books by language in which they were originally written

 

English –  46

French –  12

German – 5

Tamil – 2

Spanish – 1

Italian – 1

Swedish – 1

Yiddish – 1

Japanese – 1

 

Books by

 

Men authors – 40

Women authors – 30

 

The two things I was disappointed with was that I read only 12 French books (it was after all ‘My Year of Reading French Literature’ – I should have read more), and I read only 5 German books (Normally I read 10 German books during German Literature Month alone.) I am hoping to read more French and German books during the coming year. I also want to read more comics.

 

How was your reading year in 2013?

 

Wish you a very Happy New Year! Hope your year is filled with lots of beauty and light and joy and happiness and lots of books and beautiful reading moments.

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It is the dawn of a new year and it is time to take stock of the old year – in my case to think back on books and reading. 2012 was an interesting reading year for me. I wanted to read 70 books. I read around 71 books. (I think I missed out on counting a few books). This is the highest number of books that I have read in any year. Numbers don’t mean much in terms of reading but it still made me happy to read what I had planned.

 

The breakup of my reading was as follows :

 

Fiction

Abridged Classics – 1

Children’s literature – 1

Contemporary Fiction – 2

Classics – 6

Comics – 6

Drama – 2

Fairytales – 1

Fantasy – 2

Gothic Fiction – 1

Historical Fiction – 1

Literary Fiction – 26

Love Story (Literary) – 2

Love Story (Romance) – 1

Popular Classic – 1

Science Fiction – 2

Short Story Collections – 2

Thrillers / Crime Fiction – 6

Young Adult – 3

 

Nonfiction

Books on books / literature – 2

Cinema – 1

Memoir – 1

Sport – 1

I seem to have read a lot of literary fiction this year and some classics, comics, thrillers and nonfiction.

 

I read 55 books written by male authors, 15 books written by women authors and 1 book jointly written by a male and a woman author. The number of books  by women authors that I read has dropped drastically. I should try to redress this in the New Year.

 

I read 40 books written in English, 8 books written in Tamil and 23 which were translations (Arabic 1, French 6, German 12, Italian 2, Norwegian 2). I think this is the first ever time I have read an Arabic novel. Out of the six French books, five were comics 🙂 And they were all Belgian 🙂 And they were all L2 translations – books which were originally published in French and then translated into English and from English into Tamil. One of the Italian books I read was also a comic – it was a western and was one of my childhood favourites starring Tex Willer. I also think that I read a Norwegian novel for the first time.

 

My fiction-nonfiction breakup was 66-5 – not good for the nonfiction part of the equation. I should work on that part this year. 

 

I read 63 of my own books, 1 book which I borrowed from my friend, 4 books which I borrowed from the library, and 3 books which were gifts.

 

I also read 37 books recommended by friends and fellow book bloggers which is nearly half of the books that I read. It looks like I am very receptive to recommendations 🙂

 

As a reader, for most of the year, I stuck to the Aristotlean Golden Mean – reading mostly books of 300 pages or less. I read 8 novellas (books of around a 100 pages or less) and 6 comics and so that is 14 easy reads. I read one chunkster (‘The Mysteries of Udolpho’ by Ann Radcliffe) and one mid-level chunkster (‘Hannibal : Pride of Carthage’ by David Anthony Durham). I think I should move out of my comfort zone and read bigger books in the New Year – making a plan to read ‘War and Peace’ or ‘In Search of Lost Time’ will definitely help.

 

During the course of my reading I (armchair) travelled to different countries – America, Denmark, Egypt, England, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Switzerland. I also travelled back in time to Carthage. That is 13 countries. Last year I did 17 – so there is room for improvement here. I should look more closely at Latin America, Africa and East Asia this year.

 

Out of the 71 books I read, I didn’t review 29 books. That is a very high number for me. I normally try to review every book that I read. It looks like I missed that by a wide margin.

I participated in six reading events with fellow bloggers – three readalongs (Prodigal Summer, The Mysteries of Udolpho, A Christmas Carol), Antonio Tabucchi Week, Dickens in December and German Literature Month. Those were a lot of reading events and read-alongs for me. I normally try to do one in a year, because when I am under pressure, my reading goes south. But luckily this year, that didn’t happen and the read-alongs and challenges inspired me to read more as I discovered new wonderful authors and books. I loved participating in these events and I would like to thank my fellow book bloggers who organized these wonderful events.

