Friday, December 29, 2006

My Best Books of 2006

Okay, time for my personal book awards. (The Bibs?)

Criteria? Reading pleasure!

I'll give my book of the year award to Peter Carey's Theft (he won my award a year or two back for True History of the Kelly Gang. Is this love?)

Close runners-up: Paul Auster's The Brooklyn Follies, Yiyun Li's A Thousand Years of Good Prayers and Etgar Keret's The Bus Driver Who Thought He Was God.

I've also read and enjoyed several very good memoirs this year, particularly Stuart: A Life Backwards by Alexander Masters (made me cry) and The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson (made me laugh - a lot).

A special mention also goes to the beautiful and informative Malacca: Voices from the Street by Lim Huck Chin and Fernando Jorge. It may have cost a small fortune, but it's a book to treasure.

My reading vows for next year:

To complete the TBR challenge I've set myself up for.
To read and review more books, especially local fiction.
To discover some of the books and authors you guys have been recommending.
To read more foreign fiction and short fiction collections.

That'll do!

So okay then - what were your best books of the year and your reading vows for next?


Janet said...

For some reason I have difficulty trying to read Peter Carey! My copy of Oscar & Lucinda still languishing on the shelves. Bought his collection of stories from a warehouse sale but haven't attempted those either. New year resolution is to finish up all the books I've bought but haven't read! It's really terrible. I've put myself on a book fast i.e. no more book buying until I've read a decent number of the unread books. ;) This of course doesn't include gifts from other people, heh heh.

bibliobibuli said...

i should go on a book fast! i must stay away from bookshops for a while at least and make a big effort with all my unreads.

"oscar and lucinda" is quite hard to get into. try "jack maggs" which is an even better read if you've read "great expectations". i have his earlier books sitting on my shelves as yet unread

Janet said...

Thanks for the recommendation, Sharon! I cannot rave enough about Great Expectations, did a presentation for it a few months back for uni, and I must say, I was just hooked on Dickens after that. It's a really excellent book and I regret my days of reading Dickens when I was a teenager knowing absolutely nothing! (because I was put off Dickens for a while) ;) It's really true that books appeal to us differently at different ages. Not only was G.E. hilarious, it was also really moving and I loved Dickens' ability to combine humour and tragedy so seamlessly. Anyway-enough raving, I'll try to cajole someone into buying Jack Maggs for this cheating on my book fast? ;)

bibliobibuli said...

or you can borrow it from me if you like ...

lil ms d said...

my reading vows for 07?

to GO to bookshops instead of buying online.
to stop buying bulk and then keeping them in one corner for that rainy weekend, my room looks like a warehouse now.
to also have BUDGET when i go book shopping instead of going mad when i see books.
to buy children's books as gifts for friends.

book of the year for dinsy:

beasts of no nation.

fei said...

Hi Sharon,

Hmm...I think I should get a copy of Theft and read it.

My best books of the year are:

Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, this is a thorough and sentimental book I’ve ever read about bereavement. I like what a reviewer said about this book, ‘Not a book “about” its subject (grief), it is its expression’.

The Reader by Benhard Schlink, this book tells me that, we have to look at things from different perspective, to have a full understanding of what happen during WWII from the side of victims and the side of perpetrator.

Embers by Sandor Marai, reveals a story of love and betrayal between two best friends.

Oracle Night by Paul Auster, I guess I don’t have to say much about Auster, He’s the storyteller.

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri, I like her way of telling the stories about Indians in new land and their struggles to build a new life.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, this is my first book by Ishiguro, sweet and sad.

White hair Ah Er and other stories, by Xixi(xi, means west in Chinese character), a hongkong female writer I like very much. This is her latest collection of short stories, the stories mostly are about an old lady called Ah Er, how does she feel when she is getting old, her daily life etc. Xixi’s language is clean and precise.

My reading vow is to finish the books on my TBR list and read more short stories collections that line up on my shelf.

animah said...

I can't remember all the books I've read. Can I say Immortality, Milan Kundera, which is a reread for me. Or the play Life of Galileo, Brecht. Murakami's Kafka on the Shore, as a close second. I'll probably think of some more after I log off.
I like Dina's idea of buying children's books for friends. In many ways, children's books are far more mind opening than adult books. They have more magic and are less judgemental.

Janet said...

Thanks for the offer Sharon, that's really nice of you. No worries, I'll probably get my own copy in due time, next year perhaps! In the meantime, better trudge through my current pile. Latest gift is Coetzee's Master of Petersburg. Can't wait!

Sufian said...

The Best Fiction, 2006 - definitely The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel.

