A week for writers and lit lovers

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

My Top Dozen Books of 2010

It was a year of short stories but I did read 32 books in all. Here are my top picks in no particular order.

1. Day After Night by Anita Diamant. Jewish women who escaped the Holcaust make it to Israel only to be interned by the British.

2. Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood. A masterpiece. God’s Gardeners aim to survive in a world gone environmentally berserk.

3. The Film Club by David Gilmour. A father allows his son to drop out of school when he (the father) realizes the son will never succeed – poor study habits, work habits. The son does not attend, brings home no homework, is unable to remember anything, and so on. As a trade off, the son has to watch three movies a week with the father. Creative non-fiction.

4. Skim by Mariko Tamaki (author) and Jillian Tamaki (illustrator). A graphic novel. Into the heart of a 16 year old girl and not sure if I want to be there again. Riveting stuff cleanly, sparingly written accompanied by marvellous illustrations.

5. The Van by Alan Bennet. An eccentric old lady lives in a van in his garden. A novella.

6. Snow Job by William Deverell, the Canadian humour/mystery writer. The mystery unravels slowlyand the real story is the Ottawa scene. Deverell's devious lawyer, Arthur Beacham, is the protagonist but the POV often shifts to the hapless prime Minister and his minions, the equally hapless members of his cabinet.

7. Havanna by Martin Cruz Smith. The Russian detective is sent to Havanna to investigate the death of a Russian citizen. All around him,Cuban society is crumbling. Cruz Smith writes top notch thrillers. His novel Red Square was also first rate.

8. The Wife’s Tale by Lori Larsens. A portrait of an woman whose obesity has locked her into an ever diminishing world. Her husband leaves and she follows him to California. One can also read this book as the tale of a Canadian in L.A.

9. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. I enjoyed this very French novel, the story of a humble concierge and the French class system. Much philosophical musing as well.

10. John Le Carre, - A Most Wanted Man. A master working with the most up-to-date material, in this case the prevalence of torture. Le Carre is now writing at the top of his game. This recent books, Absolute Friends and The Constant Gardener, also fine novels,

11. The Penguin Book of Canadian Short Stories etc – edited by Jane Urquhart. Every story is a winner. I read this large book slowly, stretching it out over a few months. My fav? Simple Recipes by Madeleine Thien.

12.Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald An unusual style creates a strange aura, dreamy and misty. Everywhere the wandering Austerlitz goes, he finds a disintegrating world with many secret places, disused areas of large public buildings and so on. In one chapter, he discovers a person who knew him as a child and learns the secret of his early life. Usually, in such a plot, such information would come gradually but not here. It is all laid out rather quickly. He then proceeds with his wandering. A metaphor for the modern condition, disintegrating, misty etc.

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