 

I also read four books for book club. I also did a Science Fiction and Fantasy course in Coursera and read four books for that. I discovered the wonderful ‘Herland’ by Charlotte Perkins Gilman through this course.

 

I liked most of the books that I read. I am one of those readers who likes all the books he reads – the way children like all sweets. There was one exception, however. I was disappointed by ‘The Weekend’ by Bernhard Schlink. I loved my previous two Schlink novels and so I thought I will give this also a try. Unfortunately, it was a disaster. I hope that Schlink has had his one bad book to ward off bad luck and will be back to his normal game in the others.

 

Which were my favourite books of the year? It is difficult question, when you like most of the books you read. When I looked at the list of books that I read and made some hard decisions and tried to whittle down the list to a list of favourites, the following books came out.

 

Literary Fiction

 

(1) Unformed Landscape by Peter Stamm – Peter Stamm’s beautiful story of a young woman who goes on a quest to discover herself stole my heart and refused to let it go.

 Unformed Landscape By Peter Stamm

(2) The Land of Green Plums by Herta Müller – Herta Muller’s powerful poetic imagery and lush prose had me riveted to this book though it was about a very serious topic – life in Communist Romania.

 TheLandOfGreenPlumsByHertaMuller

(3) The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes – I had kept away from this book for so long. I finally got a chance to read it for book club. It was my first novel by Barnes, hopefully the first of many to come. The plot is not much – it is about a man who looks back at his past –  but the rest is awesome.

 The Sense Of An Ending By Julian Barnes

(4) Flaubert’s Parrot by Julian Barnes – The second Barnes novel that I read. A love letter to the great Gustave Flaubert. Very infectious, endlessly fascinating and a literature lover’s delight.

 Flauberts Parrot By Julian Barnes

(5) Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson – Probably my first Norwegian novel. Brings the cold Norwegian landscape to magical life through beautiful prose and atmospheric descriptions.

 Out Stealing Horses By Per Petterson

(6) Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver – My first Kingsolver book. It is the story of three women and their lives and loves. And a fourth – nature. Her love of nature and wild life is very infectious and I hope to read more of her works.

 Prodigal Summer By Barbara Kingsolver

(7) Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy – My first Hardy novel. The ending was tragic, and in my opinion not that great (one of my friends suggested that if you want a happy ending in a Hardy novel, you have to read from the last page to the first), but an exceptional novel otherwise. I don’t understand why he doesn’t occupy the hallowed space in the English literary landscape that is currently occupied by Dickens and Austen. Because he is that good.

 Tess Of The d Urbervilles By Thomas Hardy

(8) On the Holloway Road by Andrew Blackman – A road novel with only a few characters. The main character is an aspiring writer who is trying to explore the meaning of life through his writing and through his travel. A beautiful first novel which deeply resonated with me.

 On The Holloway Road By Andrew Blackman

Novella

 

(9) Maryam’s Maze by Mansoura Ez Eldin – My first Arabic book. It is a slim book, but has so much packed into those pages – a brief history of modern Egypt, family life in Egypt, a young woman’s quest for the truth behind the illusory façade of reality – all these and more. One of my favourite new discoveries of the year. I can’t wait to read Mansoura Ez Eldin’s next book.

 Maryams Maze By Mansoura Ez Eldin

(10) The Pigeon by Patrick Süskind – This is my second Süskind book. His story of a simple, anonymous, introverted outsider who tries to get through a normal day peacefully and how everything conspires against him is very beautifully told.

 The Pigeon By Patrick Suskind

YA

 

(11) A Note of Madness by Tabitha Suzuma – Tabitha Suzuma’s ‘Forbidden’ is the one which has been creating waves recently, but her first book ‘A Note of Madness’ is equally good. The story of a young musician who descends into depression is very realistic and extremely scary.

