You don't have to understand the world. You just have to find your own way around in it. - Albert Einstein

Friday, 1 January 2016

Lady Demelza's Year in Books 2015

Hello dear readers. I'm very pleased to say that 2015 was a very good year in books for me. Especially through the autumn and winter, so many really excellent books passed through my hands. I must admit, Goodreads deserves some of the credit. Checking out their recommendations and 'other readers enjoyed' I've found a few precious ones I might otherwise never have heard of, such as The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North. Absolutely brilliant.

Each book title is linked to its page on Goodreads, so you can quickly see what kind of a book it is.

1. True Brews by Emma Christensen 2013
2. Mothers Grimm by Danielle Wood 2014
3. Awake in the Dream World: The Art of Audrey Niffenegger by Audrey Niffenegger et al 2013
4. Gypsy Boy by Mikey Walsh 2009
5. The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Eddie Campbell 2014
6. Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins 1971 (re-read)
7. Hollow City by Ransom Riggs 2014
8. The Submerged Cathedral by Charlotte Wood 2004
9. The Invisible Gorilla by Christopher Chabris & Daniel Simons 2010
10. The Autistic Brain by Temple Grandin & Richard Panek 2013
11. The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye by A.S. Byatt 1994
12. Coraline by Neil Gaiman 2002
13. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman 2008
14. Murder in the Dark by Margaret Atwood 1983
15. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks 1985
16. Dear Greenpeace by Simon James 1991
17. The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden, 1906/1971
18. Turtle Diary by Russell Hoban 1975
19. Sweet Poison by David Gillespie 2008
20. What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us by Laura van den Berg 2009
21. Mattress Actress by Annika Cleeve 2012
22. The Women in Black by Madeleine St. John 1993
23. The Goddess Companion by Patricia Monaghan 1999
24. The Surgeon of Crowthorne by Simon Winchester 1998
25. Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D. 1992 (re-read)
26. The End of Overeating by David A. Kessler 2009
27. The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby, English translation by Jeremy Leggatt 1997
28. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North 2014
29. The Runaway Brain by Christopher Wills 1993
30. The Hours by Michael Cunningham 1999
31. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood 1985
32. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein 1937
33. The Watch Tower by Elizabeth Harrow 1966
34. How to Cook a Galah by Laurel Evelyn Dyson 2002
35. Brain Bugs by Dean Buonomano 2011
36. The World Beneath by Cate Kennedy 2009
37. An Imaginary Life by David Malouf 1978
38. Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge 2014
39. Along the Enchanted Way by William Blacker 2009
40. A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge 2012
41. Forrest Gump by Winston Groom 1986
42. 12 Edmonstone Street by David Malouf 1985
43. Five Bells by Gail Jones 2011
44. Twilight Robbery by Frances Hardinge 2011
45. Love & Hunger by Charlotte Wood 2012
46. An Edible History of Humanity by Tom Standage 2009
47. Wired for Culture by Mark Pagel 2012
48. Trains and Lovers by Alexander McCall Smith
49. Moon Over Minneapolis by Fay Weldon 1991
50. The Dawn of Time by Ainslie Roberts & Charles P. Mountford 1969
51. The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing 1988
52. Verdigris Deep by Frances Hardinge 2007
53. Houndsley and Catina and the Quiet Time by James Howe 2008
54. The Language of the Goddess by Marija Gimbutas 1989

The best book I read this year was, without a doubt, The Submerged Cathedral by Charlotte Wood. It was a completely random find in an op shop. It caught my eye just because of the author's last name - I had been keeping an eye out for any books by Danielle Wood. I opened it up and read the three or four pages of the prologue, and I swooned. I felt a thrill running up and down my body. The visceral pleasure of the beauty of the words was just intoxicating. And it stayed that intensely marvellous all the way through. Once every page or so I would have to put the book down and just breathe and feel the astounding impact of the words on my brain and spirit. I didn't always like what was happening in the story. Some of the characters really pissed me off. But it didn't matter, it was a superlative jewel of a book.

Because this year contained so much high quality reading, I find myself unable to come up with a shortlist of other really good books. At least half the books in my list were amazing or excellent or some other superlative.

There were a few that took a considerable amount of skimming to get through, such as The Runaway Brain by Christopher Wills, but they all contained something I really wanted and  I was willing to wade through the dross to find it.

The crappiest book I read this year was Five Bells by Gail Jones. It started off promising. It described Circular Quay in Sydney, a place I'm very familiar with and fond of, from the points of view of two characters, one of whom was really happy, and one who was really depressed. I know that. I know how Circular Quay looks when I'm happy, and when I'm depressed. I loved how she captured the reality of there being different places in the same place, depending on one's perception filtered by mood. But then, nothing happened. Seriously, nothing. There was only one page which contained an event of any significance. I kept on, thinking surely, something must happen to bring it all together in the end, but no.

A special Crappy Book Mention goes to Forrest Gump by Winston Groom. This is an example of that incredibly rare thing, a movie that was better than the book it was based on. In this case, the movie is orders of magnitude better than the book. Watch the movie if you haven't seen it yet, but don't bother with the book.

I'm now up to about page 50 of the 1100+ page monster of a volume that is the seventh and final volume of the Obernewtyn Chronicles, The Red Queen by Isobelle Carmody. I waited impatiently for something like three or four years for her to get around to publishing it, and in that light, the time it will take me to get through it doesn't seem like so much.

I'm continually reinforcing and refining my strict rules about not wasting any time reading crappy books, so I'm looking forward to another fabulous year of books in 2016. There's so many out there.

You can also check out my Year in Books for 2014, 2013, or 2012.