2010 was a good year for reading
By Stephen King's standards it may be peanuts, by my standards it's highly satisfactory, an intellectual year where I went from one novel to the next. I read 24 novels that says a lot.
It was 2010, a turbulent year as far as my work was concerned but a highly satisfying one, moving from one story to the next, anecdote to another, and one where ideas kept floating by some of the best writers in the business.
I completed some of the books I always heard about but never got around to reading including George Orwell's 1984 which was immensely enjoyable and more relevant I thought, to what is happening today, as was the case when it was written back in the late 1940s.
In One flew over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kasey my reading habit became nefarious, getting my eyes and teeth into every book that was available. Cookoo's was very funny, delightful, honest, and in madness dealt with a very important subject that nobody likes to tackle these days.
Next came John Buchan's The Thirty-Nine Steps , thriller and suspense, taking the reader from London to Scotland and back where murders happen and governments involved in attempting to catch an innocent man on the run. I should have read the book a long time ago, but glad there was a reunion in the end.
This was also true with Aldous Huxley's Brave New World , a small 1930's book that foretold a futuristic world where man becomes controlled and an appendage to science and were happiness is guaranteed at least for a limited period of time.
This was followed by Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 where the role of firemen becomes to set fire and burn books, with the idea of a world and state going after thought and free speech. An interesting idea that was frustratingly cut short by the writer's inability to articulate ideas and story-telling on paper leaving much to imagination and conjecture.
A long lost book that I should have read a long time ago was D.H. Laurence's Lady Chatterley's Lover that is now an adulterous classic of passion and soft, very soft porn.
To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee was an old favorite of fun, humor and race relations that I am glad I read from cover-to-cover. It was great reading with the author venturing to call a spade, a spade, talking about an American society that was still on whites and blacks basis and never afraid to use such words as "nigger" which today would be unthinkable in a politically correct world.
On the plane from Colombo to Riyadh, I managed to finish Anita Desai's The Village by the Sea , a great story that, like the previous, was also told through the eyes of a little boy growing up in India about family, relations, poverty and richness.
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett was another satisfying book of historical story-telling centering around England during the Middle Ages and the feudal relations that existed. A very long book, I kept reading simply books it was riveting.
It involved the building of a cathedral, and by extension of the power struggle that existed between church and state and the conflict it entailed. Follett researched the area and the epoch well. Lots of sex and debauchery is involved.
After hearing so much about it, I eventually read The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, a good book and a spinning chase that was rapid in style with interesting religious ideas that actually need to be fathomed and read again to see what is true and what is not. Maybe this is why the book created much controversy when it was first published.
Ernest Hemingway's Fiesta, and/or The Sun Always Rises was a pretty good read about a bunch of mostly American writers and journalists working in Paris in the inter-war years who go to Spain to watch the bull-fighting amidst the accompanied boozing that takes place. This is an interesting read of the care-free way of life that that might be depicted in a novel.
Rita Jenrette's My Capital Secrets , Nuala O'Faolain Almost There , Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Rosamunde Pilcher's The Empty House also came across my table that year, representing different things in life, characterizations and stages.
The first book is about the hectic life of a US Congressmen as told by his wife, the second about a down-and-out journalist and writer while the third about race through the eyes of two black children, a brother and a sister, growing up. It is curious because The Empty House turned out to be essentially about examining relations through an aristocratic English family moving from Scotland, London and Cornwall.
I called 2010 the year of ferocious reading, suddenly realizing that I have a great appetite for the macabre, murder, detective story because they simply move you on—always page turning and twisting.
I read two books by Deborah Crombie, Dreaming of the Bones and Mourn Not your Dead . The first proved excellent in terms of plot and characterizations, involving a terrible secret of murder among academics. Val McDermid's The Distant Echo is always a good read about murders in Scotland and the police. And the same goes for Tooth and Nail by Ian Rankin.
I never realized I would be interested in such criminal genre until I started flipping the pages—you just sit and read! This what makes a good book something happened from the very first words and paragraph of Alice Sebold's Lucky , a book that can be finished in a straight sitting about a rape.
I never like books which are translated, although this might be a sweeping statement to make. I found in Learning English by Rachid Al Daif, a Lebanese writer, that the flow when translated into English lacked certain semantic touches. This was not the case at all with Embers by Sandor Marai, the Hungarian writer. Words seem to flow on the pages with such style, elegance, grace and diction.
My readings for 2010 ended with Ghada Al Karmi's In Search of Fatima , a beautifully written prose of how she, a little girl and her family were forced to leave Palestine in 1948 and eventually settle and grow up in Britain. It’s a personal story of heartache.
However, the year was not intellectually complete for me for I started to read Mark Twain's The Innocents Abroad but is yet to finish. Like many others I suppose, there are books I start but have a hard time to finish, or don't complete. I hope this is not one of them!
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