 A Note Of Madness By Tabitha Suzuma

Tamil Fiction

 

(12) Vannathu Poochi Vettai (Butterfly hunt) by Sujatha – I read a few books by Sujatha this year, including ‘Yen Iniya Iyandhira’ (My Sweet Machine) and ‘Karayellam Shenbagapoo’ (Magnolias fill the bank), but this was my favourite out of them. ‘Vannathu Poochi Vettai’ is about a young woman who gets married in the traditional Indian way (her parents find her husband) and after the initial honeymoon period she discovers that her husband has secrets and a parallel life. Very scary but with a life affirming ending.

 

Thriller / Crime Fiction

 

(13) Crime by Ferdinand Von Schirach – One of my favourite discoveries of the year. This book is based on actual cases that Schirach worked on. It is an exceptional analysis of and a beautiful meditation on law and its philosophy.

 Crime By Ferdinand Von Schirach

Love Story

 

(14) Essays in Love by Alain de Botton – One of my favourite love stories of alltime. It charts the course of the love life of a young man and woman from the time they meet to the time they break it off. The ending is heartbreaking in a very real way.

 Essays In Love By Alain De Botton

(15) The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson – Another of my favourite love stories and a very unique one at that. It also has one of my favourite short love stories – that of Francesco and Graziana.

 The Gargoyle By Andrew Davidson

Nonfiction

 

(16) Talking about Detective Fiction by P.D.James – James’s masterly analysis of detective fiction since the 19th century. Though it has an Anglo-American focus, the book gives an excellent overview of the genre. Recommended reading for detective fiction fans.

 Talking About Detective Fiction By PD James

(17) Nothing to be Frightened of by Julian Barnes – Barnes’s meditation on life and death is deep, poignant and has his vintage dry humour. Barnes was one of the major discoveries of the year for me. I read three of his books and loved all three. That can only mean one thing – he has zoomed up and entered my list of favourite writers.

 Nothing To Be Frightened Of By Julian Barnes

Play

 

(18) The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde – I read an Oscar Wilde play finally. It was good, really good. Not good – it was excellent, exceptional. And it made me laugh throughout. I can’t wait to read more of Wilde’s plays. The other play I read this year, ‘She Stoops to Conquer’ by Oliver Goldsmith was a dud. Or should I say ‘meh’ J English literature professors may disagree, but this is what I think.  

 The Importance Of Being Earnest

Comic

 

(19) Western by Jean Van Hamme, Grzegorz Rosinski – A sad, poignant story of a young boy who comes back to the town he ran away from as a kid and falls in love with the girl whose father he killed. We can guess what happens next. It all ends badly for him and his sweetheart and the ending is heartbreaking. The story is wonderful but tragic and the artwork is haunting. By my favourite comic writer Jean Van Hamme, western comic fans will love this.

 Western By Jean Van Hamme And Grzegorz Rosinski

Honourable Mentions

 

I have to talk about a few honourable mentions here. I liked very much the following books too, though I haven’t included them in the above list.

 

(20) The Meryl Streep Movie Club by Mia March – An ode to Meryl Streep and her movies, this book made me think of the movie nights we have with our family with bags of popcorn. Reading the book was like having a conversation with one’s family and friends.

 The Meryl Streep Movie Club By Mia March

(21) Sleeping Patterns by J.R.Crook – A slim novella, but a very inventive one, which challenges the reader and asks questions on what a novel is and what a character is and what is possible within the covers of the book. A fascinating debut by Jamie Crook.

 Sleeping Patterns By JR Crook

(22) Sarah’s Window by Janice Graham – I found this in the ‘Romance’ section in the library. I loved it when I read it. It is the story of a young woman who puts aside her dreams of becoming an artist and works in a restaurant to help out her grandparents. Then she falls in love with a married man. Then we discover that she has a past. I found this a difficult book to classify. It doesn’t fit into the traditional Harlequin romance mould. It is difficult to classify it as literary fiction. I don’t know what it is. But it is good. Janice Graham’s beautiful sentences make one riveted to the book. The story is fast-paced and gripping with perfect twists in the plot and perfect surprises at the right times. I love Janice Graham. I want to read more of her works.

