torontoc's Books Read in 2009
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I was part of the 75 Books Challenge for 2008. I read 110 ( maybe more by next week ) books and think that I will read about the same in 2009. I did sign up for the 2009 75 Books Challenge-but there are so many members! This group seems more manageable to read!
I read mainly fiction and history. Once I like what an author has written, I try to find more of her/his books.
See you in January.
This is a very strange little book that was published to support World Literacy of Canada. The short story about an elderly man and his thoughts on his life and fears, is accompanied by illustrations by artist Tony Urquhart. ( for those interested, he is the husband of Canadian writer Jane Urquhart. The writing is excellent but the story is depressing
I did sign up for the 2009 75 Books Challenge-but there are so many members!
I can certainly understand that! Over 1400 posts this week over there. It's more daunting to read the group than to read the books.
I thought about moving groups. I don't really like "challenges" because I want to read what I want to read at the pace I want to read it, and not feel compelled to push—but I generally read 150-200 a year so it wouldn't really introduce any stress to bump up. But, in the end, so many old friends over there whose tastes I know that I decided to stay. If the volume doesn't decrease, however, I'll probably put half those threads on ignore.
Hopefully, you'll still stop by the 75ers.
3. The Clothes on their Backs by Linda Grant. Linda Grant's story certainly deserved it's recognition by the Orange Award Longlist. A young woman, Vivien, relates the story of her life as a child of Hungarian Jews who came to England before World War Two. Her father rejected any relationship with his brother who was in labour camps in Hungary, came to England after 1956, and became an infamous landlord who was jailed for a time. Vivien has been raised without any sense or knowledge of her family history. After some very tragic events occur in her life after university, Vivien finds a way of connecting to her uncle. She wants to find out why her father and uncle don't talk and more. Vivien rebels against her parent 's hold on her life. She emerges stronger and able to determine how she will live. A well written book. I don't want to include any spoilers but there is one shocking incident that shows how her mother wants to shield her daughter from the uncertainty of life. Choices are made that really, in this case, release Vivien from forming a potentially important relationship. If anyone reads or has read this book , I wouldn't mind discussing the pros and cons of the choice.
I read The View from Castle Rock in 08 and thought it was great. I hope to read another Alice Munro soon.
13. The Outlander by Gil Adamson. This exciting adventure story has suspense, great characters, and mysteries that are revealed slowly. A nineteen year old widow, who killed her husband, is being chased by her two brothers-in-law somewhere in the west of Canada in 1903. The reader really sees the travels and the people that the heroine, Mary Boulton, meets. The acts of kindness and interesting quirks of the characters who interact with Mary on her flight and the plot twists keep the reader enthralled to the end. This is a really great story. Highly recommended.
15. The Cobra's Heart (Great Journeys) by Ryszard Kapuscinski. Kapuscinski is one of my favourite travel writers. This slim volume is part of a series called Great Journeys from Penguin Books. the author writes of his experiences travelling as a journalist in various countries in Africa. Some of the areas he covers are Ghana in 1958 and Idi Amin's history. This book is a good introduction for readers who are going to explore African literature.
24. Fabulous Small Jews:Stories by Joseph Epstein. I don't think that I would have read this book 25 years ago. A good friend recommended this book and I am glad that I read it now. The author writes stories about men from the Chicago area and their tangled relationships with families and friends. Many of the characters grew up at the end of World War II and the 1950's. I recognized the attitudes, memories and regrets of lives lived because I knew people of that generation ( older than me -but not by much ). Epstein writes well and uses the short story format to craft very good situations.
25. The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman. This book relates the true story of the family of the Zookeeper of Warsaw and their survival during World War. II. Jan and Antonina Zabinski saved the lives of many people who they hid on the zoo property. Jan was also actively involved in the resistance. The story is well told by Ackerman. She writes of the comparsons of human and animal behaviour and how Antonina used this knowledge to save many lives.
