Tuesday, January 01, 2008

2007 in Reading

Trying to assign bestness to great books is really very hard when they give you such different experiences.

But drumrolls please, for it's time for the Bibs awards for 2007. In a year of solidly reading good stuff, which books made the biggest impression on me?

Okay, first the nominees (with links to my reviews or previous posts):

Am so glad I made it through the Booker shortlist, even if not entirely the longlist. Ian McEwan's On Chesil Beach, Anne Enright's The Gathering, Nicola Barker's Darkmans, Indra Sinha's Animal's People and Lloyd Jones Mr. Pip I thought were all very worthy contenders. Enright, yes, deserved her win.

I interviewed Canadian author Camilla Gibb when she came to the KL Literary festival in March which meant reading all her novels in rapid succession. (Not an arduous task at all!) Sweetness in the Belly, was for me is one of the most powerful and moving books of the year.

I wimped out a bit on the TBR challenge I blithely undertook at the beginning of the year and managed only 3 of the 12 books on my list. (I am finding that between me and the books I really want to read, there are a whole lot of books I have to read for reviews and articles and because a friend has written them.) But the three books I did read, Pascali's Island by Barry Unsworth, Money by Martin Amis and William Boyd's Brazzaville Beach were all excellent.

(These are of course books I should have tackled before, but I isolated myself in Nigeria and small town Malaysia in the 1980's and have big gaps in my reading. But I'm kicking myself - how could I have not read any William Boyd before?)

In 2007 Malaysian writing in English proved itself world class once again, with Tan Twan Eng's The Gift of Rain - a book I both loved and felt extremely proud of on the Booker longlist.

At home Kam Raslan with his Confessions of an Old Boy showed us all that not only can local fiction be of an excellent standard, but that it can also hit best seller lists. (I feel like cheering very very loudly at this point, but will restrain myself and just say more please, Kam!)

The other publication of local fiction I want to cheer for is Silverfish New Writing 6, in which the standard of the stories, many of them by first time writers, was very high indeed thanks to editor Dipika Mukherjee who made excellent choices.

My favourite non-fiction read by far was Alan Weisman's The World Without Us which imagines what would happen to planet Earth if all the human beings were just spirited off elsewhere. It was a real page-turner. I also really enjoyed Daniel Gilbert's Stumbling on Happiness which, like all good popular science books was authoritative and extremely readable even for a non-scientist like me.

The local non-fiction I enjoyed most was Awang Goneng's gentle memoir Growing Up in Trengganu, followed by Dina Zaman's I Am Muslim and Antares' Tanah Tujuh.

My favourite coffee-table book was Malaysians by Steven V. Lee and Haliza Hashim-Doyle. (There are probably others I would love just as much but haven't managed to buy yet!)

Another drumroll please as I open the envelope:

And the 2007 Golden Bibs award goes to ...... The Road!

I can't get Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalyptic (and post-apostrophic?) novel out of my head. The vision of the last remaining love and tenderness in a destroyed world still haunts me, and it should be compulsory reading for every world leader.

So what books knocked your socks off in 2007, and which would you give your award to?

Incidentally, I very much enjoyed reading this best of 2007 books post on Eyeris' blog.


Anonymous said...

Oh I'm embarassed to say I've read far fewer books in 2007 than any year before this. It's nice to note that my favourite reads of the year are also local ones --- Kam Raslan's Confessions of an Old Boy, Dina Zaman's I Am Muslim and Antares' Tanah Tujuh.

Next up is to hit Tan Twan Eng and Awang Goneng's books. (I know, I'm soooo behind the times...)

GUO SHAO-HUA said...

i believe in lists of "favourites", not "best of."

Favourite suspense: No Country For Old Men

Favourite non-fiction: Imperial Life In The Emerald City, The Fight

Favourite satire: Sirens Of Titan and Slaughterhouse Five

Favourite graphic novel: Moon Knight - The Bottom

Surprise discovery: Dan Simmons

Favourite book I haven't read but have seen the movie adaptation of: Atonement

Dave King said...

