After a long Victorianesque illness complete with two bouts of influenza and fairly deathly lingering plague symptoms in-between, I have decided to launch the new year in blogging with a look back at what I read in 2010.
I started keeping a log of every book I read in full back in 2006, and I must say that when the alien archaeologists eventually discover the little red silk book, it shall be a truly fascinating read, I am sure.
But seriously, I think it would be a rather interesting exercise to exchange a year’s worth of reading with a friend or colleague, since what one chooses to read it personal, yet not weird to share.
Think about it.
So I am going to proceed chronologically with my list (my last entry noted just in time on December 30th) and then pick out the top five that I recommend you take a look at in your new year.
- The Notorious Mrs. Winston, Mary Mackey
- When You Lunch with the Emperor, Ludwig Bemelmans (Yes, the man responsible for the “Madeleine” books also wrote short story memoirs.)
- Getting Stoned with Savages: A Trip Through the Islands of Fiji and Vanuatu, J.Maarten Troost
- Pirate Hunter: The True Story of Captain Kidd, Richard Zacks
- Twilight, Stephenie Meyer
- The Bad Beginning, Lemony Snicket
- The Reptile Room, Lemony Snicket
- Eclipse, Stephenie Meyer
- The Island of Doctor Moreau, H.G. Wells
- The Wide Window, Lemony Snicket
- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson
- The Girl Who Played with Fire, Stieg Larsson
- The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, Stieg Larsson
- Les Misérables, Victor Hugo
- These Happy Golden Years, Laura Ingalls Wilder
- Barmy in Wonderland, P.G. Wodehouse
- The First Four Years, Laura Ingalls Wilder
- The Adventures of Elizabeth in Rugen, Elizabeth Von Arnim
- Rumo and His Miraculous Adventures, Walter Moers
- 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Jules Verne
- Walking the Bible: A Journey by Land Through the Five Books of Moses, Bruce Feiler
- Murder in Mesopotamia, Agatha Christie
- Mr. Parker Pyne, Detective, Agatha Christie
- Elephants Can Remember, Agatha Christie
- Towards Zero, Agatha Christie
- Cards on the Table, Agatha Christie
- Hickory, Dickory, Death, Agatha Christie
- Witness for the Prosecution (a play), Agatha Christie
- Thirteen at Dinner, Agatha Christie
- Easy to Kill, Agatha Christie
- They Came to Baghdad, Agatha Christie
- The Man in the Brown Suit, Agatha Christie
- Dead Man’s Folly, Agatha Christie
- The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde
- The Lady Elizabeth, Alison Weir
- Harry Potter à l’Ecole des Sorciers, J.K. Rowling
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, J.K. Rowling
- Harry Potter et le Prisonier d’Azkaban, J.K. Rowling
- The Scarlet Pimpernel, Baroness Orczy
- Through the Looking-glass, Lewis Carroll
- Why Shoot a Butler?, Georgette Heyer
So now you know that I have a marked weakness for “Golden Age” mystery (particularly the myriad of Agatha Christie novels available for a dollar at my local used-bookstore); I like to re-read childhood favorites by the likes of Lewis Carroll and Laura Ingalls Wilder from time to time; I highly recommend keeping foreign language skills honed by re-reading some of those favorites in the tongue of your choice (the Harry Potter books even come in Latin for the classic scholars out there); I have an interest in nineteenth-century classics; and lastly, every once in a while I pick up a popular (occasionally awful) book from Target.
That’s five whole new things you know about the author of Words to Bumble.
Five recommendations from my year in reading?
- Getting Stoned with Savages by J. Maarten Troost is a truly hilarious and eye-opening piece of travel lit. I recently became a big fan of travel writing; his is great for vacation reading especially—it is often laugh-out-loud hysterical. I recommend reading his first book (The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific) before you dive into this second effort. It’s a part of the world that I had not considered much aside from seeing South Pacific at Lincoln Center (go for the lighting, stay for the on-stage plumbing) and now I know all about atolls.
- Walking the Bible by acclaimed travel writer Bruce Feiler is a fascinating journey through the some of the most volatile locales in the world, during which he meets and travels with biblical scholars, theologians of the three Abrahamic faiths, archaeologists, bedouins, monks, desert specialists, curators and everyday people who make their homes in the landscape of the bible. It is an absolutely enthralling look at the melding of faiths, cultures, history, politics and day-to-day life in the region. By no means does one have to be religious to find it an absorbing read. I have been raving about Walking the Bible since I read the first chapter. I do not tend to rave to people about the books I read. Just so you know.
- I think books like Jules Verne’s 1869 20,000 League Under the Sea get a lot of undue flack. They are made into awful dumbed-down action-y movies like the recent Journey to the Center of the Earth starring Brendan Fraser, and relegated to the children’s section at bookstores. Let me just say Verne’s exploration-era science fiction was not written solely for twelve-year-old boys; the science aspects were well-researched and thought-out, stemming from the wonder of Victorian-era scientific exploration. I am just saying. Consider it. The book is high on adventure and the exploration of a new world under the sea, the visuals conjured by Verne are stunning and if you must, you can always skim through the parts that are lengthy Linnaean catalogues of aquatic life. Just saying.
- Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series was, of course, a highlight of the year’s reading. I picked them up on sale at Target and devoured the three within about 2.5 weeks. I am sure that most people are quite inundated with information on the series and late author. All I have to say is that I rarely read what “everyone is talking about” at the moment, but this time I did and I have to say it was worth the conformity (unlike reading Twilight which is not worth anything, frankly).
- Lastly, Pirate Hunter by Richard Zacks is one of those rare specimens of meticulously researched “popular” history that read like a novel but leave the reader with no doubt as to the depth of footnote-able research compiled by Zacks. It traces Kidd’s voyage from Dutch New York to the Indian Ocean, the Caribbean, back home and then to London for a pirate’s trial. I knew nothing about Kidd coming into the thing and was surprised to learn that his apparently legal authorization to hunt pirates was soon mired in charges of piracy leveled against himself. Yay fun history!