I know, I know, it isn’t the end of the year, how in the world can I choose my top 10 for the year? Easy, I know the four or five books I hope to finish by midnight on 12/31 and none of them, while being enjoyable, will make it into the top ten. (Sorry Simon, Frank Baker won’t make the cut, but Richmal Crompton will!)
I really liked a lot of the books I read this year, but it was still pretty easy to separate ten from the herd that particularly rocked my reading world in one way or another.
Not surprisingly for me, only one of the ten was published even remotely recently. Besides the Niffenegger, the “newest” title is about 17 years old. This is why I don’t fear the e-book. Plenty of old books for me to read.
So, in no particular order…
Stoner by John Williams
Happily this book has been getting lots of attention in the blogosphere this year. The novel has an academic setting, but you don’t have to like that kind of thing to like this one. Amazing book.
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
A classic that I had never read before. There are some novels where the writing just feels right. This one grabbed me instantly.
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
This is NOT normally my cup of tea. And I do NOT think it is a fine, or amazing book. And I will NOT want to read anything else by Niffenegger. But boy did I enjoy reading this one. I picked it up in the resort library last January in Thailand and it was perfect vacation reading.
A Way of Life, Like Any Other by Darcy O’Brien
Such a smart, funny novel about a child of hasbeen movie stars trying to grow up normal.
As We Are Now by May Sarton
A devastatingly tragic novel about being old.
Old Filth by Jane Gardam
The novel I wish had been expanded to Trollopian lengths.
The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim
Delightful comfort read. Sigh.
The Closed Door by Dorothy Whipple
I love Dorothy Whipple’s work. I read two novels of hers this year that I loved, and I am reading a third right now. But this collection of short stories are brilliant in a way that her longer fiction is not.
A Closed Eye by Anita Brookner
I love every novel Anita Brookner has ever written, but there was something about this one that I really liked.
Family Roundabout by Richmal Crompton
Out of the ten, this is the one that I most wish I could discover again for the first time.
Thank you for such a fabulous list!
I didn't love Our Fearful Symmetry when I read it last year, but sometimes books do come at exactly the right moment, and it sounds like it was one for you. That's always fun, I think. I still haven't really contemplated my best of the year books yet…
Thank you for the list!
There are several of my own favorites on your list–I adored Family Roundabout–I think that remains my favorite Persephone title, and you know how stiff the competition is there! I also loved The Awakening (and am due for a reread), and quite enjoyed Old Filth! I think I am going to have to break down and read Stoner. May Sarton was a great find for me this year. Have a great holiday–Your decorations are gorgeous!
Great looking list. Thanks for sharing!
Love the list. I haven't read any at all but have been curious about The Family Roundabout so this post may have just pushed me over the edge! Like the little synopses as well. Conjures up your response to the book and hints at the subject all in a sentence or two – brilliant!
Quite the eclectic list. I also enjoyed a few on your list, and now need to give thought to my own top favorites.
Kim: It was fun to be surprised by Her Fearful Symmetry. Probably why I ended up liking it.
Mystica: Use it in good health.
Danielle: We have a lot of overlap, so Stoner will probably work for you.
Susan: Glad you liked it.
Polly: You will be happy you were pushed over the edge to Family Roundabout.
Diane: The list is kind of all over the place isn't it.
Ooh – you've included some of my favourites there too! I loved Old Filth, and Family Roundabout, and The closed door…I am so glad that a book you won in Persephone Reading Week made it in!
I'm glad that May Sarton made your list. Such a deep writer and good story teller. I've got to do my lists soon too.
I loved both The Awakening and The Enchanted April… a few of the others have already been added to my tbr list on your recommendation. Thanks for sharing this list!
The Awakening is already on my list for 2011, and per your comments I'm adding Stoner and Old Filth, both of which are new to me.
Loved Old Filth and Her Fearful Symmetry and have Stoner in my TBR pile so looking forward to that.
Your tree is just fab and Lucy is gorgeous (I bet people tell you that all the time)
Happy Holidays and a happy 2011
Great list. I'm looking forward to reading Stoner and Enchanted April. Glad to hear you liked them so. The Awakening has been a favorite for a long time, and May Sarton is fabulous.
I loved what you said about Fearful Symmetry. I listened to as an audiobook and somehow that enhanced the 'reading' experience for me…but I'm also glad to find someone who admits to liking it.
A great list in general.
Great list – so pleased to see RC there! And other favourites of mine, including The Enchanted April and The Awakening. I'm surprised that you liked Whipple's short stories more than her novels, as I liked them rather less, but there you go!
Oh, and I SO wanted to love the Niffenegger, and I really didn't. Perhaps I was caring too much about her really weird presentation of twins.
