Monday, 15 December 2008

Great Books of 2008

Still without the internet (come on Thursday, hurry up) I’m in Chambers - a wi-fi enabled café in Canterbury (thank you Denise and Bill!) catching up with emails, doing my Sainsbury’s shopping and putting up something on the blog lest you all forget me and go off somewhere else…

Since it’s that time of the year, I thought I’d talk about great books of the year but, instead of trawling through my reviews to see what I’d reviewed, I thought I’d just talk about the ones I actually remembered, because they’re the ones that have obviously made an impression.
So they are, in no particular order:

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks. If you are in any way tempted by historical fiction, you seriously must read this book. Actually, even if you’re not into historical fiction you must read this book, it’s just brilliant.You can read my review (paean of praise) of it here.

Resistance by Owen Shears. Period fiction rather than historical as such (WW2) so I’m resisting the idea that I’m descending into predictability. Wonderful book. Review here.

Wife in the North by Judith O’Reilly. The book of the blog. Very funny, very real, terribly moving at points. For sheer blistering honesty combined with brilliantly funny turns of phrase it’s a winner. The blog is here.

Light Reading by Aliya Whiteley. I know Aliya is a fellow MNW writer but that’s not the point. It’s just a great book by somebody who I’m betting is going to be a literary star one day. There, I’ve said it. Go to it Aliya. Review here.

The People of the Book
by Geraldine Brooks. Yes, Ms Brooks again. I haven’t reviewed this one on the blog because I read it at a moment when the work in progress was particularly demanding and all I could do on here was write blah blah blah. If you’re going to read this book do not under any circumstances read the reviews on Amazon because they seem, universally, to be written by people who either didn’t like or didn’t ‘get’ the book. Read this instead.

Brain Rules by John Medina
Not a novel, a non-fiction book about how your brain works. Or, more specifically, why it fails to learn as efficiently as it could. He feeds into at least one of my hobby horses when he says – basically – if you wanted to design educational establishments which stop children learning efficiently and happily, you’d come up with schools. But that’s a side issue. If you read it you’ll start taking exercise when you’re blocked, make sure you get decent sleep and will turn off the internet when you’re trying to concentrate on what you’re writing. It’s also one of the most entertainingly written non fiction book I’ve ever read. Oh, and there’s a website which goes with it which is always good.

The Lucifer Effect by Philip Zimbardo
This is a bit of a cheat as I’m still reading this right now but it is amazing. I’ve always been interested in social psychology and the Ultimate Frisbee Freak reminded me about the Stanford Prison Experiment when he was doing A level psychology. I actually got this book for him but I’ve got completely into it as it starts with the prison experiment and then goes on to look at the ways in which basically decent people do horribly evil things. It goes a long way to explaining things like the Rwandan genocide and the atrocities committed during the civil war in the former Yugoslavia. It also – chillingly – makes you realise that, in all probability, you would be no different.
Website here

Notes from an Exhibition by Patrick Gale. The family in this book has stayed with me since I read it, months ago. Always a sign of wonderfully drawn characters. I’ve read various others of Patrick Gale's books and his characters do have a tendency to step off the page and into your imagination as real people. If you haven’t read any of his work yet, I recommend him and this is a wonderful one to start with. My review is here.

That’ll do for now. Hopefully we’ll be back on the net at home soon and there will be more… of something…


Aliya Whiteley said...

Good God. I'm going to go away and let my mind boggle about being in this company for a mo.

My Hubby says the same thing, you know - write literary. Am still umming and aahing about it.

Thank you.

KAREN said...

Well, I've read three on the list and thorougly enjoyed them...must give the others a go too!

I worked in a different library branch last week and noticed "Testament" was their Book of the Week :o))

Alis said...

Hi Aliya - Well both of us can't be wrong.. can we?

Hi Karen - As that noted literary critic Homer Simpson would say 'Woo Hoo'!!
Thanks v. much for letting me know!