Here is a non-chronological and incomplete list of the books I read in the past year, accompanied by 2-sentence reviews (for movies see this September post).
Swedish Mystery Novels
When I have died, let it be said that I liked my politics left-wing, my theatre musical, and my mystery novels Swedish. Having run through most of Henning Mankell’s Wallander series, I branched out to enjoy these other Swedish contributions in the same genre.
- Mind’s Eye, an Inspector Van Veeteren mystery by Hakan Nesser. The first book in the series but the last to be translated into English, this book didn’t disappoint. Full of intriguing plot twists and suspense that makes it a hard book to put down.
- Frozen Tracks, an Erik Winter mystery by Ake Edwardson. Hugely refreshing to read a mystery novel where the main detective is not an older, curmudgeonly, divorced, alcoholic, dysfunctional, misanthropic music lover. Instead the 40-year-old DCI Winter starts the novel coming back from state-paid paternity leave, which warms my feminist heart.
- The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood. Had the privilege of going to Atwood’s unique Vancouver reading/staging of this book, a sequel to the dystopic Oryx and Crake. The Year of the Flood is a great Canadian novel as well as a call to action to prevent environmental catastrophe. Check out the book website to enroll a flood saint, look at the music created for the book tour, and learn more about Atwood’s campaign to help the environment.
- Microserfs and Miss Wyoming by Douglas Coupland. Microserfs was very similar to J-Pod only more dated and less funny, but still fun. Miss Wyoming was pretty forgettable, as evidenced by the fact I don’t really remember it only a few months after reading it.
- Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden. Just finished reading this fantastic novel, which I had to pick up after reading Three Day Road. The narrative is poignant and haunting and stays with you well after you’re finished the book.
Really Long and Other Fiction
- The first half of Les Miserables. My sister and I had a summer book challenge that I would read Les Mis if she would read some other really long book on her shelf. So I got through the first half before I got distracted by something else, and she didn’t get to hers either. Gotta get to the 2nd volume…maybe this summer.
- Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell. Words that really should’ve been on the book jacket: “Gaskell died before finishing this book.” Yup, got through 700-odd pages without knowing that. It was a good read, but I was pretty unprepared for the whole no ending thing.
- Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey. I don’t dislike all Carey’s books; The True History of the Kelly Gang is one of my favourites, but Oscar and Lucinda is frustrating and tedious. For example, Oscar and Lucinda don’t even encounter each other for over 200 pages. And it’s not like the events leading up to that were all that interesting.
- The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. Last year’s Booker winner was a fairly quick but entertaining and thought-provoking book.
- Brightsided by Barbara Ehrenreich. Ehrenreich outlines the ways in which the push for positive thinking in our society encourages inaction on social inequality. Brightsided is a provocative, timely, and satisfying read.
- The Cult of Personality by Annie Murphy Paul. Paul’s book takes an in-depth look at the process behind creating popular personality tests such as the Meyers-Briggs test and the Rorschach inkblots. Paul’s book is full of interesting information that makes you question the legitimacy of typing people in these ways, as well as raising concerns about the uses of personality testing in our workplaces, justice systems, and society in general.
- Burlesque West: Showgirls, Sex and Sin in Post-War Vancouver by Becki Ross. You can read my interview with Ross for the Vancouver Observer here. The book is a super-cool local history of a side of Vancouver we’re encouraged not to see.
- Memories of the Future, Volume 1 by Wil Wheaton. Did you think there wasn’t going to be a Star Trek book somewhere in this list? This is a must-read for Trekkies, a laugh-out-loud funny collection of Next Generation Season 1 episode recaps and cool behind-the-scenes memories. Check out the podcasts on Wheaton’s blog. I bought the hard-copy but you can also buy the full book as a download!
Anyone have any book recommendations for 2010?