Must get working on my list soon. I've been holding off, because I feel Great Expectations will be on it… but will I even finish in time for the end of the year? I've got sidetracked by re-reading the Chronicles of Narnia, so… mebbe not.
Wonderful list! You continue to inspire my reading choices. Read The Awakening several years ago in ER along with Mick….discussions followed the read.
Ack, I haven't read any of these except The Awakening! Oh, dear. Now I feel like I'm missing out… but there's time :-)
Oh, how I love a top ten list that isn't comprised of books published this very year. My heart leaps up!
I got maybe 2/3 through the Symmetry book, and went to look at the end. I somehow couldn't take it anymore. Those girls began to give me the creeps. But I dearly loved reading about the cemetery.
I may just be the only reader who doesn't love Enchanted April. Just left me cold. (pun there)
I love it that you continue to mention May Sarton's name. Not many bloggers write about her. I hope you lead readers to her fine, fine work, Thomas.
Verity: I'm glad I won the book. I tend to shy away from short stories.
Ted: I would definitely like to see Sarton get more attention.
JoAnn: Which one are you most interested in for your tbr list?
Everybook: Both excellent books.
Chasing the Crayon: Thanks about Lucy and the tree. Thankfully Lucy hasn't tried to eat the tree.
Lifetime: It is interesting that three of my favorites were NYRB Classics.
Audrey: Maybe it was my extremely low expectations that allowed me to like HFS.
Simon: Is Great Expectations the Jarndyce and Jarndyce Dickens? I could never get past the first chapter. Oh no, that is Bleak House isn't it. Still, it's Trollope for me. Dickens, not so much.
Georgia: That would have been a fun book group.
Aarti: But it never feels like there is enough time.
Nan: Sometimes I feel totally out of the loop because I seem to ignore the new stuff. I don't mean to, I just like stuff that has a proven track record.
Of these I've only read Her Fearful Symmetry (which I also loved). Will have to check out the rest.
By the way, I've never seen that cover of Her Fearful Symmetry before – what edition is it? I like it so much more than the hardcover in bookstores, and I read a galley so it wasn't really fully designed anyway.
Thanks so much for this list. I've read most of these books. The good thing about that is that I look forward to your future recommendations with the knowledge that you have a great track record! Thanks for your blog. Happy Holidays
The Awakening & The Echanted April are favourites of mine & Family Roundabout another great Persephone. I am full of anticipation for The Closed Door when I unwrap it this weekend.
Do not diss the Dickens. I have never read Trollope with no real inclination to do so; I love Dickens so completely & irrevocably.
Lots of good stuff here! I really enjoyed Stoner, and the Sarton I read this year (not yours) was excellent. I hope to read more of her before too long. And I need to read The Enchanted April, some Dorothy Whipple, and more Anita Brookner. It sounds like a good year!
Kerry: I am pretty sure it is the British hardcover.
Linda: So nice of you to comment. It is always fun to find someone with similar reading tastes. You might want to look at last year's list as well
Claire: Interesting that you have never read Trollope. I, on the other hand, have read Dickens. Now which one of us is more qualified to comment? lol The only Dickens I have read cover to cover is Hard Times which I had to read in college. I quite enjoyed it, but I haven't been able to get into any others in the ensuing 22 years. I know I will try again someday. Maybe I should do it now since Oprah choose GE and TOTC for her latest book club selections.
Dorothy: You probably read The Small Room? That was the first of her novels that I read. You should check out her journals as well. They are wonderful.
You're recent review has me most excited to read Family Roundabout, but I must get around to reading one of May Sarton's novels, too. Her nonfiction A House by the Sea was wonderful. I also read Journal of a Solitude, but at a time when I couldn't really appreciate it… would probably think more of it now.
Oh, and I've not read a word of Trollope… even though I have at least twelve of his books. I'm pretty confident that I will enjoy them… one day. Whereas I know I will enjoy the Dickens I read, and I still haven't read one for six years! Must drag myself pre-1900 more often.
JoAnn: For Sarton's fiction you might want to start with The Small Room. But if you are up for something sad, As We Are Now is the one for you.
Simon: I would like to enjoy Dickens. You and Claire are making me rethink my aversion.
You've made me want to re-read The Awakening – read it on a women's study course about 10 years ago but I need to revisit it.
I, too, loved Old Filth and made it my book club selection last year. There is a sequel out now called “The Man in the Wooden Hat.” Haven't read “Fearful Symmetry” as I despised Time Traveler's Wife so much that I am afraid to read another of Niffenegger's books when there are so many others waiting to be read. “Stoner” is on my wish list thanks to you. Enjoy your thoughtful posts so much!!