December 28, 2003

2003: The Year in Books

If you've read me for long, you know that I'm a big fan of both music and literature. About five years ago, I started keeping a list of the books I've read - I'd advise anyone who reads to do the same. Since it's January, I've been looking at the list for the last year and decided I'd pick the top five books I've read this year.

Number Five: The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown
I try not to react to hype and I generally avoid things Ė books, movies and music alike Ė that receive a vast amount of press. This is, perhaps, unfair. There have been many fantastic products of all media that receive well-deserved hype and Iím sure Iíve missed out on a couple of good things here and there. After seeing everyone and their dog with copies of The DaVinci code I was skeptical but eventually caved.

To his credit, Dan Brown used a fantastic character (first introduced in Angels & Demons which I had not yet read) and produced a well-researched mystery that was utterly compelling. It didnít hurt that Iíd recently been in Paris, where the majority of the novel is set, and could visualize much of the novel from first-hand experience.

The lesson here Ė conventional wisdom can be a good thing.

Number Four: Book of Illusions by Paul Auster
Iíve read a few of Paul Austerís novels and have always been impressed by his writing ability. Sadly, many of his previous novels have never lived up to their potential. The idea of Book of Illusions Ė the investigation into the life and disappearance of a silent film director and star Ė compelled me to read this novel and Iím glad I did. Auster presents both little and big mysteries while creating the life and work of a fictional silent film star. And the answers he (both Auster and his fictional counterpart) uncover are nothing less than amazing.

Number Three: Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
Since I read a lot of books every year Ė somewhere around a hundred Ė its very easy for me to forget a mediocre novel. If a story sticks with me, I think its done its job.

In Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood presents us with a dytopian view of the future akin to that of Orwell and Huxley. While her previous attempt in the genre, A Handmaidís Tale, was none too pleasant, the world she gives us in Oryx and Crake is even less pleasant. To reveal any of the plot would be unfair, as Iíd probably spoil something but like an especially bad nightmare, this is a story that will stick in your mind.

Number Two: Dead Air by Iain Banks
If youíve read my blog for any period of time, youíll know that Iíve got a fondness for Iain Banks. Heís one writer whoís able to write in almost any genre and always does it magically.

Dead Air begins on September 11, 2001 as guests at a London party are informed of the terrorist attacks in the United States. What unfolds is part suspense novel and part analysis on the state of the world, particularly the West. While thatís not an exciting description, I assure you that its well worth reading. Banks, as usual, writes a compelling and moral novel.

Number One: If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things by Jon McGregor
Have you ever read a book or seen a movie in which the main character drags a battered copy of a novel around with him Ė usually itís a copy of Catcher In The Rye or On The Road? Iíve never quite understood how some could return to the same novel again and again and still see something new each time, still be moved by passages theyíd read countless times. Until now.

If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things is perhaps one of the finest novels Iíve read. It is unconventional in its lyrical prose and manner in which its story unfolds. Above all, however is the writing. McGregor strings words together to form beautiful sentences and, in turn, paragraphs woven of some linguistic magic few have been able to piece together. Take the following for example:

ďAnd silence drops down from out of the night, into this city, for the briefest of silences, like a falter between heartbeats, like a darkness between blinks. Secretly, there is always this moment, an unexpected pause, a hesitation as one day is left behind and a new one begins. A catch of breath as gasometer lungs begin slow exhalations. A ring of tinnitus as thermostats interrupt air-conditioning fans. These moments are there, always, but they are rarely notices and they rarely last longer than a flicker of thought.Ē

There you have it Ė my picks from 2003. Enjoy.

Posted by Chris at December 28, 2003 2:19 PM

It scares me that I've neither read nor heard of any of these books =|

I do, however, have Ä150 worth of book vouchers so I'll pick 'em up. Thanks for the recommends =)

Posted by: Marie at December 28, 2003 2:42 PM

Wow...You're a reader! I try to read, but when I'm in school I don't get to read many novels..too busy reading text books!

Posted by: Ginny at December 28, 2003 2:52 PM

I don't read too often becasue I'm usually using my time for other things, but I have recently kept a record of the books I've read since I moved here 9 months ago on my blog. (I think you've see that, I think you commented on one)

One of my favorite books that I absolutely recommend to everyone is "Beach" by Alex Garland. I read it before I saw the movie. And even though I did like the movie, it still doesn't hold a candle to the book. Hopefully you haven't seen the movie (I always feel like seeing a movie before reading the book taints the book), but even if you have I think it's AMAZING. I think I'll read it again soon, since I read it about 4 years ago LOL

Unless you've read it..then this entire comment is moot. :-p

Posted by: Irma at December 28, 2003 3:19 PM

I used to read a lot, the summer I was 15, I was averaging one book ever 2 days. However recently it just seems that I get bored rather quickly with books. It takes an exceptional story for me to be able to read til the end. I think that's what I like about blogs. It satisfies my craving for reading, but at the same time each entry is rather short and thus doesn't give me time to lose interest.

Posted by: Jaded Angel at December 28, 2003 3:46 PM

Thanks for your list! I now have a few more books to add to my reading list. I don't know whether to thank you for that, though! hehehe

Posted by: dawn at December 28, 2003 4:31 PM

I'm sorry to say that the only book on your list I've read is "The Da Vinci Code" Great book. I think I'll try a couple more of your recommendations.


nice to meet you.

Posted by: cassie-b at December 28, 2003 5:36 PM

Excellent commentary, and recommendations. I have read The DaVinci Code and liked it, although not as well as the Knight/Lomas/Gardiner books he is emulating. I enjoy Margaret Atwood's work, so I will take a look at Oryx and Crake. Actually I haven't read any of the other 4, so on the list they go, with perhaps #1 and #2 moving up to the front of the line.

Posted by: Alicia at December 28, 2003 6:52 PM

Oh yes I do mean to reply to the lovely email you sent me before Christmas but my email is toying with me again and won't let me send. *sigh* soon though ;)

Posted by: Irma at December 28, 2003 7:10 PM

Those sound like good recommendations (and good descriptions). I wrote down a few and I'm headed to the library soon...I'll have to let you know if I agree! :)

Posted by: Zandria at December 29, 2003 10:35 AM

My husband thinks some day when we move he is getting rid of the books... I think not! I can see it now, cruising down the highway w/a u-haul full of books and photos LOL

Posted by: Rachel in Alaska at December 29, 2003 8:24 PM