26. Ghostwritten by David Mitchell. This is the first book by Mitchell.( I loved his Cloud Atlas and Black Swan Green.) The stories of nine characters from around the world are told and then linked in unlikely ways. The writing is first rate. The end does dip into a science fiction scenario but it does work.
Nothing like a long trip and airplanes for reading!
30. Charlemagne's Tablecloth: A Piquant History of Feasting by Nichola Fletcher. This book covers the history of feasting. Fletcher writes with clarity about the social history behind feasts and covers a wide variety from the Japanese tea ceremony to cannibal meals, and Renaissance extravanganzas. A good read.
31. The Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andric I never knew much about the history of the Balkans. This book, about the history of the bridge in Bosnia, covers the buildng, and finally, the destruction. The author used the stories of many characters through out centuries to give the reader a sense of the problems and issues faced by the people of Bosnia.
32. Farthing by Jo Walton. Thank you LT readers for talking about this book. I really liked the structure and plot of this murder mystery set in an alternate history of England and World War II. In this story, England had made peace with Hitler just after 1941. The murder of one of the "Farthing Set"- a group of politicians and wealthy people who led this initiative- is told in alternate chapters by the Scotland inspector and the daughter of one of the leaders of the Farthing Set-Lucy Kahn. Lucy, however, is married to a Jewish man and this fact has something to do with the plot and the reason for the murder. Excellent story. I will be reading the next two books in this series.
33. The Serpent's Tale by Ariana Franklin. This historical murder mystery is set during the reign of Henry I in England. It is the second in a series featuring an unusual character- Adelia Aguilar- a medieval doctor from Salerno with a speciality in postmortem investigation. In the first book of the series-Mistress of the Art of Death -Adelia's story was introduced. The plot of this second book has Adelia looking into the poisoning of the King's mistress, Rosamund Clifford. I liked this book better than the first- the ending was better and the weaving of historical facts into fiction was more interesting.
34. Elements of Style by Wendy Wasserstein. I wanted to take some time in March to read some authors who should not be forgotten. Wendy Wasserstein wrote some exceptional plays about women that I had seen many years ago. She died at the age of 55 from cancer. Unfortunately, this novel is remarkably dated in light of our present times. The characters are all very rich and live to excess in New York City after 2001. There is one "good" character. Although this book is supposed to be a satire, the concerns and plot turns are really not very interesting to me compared to some of the other stories that I have read. *Sigh* On to the next book.
36. Granta 93:God's Own Countries. Another really interesting issue of Granta on the theme of religious belief.There are memoirs. fiction and photographs as well as brief essays on the varieties of religious experience by twelve writers. My favourite short story is by Karen Russell on "St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves".
42. The Camel Bookmobile by Masha Hamilton. I was curious about this book when many LT readers praised it. I have mixed feelings about it. The author has written an interesting story about a number of people who live in a remote village in Kenya. They are visited by the camel bookmobile and an American librarian. The plot is driven by the problems of a number of the characters , who each narrate their own chapters. The struggle between traditional and modernization is just one of the aspects of the story. I feel that the writing is more on a YA level ( and I will be recommending this book to one of my friend's nieces ). I guess that I wanted a more complex writing style and plot. ( that ends in an unsatisfactory way for me )
44. The Girl on the Fridge: Stories by Etgar Keret. This is the second book that I have read by Keret. The same quality of work is evident in this collection. He is quirky, outrageous, surreal, angry and packs a punch with his very brief stories.
45. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque. I can see why this book is a classic. The story and prose are outstanding. I wonder why I haven't read it until now. Thank you to the group Project 1929 for highlighting authors published in the year 1929.
47. The Crepes of Wrath by Tamar Myers. I was looking for a mystery. What I got was a very chatty story with too many characters, recipes dispersed throughout the book and a heroine who keeps a small kitten in her bra! I might try the crepe recipes but I will take a pass on this series. The author gives the reader too much information that detracts from the story but maybe that is the problem. There really isn't much of a story. The information on Amish and Mennonite lifestyles is interesting. The frantic comic tone is much too forced.
