These questions were borrowed from Simon over at Savidge Reads. I like how they help me write down some qualitative ideas without necessarily making a list. I tried to do that and just kept fighting with myself. So here are some thoughts about all of the books I read this year.
Favourite book of 2009?
The Wings of the Dove by Henry James. This was actually an easier choice than I thought it would be, although it was a close tie with Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri and The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. James just does such an amazing job of getting inside people’s heads! This was probably one of my hardest reads of the year, but every minute was well worth it. The best non-fiction book was easily William James: In the Maelstrom of American Modernism.
The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez-Reverte. I loved the premise of this book. The book includes an antique copy of a Dumas book, some mysterious deaths, and bizarre characters. However, the ending of this book infuriated me to the point that I specifically sent some emails to friends warning them not to read this book.
Any that you simply couldn’t finish and why?
It’s sometimes hard to remember, but so far there are The Brothers Karamazov and The Name of the Rose. I definitely expect to finish those in the first few months of next year. There was also a nonfiction book that is going on its third year in my “currently reading” stack: The Secret Life of Words. It’s just slow going. I may or may not finish that one anytime soon. Of course, there’s also The Count of Monte Cristo, by Dumas, but that’s entirely due to an incident involving a water bottle that I really don’t want to talk about.
Oldest book read?
Virgil’s Aeneid. One of the most beautiful books I read all year, and would have made my top five list if it weren’t for a couple of chapters toward the end that were too war-filled for my taste.
The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood. I loved it. I usually pre-order any new Atwood books scheduled to be published.
Longest and shortest book titles?
The longest is Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling; the shortest is No Name by Wilkie Collins. I didn’t count subtitles or letters after colons.
Longest and shortest books?
This is sort of hard to do without LibraryThing, but my best guess would be that this longest is The Wings of the Dove at 711 pages. The shortest is probably a tie between the two novellas that I read: The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett and The Lifted Veil by George Eliot. The Eliot book is about 70 pages.
How many books from the library?
None, although I did borrow one from my mom. I have a thing about owning the books I read.
Any translated books?
Only a few; much less than last year. One was the aforementioned The Club Dumas. Another was of course The Aeneid. The two others were both by Emile Zola: The Masterpiece and Nana.
Most read author of the year, and how many books by that author?
This was a tie of six books each by Georgette Heyer and Jacqueline Winspear.
Only one, Oryx and Crake, in preparation for the release of The Year of the Flood.
Favourite character of the year?
This is tough. First of all, I adore Maisie Dobbs because for some odd reason I identify with her strongly. However, I also laughed the most at two of the characters in The Moonstone: Miss Clack, with her hilarious lack of self-awareness and her tendency to “lose” religious tracts so that others may find them, and Mr Betteredge, one of the most quintessential British butlers ever written who uses Robinson Crusoe as his guide to life. I also really grew to care for the title character in David Copperfield. A couple of other books had great characters in general, even though a particular one doesn’t stand out for me at the moment: A Room with a View (definitely one of my favorites this year) and The Wings of the Dove.
Which countries did you go to through the page in your year of reading?
This might be my favorite question, even though my answer may be paltry. America, Great Britain, Ireland, Spain, France, Austria (!), Romania, Bulgaria (those two thanks to Dracula), Italy, India. Next year I must get Africa in there. And I don’t know how Russia got left out. I must have out-Russianed myself in 2008.
Which book wouldn’t you have read without someone’s specific recommendation?
Cotillion, by Georgette Heyer, and thus the rest of the Heyer books. These came recommended by a whole host of people, but my coworker Amanda was the one who literally took me into the store and put this book in my hands.
Which author was new to you in 2009 that you now want to read the entire works of?
This will be a long list. Heyer, as mentioned above. Lahiri; I can’t believe I waited this long to read her. Wilkie Collins. E.M. Forster–Howard’s End is my February book club pick, so I’m on my way there. Du Maurier. Kazuo Ishiguro, even though technically the first book I read by him was my last book completed in 2008, it feels like I discovered him this year.
Which books are you annoyed you didn’t read?
Oh so many. I wish I had finished The Brothers Karamazov. I wish that I had read Wolf Hall and Brooklyn–two books published this year that everyone is raving about but that I haven’t bought yet. I wanted to read Little Dorrit before watching the miniseries, but I didn’t, so now both are waiting for me. I bought The Way We Live Now, and of course now I’m worried that it will be more like The Way We Lived Last Year. Hopefully not.
Did you read any books you have always been meaning to read?
Yes! The Sound and the Fury, which I got through with the help of a friend reading it concurrently. David Copperfield and The Wings of the Dove were two big books that I’d had on my shelf for ages. All three of these lived up to their expectations.