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Books of the Year

Written by Claire Speer, 10th December 2010

The Guardian has published a list of Books of the Year, with Seamus Heaney's collection Human Chain and Edmund de Waal's The Hare with Amber Eyes getting a mention on more than one occasion.

Elsewhere, Jeanette Winterson opts for Jo Shapcott's collection Of Mutability while  Blake Morrison's choice is, amongst others, Howard Jacobson's Booker Prize-winning The Finkler Question.

You can read the full list here.

The Independent also has an online list (which notes a book I'm right in the middle of: The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver), as does The Times.

What's your Book of the Year? Leave a comment and let me know!

14 thoughts on “Books of the Year

Angie mac says:

Without a doubt, my book of the year is Tim Gautreaux’s life affirming collection of short stories, ‘Waiting For the Evening News’. The title story in particular might have been written for Get Into Reading. I wrote a little about it in The Reader 38 and have been recommending it to everyone ever since. I must also recommend Jhumpa Lahiri’s short story collection ‘Unaccustomed Earth ‘ and ‘One of Ours’ by Willa Cather.

PennyM says:

My book of the year has to be Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. Not written this year, obviously, but I finally tackled it this summer and it was worth the time to get to know Jean Valjean, Cosette and the wonderful Bishop Myriel of Digne.

'a reader' says:

Aha! Just what I needed to be reminded of! ‘Waiting For the Evening News’ was the collection of short stories I meant to buy after attending a Readers Day in the summer.

Belated praise also for all the excellent readings at this year’s Penny Readings.

jane says:

I’m with Angie on Tim Gautreaux – but not the title story ( which nevertheless is wonderful) so much as ‘Welding With Children’. Now that really IS Get into Reading!

In a similar vein ( what vein ? The vein of ‘life is serious yet our culture ain’t, and why why can’t we value instinct and feeling as ways of knowing?’ ) I’m currently enjoying more Marilynne Robinson
(Gilead, Home) I’m reading her essays The Death of Adam and Absence of Mind. Rigorous, deeply felt, rational, angry and true. Thoroughly recommended.

Sue Garner-Jones says:

My book of the year is Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’.

Now, I realise this is not exactly a recent publication (!) but having just had the immense pleasure of sharing it with 2 enthusiastic CE groups, I would argue that it’s contemporary!

As always, when you teach, you learn and this term I’ve learned a lot. Others have been kind enough to put the success of the courses down to me but it’s not, it’s the book.

My students have felt moved, angry, compassionate, inspired and challenged by Shelley’s amazing work and we’ve all loved it: who could ask for more?

Having said that, ‘David Copperfield’ is my book of EVERY year and I’ve also enjoyed Cormac McCarthy’s harrowing but beautiful ‘The Road’, this year.

‘Happy Christmas, everyone!’

louise says:

I always worry about ” book of the year” things as very rarely read the in book of the time til years after everyone else , I am not led by the crowd! , but seeing the things written before leads me to say that I really enjoyed was ” The uncommon reader ” we spent most of the time laughing in our reading group although, the thing that cam e across is that reading is for everyone and just because you live in a posh house does not mean you cant enjoy the simple things of life I would hate being a member of the royal family or be any way famous as one of the things I really enjoy is going to a crummy cafe and getting a nice warm cup of tea and losing myself in a book , doubt a famous person can do that but then again you never know!!
I am being greedy but the other book I really enjoyed is Far from the madding crowd although I know the story never read it although I do enjoy Hardy , I think I was put off with all the criticism of ” dreary hardy” but reading it for myself has made me realise I should form my own opinions and don’t listen to what everyone else says!I have just realise I have totally contradicted myself from what I said earlier oh well it is Christmas
I must not forget to send a congratulation card to the Queen for getting into reading , something to do after the Christmas rush!

Sue Garner-Jones says:

Hi Louise,

I agree about the ‘dreary Hardy’ misnomer putting people off – I know it did me for many years! I read ‘Tess’ at school and that put ME off (well, I was 17, knew it all and preferred to go out than stay in with a book!)

The Reader’s remarkabled editor, Professor Davis, changed my mind (he’s a pretty amazing teacher amongst his other achievements).

I still remember his straight talking answer to my ignorant dismissal of Hardy on the first day of a Victorian MA:

Me: I don’t like Hardy.
Phil: You’re not qualified to say!