You have some interesting titles in your reading list and are doing very well with your challenge.
49. The Mayor's Tongue by Nathaniel Rich. I don't know what to think about this book. The two stories really don't come together in my mind. A young man is admirer of an author who might be dead. An old man has a strong friendship with a wartime friend-this relationship seems to be more important than that with his wife. All the parties to this story end up in the area of Trieste, Italy. At this point the story becomes more magic realist although that part is more problematic for me. The good part is that I did want to find what happens to all the characters as I read. The bad part- I didn't like the resolution to this novel.
58. At a Loss for Words by Diane Schoemperlen. This brief story is the telling of the main character's ( an author ) meeting and long distance relationship with the man who had ended their relationship 30 years ago.She meets him at a book signing, and they embark on an e-mail correspondence. They see each other occasionally in a hotel when the author is on book signing trips. The book is a working out of her relationship or as she realizes a non-relationship with this man. Very interesting although the author does look a little obsessive and the man afraid to commit.
59. Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before by Tony Horwitz. The author traces the three voyages of Captain Cook with really interesting information from Cook's journals and other sources. He also travels throughout the Pacific, Australia, Alaska and England to look for any more information on Cook. Horwitz takes a very colourful friend of his along on his travels who provides a down to earth counterpoint on their discoveries. In a way. Horwitz looks for the good and bad on the effects of Cook's discoveries. He talks to the people who think that Cook and his men were responsible for the destruction of many island people and their society. Horwitz wonders why Cook is not given more acclaim for his accomplishments in mapping the Pacific area. I found that the beginning was not as interesting as the rest of the book. I did persevere and appreciated the work and research.
61. The Merchant's Partner by Michael Jecks. This detective story set in 1300's England is good but not especially outstanding. I decided to follow the series and the story of murder and the motives are believable.
62. The Forgery of Venus by Michael Gruber.This is a well written semi-mystery about forgery, maybe time travel and art-especially Velasquez. Gruber creates a not so successful American artist who gets involved with a drug study that seems to take him back in time so he becomes the artist Velasquez. The plot becomes a little complicated as the artist is engaged by a dealer in forgeries ( also the son of a Nazi who stole art that was never recovered) to create a lost painting by Velasquez. I read this book vey fast and enjoyed it for what it was. I also appreciated the conversations on art history-which were very good.
63. Chess by Stefan Zweig. I have to thank both kiwidoc and christiguc for both writing about Stefan Zweig. I read this very brief novella and it is very powerfull. On the surface , the story is about a series of chess matches aboard a ship travelling from New York to Argentina some time during or just before World War II. The story of one of the characters becomes a study of defiance in the face of terror.
64. The House at Riverton by Kate Morton. Sigh-sometimes I think that the order of books read may have something to do with the amount of appreciation. If I had been on a plane, this book would have been perfect. But I wasn't- I had just finished reading a superb short story. This book or saga of an "upstairs-downstairs" house and family in England from 1914-1924 with a 1999 narrative was interesting but in the end not as satisfying as some of my previous books read. Morton writes a good story. I can see why a lot of people like this book.I did too, but just not as much as others.
You've been very busy!
I did however, see the movie that was made of Restoration and Robert Downey Jr played the part of the doggie caretaker and was so over the top it made the movie!~! It was a hoot and I enjoyed it tremendously.
Rose Tremain is a writer who I have read before- I liked Music and Silence and I have her latest book in my book pile.
I also saw Restoration- the sets and costumes were amazing!
70. Fax Me a Bagel by Sharon Kahn. This is the first in a series of mysteries featuring Ruby Rothman, a rabbi's widow living in Texas. The storyline is thin , the mystery not very well developed but good characters established for the next book. A very light read.
