I read 57 books in 2011, five more than the 52 I managed in 2009. Just like last year, I hit a point in the final months of the year at which I could no longer summon up the concentration to read anything more complex than a web page or a newspaper article. Once I had met my final deadline for the year, my concentration returned, and I have happily got back into reading over the holidays.
Below is the list of what I read. Links are to reviews that appeared on my blog or in Belletrista, or to author interviews. Beneath that, I’ve selected my favourite reads of the year.
1. The Temple Down The Road by Brian Matthews – nonfiction/history
2. Galileo’s Dream by Kim Stanley Robinson – novel/science fiction + historical
3. Kalpa Imperial by Angelica Gorodischer – collection of linked stories/science fiction
4. Smiley’s People by John Le Carre – novel/thriller
5. Speak Softly, She Can Hear by Pam Lewis – novel/thriller
6. Sappho: A Garland, translated by Jim Powell – poetry collection with translator’s notes
7. Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk by Nikolai Leskov – novella
8. Etymology by Bryan Walpert – poetry collection
9. Spinners by Anthony McCarten – novel
10. This Is Your Brain On Music by Daniel Levitin – nonfiction – science/music
11. Ithaca Island Bay Leaves by Vana Manasiadis – poetry collection
12. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight Volume 6: Retreat by Jane Espenson and others (graphic novel)
13. A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute – novel
14. Selected Prose and Prose-Poems by Gabriela Mistral
15. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson – novel/thriller
16. The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson – novel/thriller
17. Cornelius & Co by John O’Connor – poetry collection (review below)
18. Alternate Means of Transport by Cynthia Macdonald – poetry collection
19. The Ice Museum : In Search of the Lost Land of Thule by Joanna Kavenna – nonfiction/travel
20. The Chanur Saga by C J Cherryh – novel/science fiction-space opera (This comprises books 1-3 of a 5-book series. the other 2 books are listed separately below.)
21. Leaving the Tableland by Kerry Popplewell – poetry collection
22. The Norse Atlantic Saga by Gwyn Jones – nonfiction/history+ geography
23. The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson – novel/thriller
24. Chanur’s Homecoming by C J Cherryh – novel/science fiction-space opera
25. Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks – novel/science fiction-space opera
26 Lavinia by Ursula Le Guin – novel/historical with fantasy elements
27. Magnetic South by Sue Wootton – poetry collection
28. Jane Bites Back by Michael Thomas Ford – novel/Austenia
29. Ephraim’s Eyes by Bryan Walpert – short story collection
30. Spark by Emma Neale – poetry collection
31. Chanur’s Legacy by C. J. Cherryh – novel/science fiction-space opera
32. Unforgiving Years by Victor Serge – novel/historical fiction-political fiction
33. The Loneliness of The Long-Distance Runner by Alan Sillitoe – fiction/short stories
34. The Word Book by Kanai Mieko – fiction/short stories
35. Digging for Spain by Penelope Todd – nonfiction/memoir
36. Whoops! by John Lanchester – nonfiction/economics
37. Bartering Lines by Michael Steven – poetry collection
38. Daybook Fragments by Michael Steven – poetry collection
39. Prosperity Without Growth by Tim Jackson – nonfiction/economics
40. ‘A Tingling Catch’: A Century of New Zealand Cricket Poems, edited by Mark Pirie – poetry/sport/anthology
41. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini – fiction/novel
42. Lonely Planet: Greenland & The Arctic – nonfiction/travel
43. Heading North by Helen Rickerby – poetry/chapbook
44. There Once Lived A Woman Who Tried To Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby: Scary Fairy Tales by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya – fiction/short stories
45. You And Me And Cancer Makes Three by John Irvine – poetry/chapbook
46. Out Of It by Michael O’Leary – fiction/novella
47. Capitol Offense by Mike Doogan – fiction/thriller
48. Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season Eight Volume 7: Twilight – graphic novel/horror
49. McGrotty and Ludmilla by Alasdair Gray – novella/satire
50. This Cold Heaven: Seven Seasons in Greenland by Gretel Ehrlich – nonfiction/travel
51. Barefoot by Jennifer Compton – poetry/collection
52. After Dark by Haruki Murakami – fiction/novel
53. Katherine Mansfield: The Story-Teller by Kathleen Jones – nonfiction/biography
54. Elementals by A. S. Byatt – fiction/short stories
55. A Walk In The Woods by Bill Bryson – nonfiction/memoir/travel
56. The Game by Lee Pletzers – fiction/thriller
57. Time Traveller by Robin Fry – poetry/collection
My Favourite Reads of 2010
The list above comes from my account on the social cataloguing site LibraryThing, where I keep track of what I read each year.
I gave just two of the 57 books above 5 stars out of 5: historical novel Lavinia by Ursula Le Guin, and short story collection There Once Lived A Woman Who Tried To Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby: Scary Fairy Tales by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, which I reviewed for Belletrista.
Just behind those was Kalpa Imperial by Argentine author Angelica Gorodischer, translated by Ursula Le Guin. It’s a collection of closely-linked stories which hovers between sf and fantasy, and it’s excellent. Other notable fiction reads of the year included Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy (a.k.a. the Lisbeth Salander books), which gripped me even as I wondered how books with so many structural issues could be so gripping, and C. J. Cherryh’s 5-volume Chanur Saga, which I re-read with as much pleasure as I’d had reading it for the first time twenty or so years ago. It’s space opera done right.
I read a lot of good nonfiction this year. Two of the books I enjoyed most were about Greenland, a place which fascinates me but which I am never likely to visit. I read The Lonely Planet Guide To Greenland with rapt attention alongside This Cold Heaven: Seven Seasons in Greenland, by Gretel Ehrlich. I also very much enjoyed This Is Your Brain On Music by Daniel Levitan, Kathleen Jones’ excellent new biography Katherine Mansfield: The Story-Teller, and Penelope Todd’s writer’s memoir Digging for Spain.
The two books of poetry by individual authors I most enjoyed in 2010 were Jennifer Compton’s collection Barefoot and Sappho: A Garland, translated and introduced by Jim Powell. Other favourite poetry collections for the year included Magnetic South by Sue Wootton, Spark by Emma Neale, and Ithaca Island Bay Leaves by Vana Manasiadis.
As for anthologies, cricket poetry anthology A Tingling Catch, edited by Mark Pirie, was a highlight of the year.
And now, onwards to 2011’s reading!