Wednesday, January 13, 2010

And the first book of 2010 is The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill. This is the book that won Canada Reads in 2009. It tells the tale of
Aminata Diallo, an 11-year-old child, is taken from her village in West Africa and forced to walk for months to the sea and cross the Atlantic where she is sold as a slave in South Carolina. Her life is torn asunder and becomes a matter of survival, but she is bright and a trained mid-wife, and these skills serve her well. Years later, she finds freedom, serving the British in the American Revolutionary War and having her name entered in the historic "Book of Negroes." This book, an actual historical document, is an archive of freed Loyalist slaves who requested permission to leave the United States in order to resettle in Nova Scotia.

It's a tough book to read. Deservedly so though. The sheer amount of suffering and horror the slaves who were stolen from Africa went through is tough to imagine. Actually, I admit, I don't want to imagine it, but Hill spells it out in stark terms, you can't look away from what he's describing. it's hard to read about the filth and the sickness and the degredation and the rape and the children that Aminata had taken away from her. But that would've been par for the course, and even though this is a fictionalized account of a slave's life, you know it's not really fiction at all.

But there is a strange amount of hope in this book. As I said, Aminata is clever, she learns to read and this helps her raise her station in life, even though society makes it very difficult for her to do so.

The ending could be considered a little trite, but upon considering all the hardships and horror Aminata had to face during her life, it was nice there was a happy ending.

This book goes well with Bury the Chains, the account of the abolishionist movement in England that Aminata eventually gets herself mixed up in. They are both books that need to be read.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Here we are, January 1, 2010, so time to sum up another year's worth of reading. Despite thinking that I wasn't going to be able to read much once the baby arrived in July, it seems the opposite happened and I was able to read more books than I did last year. I'm still nowhere near the elusive 50 books in a year mark, but I did manage 33 all told, and I'm pretty happy with that number. Living very near a library has helped as I've been able to just grab things I've thought looked interesting in the past, but not enough that I'd spend the money on them. I've forgotten how much I like libraries.

So what did I read? The list is as follows:

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Will in the World by Stephen Greenblatt
Wicked by Gregory Maguire
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maughm
Speaks the Nightbird by Robert McCammon
Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
The Sound of No Hands Clapping by Toby Young
The Smartest Guys in the Room by Bethany McLean
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel by Susannah Clarke
Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde
Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde
Last King of Scotland by Giles Foden
How to Lose Friends and Alienate People by Toby Young
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Mad Kestrel by Misty Massey
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
The Book of Mordred by Vivian Vende Velde
Firethorn by Sarah Micklen
The Nanny Diaries by Nicola Kraus and Emma McLaughlin
Twilight by Stephanie Meyers
The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold
Sick Puppy by Carl Hiaasen
Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett
Thank You for Smoking by Christopher Buckley
In the Wake of the Plague by Norman F. Cantor
The Uses and Abuses of History by Margaret Macmillian
Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro
Peter and Max by Bill Willingham
Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine by Harold Bloom

Looking back on this, I didn't read anywhere near as much new fantasy as I usually do, with really only a few counting towards that (Thief of Time, Mad Kestrel, Peter and Max, The Book of Mordred and Firethorn). However, one of them, Firethorn, was undoubtedly the worst book I read this year, with a boring plot and thoroughly unlikeable main characters.

I read a lot more 'popular' works than I usually do, such bestsellers as The Time Traveller's Wife, The Lovely Bones and yes, Twilight. Twilight was the worst written book of the year, it is such drivel that I can scarce understand why it is so popular.

Another trend of mine this year seemed to be industry tell all books, reading the likes of Toby Young's two 'memoirs', Anthony Bourdain's chef-tell-all and The Nanny Diaries.

My favourite book this year? I have to go back to the beginning and go with The Thirteenth Tale. An astounding piece of work that feels like a throwback to old Gothic-style ghost stories, as well as being a love letter to reading. I've been resoundingly recommending it.

So there we have it, my 2009 in books. I've already started my first book for 2010 and maybe this will be the year that I finally break 50 books. But as I'm going to be working hard on finally finishing writing a book of my own, well... maybe not.