#88 Do you think that Child 44 is too grisly for my 15 year old boy - who says he loves grisly!? (I wish I was a better parent, *sigh*)
74. The Little Girls by Elizabeth Bowen. I was looking forward to reading this book after I read about Bowen. I can't deny that she is a superb writer. Her descriptions of setting and people are so interesting and we really don't see that kind of writing anymore. And that is the problem for me-I found the attitudes and characters very dated. A woman in her sixties decides to find the two other friends who she last saw when she was eleven years old. The three girls had buried a time capsule in the grounds of their school. This story is about the meetings in the present and the past recounting of their lives in school. There are elements of relationships seen through the eyes of young girls, so the reader has a not too clear idea of things that may have happened. I liked the book and didn't like some of the characters.I thought more often that the book represented the attitudes of life in England in the 1950's.
75. The Tent by Margaret Atwood This is a very clever, slim book with very short stories, drawings and what I would call brief essays by the author. If I was to describe this book in relation to Atwood's other work, I would have to compare it to an "amuse-bouche" in a very fancy restaurant. This is a very small taste of what is to come. The takes on updated myths, concerns for ecology, and various afterlives are sharply etched. If anyone wants to read Margaret Atwood for the first time-don't start with this book-look for her wonderful novels first.
Thanx greatly for that rec!~!
belva, I would like to know what you think of The Things That Matter . I found the material on Wuthering Heights enlightening.
Yikes! I should read it again, too.
Another one I liked when I was about 13 or 14 was Cheaper by the Dozen.
I will definitely let you what I think when it arrives and I get into it. I should be finished with "Z" tonight so I will be ready for it when it does arrive.
same here. I loved Cheaper by the Dozen and read it over and over again when I was about 8 or 9. And when the movie came out--how perfect for the lead was Clifton Webb?
I was thinking the other day of all the books I read when I was in the second grade. My teacher would allow me to go over to the Jr. High library to check out books and it was just heaven to me.
I feel like revving up the old voice box and singing "Memories".
No wonder I horde books now!
83. Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. This book was so much fun to read. My edition has wonderful illustrations on the covers by Roz Chast and a good introduction by Lynne Truss.The heroine of the novel, Flora, has a matter of fact attitude about her unusual relatives and their farm. She has set herself the task of fixing up their lives and setting their priorities straight. The descriptions and the situations are a parody of bad novels and I was giggling as I read. Of course everything turns out well and Flora has her own nice ending. ( spoiler)
84. Nazi Literature in the Americas by Roberto Bolano. Like my reading of Margaret Atwood's The Tent, this book by Bolano was not the one I should have read first. He has created a list and descriptions of fictional Fascist and Neo-Nazi writers, complete with organizations and novels. The list describes bad poets, failed novels, and shadow organizations in North and South America. The list is not particulary interesting although it is very clever as the author slides his characters into real situations and associations with real people. I can admire this creation while not being thrilled by the actual writing of the lists.I found myself making a comparison with the work of Stephen Marche's book Shining At The Bottom of the Sea. Marche created a fictional island and the history of it's literature. His book is much more interesting as I felt that I discovered more about the soul of the writing. Bolano's book is a biographical dictionary that come off as very dreary. I think that I might have a different take on this book after I read some of Bolano's main work. However if it stands alone,I have to say that I was disappointed.
86. When I Lived in Modern Times by Linda Grant. This 2000 Orange Prize winner is well written and has a number of provacative and interesting ideas about a people's ( and individual's ) past history and the relationship to " modern times". The main character, Evelyn, is a very impressionable young woman with bad judgement. She allows others- her uncle Joe who send hers to 1946 Palestine, and her lover Johnny who uses her- to determine her actions. Evelyn is a bit of a contradiction as several of her acts are quite smart in her situation. She comes across as both a survivor and a victim in in her life. The author's candid descriptions of the kibbutz life, the early days of Tel Aviv and the role of widely diverse Jewish groups in the development of the country are really interesting. The last part of the book that brings the reader up to date on Evelyn's history seems rushed and not as connected to the rest of the story. I did like this book very much.
