Tuesday, December 16, 2008

My best picks of 2008

I have a notebook, it's a grotty looking, grey school variety in which I record the books I've read. Every year I swear I'll update it to something a little more stylish, but it hasn't quite happened yet. maybe next-year.

I was muttering to a book group the other night that I'd only managed to read 50 or so books this year, which didn't seem like many, but they were kind enough to point out that's about one a week, which isn't too bad for a busy mum/ writer/ domestic goddess.

So which books made the biggest impact on me this year?


This would be a close toss up between Peter Temple's The Broken Shore, and Kate Atkinson's When will There be Good News. Both are labelled as crime fiction and stood out for me because of the wonderful characterisation that kept me thinking about the people long after the book was finished. I loved Kate's Reggie, and Peter's Cashin.


Joan Druett's Island of the Lost. As well as being a fabulously well told tale of shipwreck and survival on the Auckland Islands, this was one of those books that got me to thinking. How would I survive in that situaltion? What base of skills have I got to call on in the case of disaster or endangerment. It left me mervelling at the strength of human spirit, and how damn clever and hardy the early settlers and workers were. We are so pampered any lily-livered nowadays, we woulddn't stand a chance.

Biography/ Memoir:

I never used to read this type of book, but had several find their way onto my reading pile this year, and I'm hooked. There were two that stood out for me because they touched me on a very personal level because they related to the place I am at in my life. So these two I can honestly say came into the life-changing category for me. How often do you get to say that about a book?

The first I read early in the year was Digging for Spain by Penelope Todd. In this book Penelope questioned a lot of the things she had based her life upon, including her religion and family. It resonated with a lot of the questions I had been asking of myself recenly.

Who is Sylvia: The diary of a biography of Sylvia Ashton Warner by Lynley Hood was the other book that gave my foundations a good rattle. This book, originally published in 1990, is the diary Lynley kept when undertaking the all consuming project of Sylvia's Biography. As well as being a fabulous look inot the process of doing a biography, this book was a case of perfect timing, as when she wrote it Lynley was my age, with two kids and a husband and a drive to do something. It was like, hello, here's me!

There were lots of books I intended to read in 2008, but never managed, so they will shuffle over into the 2009 pile. These included Rachael King's The Sound of Butterflies, and Mary MacCallum's The Blue - fellow bloggers who I feel guilty that I haven't read their books yet. Then there's all the new blogger's I've discovered whose books I want to read - Emma Darwin's The Mathematics of Love, and A Secret Alchemy, Declan Burke's The Big O, and Roger Norris' A Gentle Axe.

So many books, so little time!


Joanne Ganley said...

Nice favourites, Vanda. And that's a lot of reading, especially for a Mum. You're like superwoman and batwoman! For fiction I loved Kate Atkinson's novel, and The Mathematics of Love by Emma is a beautiful story. I'm looking forward to The Alchemist.

Bookman Beattie said...

Interesting selection Vanda.
Did you read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson?
Than is my absolute stand-out crime fiction title for 2008. Sadly the author died before his trilogy was published. The second in the series, The Girl Who Played With Fire is due for release here in January and I can't wait !
Merry Christmas, happy reading in 09 !

Joanne Ganley said...

Oops! A Secret Alchemey.

Vanda Symon said...

I've got The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo on my hit list for this year - one of those ones I hope turns up under the tree.

Emma's books sound intriguing, and I enjoy her blog writing so much. More to look forward to.

Kerrie said...

Hello Vanda
I can't remember if I invited you to participate in the activity I have running at http://paradise-mysteries.blogspot.com/2008/12/your-best-crime-fiction-reads-in-2008.html
Please do!
All the best for 2009