Ah, how right he was!

BTW, I love Hardy now – though I still have trouble with ‘Tess’, she gets on my nerves – some things never change!

f.j. says:

I’m always re-reading books especially those of the Victorian era….but with all books I find I have an inner cycle aside from the first read and so first flush of enthusiasm/excitment. My inner cycle is a bit like a biennial – it grows vegetatively in its first year, lives over the winter, then finally blooms in the second season – yep a little like a re-read!

This year though I do have one book which I am forever dipping back into and is breaking all the records of a biennial at lightening speed – it’s Ted Hughes ‘Birthday Letters’.

'a reader' says:

WHAT??!! How could Tess get on anybody’s nerves? Really and truly put yourslf into her position and stop thinking only of Hardy’s voice (he may at times only be there to disrupt!). Tess does not exist only to be some existential romantically restrained female (for which we may judge her maybe in our youth?)

Tess is very important to me on so many levels of human living and being – I won’t let her character be judged superficially.

Sue Garner-Jones says:

Well, we can’t all like everything, can we? That’s what makes reading in groups feisty but fun! I mean, I love David Copperfield but HE gets on some readers’ nerves, too. My apologies if I upset you in any way, I do know books – and characters – mean a great deal to us all in many ways.

I must take issue with your use of ‘superficial’, regarding my judgement, though, I have read and studied the book many times or I wouldn’t presume to comment. I think the characterisation is powerful but – only my opinion – irritating. I much prefer Hardy’s poetry, actually (as he did himself).

We’ll agree to differ, eh? It is Christmas, after all: have a good one!

louise says:

This has turned away completly from what it started off as! but who cares a prime example of what happens in a GIR reading group start off at one point asnd finIsh off miles away.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and quite at liberty to be in total love or at loggerheads at any character or book
Before starting GIR i was petrified of offering any kind of opinion , as knew I would not be able to cope with anyone saying “TOTALLY WRONG LOUISE” how times change I now totally gobble up any sort of discussion and am very able I think to fight my own corner and actually find it particulary enjoyable when someone has a total different view,.

Take my other love of life FOOTBALL although a blue nose (EVERTONIAN ) their is nothing like a good banter with that other Team the other side of STANLY PARK and if we all supported the same team were is the fun in that !!!
OH dear we need a faciliator to turn this back to what we are supposed to be discussing ” what good books we have read in the year just been to liverpool and got book “what you should be reading in the new year ” but will leave that til Jan !!

I throughly agreed with what you said SUE tastes change over the years like sprout I never touched them years ago but now for some absurd reason love them!!

Sue Garner-Jones says:

Hey Louise,

Glad we agree (even on the sprouts!) I also think you’re right that an online moderator for a discussion like this would be smashing!

Funny, isn’t it, how books take us in all directions – I’m renowned (notorious?) for talking about films and soaps in my own groups but that is, as you say, the fun of books they’re not just what’s on the page, they enter our lives, they matter, and no-one is right or wrong.

Have a super Christmas,


louise says:

Ha ! thanks! We had best stop now ! I am always worrying that Jen will get in touch and tell me off for leading people astray!from serious matters!oh well don’t eat to many sprouts and look forward to more meaning/less / ful discussions next year.Sorry for changing the subject but seeing your surname is very popular not common (JONES)reminds me how i was totally convinced that everyone with that surname was somehow related to me!!!ha
well maybe we are ! Happy christmas and no I have not been on the cooking sherry!

'a reader' says:

Well, hello all, I’ve just managed to get my turn on the pc. Sorry to you Sue if you thought I was being in anyway personally judgmental re’ superficial’ bit of my thinking process – that’s what it was (a thinking process I mean) although I suppose in the midst of my wanting to protect Tess’s character throughout the book it possibly arrived with a passion that was not meant to be detrimental to your own reading!

Louise, never ever let yourself think that anyone else’s thoughts or ideas are in some way much better than your own – yourGIR groups have obviously given you a lot of confidence, for which you have maybe been lacking in the past. Voicing our own ideas in public is all about participating, warmly! sometimes, and I’m glad you have found that you can do this.

Well, just like Sue (thought that might put a smile on your face Sue!) It is Christmas lets be feisty and fun! Especially on this blog site which allows us – Best wishes to all x

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