Stuck in Manchester, so here's a list of books:

Well, I'm supposed to be in Dublin right now, with my family, coddling my nephew and letting my mum bring me food on a tray and cracking open the Christmas biscuits, but instead I spent most of today in Manchester airport, watching one flight after another get cancelled as the weather in Dublin Airport forced it to close down for most of the day. We finally got back on the train and the bus to troop with our luggage and everybody's presents to our flat - Flight Number Three is scheduled for tomorrow morning, and I'd imagine if that one's cancelled (and I reckon it will be) we'll be spending Christmas here - undecorated, with no fancy food, no crackers and no bloody presents.

BOO HOO.

So to forestall excessive and (hopefully) premature wallowing, here's my quick thoughts on my Books of the Year. Have a look also at the Bookmunch reviewers' selections (including mine) if you're interested in more various recommendations. Oh, and I'm talking about books I've read in 2010, more so than books specifically published this year - I got through a good few new releases this year, but they never make up the bulk of my reading.  And, I haven't gone link-mad here - y'all can use google and this post would just look insane if I linked to all the books...

Novels: I'm not a huge fan of historical fiction, and I'm no expert on the British monarchs, but I read Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall early in the year, and it still tops my list - I think that'll be a favourite for years.  I've been raving about it for months and months, and I'll carry on doing so.  (If I ever get back to Dublin, Santa should be bringing me A Place Of Greater Safety - whoop!)  I re-read Alan Warner's Morvern Callar, another long-term fave, as well as The Sopranos, in anticipation of The Stars In The Bright Sky, which I still say should have gotten further in this year's Booker (I won't harp on about the eventual winner, lest my already high blood-pressure soars to dangerous medical places).  Marilynne Robinson's Gilead and Home were both stunning - I read Housekeeping, too, but I preferred the other two, maybe only because they were longer and she writes so well it was lovely to get immersed in the characters. I was tempted by her non-fiction the other day, but we sit on opposite ends of the religious-belief spectrum and I don't want to have to rant about Robinson too.  We'd all probably agree I've got sufficient ranting ammunition, notwithstanding today's airline shenanigans, to keep me going without throwing Marilynne onto the bonfire as well.  Ahem. Gordon Lish's Peru was totally and utterly bad and wrong and messed up, so of course I thought it was great.  It reminded me of Joseph Heller's Something Happened, which I read when I was about seventeen and remember finding really traumatic, though my memory's hazy on what actually went on there.  John Gardner's Grendel was really harsh and poetic - I like monsters, so I do.  Jayne Anne Phillips' Lark and Termite was beautiful - really evocative with great use of alternating narrators.  John McGregor's new one, Even The Dogs, was hugely bleak and sad, but so memorable - if you like stuff like The Road, check it out. And (I'll stop now) Emily Mackie's And This Is True was a great debut about a very fucked-up little family, and I insist you all read it and tell me you agree. 

Short Stories: I've read about twenty billion short stories this year - too many to list individually - and I'll leave out anthologies, too, because I'd only have to go into great length pulling the good from the bad, but as far as single author collections go, I'd especially recommend Jo Cannon's Insignificant Gestures, Tom Vowler's The Method And Other Stories, and Nik Perring's Not So Perfect. Disclosure: I know all these guys personally, either online or in the actual flesh in Jo's case, but that doesn't mean I'm just putting in a word: these are great collections and deserve many, many readers.  Also, and particularly in Jo's case, these are all small presses, all of whom also deserve and need readers.  So read!  In other news, I'd also give a great big thumbs up to Andrew Porter's The Theory of Light and Matter - beautifully written stories.  And an oldie, but a goodie: David Foster Wallace's Girl With Curious Hair.

Non-Fiction: I often admire non-fiction from afar, but I don't actually read much of it.  Hey, life is short and I'm always trying to catch up on my fiction....  I am a sucker for popular science and psychology books, though 2010 didn't lead me to any of these.  It did, however, and rather predictably, lead me to David Foster Wallace's Consider The Lobster, a fine collection of essays, and beltingly intelligent.

Ah - that's it so far.  There's till a few days in the year; I've got lots left to read (not to mention to write), but in the meantime I shall continue to pore over the Aer Lingus and Dublin Airport websites and bemoan my fate.

Bah AND humbug. 

Happy reading, dudes.

4 comments:

Sarah Hilary said...

So sorry you're stuck in transit. This weather has ruined so many Christmases. I count myself lucky I made it home in time, and hope you're on your way to loved ones as soon as possible. x

Valerie O'Riordan said...

Thanks, Sarah. Me too! The snow has definitely lost its appeal by now... and the organisational catastrophe that is the Manchester Airport/Aer Lingus combo would make me laugh if it wasn't messing up my bloody holidays! Hope you have a lovely restive season. x

Nik Perring said...

Thanks lovely lady, for the lovely mention. Happy new year. Up, up and away!

Nik X

Valerie O'Riordan said...

You too, Nik - may it bring lots of joy and many new and ever-more-wonderful stories! Plus this year I swear I'll read Etgar Keret - I've had one of his books on the shelf since June: it will be done!