The last 8 months in books: May-December 2011 reads

Posted by admin on Jan 5, 2012 in books |

The amount of books I read is simply getting ridiculous. Not so much for me- I can easily cope with the heightened surge (summer days/holidays= parks/beaches= abundant literature consumed) but trying to carefully write up everything I read coherently is just not working anymore. I’m so far behind on my book updates that I feel I’ll never catch up again, so I’m going to try a new tactic. Rather than read, summarize and elaborate, I’m now going to list what I’ve read and the few key ones that have stood out will get a more in depth evaluation. If you’re curious about a book I haven’t expanded on, comment below and I promise I’ll answer/ mini review and query if that helps you with your summer reading list.

I’m not certain exactly how many books I read from January to May 2011, but I’m going to conservatively estimate 14 based on this list here. That takes my total to approximately 104 books read in 2011. Yes, some of them were short young adult fiction, and a few were novellas/ Charlaine Harris’ work (read and you’ll know what I mean), but overall, that’s a total I’m happy with.

Last year I enjoyed a lot of young adult fiction. There’s something about the immediacy of this genre that really appeals to me, the intensity of the emotions, the way all the characters really do feel the centre of the universe and just how raw and ready everything is- people experience rather than evaluate and there’s something very exciting of being this involved in the story. During my exploration of this genre I discovered Kevin Brooks, and was really impressed. Kevin is a gritty author with a wonderful way with rhythm and his stories lure you in and don’t let go. The pace is fast, the words bright, and the books all have a sense of magical realism- despite documenting mundane activities. It’s the combination of what might be with the reality that makes these so gripping.

I also managed to finally read some of Sophie Kinsella’s earlier work, whilst she was using the pseudonym Madeleine Wickham. I was warned they were ‘in a different style’, but I didn’t expect them to be this bad! The Tennis Party was a dry tale of middle age and wine, with family complexities and friendship lies. It was so dull, it felt like Jilly Cooper had written a book whilst high on Robinson Fruit squash, it flowed badly, you simply didn’t care about anyone and-worst of all- it wasn’t funny at all!

Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller was fantastic- I had thought it might be sordid or titillating but it actually really resonated and you felt the awkward despair at the illicit affair and understood how it occurred. The two women had this strange Freudian dependent relationship and it was an eerie book to read. I really wanted to like 100 Years of Solitude but I found it hard going, the book meandered around and though it was beautiful in parts I didn’t find myself really connecting and it was a struggle to finish.

Read on for the full list of the 104 books I read this year!

Here, in no particular order are the books I read during May and June 2011.

1.One Day in May by Catherine Alliot

2.Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay

3,Body Double by Tess Gerritsen

4.Ex in the City: You’re nobody till somebody dumps you by Alexandra Heminsley

5.Getting over Mr Right by Chrissie Manby

6.100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

7. BloodTide by Melvin Burgess

8. Nicholas Dane by Melvin Burgess

9. Men I’ve loved before by Adele Parks

10. Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin

11.Slam by Nick Hornby

12. Last Days by Scott Westerfeld

13. To the Moon and Back by Jill Mansell

14. The Tennis Party by Madeleine Wickham (a.k.a Sophie Kinsella)

15. Nobody’s Girl by Sara Manning

16. Spa Wars by Chris Manby

17. Black Rabbit Summer by Kevin Brooks

18. Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller

19. Being by Kevin Brooks

20.The Road of the Dead by Kevin Brooks

21.Inglorious by Joana Kaven

Spa Wars by Chris Manby was a treat, a frivolous frothy piece of fiction that was entertaining and silly, and though highly unrealistic it made me laugh ,most of the way through. Nick Hornby’s novel Slam was interesting- he tends to be hit or miss for me ever since the dirge that is Fever Pitch and he was on good form with this tale. Sam is a skateboarding fifteen year old with an obsession with Tony hawk and an accidentally pregnant girlfriend. Oops. This book addresses how he has to grow up quickly, the problems of being a parent young and the strange way this manages to fit into his everyday life. Sweet and sad, it’s a smart read and Hornby shows he has the pulse on teenage troubles.

Kevin Brooks is the king of teen grit, his novels full of blood and dirt, and racked with complicated loyalties and strife. The Road of the Dead shows two boys trying to put their sister to rest- and discovering a plot around her death at the same time. Mixings of magical realism and gypsy lore imbue this with a dark twist, and though all characters are flawed they remain compelling to the end. He’s a new discovery and I can’t get enough of his tales. I also loved Melvin Burgess- it had been a long time since I read Junk, and his work is every bit as compelling as I remembered it being.

Inglorious by Joanna Kaven is a strange novel. What do you do when you reach the end of your tether? Grab a shotgun and go mad, or quietly withdraw from life, floating on a wave of prose and never ending to do list as you let the ephemeral senses of being slowly fade away and replace your sense of self with a disjointed look at reality. This is what happens to Rosa, a thirty something journalist who one day slowly and quietly decides to give up, quits work, loses her partner and slowly withdraws into a world of classic books, long to do lists and a faint sense of nothingness, only impinged by the annoying consequences of rent and bills. It’s scary to see how quickly she dissolves her present reality and makes on aware how close we are to that line- of how change is always present, though we like to disassociate it.

Here are the books I read from July to December 2011. The ones in bold are those that especially stood out.

