Friday, January 6, 2012

A(nother) year in books

The TBR pile today

A few years ago I started keeping a note of what I read because whenever anyone asked me in a Q&A I was stumped.  It looks bad when a writer can talk about her own books without drawing breath for 20 minutes but can't remember a single book by another person. 

It looks even worse when she (i.e. me) covers the lapse by saying "I don't really read any more: so many CSIs to keep up with".  Maybe my delivery was overly deadpan but it turned out a few people believed me.  (Note to self: say boom-tssh after every joke.) 

And it wasn't even the first time that had happened.  When I started working as one of four lonely linguists in a large and cold-hearted English literature department and someone - oh, probably a specialist in renaissance poetry but I honestly don't remember - asked what I read, I said "I read the TV Guide to find out what time Star Trek's on".  This was in reference to my interview talk when I used Mr Chekov in an example sentence and they all thought it was odd that I didn't call him plain Chekov like everyone else does.

Aaaaannyway, it came back to me through the grapevine that some post-colonial drama theorist (or something) was shocked to learn that one of the new linguists watched television instead of reading.  I dunno.  You'd have thought that literary types would get irony.

So.  Here's what I read last year, with some helpful links, * against book of the month, and explanations where needed:

Christmas holidays
John Steinbeck Cannery Row*
Spring Warren Turpentine
Stephen King Full Dark, No Stars
Anita Shreve Rescue
Garrison Keillor Life Among the Lutherans

Karen Campbell Shadowplay
Julia Glass The Widower's Tale*
Jill Paton Walsh The Attenbury Emeralds
Fannie Flagg  I Still Dream of You  (yes, really)

Jonathon Franzen Freedom*
PJ Tracey Dressed to Thrill (they're back!  Yeay!)
Aline Templeton Cradle to Grave
Jenny Diski What I don't know about animals (one of my favourite writers, but not her best book.  Start with Stranger on a Train or Trying to Keep Still)

George Pellecanos The Night Gardener
Garrison Keillor Pontoon
Lisa Scottoline Lady Killer
Stella Gibbons Nightingale Wood (a delicious suprise)
Spring Warren The Quarter-acre Farm*

Eileen Rendahl Dead on Delivery
Eileen Rendahl Do me, do my roots
Ellen Gutcheon Still Missing* (from the delightful Persephone books.  How I love them.)
Frances Brody Dying in the Wool
Chris Hedges The Death of the Liberal Class
Eileen Rendahl Balancing in High Heels
Dave Eggers Zeitoun

Clare Davis Winter Range
Lisa Scottoline Save Me
John Lescroart Dead Irish
John Steinbeck The Grapes of Wrath*

John Lescroart The Vig
Michael Connelly 5th Witness
Annie Proulx Bird Cloud*

Oh, starting to lose reading time because of chores like going to Manhattan - poor me.

Kathleen George The Odds*
Stephen King The Tommyknockers (on a plane trip, whatever happens, I won't run out of book!)
William Landay Defending Jacob

Then I lost track completely.  In August and September  I was travelling and reading for panels, so these are not in order and I've probably missed some out:

Donna Andrews Murder with Peacocks and Cockatiels at Seven
Jess Lourey May Day and June Bug
Sandra Balzo Brewed, Crude and Tattooed and Bean there, done that
Sarah Shaber Louise's War and Simon said
PJ Parrish Dead of Winter
Gwen Mayo Circle of Dishonor
Carolyn Wall Sweeping Up Glass* (so fabulous it kept me up all night)
Clare O'Donohue Missing Persons
Russel McLean The Lost Sister
Ella Barrick Quickstep to Murder
Barbara Ehrenrich Nickel and Dimed

Esri Allbritten  The Chihuahua of the Baskervilles
Rick Hutto A Peculiar Tribe of People*
Eileen Rendahl  Vanished in the Night
Esri Allbritten A Portrait of Doreene Gray
Briggitte Aubert Death from the Woods
Rumer Godden An Episode of Sparrows
Abraham Verghese Cutting for Stone
Jess Lourey August Moon

Fiona Carnarvon Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey
Mary McDonagh Murphy Scout, Atticus and Boo
Erin Morgenstern The Night Circus
Tawni O'Dell Fragile Beasts*
Joy Fielding Kiss Mommy Goodbye (re-read)
Mary Higgins Clark  We'll Meet Again

Then life got away from me - re-reading Joy Fielding's fantastic passive-agressive characters for inspiration and then curling up inside the comfort of the Mary Higgins Clark was an early sign that it was slipping - as I tried to get my own book finished.  December was a haze of re-read chapters of Nancy Mitford, re-read pages of PG Wodehouse, snippets of Strictly Come Dancing on Youtube, Desperate Housewives DVDs, Ben Goldacre essays, Doris Day movies, Nigel Slater recipes . . . December was a blur.

So there's my 2011 in books.  A good dose of crime, a lot of books by pals - so many by Eileen Rendahl that it looks a bit like stalking.  I discovered a couple of new-to-me writers that I now look forward to reading everything by: Julia Glass and Barbara Ehrenrich.  I only gave up on one book this year - and since it was by an author no longer living I'll say which one:  Rumer Godden's An Episode of Sparrows.  Which is not to say that I loved everything else - in a couple of cases stopping reading would have been like turning away from a train wreck while it happens - but reading bad books can be quite helpful sometimes.  Thankfully, none of the bad ones was by anyone I know.

And the year ended as it began with Stephen King, when I started 11/22/63 on Hogmanay.  Can't be bad.

1 comment:

  1. Good list. Did you nominate a book of the year? And was any better than the Christmas Radio Times (UK)? X