Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My Year in Reading 2011

As I have on prior years, I've followed the lead of The Millions and thought about the books I read this year. In terms of quantity 2011 was a slower year for me mainly because I slogged through a book that had remained on my shelf unread for 10 years or so.  This was Q by "Luther Blissett" a novel about the insurgencies and guerrilla warfare that followed Martin Luther's declarations in the 1500's.  It was a dense novel and one of those that would have been better drunk in several long sessions rather than piece meal prior to falling asleep in bed.  Nevertheless, while I found it a difficult read I still think about it and coincidentally an article in the year end Economist last week wouldn't have interested me at all if I hadn't read Q.  The Economist article suggested that social networking as we know it today was similarly prevalent in the Reformation driven by easy access to printing technology.
"Scholars have long debated the relative importance of printed media, oral transmission and images in rallying popular support for the Reformation. Some have championed the central role of printing, a relatively new technology at the time. Opponents of this view emphasise the importance of preaching and other forms of oral transmission. More recently historians have highlighted the role of media as a means of social signalling and co-ordinating public opinion in the Reformation.
Now the internet offers a new perspective on this long-running debate, namely that the important factor was not the printing press itself (which had been around since the 1450s), but the wider system of media sharing along social networks—what is called “social media” today. Luther, like the Arab revolutionaries, grasped the dynamics of this new media environment very quickly, and saw how it could spread his message."
Another slower read was also a book that sat on my shelf for a while was the Claire Tomalin bio of Samuel Pepys.  She's a vibrant and interesting writer and I'm looking forward to reading her bio of Dickens.

As I mentioned above, 2011 was a down year in terms of volume:  My total this year was only 19 books against 27 in 2010, 22 in 2009, 17 in 2008 and 25 in 2007.  It has been my desire over the past five years or so (and it has taken me that long) to clear out as many of my unread books as possible.  I am happy to say that I've done very well at that task.

The book I most enjoyed this year was The Northern Clemency which wasn't technically on my shelf but Mrs. PND had been telling me for a while that I would really enjoy it.

Here is my full list and these are in my 'bookstore' (PND Bookstore)

The Dealer and the Dead - Gerald Seymour
Found Wanting - Robert Goddard
Piece of My Heart - Peter Robinson
Life - Kieth Richards
Field Grey - Philip Kerr
Innocent - Scott Turow
Close to Home - Peter Robinson
Q - Luther Blissett
The Northern Clemency - Philip Hensher
The Tenth Man - Graham Greene
Strange Affair - Peter Robinson
Friend of the Devil - Peter Robinson
Snowdrops - A. D. Miller
The Fear Index - Robert Harris
Prague Fatale - Philip Kerr
The Cut - George Pelecanos
Deniable Death - Gerald Seymour
Blood of Victory - Alan Furst
Samuel Pepys - Clair Tomalin

In the UK there was a lot of hype about Snowdrops by A.D. Miller which was a Booker nominee.  It was a good read and entertaining but it wasn't on the same level as Hensher's Northern Clemency which was short listed for the Booker in 2008.

Looking to 2012, I've already added another of Hensher's titles (The Mulberry Empire) from PND senior's shelf, Wolf Hall from Mrs. PND and my own selection Amanda Foreman's A World of Fire about the American Civil War from the English perspective.  In addition to those I've already got 10 others and Mrs. PND got me six very nicely bound Dickens classics from Penguin for Christmas, so it will be another busy reading year.  Just how we like it.

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