Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Friday, December 18, 2009

My Favorite Reads 2009-Part 1-

One reason for doing a Best Reads of the Year posts is to kind of clarify things in our own mind and hopefully have something to look back on many years in the future.

  Part I of my post on this topic will be about the books I read from January 1 to July 6, 2009. My blog began on July 7,2009.   The lists are in order by publication date.

  1. Emma by Jane Austin  1816
  2. Old Goriot by  Balzac 1836-because his productivity is so huge I find reading him intimidating.  The standard cliche  is that he is the French Dickens and vice versa but this is probably an as taught to students dictum and it seems  to represent a shallow understanding of either writer.  
  3. Moby Dick by Herman Melville-1851-read this work with an open mind-forget that it was forced on you in a class room and you had to write a 20 page paper on what the white whale stood for!-just let the majestic prose go into your mind as you read it.
  4. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert-1857-often claimed to be the world's best novel.   It is an ice cold work of perfection but I prefer A Sentimental Education.
  5. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy 1869 -new trans 2007-don't let the size keep you away and don't worry about keeping all the characters straight as they will begin to stand out as you read.   
  6. The Bostonians by Henry James-1886-early James, has all the basic themes-a good first Henry James-
  7. The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald-1925-the last ten pages are simply stunning in the beauty of the writing.   There are annoying tics in the work but just ignore them. 
                                                 21th Century Top Reads

1.  Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano -trans 2006-read this before 2666 if you can
2.  2666 by Roberto Bolano  2008 trans.
3.  Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon-2006-I know this is long and not much read.

                                                       Non Fiction

1.  Queen Victoria by Christopher Hibbert-2000-good popular biography
2.  Alexandra:  The Last Tsarina-Carolyn Erickson-2001-a good easy to read bio
3.  Flaubert:  A Biography by Frederick Brown-2006-simply a great book
4.  The Last Mughal-The Fall of a Dynasty-1857-Delhi-William Dalrymple-reminded me of how little I really know of Indian History
5.  Waltzing the Dictator:   Marcos and the Making of US Foreign Policy  1987 -by Raymond Bonner-a brilliant book that explains in detail how the Marcoses were able to do what they did to the Philippines.   It explains this better than any other  source.    A good bit of the success of  Marcos came from the fact that, say whatever else you want about him and his wife, he was able to use the needs and the vanity of several American presidents (mainly Reagan) to obtain his ends.  Ronald Reagan and Nancy were pretty much putty in the hands of Imelda.   The Marcoses began to cultivate Reagan when he was governor of California.  

This post was inspired by a recent post on Wuthering Expectations on Best of  2009 Lists

Mel u


Amateur Reader (Tom) said...

Now there's a great list of books! Of the fiction, I've read all but the James and the two BolaƱo books. Someday for all three, I hope.

Spot on about Balzac and Dickens - they were responding to some similar social and literary changes (and to Walter Scott), but they're otherwise so different.

Suko said...

Wonderful list, Mel. I may come back to refer to it from time to time for ideas and inspiration.

Unknown said...

2666 was one of my favourite 2009 reads too. It is too late for me, as I haven't read Savage Detectives, but I'm curious as to why you suggest people read that first?