Friday, December 31, 2010

Final book reviews of the year!

I believe that one of my random 'goals' for 2010 was to read more. While it's uncertain that I read more than in 2009, I will say that I read some very high-quality books, in addition to a few totally crappy quick reads. I won't mention the crappy reads, which I consider to be junk food for the brain that normally come out during long airplane trips or family visits. I did finish strong, so I'll give myself credit for that.
The most recent reads are:

Americans in Paris by Charles Glass.

My uncle recommended this book to me, and I'm not much of a history buff, don't spend hours watching the History Channel, but this sounded fascinating. It's about the American community that lived in Paris during the Nazi occupation. There were moments of great sacrifice and selfishness, heroism and treachery. All in all, a very interesting book. It did take me months (literally) to finish it - I think that I started it in October and finally finished it up over Christmas break. Shew!

Then came a quick read: The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman.

This book was SO GOOD. I know that I've said that about a multitude of books this year (okay, a handful, the handful that I've read), but seriously, there was so much to like about it. Funny at times, devastating yet restrained at other, it seemed to reflect the entire range of human emotions and experiences in it's slim 200+ pages. I loved the structure, which made it not seem like a novel in some ways, more like stories connected, but then very much novelistic in others. And the end? I cried. I was so sad that it ended. Very few books that I've recently read pulled my emotional cord, and this one did, but without manipulating or contriving. It was a brilliant, funny, sad book.

Finally, I, Claudius by Robert Graves.

I read this book years and years ago and very much enjoyed it then. Michael and I have been watching the HBO series Rome, so I gave this book to Michael for his birthday. He took it with us to Colorado, and I ended up reading it on trip back. It is filled with intrigue, politics, war, perversion... All of those fun aspects of the Roman Empire that historical fiction can bring to light. Graves slyly plays with history, fiction and narrative, and he writes quite well too. I've now sworn to Michael that I won't read Claudius the God until he reads this one. We'll see if I keep my promise!

Just to recap a few old favorites that I read this year:
The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead - Definitely one of the most original novels that I've read in recent years.
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clark - Billed as "Harry Potter for adults", it's actually much, much more. A fun, wonderful read.
Travels with my Aunt and The Quiet American by Graham Greene - Both are REALLY well-written books that seem to catalogue a different era and generation, and the melancholy and nostalgia of growing old. Mixing in politics and intrigue, they make for satisfying reading.
Next on the list: Some Mario Vargas Llosa. I have a book in Spanish and one in English, so I'll work through both of them in the new year and refresh my Vargas Llosa base. I'd also like to read Italo Calvino's If on a Winter's Night a Traveler which looks marvelous.


Anonymous said...

I have heard really good things about "Americans in Paris" and it's on my list of things to read. And thanks for the recommendation of "The Imperfectionists!" I will be checking that out as well.

Too many books, too little time!

Kristina said...

It's always like that! I end every year regretting that I didn't read more. Ah well, there is always next year!