2. The Bus Driver who wanted to be God/The Nimrod Flip-Out by Etgar Keret
3. The Black Book - Orhan Pamuk
4. Paradise - A.L. Kennedy
5. Never Come Morning - Nelson Algren
6. Kematian Donny Osmond (Kumpulan Cerita) - Seno Gumira Ajidarma
7. Have I Ever - Mary Robison
8. Yonder Stands Your Orphan - Barry Hannah
9. The SHipyard - Juan Carlos Onetti
10. Concrete - Thomas Bernhard

aryan said...

i read 496 books this year and there are so many i loved that i would be pointless to name them all. but some have entrenched in my memory. they are:

1. "maximum city" - suketu mehta
2. "a short history of nearly everything"- bill bryson
3. the last two books of ashok k banker's ramayan

there are scores many.. but the above mentioned are very close to my heart.

Burhan said...

My greatest discovery of the year were the Icelandic Sagas. Read 'The Story of the Volsungs' and 'The Story of the Burnt Njal'. I plan to finish all the rest in 2007 if I can.

I'm not sure, but I don't think I read any of the novels that came out this year -- wait! except for some from Dewi Lestari's Supernova series.

The Great Swifty said...

Should I be listing out the best books I read this year? Or the best books I read this year that happened to be published this year? :D

Leon Wing said...

The BEST ever book of the year - for many years to come, I feel - is So Many Ways to Begin by Jon McGregor. The only regret I have is not having a hardback copy but a trade paperback instead, because I always dip into its pages, to read snippets, again and again. Read it, read it, you can also find in in BC lib now!

Other books of 2006 I absolutely love:
Apple by Michel Faber
Be Near Me by Andrew O'Hagan
One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson
Black Swan Green by by David Mitchell
A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon
The Night Watch by Sarah Waters

Right know I'm reading Theft from an ebook edition; just started on Kaloki Nights by Howard Jacobson and already laughing at his opening, it's going to be a good fun time reaing it.

Other books waiting for me to open to the first page:
Get a Life by Nadine Gordimer
Queen Camila by Sue Townsend
Arlington Park by Rachel Cusk
House Meetings by Martin Amis
Mother's Milk by Edward St Aubin

... and let's see, what else are there, on the floor, in the shelves, ...

God, I have been buying loads of books from Kino ever since the book store started its Xmas 3-stamps-20% promotion. You buy RM150 worth and get three stamps on a card, which you bring back next time to buy any number of books, all at 20% off. All this till 8 of Jan next year.

bibliobibuli said...

swifty - the book you read that you liked best. otherwise it's too restrictive!

songshards said...

The Bartimaeus trilogy by Jonathan Stroud
Cold Tom by Sally Prue

These are excellent children's books.

Yvonne Foong said...

Aiyo.... Sharon. How can you actually rate your books like that? :P I mean, I can't put my finger on which books I like best. All of them are touched me differently. And all of them provided different reading pleasure.

Greenbottle said...

the two books (fiction) that affected me most were the last two that i completed recently

1: ali and nino by kurban said
any book that make you want to go to deghestan is definitely a good book

2: the paper house - carlos maria dominguez
this book all the more make me want to build a decent library...(probably the opposite of what this book intended...)

and my resolution?

want to step up another gear in book buying especially art books.
in 5 years time i hope to have about 5,000 books which should make it a fairly decent personal library...(currently at aaround 2000 or so)...

bibliobibuli said...

yvonne - judge by which gave you the GREATEST reading pleasure.

anna akhmatova said...

Greenbottle: YOU ,I envy!!!

I wish that I had kept all of my books instead of giving them away or lending them to friends without the books being boomeranged!!!

Sharon: My staple is non-fiction,but I do periodically read good fictional works. Care to recommend me some excellent ones?

Here's me list;

1.Skeletons on the Zahara-Dean King

2.Metro Stop Dostoevsky-Ingrid Bengis

3.When Courage was Stronger than Fear- Peter Hellman

4.Trans-Siberia, Inside the Grey Area- Paddy Lineman

5.Elizabeth I- Anne Somerset

6.The Brothers Karamazov(a reread)- Dostotevsky

7.Resurrection(another reread)-Tolstoy

8.Napolean- Christopher Hibbert

9.Natasha's Dance- Orlando Figes

10.Grace and Power- Sally Bedell Smith

bibliobibuli said...

wrote this comment once in great detail and then lost it arrghh!!

love these lists because i hear about so much good stuff i wouldn't discover otherwise (especially sufian's list ... am bobsmacked that he always manages to find so much out of the way stuff)

ms d - bought your recommendation!

leon - of course you can find the book in BC library! it was on my list! tons more great fiction coming in in 2007. enjoyed your list as i think your tastes are v. close to my own

so too are fei's! love "the reader" "never let me go" and "interpreter of maladies", have the joan didion and pual auster and will look out for the rest

burhan - how did you come upon the icelandic sagas? unusual choice ...

