Thursday, 23 December 2010

This year's books for pleasure


The Educator has often berated me for dividing books into two categories: 'work books' and 'books for pleasure'. Actually, this is because many of the books I read every day for work are so awe-inspiringly, jaw-droppingly dull that they practically wear a grey tie on a grey shirt under a grey suit.

So any opportunity read something a bit more, well, exciting is very welcome!

What have I read this year?

Well, Kate Atkinson's crime novels with no-nonsense northerner Jackson Brodie as their protagonist: Case Histories, One Good Turn and When Will There Be Good News? I really loved the way they brought noir to new settings: the not-so-mean streets of Edinburgh, mainly.

And Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea books, for the first time after years of 'meaning to get round' to them: A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Artuan, The Farthest Shore and Tehanu. Wonderful evocations of growing old, being a man (or a woman) and of power they were too.

Richard Overy's The Morbid Age: Britain Between the Wars (from May 2009) was my belated history book of the year - sharp, focused and deeply evocative of a gloomy age of apparent 'degeneration'. The courage to face the subject-matter is not the least of its victories.

I was moved by Spud Talbot-Ponsonby's Small Steps With Paws and Hooves, her account of a trek through the drovers' paths of Highlands Scotland with her horse, son and dog (not necessarily in that order). Her later death from the cancer she hoped to be recovering from on her walk make this an even more emotional journey.

And finally, there was my most revelatory 'book for pleasure': Francis Spufford's Red Plenty, published in August, which richly evokes the raised hopes and dashed dreams of the Soviet experiment. I defy you not to be moved as the Russian scientists and engineers are subjected to the slow-motion heart attack of central planning.

That's nearly it for 2010. One more tomorrow, and then I'm shutting up shop to read more books!

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