08 January 2009

Cover to Cover - Year in review 2008

Reviewing the "annual" review I made a year ago, I now feel it safe to refer to this posting as an annual event. Given it is the second occurrence, it is safe to assume that it must be all on its way to joining such elite annual events such as the Gathering of the Gargoyles (http://www.gatheringofthegargoyles.com/).

In 2007, I read 53 books. In 2008, I managed a mere 45. I must admit that I am a bit disappointed with my turnout. However, I have actually turned this trick on its head so to speak, and have decided to set a limit of only 30 books for 2009. Why you ask? Well, first and foremost, because I have dedicated myself to writing more often in 2009. Less reading, more writing. At this pace, 2010 will be the year of arithmetic (what is the fourth R, recycling???). Yes indeed, more writing. What this means is a) more blogging (and not just about books, I promise!); b) articles in the National Capital Vegetarian Association (horray for tomatoes!); and finally, working on my novel (I feel like Brian in Family Guy, and eventually Stewie is going to be making fun of me).

But for purposes of this particular blog, back to books. Was there a theme to my readings in 2008? Yes, I admit there was - it was boring books!! Although it picked up in the later months of the year, I have to admit it was a down year for reading. I ended up spending far too much time on the Fionvar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay. This trilogy literally took me the entire summer to read. In the span of 4 months, I read nothing but these three books, even though they were hardly 1000 pages in sum total.

It was also the year of "great" audio books. Librivox has supplied me with a treasure of tremendous books from the public domain. Given my new job is no longer 3 minutes away, it gives me the chance to listen to books on my way to work. Although this will undoubtely label me as an even bigger geek, you will all be in awe when I one day go on Jeapordy and the final question is on 20th century literature! Ahah!

The highlights of the year were without a doubt some unlikely candidates: Persepolis - the outstanding graphic novel by Satrapi; my increasingly new favourite writer, Willa Cather's My Antonia; Fantasyland, Sam Walker's book on fantasy baseball; Rushdie's makes the list for back to back years with his novella, Haroun and the Sea of Stories; my book club pick, Cloud Atlas; and finally my fellow Cornellian's The Crying of Lot 49. To be honest, there is no standout piece in the group. I would remiss if I also didn't mention fellow bookclubist pick, The Cellist of Srajevo, whose sonerous quality had my ears literally ringing with delight.

So who is the winner in an otherwise mundane and inconsistent year? Well, two other books would have perhaps had the lead, but finished poorly for me - A complicated kindness proved to be much less complicated than expected and A heartbreaking work of staggering genius may have lived up to its moniker, in that it was surely genius, but it also staggered in the end.

For its shear grandeur and hydra like approach, I will give the award to David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas. Yes, it was my own bookclub pick, which perhaps intices me to lavish it with more praise than it is worthy of. But Mitchell sets out to deliver a epic work of both beauty and genius; on this, he clearly delivers. I know some will dislike certain elements (particularly the sci-fi ones, which I happen to adore), but as the sum of all its parts, it is the Voltron of my 2008 reading list.

Good reading (and writing) to you all in 2009!!!