Saturday, December 4, 2010

Favourite Books Of The Year & A Couple of Disappointments

Here's a little list of my favourite books of 2010. Some were published this year, some weren't, some I blogged about, some I didn't.

1. The Lamb Enters The Dreaming - Robert Kenny
A fascinating account of one of the first Aboriginal converts to Christianity and how he tried to reconcile two completely different ways of seeing the universe.
2. The Way Of The World - Nicolas Bouvier
Two Swiss guys travel from Paris to Afghanistan in the 1950's in an old Fiat. They make money along the way by writing newspaper articles and (I love this) organising art exhibitions.
3. The Rational Optimist - Matt Ridley
Funnily enough it turns out that we're not doomed after all.
4. Wind, Sand and Stars -  Antoine Saint Exupery
His plane crashes in the desert in the 1930's and because he's French he gets all existential about it. In a good way.
5. The Thin Red Line - James Jones
The classic story of infantry men on Guadalcanal.
6. Orchid Blue - Eoin McNamee
The crime writer's crime writer shows us all how it should be done by turning in his masterpiece. For some reason Australian customs kept this book in their office for four months but when it came it was more than worth the wait.
7. Sexual Personae - Camille Paglia
I had never read this before and I found it lying on a desk at the library and thought I'd flick through it. I can see how she would annoy some people (perhaps most people) but I found the book to be completely gripping. She says more outrageous things in the first twenty pages than most of us will say in our lives.
8. Through The Square Window - Sinead Morrissey
One of the new generation of Irish poets turns in her best collection yet. Morrissey is lyrical, funny and wise beyond her years.
9. Another Bullshit Night In Suck City - Nick Flynn
Flynn's compelling account of how he ran into his father while working in a Boston homeless shelter. Anybody who knows Boston will adore this book. (And if you don't you'll still like it).
10. Just Kids - Patti Smith
A beautifully written memoir about Patti Smith's childhood and her days with Bob Mapplethorpe gettaway driver...(sorry, a little Bottle Rocket humor there)...I mean Robert Mapplethorpe, the controversial photographer.
=10. Conquest of the Useless - Werner Herzog
I haven't actually read this book yet, but I'm putting it in my top 10 anyway because I'm getting tachyon signals from the future that when I do read it I am going to love it.

1. The Finkler Question - Howard Jacobson
The only reason I finished this book was because I was trapped in a plane for 8 hours. An unfunny, uninteresting, incompetent embarrassment. If I had been a publisher's reader I would have rejected this out of hand. It won the Booker Prize.
2. Freedom - Jonathan Franzen
I haven't quite finished it yet and although it is certainly not a bad novel it is a disappointment after the brilliance of The Corrections. It's hard work to be in the company of these characters and for me its lacking much of the emotional depth and humor of Franzen's previous work. The reviews have been stellar. Perhaps I'm missing something? 
3. Life - Keith Richards
Everybody loves Keef, but I found this bio to be a tedious list of groupies, tours, chord changes and albums from a musical performer who was last relevant 37 years ago. Read Patti Smith's book instead. Please.
Here's The New York Times's picks of the year. It's a pretty pedestrian bunch but I approve of the William Trevor and the Siddartha Mukherjee. And once again I am slightly baffled by Freedom.