Saturday, January 09, 2010


This is a quick summary of books I read in December. I started the month with 23 books to go if I wanted to read more books than last year. Needless to say, I did not make it. I read 15 books which is pretty good. Some of these books have already been posted as reviews on the blog but I am listing them anyway. Sorry, no pictures today.

The Mystic Masseur, by V S Naipaul comes from my reading list for 1957. It was the first book I have read by this author and introduced me to life as an Indian immigrant in Trinidad. Quite enjoyable.

The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman. I had been meaning to read it all year. It won the Newbery Medal and is great!

Her Fearful Symmetry, by Audrey Niffenegger, is her follow up to The Time Traveler's Wife. One of my favorite books of the year. A love story with a ghost.

I read a complete series of books by Richard Peck, who has won the Newbery Medal and writes for ages 8-12. The three books all center around a small Illinois town and a highly unique woman known as Grandma Dowdel. In order they are: A Long Way From Chicago, A Year Down Yonder and A Season of Gifts. The first one was the best. I am not sure kids today would like them but I've never met a kid who has read even one of them, so I couldn't ask.

Desert by J M G LeClezio, Nobel Prize for Literature winner in 2008, was the most powerful book I read all year. It was written in 1980 but just translated into English in 2009. It concerns the clash between natives of Africa and European settlers and businessmen, from the viewpoint of the natives. Just devastating.

Falcons of Narabedla by Marion Zimmer Bradley, also from my 1957 list, is the first novel she ever published and is fantasy. A electrical engineer finds himself in another world, inhabiting another man's body and entangled in that world's troubles. Not great, but you can tell that her greatness is coming.

Blue Camellia, by Frances Parkinson Keyes was #5 on the 1957 bestseller list. It is historical fiction about a farming family from Illinois who moved to Louisiana and became successful rice growers. I have read a bunch of her books and this was one of the best.

Another author of historical fiction whose books are on many bestseller lists from the 1940s and 1950s is Thomas B Costain. In 1957 he took the #9 spot with Below the Salt, set in England just after the Norman conquest. It tells the story of how the Magna Charta came into being. Also very good.

To Siberia, by Per Petterson is an earlier novel to his award winning Out Stealing Horses. It is a coming of age story about a girl and her brother in pre-WWII Norway. Not a happy story, it was always cold and not as good as Out Stealing Horses but also not at all bad. He is just a very fine writer.

In the Bookie Babes reading group, we always read a Christmas themed book in December. This year it was The Christmas Cookie Killer, by Livia J Washburn. This is what you call a "cozy" and the best part was the cookie and holiday recipes at the back of the book. Though I must say, I did not figure out who the killer was until almost the end.

A Tree is Nice, by Janice Udry, won the Caldecott Medal for illustrations in 1957. If you love trees, as I do, go to the children's section of your library and read this book. It is simply wonderful.

The Geometry of God, by Uzma Aslan Khan is a story of modern Pakistan, two incredible sisters and their rebellious scientist grandfather, living through the fundamentalism of General Zia, the American supported dictator. This novel is just now being released in the US, but I got to read and review it for The review comes out next week. It is an incredibly good novel and also went on my top favorite list.

On the Monday and Tuesday after Christmas, I went to Temecula, CA with two girlfriends for a wine-tasting tour. So decadent to drink wine all afternoon. But we also visited the Paperback Shack, a used bookstore, where I picked up (among others) two mysteries by John Dunning. Cliff Janeway starts out as a Denver homicide detective buts ends up owning the kind of bookstore that specializes in rare books and first editions, in Booked to Die, his first in the series. Fabulous for book lovers, with all the references to literature and inside scoops on the bookstore business. So that is how I ended my reading year for 2009.

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