 Sarahs Window By Janice Graham

(23) Tell Me What You See by Zoran Drvenkar – It is the story of a young girl who is suddenly able to see strange people, her best friend who helps her and he ex-boyfriend who stalks her. The story is gripping, beautiful and atmospheric.

 Tell Me What You See By Zoran Drvenkar

(24) Hannibal : Pride of Carthage by David Anthony Durham – I have heard of Carthage and Hannibal but haven’t read anything about it. Reading this novel was an education for me. Thanks to David Anthony Durham for that. It is also a unique book – this is probably only the second novel on Carthage after Gustave Flaubert’s ‘Salammbô’ and the only contemporary one. It deserves to be read more widely.

Hannibal Pride Of Carthage By David Anthony Durham

So what am I planning to do in 2013? I am hoping to read more. More books. More chunksters. More plays. More essay collections. More short story collections. More comics. More thrillers. More Tamil books. More women writers. One thing I don’t want to do, however, is read a book just because it is slim – it is always tempting to read a slim book and say that I have read one more book. I don’t want to do that.

 

How was your reading year in 2012? I hope you had a wonderful time reading wonderful books and exploring fascinating writers. I can’t wait to hear about your reading year.

 

Wish you a very Happy and Wonderful New Year! Hope your New Year is filled with lots of wonderful books, delightful stories and luscious prose and gorgeous poetry, and beautiful ‘aha’ reading moments 🙂 Hope you had a wonderful New Year Eve and are having a wonderful first New Year day today 🙂

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It is the dawn of a new year and it is time to take stock of the old year – in my case to think back on books and reading. 2011 was an interesting reading year for me. I wanted to read 60 books. I read around 67 books. I say ‘around’ because I am not sure. I might have missed out a few books that I read at the beginning of the year. This is the highest number of books that I have read in any year 🙂 Numbers don’t mean much in terms of reading – I will come back to this topic in a while – but it still made me happy to read more than what I had planned.

 

The breakup of my reading was as follows :

 

Abridged Classics – 2

Biography / Memoir – 4

Books about Books – 1

Classics – 8

Comics – 2

Essay Collections – 3

Fairytales / Mythology – 2

Graphic Novels – 2

Literary Fiction – 11

Mystery – 7

Romance / Love stories – 3

Philosophy – 1

Poetry – 1

Short Story Collections – 3

Thrillers – 4

YA (Young Adult) literature – 13

 

I seem to have read a lot of literary fiction, YA, mysteries and classics. Interesting!

 

I read 41 books written by male authors, 25 books written by women authors and 1 book jointly written by a male and a woman author. I read 48 books written in English and 20 which were translations.

 

I participated in one reading challenge – ‘Read-a-Myth’ challenge hosted by Jo from ‘Bibliojunkie’ and Bina from ‘If You Can Read This’. I also participated in two read-alongs – ‘The End of Mr.Y’ readalong hosted by Jo from ‘Bibliojunkie’, and the Effi Briest readalong hosted by Caroline from Beauty is a Sleeping Cat and Lizzy from Lizzy’s Literary Life. I also took part in German Literature Month hosted by Caroline and Lizzy. Those were a lot of challenges and read-alongs for me. I normally try to do one in a year, because when I am under pressure, my reading goes south. But luckily this year, the read-alongs and challenges inspired me to read more. I loved German Literature Month, especially, because it introduced me to a lot of fascinating new writers and wonderful works of literature.

 

I liked most of the books that I read. I am one of those readers who likes all the books he reads – the way children like all sweets 🙂 There were only two exceptions. I was disappointed by ‘River of Death’ by Alistair Maclean and ‘Those in Peril’ by Wilbur Smith. Maclean is one of my favourite thriller writers, but ‘River of Death’ is one of his later books and he seemed to have written it casually and the storytelling was formulaic. The same could be said of Wilbur Smith’s ‘Those in Peril’, though the premise of the novel was quite interesting.

 

Which were my favourite books of the year? It is difficult question, when you like most of the books you read. When I looked at the list of books that I read and made some hard decisions and tried to whittle down the list to a list of favourites, the following books came out.

