Best of Ten!

Cover for Crow LakeStarting with my 1300th review, I decided to do my Best Book series differently. Because I have gone to three postings a week, the Best of Five post came roughly every other week. Now, I plan to do this post every ten books instead, permitting me to post a few more reviews in the same period of time. So, this post will appear roughly once a month but may mention more books.

The Best Book for this period is Crow Lake by Mary Lawson!

Also recommended: Our Spoons Came from Woolworths by Barbara Comyns and To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf!


Top Ten Books for 2018-19!

Cover for The Forty Days of Musa DaghSince it is my blog anniversary today, I follow my tradition of posting my top ten books that I reviewed during the previous year. This year was a difficult one, because I had three books by Dorothy Whipple appearing in my Best of Five series, and my rule is to select only one book by an author in my year’s top ten.

As usual, this is a mixed bag of books, combining one nonfiction and one short story collection with several classic books and only one contemporary one (if you don’t count multigenerational sagas). Historical novels feature quite heavily this year.

So, with no further ado except a comment that this year I decided to list them in backwards order from when they were posted, here are my top ten books for this year:

Cover for The Weight of Ink

  1. The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish
  2. The Forty Days of Musa Dagh by Franz Werfel
  3. They Were Sisters by Dorothy Whipple
  4. Alas, Poor Lady by Rachel Ferguson
  5. The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith
  6. In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut
  7. Coming into the Country by John McPhee
  8. The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng
  9. Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien
  10. Atonement by Ian McEwan

If I Gave the Award

Cover for We Are Not OurselvesSince I just reviewed Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson, the last of the shortlisted novels for the 2015 James Tait Black Fiction Prize, it is time for my feature, where I give my opinion about whether they got it right or not. The 2015 list is a difficult one, because I didn’t love any of the shortlisted novels, but I thought all of them were excellent in different ways.

I read We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas the longest ago, in the same year that it was published. I recollect that, while I stayed interested in the novel, it was a long time before I was very vested in this story about a family coping with Alzheimer’s.

Fourth of July Creek was another novel with a more straightforward narrative. It focuses on people on the fringes of society in Montana. It is interesting and involving and ultimately touching as it explores the stresses upon an already fanatical man being pressured by the government.

Dear Thief by Samantha Harvey uses a more inventive approach to narrative, it being a long love/hate letter from a woman to her former best friend. While it recounts the reasons for the destruction of their friendship, it reveals how the woman yearns to see her friend again.

Cover for Dear ThiefAlso a novel about a friendship and the winning entry, In the Light of What We Know by Zia Haider Rahman is the most ambitious of the novels and also the one least likely to appeal to some readers. It is a tour de force in narration, consisting mostly of a long series of narratives by one character on a wide variety of subjects. It is the most thought-provoking of the shortlisted books and the most difficult.

I can understand why the judges chose In the Light of What We Know, but as I think about it, I have to choose the book that I connected with most. Although I enjoyed the winning novel, I also was just on the edge of irritation with it as I read it. So, for its slightly inventive approach and the connection I felt to the material, I am picking Dear Thief with a strong nod to Fourth of July Creek.


Classics Club Spin #19

CC spin logoThe Classics Club has announced a spin for the end of this month. If you post a numbered list of 20 of your Classics Club books by November 27th, the club will spin to pick the number of your next read for the club. The deadline for reading the book and posting a review is January 31, 2019, so the club has challenged us all to put our biggest tomes on the list because of the extra reading time.

So, with no further ado, here is my list. I will say ahead of time that I have no idea whether some of these books are tomes are not:

  1. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  2. The Expedition of Humphry Clinker by Tobias Smollett
  3. Challenge by Vita Sackville-West
  4. Aurora Floyd by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
  5. The Viscount de Braggalone by Alexandre Dumas
  6. Madame de Treymes by Edith Wharton
  7. The Old Man’s Birthday by Richmal Crompton
  8. The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford
  9. Oroonoko by Aphra Behn
  10. Owls Do Cry by Janet Frame
  11. Evelina by Frances Burney
  12. The Lady and the Unicorn by Rumer Godden
  13. Joanna Godden by Sheila Kay-Smith
  14. Mary Lavelle by Kate O’Brien
  15. Kenilworth by Sir Walter Scott
  16. The Last of the Wine by Mary Renault
  17. The Prince by Machievelli
  18. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  19. Memories: From Moscow to the Black Sea by Teffi
  20. The Winged Horse by Pamela Frankau

Happy reading to everyone, and I hope the spin selects a good book for you.

As it is Thanksgiving Day here in the U. S., Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!