aryan - how on earth did you manage to get up to 496 books??? do you have a life???

greenbottle - i'd like 5,000 books. love art books but can never afford them ...

songshards, animah - thanks. have a soft spot for kid's books too.

anna - will recommend good stuff as i stumble across it. (but here are some of my favourites apart from the russian greats on your list so many titles i haven't heard of and must investigate ... thanks!

yvonne - you're too nice! just jump in and tell me the book that has made you happiest this year

Subashini said...

i went crazy when i read this post; it made me want to make lists upon lists... until i couldn't remember if these were the books i read this year, or last year. *grin*

but a few stand-outs from this year are actually books that were published before, but i understand that we're not limited to those books that were only published this year. so here's a small list of favourites (as far as i can remember - therefore, resolution for 2007: keep a book journal!)

on beauty, zadie smith
the river, rumer godden
the little prince, antoine de saint-exupery (yes, my first time reading it!)
the lonely londoners, sam selvon
against love: a polemic, laura kipnis
box office poison, alex robinson (graphic novel)
epileptic, david b (graphic novel)
fun home: a family tragicomic, alison bechdel (graphic novel)
incendiary circumstances: a chronicle of our times, amitav ghosh
english, august, upamanyu chatterjee
the rachel papers, martin amis
kiffe kiffe tomorrow faiza guene

Intellectually tall said...

ANNA, are you a russophile? Your reading material and pseudonym indicate so. I've been following Sharon's blog since last year but I notice that you started posting only about a month ago.Has anybody on this blog seen you in the flesh?

BIBLIOBIBULI, Happy New Year! Your blog rocks! One of the best ever. Prolific! Been following it but have never commented until today.

bibliobibuli said...

subashini - a wonderful list. a humbling list. am off to read up on your choices ...

intellectually tall - thanks so much for the kind words, and glad you came out of the shadows at last. ... so where's your own list??

btw if any of you without a blog feel like sounding off about books, you're welcome to guest blog a post

bibliobibuli said...

oh subashini - i read the little price in french when i was about 11 and it was such magic ...

it doesn't matter when you come to a book. i have so many gaps in my reading. and let's never get hung up about reading last year's books as if books were perishable commodities.

incidentally - where do you find out about the books you want to read??? just curious ...

anna akhmatova said...

Intellectually Tall: LOL, What does your pseudonym indicate? That you're physically short? hehe.

I'm a quasi-russophile. I do speak, read and write in Russian and Anna Akhmatova is my favourite poet.

Non-fictional is my staple as mentioned above and Paul Theroux, Bill Bryson are among my favourites.

I stumbled upon Sharon's blog about 2 months ago and it has become one of my most preferred blogs,( the others are " The Grumpy old Bookman" and Prof Kaufman's blog on Russian literature )

So what do you read, I.T.?

bibliobibuli said...

i love bill bryson and paul theroux too anna

i learned russian at school and have now forgotten it apart from one or two daft expressions "brusselskya kapusta" is brussel sprout, for example. very useful. and i can sing "kalinka kalinka kalinka moya" very expressively.

am so proud as to be mentioned in the same breath as grumpy old bookman, sho is a litblog hero of mine too.

anna - where are you blogging from? you're here in malaysia, right?

yes, intellectually tall is implying he's otherwise not tall. which is fine. we can't all be super beings. (i'm six foot!).

anyway am very glad to have you both here

Madcap Machinist said...

I wrote a comment here the other day but it got lost. Anyhow, I'm back, and sorry to be late :-)

The two best books I read this year were Jose Saramago's "Blindness" and "Seeing". I read each in a single seating and am still feeling the words eating me from inside out.

JG Ballard's "Crash" was the most-reread book this year. I took "Crash" with me to Europe because I can't bear to part with it, and read it for the fifth time -- it gets easier every time. I hope that isn't a bad thing, considering the subject matter. I will be reading it more in the future; still not sure what makes it so fascinating. Have you read it yet? :-)

Gregory Maguire's "Wicked" was wicked fun (sorry), and it got the most laughs this year. Since my brother and sisters also read it, and we have the songs from the musical, we had a lot more laughs beyond the book. [caveat: has explicit content]

Another memorable read was Milan Kundera's "Immortality" and I will start on "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" soon.

I also finally finished Neal Stephenson's The Baroque Cycle series (huge!) and will recommend it to anyone interested in adventure and science-fantasy novels. Good fun!

I missed many non-fiction titles in 2006 but a great anthology of fantastic writing with real meat is "The Best American Science Writing 2006" ed. by Dr. Atul Gawande -- and it's really accessible writing for everyone too.