92. February by Lisa Moore Lisa Moore is a remarkable author from Newfoundland. Her latest book is about one family and the sinking of the oil rig, Ocean Ranger. Moore uses this real life tragedy in her book as the life changing event for Helen and her children. The story is told through events from Helen's past with her husband, Cal and the present as she struggles to live with the memory of Cal's death on the Ocean Ranger. The writing is spare yet accurate as Moore describes heartbreak and later hope. A recommended read.
93. My Father's Secret War by Lucinda Franks. Franks won the Pulitzer Prize for her reporting. In this book, she tells the story of her parents difficult relationship and the secrets that she uncovers while dealing with her father's problems. Tom and Lorraine Franks had a terrible marriage. The two children were often caught in the middle. Lucinda , the oldest, rebelled while whe was young and eventually had to support her father financially while she was in her twenties. (Her mother had died) This book tells about the troubled relationship and how it changed as Francks discovered her father's role as a spy in World War II. The story is pieced together from her father's failing and selective memory, research and intervews, and later with the letters that Tom wrote to his wife during the war. Francks realizes that her parents did have a loving relationship that only soured after the war. What her father saw and did might have changed him forever. Francks learns truths about herself and her family as she looks for evidence of her father's exploits. Not every clue is found but Francks has contructed a more accurate picture of her father by the book's conclusion. A very satifying read. Personally, what I found compelling were the letters that Tom Francks wrote during the war. The phrases sounds just those that my father wrote to my mother during the same period of time. And like Francks, I do cherish those pieces of paper that give life to departed family.
Journey to Nowhere by Eva Figes which I just read was a similar confessional family memoir - but it was validated by her overall socio-political commentary/opinion on Zionism and Israel.
Don't you people know that I would get all these books on my shelves read if I didn't continue to get all of these wonderful recommendations?
I think that is a universal LT problem.
Take care folks and thanx for the recs,
94. Heaven is Small by Emily Schultz. This is a book that I picked up after hearing the author at a reading. The premise is a little odd but entertaining and ultimately sad at the end. Gordon Small, dies, and then finds himself applying for a job at Heaven, a publisher of romance novels. He is a editor in a seemingly big corporation. Gordon had been a not too successful writer. His discovery of Heaven's secrets, and his own thwarting of the system provides the main plot. This is a clever book, although I had to read the ending more than once in order to figure out what happened.
Well-this is my 100 th book this year. I am amazed that I have read so much so I want to recount my favourites.
Cold Comfort Farm
Our Hearts were Young and Gay
Three Day Road
All Quite on the Western Front
Flights of Love
The Robber Bride
101. From The Fifteenth District by Mavis Gallant. What can I say about one of the premier short story authors? Gallant writes about situations in Europe after World War II. Displacement seems to be the main theme in most of the stories. Gallant's way with descriptions to reveal character is terrific. Highly recommended.
Not much to add; just doing a flybyhi and checking out what everyone has been reading. Looks like you have been into some interesting nonfiction. I grabbed a couple of titles and gee---thanx a lot!~! hee hee What would we do without our fellow LTers to give us good recx. I depend more on all of you than on the N.Y. Times or any of the others.
Congratulations on beating your goal. Good job!~!
will catch you later,
103. Aleppo Tales by Haim Sabato. This is a group of close linked stories about families of Rabbis in Aleppo and later Jerusalem.I have to echo the comments about Sabato that Squeaky Chu wrote. Sabato's work is about Jewish religious study and specifically that of the Jews of Aleppo, Syria. The author writes of the study and pattern of observance. He is relating the stories of the lives and concerns of a number of generations. I enjoyed this work a lot but agree with Squeaky Chu that this author is not for everyone
I noticed that you had read my book, Annie's Ghosts on your way to your 100 books for 2009. Not only was it a delight to discover that, but your "highly recommended" was an extra surprise. The book has more than 90 LT reviews now (including yours!), with the vast majority four- and five-stars. I just wanted to say thanks for making me part of your year.