 

My favourite novels were :

 

When I Lived in Modern Times by Linda Grant

 

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

 

Night Gardening by E.L.Swann

 

Possession by A.S.Byatt

 

Suspicion by Friedrich Dürrenmatt

 

Homecoming by Bernhard Schlink

 

My favourite YA (Young Adult) novels were :

 

Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

 

The Gates by John Connolly

 

Unhooking the Moon by Gregory Hughes

 

Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande

 

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

 

Matched by Ally Condie

 

My favourite novellas were :

 

Immensee by Theodor Storm

 

Michael Kohlhaas by Heinrich von Kleist

 

My favourite short story collections were :

 

Nothing But Love : Love Stories from the New Yorker edited by Roger Angell

 

The Greatest Romance Stories ever Told edited by Nancy Butler

 

I also loved some of the stories from ‘Great German Short Novels and Stories’ edited by Victor Lange – especially ‘Immensee’ by Theodor Storm.

 

I read only one book of poetry – ‘Odes to Common Things’ by Pablo Neruda – which was gifted to me by one of my dear friends. I loved the poems, the sketches accompanying them and the beautiful way the book was produced.

 

What about my favourite non-fiction books?

 

I loved ’31 Songs’ by Nick Hornby – it is a beautiful ode sung in the honour of music by a music fan. I loved ‘Reading Like a Writer’ by Francine Prose – especially the books that prose discusses in them. I want to read some of those books. I loved the three cricket memoirs I read. My favourite was ‘What I Love About Cricket : One Man’s vain attempt to explain cricket to a teenager who couldn’t give a toss’ by Sandy Balfour. Unfortunately I haven’t reviewed this book. The description in this book of a catch taken by Paul Collingwood is one of the most beautiful descriptions of a cricket scene that I have ever read. The other two cricket memoirs I read – Malcolm Speed’s ‘Sticky Wicket’ and Matthew Hayden’s ‘Standing My Ground’ were quite interesting too. I also liked Masha Gessen’s ‘Perfect Rigour’ – an account of Russian mathematician Grigory Perelman’s successful attempt to prove the Poincare conjecture.

 

Some of my favourite parts from other books would include the first 120-odd pages of ‘The Marriage Plot’ by Jeffrey Eugenides, which was really wonderful, parts of the romance novel ‘Love Letters’ by Katie Fforde because it is a story about books, writers, novels, bookshops and literary festivals, some of the beautiful passages from ‘The Infinities’ by John Banville (can anyone write more beautiful prose?), some of the beautiful passages from ‘Love Virtually’ by Daniel Glattauer, a novel which is wholly made up of emails, some of the powerful prose of Emily Maguire’s ‘Taming the Beast’, which led me to Maguire beautiful essay ‘Solitude is Bliss’ and which made me want to read other novels of hers and the interesting premise of ‘The Sorrows of Satan’ by Marie Corelli, the literary superstar of yesteryears.

 

One of my favourites which deserves a separate post by itself is the essay ‘Sweets’ by Robert Lynd. I first read this essay in school and loved it. I have since searched for Lynd’s essay collections or this essay but haven’t been able to find them. Even Gutenberg doesn’t seem to have them. Then I found an old anthology called ‘Contemporary English Prose’ (which had extracts and stories which were more than 60 years old – nothing contemporary about it :)) and to my great delight this essay was there. I went home and read it and it gave me as much pleasure as it did when I read it the first time. It was like meeting an old childhood friend after many years and discovering that talking with the friend was as delightful as before and continuing our conversation with this friend from where we left off all those years back.

 

As a reader, for most of the year, I stuck to the Aristotlean Golden Mean – reading mostly books of 300 pages or less. There were a few exceptions though – ‘Forbidden’ by Tabitha Suzuma, ‘The Sorrows of Satan’ by Marie Corelli, ‘The Book of Lost Things’ John Connolly, ‘The Marriage Plot’ by Jeffrey Eugenides, ‘Possession‘ by A.S.Byatt, ‘The End of Mr.Y’ by Scarlett Thomas and ‘Nothing But You’ edited by Roger Angell were all 500 pages or above.