Subashini said...

sharon, i am glad that i finally got around to reading the little prince. some books you can return to over and over again at different stages in your life and get something out of it, and this is one of those, i suspect. i read it just last week during the long christmas break; got out of my noisy house and sat in starbucks for a couple of hours and read it and felt totally... transported.

as for where i heard about the books - i was in winnipeg, manitoba (where? canada *grin*) for about 4 years, and while winnipeg has its occasional charms, the best thing about the city for a frequently-deprived book-loving malaysian like me was the public library. i was able to check out any book that looked remotely interesting... and the library had a wide selection of graphic novels, as well. i still think that a well-equipped, easily accessible public library is of the cornerstones of creating a well-read, literate society. i understand the undeniable pleasures of *owning* a book; but it's harder to take chances on books and expand your reading choices if you're strapped for cash and needing to buy a book everytime you wanted to read one. even if you're not strapped for cash, you can't be buying every single book that captures your interest. there are bills to pay and groceries to buy (unfortunately!) i've been back for about 3 months now, and every time i think of winnipeg and the library i left behind my heart still constricts with pain. *wry grin* all the books you could ever want - for free! what's not to love about that?

i've joined the british council library since returning, which is nice... a really interesting selection of books so far. the only problem is that it's a little out of the way for a pj-ian like me, but at least it's accessible by LRT.

anyways, i'll stop my rambling... a happy new year to you, sharon, and everyone here... here's to more book-binges and empty wallets!

anna akhmatova said...


Yes I am a Malaysian and I think you've seen me once before at the ELARTI reading before I left with my 3 friends.Didn't get to introduce myself and will do it the next time.

I do agree with Intellectually Tall that your blog is one of the most comprehensive and prolific blogs in Malaysia and it is at par with my other favourite blogs!

Intellectually Tall;
Sorry if I called you mmm Short! hehe.

CnACN6O WAPOH!!!THanks sharon

This is my name (spelled) in Russian; TEH2KY WAXPN3AH.

bibliobibuli said...

subashini - ahah that accounts for wide tastes and is one of the most powerful arguments for the establishment of good libraries i've come across for a long time. i had the benefit of v. good school library growing up ... there's stuff here i keep meaning to blog ... how i became a reader

i don't like libraries now because i don't like to give books back ... and i always get fined. i have only borrowed one book from the british council library over the past year even though i'm a member and even though i've drawn up the lists for book purchase and they include titles i want myself. wish there was a budget for more non-fiction as i often just want to skim through a non-fiction book

*slaps forehead* sorry anna am so bloody blur sometimes. i should be called giant sotong instead of giant sotong.

*blush* for the praise. v. many thanks.

ya chustvayu orchen harashaw lah!!! cpaceeba

that's as good as it gets anna. i understood your message and it is clever of you to use capitals as cyrilic script

intellectually tall said...

ANNA, FYI I am 186cm , and that's tall for a Malaysian so you don't need to be sorry about what you had suggested.

SHARON, Since you can read cyrillic, what is Anna's real name? She cant be thattt attractive can she.( Sorry Anna)

anna akhmatova said...

Intellectually tall:

I've been sheeshing non-stop ever since I read your post! I detect a smidgen of narcissism here.(hehe) Correct me if I'm right!

Madcap Machinist said...

well, since I can't resist puzzles, I've deciphered anna's name. Come on i.t., can't expect sharon to give u everything...

*hat tip to anna*

bibliobibuli said...

intellectually tall - glad you are after all sufficiently tall. i dunno her real name but i can malayise her blog name which may or may not be it.

actually once i identify people by their blog name i find it hard to think of them by any other. all i can remember about anna is that she was one in a group of young ladies who seemed much too glam for our rather bohemian readings that afternoon - but didn't get a chance to talk to her.

machinist - i get to meet you for the first time tonight haha

bibliobibuli said...

ms d - i bought "beasts of no nation", leon - i bought "so many ways to begin"

intellectually tall said...

ANNA, I shall go to the bookstore and get a russian dictionary or buy one of those silly little books of phrases to DECIPHER YOUR NAME

MACHINIST, you could save me a lot of trouble , time and energy by posting her name. haha

SHARON, your blog is excellent. People, from here and afar, Bipolar(me) or Bi, Bohemian or chic gravitate towards it. How many hits do you have in a day?

anna akhmatova said...

Machinist: Thanks already! Mr Intellectually Tall is "stalking" me I think hehe. He's rather intrigued by my literary predilections,

So you've deciphered my name huh. Thats quite impressive! Do keep it to yourself though!! ;)

bibliobibuli said...

intellectually tall - not so many hits - not like paul tan who get 20,000 hits a day blogging about cars

when the internet is working well and the posts are interesting i get 250-300 hits a day, fewer at weekends.

most of my blog readers are malaysian (70%) and klang valley people

the most number of hits a day i've had was 770 when i was "jeffooied"

thanks for the kind words, much appreciated. will keep up the entertainment - or try to anyway!