Friday, December 31, 2010

Books of the Year 2010

Some Ibooknet sellers give a run down of their best reads of the year:

Best reads of the year from Philip of Lund Theological Books

How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in one question and twenty attempts at an answer. Sarah Bakewell 978-0701178925 Chatto & Windus 2010

I love Montaigne's Essays, and this book fills in a lot of background, historical and philosophical.

A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years. Diarmaid MacCulloch Allen Lane 2009 978-0713998696

Magisterial and enjoyable, but too big for the bath.

Mistress Masham's Repose. T H White

Lovely sequel to Swift's tale of Gulliver in Lilliput. Set in Northamptonshire. Originally published in the 1960s I think.

Snow Crash. Neal Stephenson

Published around 1992, this science fiction novel set in a disfunctioning near future in the USA foretells all sorts of developments which have come to pass in the cyberworld of our time, and some which have almost done so. I was bowled over by this author, and have another of his books lined up to read in the new year. A rattling good read.

The Bible: The Biography. Karen Armstrong 2007 1-84354-396-6

Armstrong is the best populariser of religious thought I know of today. Despite my having two degrees in theology I learnt an awful lot from this well-written book.

The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It. Paul Collier. Oxford UP 2008

The title says it all, but this book has won prizes for its concise analysis of the problems of the poorest countries and its suggested remedies. Quite short, and very readable.

Simon of Simon French Books also discusses books for the bath:

I had a summer of reading post-apocalyptic/catastrophe novels. I particularly liked Walter M. Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz, George R. Stewart's Earth Abides and Nevil Shute's On the Beach (although this last was a bit depressing even for this genre!). The pick of the bunch was Justin Cronin's The Passage. It's a hefty book at some 750 pages, so again, not one for the bath, but it is the first book for a long time that I've been so engrossed by that a couple of hours solid reading has passed in a flash. One can see the influence of Earth Abides in it and it bears a comparison to (and possibly even surpasses) Stephen King's The Stand. So good was it that when I finished it, I was sorely tempted to start it again.

For some light holiday reading (and having just seen the tv show) I'm rereading Douglas Adams's Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. Now there's a bath-time book!

Rather less apocalyptic was Barbara of March House Books' choice:

The Little Round House by Marion St. John Webb
(1956 edition with illustrations by Jean Walmsley Heap). I’ve sold lots of copies over the years and decided it was time to read it! Children’s story about an ordinary (or extraordinary!) pillar-box and the adventures of Mr. Papingay, the home-made fairy, Mrs. Tupp and all the rest of them.

Notes from An Exhibition by Patrick Gale. Rachel Kelly is an artist full of creative highs and crippling lows she’s also something of an enigma to her husband and four children. So when she is found dead in her Penzance Studio, leaving behind some extraordinary new paintings, there’s a painful need for answers.

Passing for Normal: Tourette’s OCD and growing up crazy by Amy Wilensky – memoir of a young woman’s struggle to come to terms with a life plagued by irrational behaviour.

The Life and Works of Alfred Bestall illustrator of Rupert Bear by Caroline G Bott – more for dipping into when time allows but an interesting read none the less.

Nigel from Bagot Books was able to narrow his choice down to just one interesting volume:

My favourite book of 2010 must be Peter Orlando Hutchinson's
Diary of a Devon Antiquary 1871-1894
It is the second volume of a selection from his journals, illustrated with
his own watercolours and sketches: volume one was published ten years ago so
I was pleased to read v.2 at last. He's best-remembered as an antiquary and water colourist, but took an interest in anything novel or unusual,
including geology, astronomy, meteorology, the Enclosures, new railways,
etc; in his later years he became an archaeologist rather than an antiquary,
recording and illustrating discoveries in their context, rather than just
collecting them. He was kind to animals, helpful to people less fortunate
than himself, he played the French horn and flute, and he was delightfully
eccentric. He had a cannon which had been captured from pirates, and would
wheel it round Sidmouth in the 1850s firing it; and at the age of 64, while
on a picnic with four friends, he surreptitiously put on a false nose and a
pair of large goggle-eyed spectacles 'much to the amusement of the ladies'.
He spent a lot of his later life building a new house out of bits of old
churches - the result wasn't very comfortable, but it's still there in

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