If I get my sluggish body out to the post office sometime today, you'll soon receive Dawning of the Day, another Sabato novel. I absolutely loved it. Haim Sabato made it to the list of my favorite novelists with the novel Adjusting Sights, and now he has cemented his place there! :)
I'm very happy to be able to share this book with someone else who appreciates his writing. The book itself came from the mother of my daughter's boy-friend. She's a librarian who selected this withdrawn book for me at random because she knows I like translated novels. Boy did she score a hit with this one!! Enjoy...
I very much enjoyed Geisha by Liza Dalby. I read it after reading Arthur Golden's novel, Memoirs of a Geisha. Dalby's book helped me understand the world of geisha. I was amazed that a non-Asian was able to be so accepted into geisha society as to be able to feel so much a part of their world and to so vividly describe it in her book. That was a book that I also shared with my husband after he too read Memoirs of a Gesiha (and loved it).
Congratulations on your 100!
106. The Journal of Dora Damage by Belinda Starling. This book of historical fiction is really well written with a number of references to the trade of bookbinding, the slave trade and freed former slaves in London before the American Civil War, pornographic literature and the secret societies that promoted these books. All this was framed in the story of Dora Damage, who takes over her husband's business when he becomes ill. Dora's perseverance and her adventures make this book a good read. Not for the faint hearted, though. There are some grisly parts.
121. High Chicago by Howard Shrier. This book is my July Early Reviewer book that was just delivered by Canada Post. It is a high powered fast read about murder, cover ups and some truly ugly fights. The characters- a private investigator named Jonah Geller, his partner Jenn Raudsepp, his hitman-turned-restaurant-owner friend Dante Ryan-take on a powerful Chicago businessman who is behind a number of murders. The crimes were committed to make sure a large waterfront development would still be built inspite of environmental problems. The only bothersome theme that runs through this book is one of vengence and turning the tables on some hideous crimes without the help of police.
I went to the International Authors Festival in Toronto and discovered some new ( to me) authors.
128. The German Mujahid by Boualem Sansal This fascinating book has been translated from the French by Frank Wynne. Two brothers, born in Algeria to a German father and an Algerian mother, had been sent to live in France with an uncle. The eldest, Rachel is a success story- studied at university, worked for a big multinational company and married. The young brother Malrich is a bit of a thug on the estate( called public housing in Canada ) where he lives. Rachel goes back to Algeria after his parents are murdered by fundamentalists in their small village and discovers that his father had been a Nazi SS officer. Rachel eventually becomes obsessed by the discovery and after two years of travel, commits suicide. Rachel leaves his diary of his travels to his brother Malrich. The book reveals the contents of the diary and Malrich's anger and thoughts on his father - his life and actions and on Rachel's reactions. Malrich also connects the behaviours of the Nazis to the fundamentalists taking over the estate. The book has been called the first Arab novel to confront the Holocaust. It also make some bold comments on the policies of Algeria and France. According to the book cover, the plot is based on a true story. It was a really good read!
I liked the story and how the plot is built around the fate of the house to an extent
Toby Press has also supplied LT with Early Reviewer books (I did the asking). Good publisher!
Bible is a good story involving politics, and religion
139. How to Paint a Dead Man by Sarah Hall. Now, this novel is wonderful. Four somewhat connected stories are related throughout the book. An ailing renowned Italian painter at the end of his life, a young blind girl who tends the painter's grave, an English painter trapped in the landscape that he paints, and his daughter mourning the death of her twin brother are the subjects of Hall's work. The English painter did correspond with the Italian artist when he was just starting out. The daughter releases her grief in sexual couplings with her friend's husband. The young girl tries to work through the relationships of her family in a world closed to her by her mother. The writing on the nature of art and descriptions of character are masterful. I see why this book was on the longlist for the Man Booker Award. Definitely recommended
144. The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry. I think that this mystery/ story about lace readers, some witches and an extremist cult centred around a family in present day Salem is a good read.Some of the family relationships are a little difficult to figure out and play an important role in the solving of the plot's puzzle. The character development left a few holes in the depiction of several secondary family members of Towner Whitney-the main narrator. Is it a great book? No. I have read better mysteries but I would recommend it. I don't think that I would rave about this book, however.