I would not like to presume to apportion bestness in any sphere of the arts, but the three books I most enjoyed in 2007 were: Leonard o Da Vinci (no, not that one!) by Charles Nicholl, Will Self's Book of Dave and Miranda July's collection No One Belongs Here More Than You. I'm not sure that any of them were great, but I enjoyed them. Among the poetry contenders I would pick out Mimi Khalvati's The Meanest Flower.

bibliobibuli said...

yes, actually i agree with both of you - "bestness" is a bit of a daft measure. can't say i enjoyed the mccarthy most though, only that it affected me most.

kenny - you've had a very busy year though, so no need to beat yourself up. you have some good stuff to look forward to.

guo - i want to read "imperial life in the emerald city" and hop i can find a copy here. where did you get yours?

dave - very nice to meet you. i dropped by your blog and really like it. thanks for the nudge about the miranda july collection which i also need to go buy. better get my shopping list written!

starlight said...

i read more in 2007 than i did the previous year! my top three favourite picks were Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (i raved about it to so many people, 10 of them bought the book and loved it too), Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb (so intensely insightful) and A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon (i love his wicked eye for human behaviour).

GUO SHAO-HUA said...

i can give you my copy. i'm finishing it either tonite or tomorrow.

kamal s said...

My Top 10 readings:
1) Tree of Smoke - Denis Johnson
2) Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA - Tim Weiner
3) The Road - Cormac McCarthy
4) Varieties of Disturbance - Lydia Davis
5) After This - Alice McDermott
6) The Emperor's Children - Claire Messud
7) Everyman - Philip Roth
8) The Book of Daniel - E.L. Doctorow
9) The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - Junot Diaz
10) What is the What - Dave Eggers

Okay, so some books mentioned above are not really 2007 release, but I did have the fondest memories of curling up with these babies.

I've promised a review of Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson earlier, but right after I've finished the book, I don't know where to start. The book is so spellbinding and majestic, I decided to let my fellow readers to discover it at their own will. Get the book. Oh yeah, Malaysia made its comical cameo in the last chapter, 1983. Sharon, I may lend you the book if you want to, with *conditions* of course. Only you can influence people to get the book. (But I have to make sure you like and love it in the first place).

My TBR list for 2008:
The Poisonwood Bible - Barbara Kingsolver
Paris Trout - Pete Dexter
Child of God - Cormac McCarthy
Gone with the Wind - Margaret Mitchell *blush*
Paradise - Toni Morrison (I gave this one up after the first 15 pages 10 years ago, when I was a college junior. Now that I've grown "wiser", I'll make a second attempt)

Enough of rambling. Happy New Year, Sharon!

bibliobibuli said...

kamal - i have "tree of smoke" already! gosh you have a lot of good american reads on that list. you will enjoy "the poisonwood bible" i'm sure, it's a firm favourite of mine

guo - would love to borrow it but i have a stack to be read stuff first ...

starlight - i need to pick up that "eat, pray, love" then

Bailey said...

mmph....i read fewer books too.

let me see, my pick would be The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The Great Swifty said...

Don't think I've actually read a 2007 book last year. But if I have to name my fave book I read in 2007, I'll pick...

GHOSTWRITTEN by David Mitchell

Loved it.

Don't think I read that much this year compared to before. (I got lazier, or maybe busier... dunno which) Can actually list them all out right now.

AFTER DARK by Haruki Murakami (a rare Murakami book that I like, maybe he's better when he doesn't give in to overindulgence)

CRYPTONOMICON by Neal Stephenson (spent months reading this, I think it's all right, but I prefer Snow Crash)

MYSTERIOUS FLAME OF QUEEN LOANA by Umberto Eco (it's a good read, but the prose gives me headaches, can be rather overbaked sometimes.)

SUN ALSO RISES by Ernest Hemingway (I read this when taking a break from Queen Loana. I like it, Jake's plight with Brett Ashley hits too close to home, kickass ending)

Currently finishing up Number9dreams by David Mitchell, guy's becoming one of my fave writers.

The Great Swifty said...

Oops, I meant to say, i don't think I read that much in 2007 compared to 2006.