 

During the course of my reading I (armchair) travelled to different countries – America, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, England, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Russia,  Taiwan,  South Africa, South Korea. Quite an impressive list, isn’t it 🙂

 

I hope to read more in 2012. I will try to touch 70 books. I also want to read atleast two chunksters – which according to me are books which are 800 pages above. The chunksters I am looking at are ‘War and Peace’ by Leo Tolstoy (my fourth attempt), ‘In Search of Lost Time’ by Marcel Proust (my second attempt) and ‘The Pickwick Papers’ by Charles Dickens (my first attempt). I am also hoping that I am not worried about reading more number of books but focus on reading more good books and sometimes choosing a thicker book over a thinner one. I will have to wait and see how my reading pans out this year.

 

How was your reading year in 2011? I hope you had a wonderful time reading wonderful books and exploring fascinating writers. I can’t wait to hear about your reading year.

 

Wish you a very Happy and Wonderful New Year! Hope your New Year is filled with lots of wonderful books, delightful stories and luscious prose and gorgeous poetry, and beautiful ‘aha’ reading moments 🙂

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2010 was a normal reading year for me. It was wonderful in terms of the individual books that I read, but it was not wonderful in terms of the number of books I read. But it was not bad either from that aspect. I read more books in 2010 than the previous year (36 books compared to 30) but less than the year before that (I read 50 books in 2008). I looked at the books I read in 2010 and discovered the following interesting things about them 🙂

  • 81% of the books that I read were fiction and 19% were nonfiction.
  • My breakup in fiction was – General fiction – 36%,  Sci-Fi – 14%, Graphic Novel – 14%, Young Adult / Children’s literature – 11%, Thriller – 3%, Historical Fiction – 3%. I rarely read Sci-Fi and so I think it is an area which I have read more last year, without consciously meaning to.
  • My breakup of the nonfiction reads was – Memoir – 11%, Essays – 8%
  • I seem to have read more women authors (52%) when compared to men authors (44%). I think this has never happened before – I think it is because of the influence of my blog-friends. (One collection of essays which I read was edited by both men and women writers and so I haven’t included it under either category).
  • I travelled to many countries last year through books – America, Canada, England, France, India, Israel, Japan. The odd man out among these countries was Greenland, which I ‘travelled’ towards the end of the year, during the freezing winter (in the book ‘Cold Earth’ by Sarah Moss) 🙂
  • 50% of the books I read were set in America (probably proving that America is  the capital of the literary universe these days or probably that typical readers like me read more books with an American backdrop), followed by England at 11%, France, India and Japan at 6% each, followed by Israel and Greenland at 2.7% each. One of the books I read (David Sedaris’ ‘Me Talk Pretty One Day’) was set partly in America and partly in France.  The Japanese flag was flying high because of one author Yoko Ogawa, whose two books I read last year (‘The Housekeeper and the Professor and ‘Hotel Iris’).
  • Only 22% of the books I read were written before 1970, and a whopping 78% of the books I read were written after that year. It looks like contemporary books are occupying a lot of my time.
  • I wanted to read one memoir / biography and one collection of essays during the year. I read 4 memoirs and 3 books of essays. It looks like I have far exceeded my goal on this front last year 🙂
  • I wanted to read one book on sport which I couldn’t. But I read one novel which was based on my favourite sport, cricket – ’24 for 3′ by Jennie Walker.
  • I didn’t read any of the specific titles that I had planned to read last year. I started ‘War and Peace’ by Leo Tolstoy, and finished one part of that book. There are three other parts left which I am hoping to read this year.
  • My most favourite books of the year were (in the order in which I read them) – ‘The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa, ‘Asterios Polyp’ by David Mazzucchelli, ‘Perfume’ by Patrick Suskind, ‘The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee, If I Stay’ by Gayle Forman, ‘Charlotte’s Web’ by E.B.White, ‘A Single Man’ by Christopher Isherwood and ‘Room’ by Emma Donoghue. That is like 25% of the books I read 🙂 I am not a very discerning reader and I like most of the books I read and so this is not surprising.

Hope you enjoyed reading my book reviews last year. Hope you enjoy reading them this year too. Hope you have a wonderful year in 2011 – both with respect to reading and otherwise 🙂

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