At the close of each year for the past several years, the blog TheMillions has published the lists of books read by a wide variety of people whom they invite to share their year's readings. In that spirit, here are the books I read this year (and I don't pretend that these are by any means high-brow but, for the most part, they are good entertainment).
It is difficult to place one book over another as best or worst (or lesser best); however, I especially enjoyed the Le Carre, Furst, Winslow and Mankell books this year. For LeCarre, the book was very much a return to form even though I was appalled by the ending even though I should have seen it coming. Appalling was what he was after, I think. Alan Furst (with Pellecanos and Kerr) is an author whose new work I look forward to reading each year and this book was no different from its excellent predecessors. Don Winslow has written a sequel to the early 1980s book Shibumi and he gets it almost note perfect. And lastly, the Mankell title which I had purchased for MrsPND (who also liked it) had quite a gory start but the story was entertaining. Having said that, the Swedes are a little wordy. Must be the long winters.
The biggest surprise was the current book, which I aim to finish by year end: The Decline & Fall of the British Empire. There's no sugar coating the history here and Brendon takes the lid off the ineptitude, callousness and brutality of the British empire. Not revisionist history but perhaps more realistic. I don't get given a lot of books (this was true even when I ran Bowker), but on a visit to the publisher Public Affairs a few years ago I had the run of their stock room and picked up Diamonds, Gold, and War about South Africa, which was an excellent early 20th century history of the country. I was less impressed with Meacham's Jackson book and didn't find it particularly deep or insightful. It was hugely successful so perhaps that's just me.
Lastly, the book I most enjoyed this year was Portnoy's Complaint which I thought I had read but hadn't. In October, on a visit to the family manse, I picked it off the shelf and read it almost straight through in a sitting. There aren't too many books that make me laugh out loud but this was one of them.
The number of books read in 2010 was consistent with the past four or five years - which I know because I keep track of them in librarything.com. Already on my to-read shelf (in hardcover) I have 17 titles plus the half of Ulysses that I haven't read. Happy reading.
The Decline and Fall of the British Empire, 1781-1997, Piers Brendon
Too Close to Home: A Thriller, Linwood Barclay
The Collaborator, Gerald Seymour
Ogilvy on Advertising, David Ogilvy
Our Kind of Traitor: A Novel, John le Carre
Portnoy's complaint, Philip Roth
The Man from Beijing, Henning Mankell
Moonlight Mile (Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro), Dennis Lehane
Spies of the Balkans: A Novel, Alan Furst
Ultimatum, Matthew Glass
The Midnight House, Alex Berenson
Diamonds, Gold, and War: The British, the Boers, and the Making of South Africa, Martin Meredith
Lustrum: A Novel, Robert Harris
Ulysses, James Joyce (I am still working on this one).
The Ghost War, Alex Berenson
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, Stieg Larsson
Rogue Island, Bruce DeSilva
Satori, Don Winslow
Wicked City, Ace Atkins
If the Dead Rise Not (Bernie Gunther), Philip Kerr,
The Godfather of Kathmandu, John Burdett
American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House, Jon Meacham
John, Cynthia Lennon
Homer & Langley: A Novel, E.L. Doctorow
The Dead of Winter, Rennie Airth
The Way Home, George Pelecanos
The Given Day: A Novel, Dennis Lehane