At the end of each year, I like to look back at the books I read and see which ones stand out particularly. Oddly, I liked almost everything I read this year, but I've put stars(*) next to the, well, starry ones, and double stars (**) next to the very best or most memorable.
Particular highlights were reading and writing about William Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! with Peter Stephens; going deeply into the world of Saramago's "Ricardo Reis," exploring New France along with Samuel de Champlain and then taking a trip up the St. Lawrence River with much greater appreciation of the place names and their history; delving deeper into both the literature of both India and Africa; discovering the writing of Javier Marias and Haruki Murakami -- definitely to be continued in 2011 -- and sharing Orhan Pamuk's appreciation of his great Istanbul literary predecessor, Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar.
But the greatest pleasure and excitement(!) came from reading two books by friends. Open City, by Teju Cole, which will be published by Random House in February 2011, is a tour de force debut novel by a man I feel will become known as one of the best writers of his generation, familiar to many of you from his own blog and from these pages.I will be writing much more about it in a few weeks.
The Blind Contessa's New Machine, by Carey Wallace, is an entirely different sort of book - a fantasy based on a true story that reads as both fairy tale and love story. It caught me up and carried me into its beautifully-constructed magical world, and I enjoyed it tremendously. I met both of these writers and friends through blogging, and I am so proud of them.
And then there were the wonderful manuscripts I've been privileged to read for Phoenicia Publishing projects, which I haven't included here, nor have I included the poetry chapbooks for the qarrtsiluni chapbook contest last summer (we got 60 submissions; I read the top 10) or the ongoing panoply of great writing we publish nearly every day online at qarrtsiluni. Riches.
2011 begins auspiciously, too: I've started reading two terrific books, Lords of the Sea, an account of the Athenian navy, and Haruki Murakami's The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. In fact, I can't wait to get back to them this evening!
2010 Book List (latest first)
"You have your sorrows, I know it well. But it were best
to bear your life's constraints as lightly as you may."
Mary's Wedding, Stephen Massicotte (play)
The Shadow of the Sun, Rysard Kapuscinski
*The Museum of Innocence, Orhan Pamuk
*All Souls', Javier Marias
!*The Blind Contessa's New Machine, Carey Wallace
Ivon Hitchens (his art and life), Peter Khoroche
The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner
*Light in August, William Faulkner
A Writer's Diary, Virginia Woolf
**The year of the death of Ricardo Reis, José Saramago
Absalom, Absalom! William Faulkner
The bastard of Istanbul, Elif Shafak
South of the Border, West of the Sun, Haruki Murakami
The Secret Agent, Joseph Conrad
**Champlain's Dream (a biography of Samuel de Champlain) David Hackett Fischer
Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
**A Mind at Peace, Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar
!**Open City (advance copy), Teju Cole
Birds Without Wings, Louis de Bernieres
Non-Adhesive Binding, Books Without Paste or Glue, Volume I, Keith A. Smith
*English, August: An Indian Story, Upamanyu Chatterjee
Brücke: The Birth of Expressionism in Dresden and Berlin, 1905-1913
*The Thing Around Your Neck, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Anthills of the Savannah, Chinua Achebe
Purple Hibiscus, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Henry V, William Shakespeare
The White Tiger, Aravind Adiga
*The Gargoyle, Andrew Davidson
Sea of Poppies, Amitav Ghosh
Can't Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain, and America, Jonathan Gould