July 2011

1. Boomsday by Christopher Buckley
2. The toilet of doom by Michael Lawrence
3. Knocked out by my Nunga Nungas by Louise Rennison
4. One Red Paperclip by Kyle MacDonald
5. The Lost Oasis by Robert Twigg
6. Monday’s Child by Louise Bagshawe
7. Underground City by Jules Verne
8. Summer Holiday by Penny Smith
9. Eve Dallas (series) by Nora Roberts
10.The Broker by John Grisham
11. Myth No 3 by Robert Aspirin
12. Things you didn’t know by Melissa Hill
13. Diary of a Facelift by Toyah Wilcox
14. Room by Emma Donoghue
15. I Heart Paris by Lindsay Kelk
16. Gone by Michael Croft
17. The Secret Art of Stealing by Christopher Brookmyre
18. Loose Girl by Kerry Cohen
19. Water for elephants by Sara Gruen
20. Collapse by Jared Diamond
21. Cocktails for three by Madeleine Wickham
22. Mum on the run by Fiona Gibson
23. Living Dangerously by Katie Fforde
24. Stardust by Neil Gaiman
25. Martians by Ray Bradbury
26. Myth Inc 7 by Robert Aspirin
27. Myth 5 by Robert Aspirin
28. Myth 4 by Robert Aspirin
29. Myth 3.5 by Robert Aspirin
30. I remember you by Harriet Evans
31. Something Wicked this Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

August

1. From Hell with Love by Simon R Green
2-7. True Blood Volumes 1-6 by Charlaine Harris

September

1. The Wonder Spot by Melissa Banks
2. The Nowhere City by Alison Lurie
3. Naamah’s Curse by Jacqueline Carey
4-7. True Blood Books 7-10 by Charlaine Harris

October

1. How to make love like a Pornstar by Jenna Jameson
2. Elantris by Brandon Sanderson
3. Living Doll by Cindy Jackson
4. Surgery secrets by Cindy Jackson
5. The Castings Trilogy by Pamela Freeman

November

1.Something from Tiffany’s by Melissa Hill
2. Londonstani by Gautam Malkani
3. City of Ruin by Mark Charan Newton
4. Wicked by Gregorgy Maguire
5. Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally
6. Anonymous Lawyer, A novel by Jeremy Blachman

December

1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
2. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
3. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
4. The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson
5. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
6. The Private life of Pippa Lee by Rebecca Miller
7. Heat and Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
8. The Fat Chance Guide to Dieting by Claudia Pattison
9. My Single Friend by Jane Costello
10.Paddy Clarke Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle
11. Troubles by J.G.Farell
12. I Heart Vegas by Lindsay Kelk
13. Den of Thieves by David Chandler
14. The Desert Spear by David.V.Brett
15.Ember and Ash by Pamela Freeman

Some books were especially compelling, as the Suzanne Collins trilogy had me reading till the sun rose, and the complexities of Panem civilizations and machinations lefts me tossing for days trying to work out alternative outcomes. Londonstani was an amazing book, written in a dialect that was both strange and familiar at the sane time (I am a Londonite after all) and addressed a subculture I’d b never really thought about. Schindler’s Ark had me crying on the tube, and feeling way more inclined to call my Grandmother and actually ask her some questions- this should be required reading in schools! Pamela Freeman impressed me with her Castings Trilogy and I loved how she weaved magic and fantasy effortlessly and had me wishing her mammoth book was longer! One Red paperclip was an inspiring tale that has me vowing to read more biographies, of how one man traded up to a house from humble beginnings and had me laughing from the start (similar to Twitchiker in a way). I even got a Tweet from the author (yay me!).

Room by Emma Donoghue was strangely moving, despite my initial resistance to reading it- do you ever get that to best sellers, it’s like a knee jerk ‘NO!’ response I’m glad I overcame as it was extremely touching, as well as being pertinently topical for our time- it revolved around an abducted mother and the child she bore her captor whilst imprisoned, told from the kids perspective. I read a few cosmetic surgery books and found Toyah Wilcox’s account of her facelift journey very intriguing, despite the waffle about how she ‘Had to have it to continue working’ and the namedropping moments. I also liked Cindy Jackson’s Living Doll story, though I was puzzled as to how someone who clearly has body dysmorphia was allowed so many procedures (no judgement Cindy, just a need to control doctors more stringently). She offered a fascinating and frank glimpse of her life, and kept nothing back in the before and after photos.

I’ve also now managed to read most of the Booker novels ( a resolution of mine two years running) and now I have only eight or so left to go,  and I’m confident I’ll have finished that list by June. Have you any reading suggestions for me, or would you like me to recommend a book for you based on my reading adventures? I’m open to pretty much anything (minus the latest Katie Price bio).

Here’s to 2012 being the year I break my reading record!

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3 Comments

Jeremy Blachman
Jan 10, 2012 at 9:02 pm

Glad you enjoyed my book! Happy reading in 2012. (I also really enjoyed Christopher Buckley’s Boomsday.)


 
admin
Jan 11, 2012 at 5:23 pm

Jeremy, you have just made my day by commenting! I thought Anonymous Lawyer was really funny- was given to me by my lawyer trainee sister who said she recognizes some of those people from her firm, and the style was great. The concepts in Boomsday were great as well ;.)

I just finished a book called ‘The End Specialist’ which you might like, similar gritty vein to Boomsday and still enthralling.


 
Jeremy Blachman
Jan 12, 2012 at 5:26 pm

I’ll put it on my list– thanks for the recommendation!


 

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