Book List – 2010 – part 1

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. O_o

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.


29 thoughts on “Book List – 2010 – part 1

  1. I like Garcia’s Love in the Time of Cholera better!!! People who have read his original text which is in Spanish, I think, say the English translation is nothing like it. Maybe that’s why we don’t find the books as beautiful as some people do :).

      1. I did NOT like either of his two masterpieces one bit. He creeped me out and the books were just exhausting. Especially since one expects so much from epics.

  2. A salesman at Liberty convinced me to buy 100 Years Of Solitude (They do that quite frequently the bastards) And I have yet to read it. 😀 I’m currently reading Anna Karenina! I’m very proud of myself for sticking to it but achi hai though I bleeping HATE that bleep Anna, the ho. Oh have you read The Wish Maker by Ali Sethi? A Liberty salesman convinced me to buy that too, achi hai. 😀 Also have you read Kafka’s Metamorphosis, Machiavelli’s The Prince, and Daniyal Muenuddin’s In Other Rooms, Other Wonders? I got all three last week at Liberty as part of my “Lets start beign a grownup and read something other than vamplit and fantasy books” and I’m too scared to touch them. Plus I flipped through The Prince ajib sari hui lag rahi yaar. :S I swear, all the peer pressure in the blogosphere made me buy this, sab itni aqalmand philosophical books parhtay hein and I don’t even know the names of the apparently famous writers they’re talking about. 😦

    1. I’ve read Kafka’s metamorphosis and I bought the Prince too, but the local authors, no, will check them out. Anna Karenina is fantastic, I was proud of myself for finishing it too 😀 and the truth is it Is actually a superb book, though suicidally depressing. And I know about peer pressure, the only reason I bought The Prince was cos a friend of mine won’t shut up about it. But most of the time classics are really my thing, I don`t need provocation to read even the boring ones. 🙂 I get conscious when people talk non fiction tho 😦

      Liberty salesmen recommend you Garcia? All they recommend me is Twilight :/ and then I want to hit them for doing so. Most of the time I just tell them to go away actually, before they can offer assistance. I hate being bugged when I’m browsing books, much less having titles shoved under my nose.

      1. I started reading local authors after I went to the Karachi Lit Fest last year, read Sarfraz Manzoor ki Greetings From Bury Park its really good. What’s Metamorphosis and The Prince like? Wikipedia told me the bug guy dies in Kafka. 😦 Bummer.

        Liberty salesmen recommend me smart people books always, maybe its the glasses? 😀 They actually tell me about books when I ask for help looking for a aprticular title. I like discussing books with bookshop salesmen, but I don’t normally because these are Pakistani salesmen tou you know how people are here. But somehow I still end up chatting with them a minute or two, they’re awesome that way. 😀 They did recommend me Twilight once, I told them to eat shit(I think)

        Oh btw dude you’re in my city! Come to this year’s Karachi Literature Festival! Its really good, a lot of prominent writers there, last year they had Kamila Shamsie, Sarfraz Manzoor, Bapsi Sidhwa, Sadia Shepard, Mohsin Hamid, and that’s only half the names I remember.

        1. Maaaan don’t wiki the book plots! That’s such a spoiler.

          To be Very honest, when I read the metamorphosis I spent the whole book thinking the man wasn;t actually a bug and the thing was a metaphor for something. I read the whole bloody book thinking that. Then at the end I read the wiki article on it and realised he was actually a bug :/ FAIL. I haven’t read the Prince yet.

          This lit fest thing sounds very interesting, although a bit high-flown, would it be easy to attend something like that or does one need an invitation? In any case I’d love to go, the thought of all those famous authors makes me gush even from this side of the screen 😀

  3. Oh I wiki’d it a long time ago cause I read the name somewhere and God knows why I got it. Hey it applies to Veena Malik she’s turned into a bug! 😀

    Nahi yaar last year when I went, we just barged into the hotel, walked around, found a desk of British Council people to ask directions from, and went into the hall and found a place for ourselves, simple. You should gooooo it was awesome and I only attended one session! 😀 I’m on vacation when its on so I’ll spend as much time there as possible wheeeee!

  4. You know i have only read half a page of a camus’s essays book and I am a fan of his. i pronounced it as “kay mas” and not “kaymoo” lol…

  5. A girl mistook me for a salesman at ‘readings’ and asked me about the ‘romantic novels’ section.
    Do you think she was hitting on me?
    (And I told her I didn’t work there, which I regret to this day).

    btw, could you be so kind and fix your template. It’s all jumbled up and gives me headaches!

    1. Uh, frankly speaking? No 😛 girls don’t generally hit on people they think are salesmen. But if she was cute, what does it matter? You should’ve given her a tour, shown her around, casually engaged her in a conversation on how perfect a lover Fitzwilliam Darcy is. NOT told her you didn’t work there 😛 Better luck next time.

      The template’s messed up, I know, and I’ve been trying to fix it but apparently its beyond the scope of my limited computer abilities. I’ll change the whole thing soon, I was going to change it anyway.

  6. I’m impressed and jealous!
    This list looks like something I would have gone through pre-marraige. Ab, I just grab whatever attracts attention in a harried bookshop visit post grocery shopping or in between work assignments.
    I want to read The Bookshop, do mail if you have an e version.

    1. As I said to Murtaza in part two of this, the only reason I read so much is cos I’m a farigh unemployed undergrad 😛 professionals have so much else to occupy them 🙂

      the bookshop, in fact any title by fitzgerald has proved near impossible to find in ebook form – i borrowed the book when i read it from my uni library, and even back then I looked for a ecopy for my own collection but couldn’t find it. Sorry about that. :/

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