I never used to list the books I read, but I’ve started to recently, inspired by Emily Horne who apparently is one of those people who makes one each year. Lists seem to, I dunno…they hold the books, give them importance instead of just letting them slip by like fallen leaves on an autumn years ago, especially as I go through them so fast these days, and rarely have time to reread.
I started this one in June. Books from before June are missing, but I had exams in those days so I don’t think the list misses much.
In general, 2010 has been the Year of the Detective story. I discovered Raymond Chandler this year and fell in love with his metaphors and his sarcastic detective Marlowe. Same goes for Dashiell Hammett, who was pretty wowing too. Red Harvest in particular was a powerful story. Then there was the Oxford anthology of short stories by the best american detective fiction authors, and of course the ever awesome Rex Stout.
1The White Tiger – Arvind Adiga – when I read this I realised why it won the Booker, and why my friend couldn’t stop talking about it for weeks after he read it. The story, set in India and describing the squalor, filth and immorality prevalent among real india, is so plotty and interesting you can’t help thinking about it and wanting to discuss it – especially as the stuff it has applies pretty much here in Pak too.
2Consciousness – A very short introduction – Part of the Oxford Very Short Introduction series. It was interesting in a dry way, but mostly seemed to be a thesis by the author who is desperately trying to prove that consciousness is a myth.
3The Greatest Show on Earth – Richard Dawkins – My first dawkins book! It was very very good ^_^ he has such a school-science teacher way of explaining everything. Not only did it firm my views about evolution, but it also bolstered my future arguments with the pesky creationists. <_<
4One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez – I don’t quite understand what the fuss is about Marquez. Everyone kept telling me to read this book. I mean, it was alright, kinda confusing and amusing but hardly epic. If you’re bored one afternoon, then okay, but its definitely not my idea of a great book.
5The Plague – Albert Camus – Camus is strange and soft and lonely in this fiction – this was so different from the cold absurdity present in the Stranger. A soft novel, very readable.
6Cry, The Beloved Country – Alan Paton – I’ve wanted to read this for yeeeears! Ever since I came across an excerpt from it in one of the Rhodri Jones in school. And it was worth the enthusiasm with which I picked it up. A non-conclusive sort of ending, but the book captured a high resolution picture of the situation of blacks in the days of white domination in africa with plenty of detail, and that was really the point of it.
7Diamond Dust – Anita Desai – First Desai book. It was a cute set of stories. I liked how she captured the migrant’s mixed longings by setting her stories both in the subcontinent and abroad. It created a heart-tugging atmosphere to these otherwise ordinary stories.
8Exile and the Kingdom – Albert Camus – I think the best way to tell if a short story is good is if it sticks in your memory and you find yourself recalling it days later out of nowhere. Some of the stories in this stuck that way, so the book has my commendation 🙂
9A Passage to India – E.M. Forster – Forster was fantastically unbiased in the way he wrote this. He literally gets down all that atmosphere of colonial India – the simmering native anger, the unreasonable white contempt and racism, and the colossal strain between the two races – without passing judgement on either. The book gave a lot of reality to what the forerunners of the Independence movement must have felt like, and I kinda began to truly understand their feelings when I went through it.
10Offshore – Penelope Fitzgerald – this was cute. Fitzgerald writes little pointless stories about rural sort of settings in different time periods and places, but she brings everything to life so well it could be something happening in your own life. The Bookshop was her best book, but this was a good one too.
11Flow my Tears The Policeman Said – Philip K. Dick – Not as epic as Do Androids Dream, but still a book that makes you go “Hmm…”. For a short read it was very good.
12Valis – Philip K Dick – this is in memory of Asadee 😛 The book confused the hell out of me, was completely inconclusive at the end, and left me going “wtf?” rather than “hmm…”. I can’t say whether I enjoyed it or not because it honestly requires a rereading, which it will get once I’ve fixed the circuits in my head that it deliberately rewired in the first go. -_-
13In Cold Blood – Truman Capote – this was a classic non-fiction novel that I’ve wanted to read for some time. It was really a tad bit too long, but the book is good, it reads both like a story-book and a sordid newspaper-tale of murder and gore. I liked the insight it gave on the murderers and their lives too, not to mention the non-judgemental tone Capote employs in most places.
14The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon – there was so much fuss about this book, I expected a genuine modern masterpiece. While I wouldn’t go so far as to call it that, as far as fiction fantasy for older readers is concerned, its okay. I wouldn’t pick it up a second time though
15The Unbearable Lightness of Being – Milan Kundera – Philosophical novels! Some of the concepts were good, and I identified strongly with both Tereza and Sabina, the two female characters, but on the whole…it was rather vague and meandering. A slightly memorable book, especially in the first week after you’ve read it.
16The Evolution Deceit – Harun Yahya: Wrong book to read after reading The Greatest Show. I had all the arguments in place and the book seemed hardly worth the trouble it took to go through it. Rightly deserved the comment someone had penned on the title page “PSEUDOSCIENTIFIC TRASH”
17A Contract with God – Will Eisner: this was apparently the first ever comic book to be called a graphic novel. And it wasn’t half bad a story either, the watery grey artwork a perfect compliment to the dreary tale.
18Moby-Dick – Herman Melville: Melville has achi short stories and Moby Dick is certainly a classic, but the whole of the action could be summarised in a few chapters and the rest is just gossip by the protagonist. It gets annoying after a while, but its a good book as classics go.
19The Big Sleep – Raymond Chandler – Philip Marlowe is awesome. Chandler is awesome for creating him. Enough said.
20May We Borrow Your Husband & Other Stories – Graham Greene – I knew Greene was a creep from having read Brighton Rock with its twisted ending and its memorable lines. These stories are just as unsettling, just as odd.
21Maus – Art Spiegelberg: Another product of that brief rekindling of love for graphic novels that researching them awoke in me. This two part story was interestingly complex, running in two frames of time of both the past and the present and telling the story of jews in the time of Hitler in an interesting way, with the jews as mice and the germans as cats, hence the title ‘Maus’, german for mouse. Its also apparently the only graphic novel to have won the Pulitzer.
22The Little Sister – Raymond Chandler: See above. Interestingly, almost all of the people who hire Marlowe turn out to be poisonous in some way too. It is a trend for most of his books.
23The High Window – Raymond Chandler: I liked this one the best, I think, of all the Chandler books. The webs of deceit are two-sided and best in this.
24Salt and Saffron – Kamila Shamsie: haye, such a pretty novel! I am probably biased because of all the cultural references, but why shouldn’t I praise her if she wrote a half-decent book? And it is good, I liked the whole story line though it went a bit awry and unnatural by the end. Not to mention the references to Karachi, pulao etc.
25The Lady in the Lake – Raymond Chandler: Yeah, I couldn’t get enough of him the man is a genius yaar. I guessed some of the twist but he still sprung a big twist on me before the end. It was completely unexpected and hit me on the face.
25The Schodringer’s Cat Trilogy – Robert Anton Wilson: Not by far as good as The Illuminatus! trilogy. While it did explore the concept of alternate universes and it was wacky and funny in places, it simply wasn’t as good and I didn’t like it as much.