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You love me, but love Lee Child even more ...

Here’s Christchurch City Libraries’ top 100 items from last year for adults.

Factoids and observations:

  • Road Code – number 1. Essential stuff.
  • Wow -  check out the number of James Patterson titles in the list (7?)
  • Passion for Scandinavian crime is so not melting away
  • Oldies like Wilbur Smith can still cut it with the new fellas
  • Looks like people do want to know about Paul Henry, as his memoir What was I thinking is the top NZ book (after the Road Code) … but closely on its tail is The Conductor by Sarah Quigley
  • About 15 out of the 100 are New Zealand books

Any observations or surprises?

Gavin Bishop speaking at Best and Worst 2011
Gavin Bishop’s best picture books

The Best and Worst Books for Children evening was attended by over 70 book lovers last night. Held at South Library, the audience keenly followed the advice from experts such as local author, Gavin Bishop, to enjoy the delights of picture books. He gave special mention to Grandpa Green by Lane Smith which uses topiary as a metaphor for memory loss to help children understand Alzheimers.

Heather Orman, a teacher from Thorrington school shared what works well in the classroom. One of her favourites for encouraging wonderful visual art and story writing was Tell me a Dragon by Jackie Morris.

Sheila Sinclair of the Children’s Bookshop waxed lyrical about the beauties of Northwood by Brian Falkner and Covershared her store’s best sellers for the year. No one guessed the Auckland top seller, which was Curly from Shirley by Emma Pullar. Sheila felt this expressed in a very tangible way the positive wishes of other New Zealanders for Christchurch’s recovery.

Louise Easter, children’s literature expert from Christchurch City Libraries shared her selection of books that were perhaps not at the top of her Christmas list and you can read the  full list of the libraries’ recommendations for good holiday reading for children and young adults on the library website.

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I’ve just had a peruse of the latest The Listener (December 11-17 Vol 226), which has their annual list of Top 100 Books, over my morning porridge – don’t knock it until you try it!

First thought was, what have I been doing with my year, as there were so many I hadn’t even heard of let alone read, but then I actually found two I had read and they were both highlights of my reading year.

coverRoom: a novel by Emma Donoghue has been acclaimed world wide and for good reason.

Jack, our narrator and hero is turning five when we first meet him. He lives in Room with his Ma, the only space he has known since being born there. It is a garden shed that measures 11 feet square and they are locked in by the man who abducted Jack’s mother seven years ago.

Jack’s view of life is revealed slowly, and he is the sole voice, you only get a glimpse of how his mother copes with this horror through his naive eyes. The daily life she has developed for him, the fear they both have of the man who keeps them imprisoned and the suspense that builds throughout this slim but powerful book will want you to read it all in one sitting. It’s a must read!

CoverIn a Strange Room by Damon Galgut was nominated for the Booker Prize and is a curiously written book, the style of which may drive some crazy, but persevere and you will be rewarded. It is written in the third person, with the narrator recounting walking trips through Africa and travel in India.

The narrator is observing himself as if he was travelling alongside at some points, then switching to the first person to explain his feelings or reactions to what his happening to him. It is odd to start with, but you soon fall into the lovely rich prose, and the descriptions of Africa in particular were such that I got out of bed at 11.30 to hunt out an atlas to follow his progress.

So, check out the list, see how many you have read, and maybe resolve to read a few more.

Tell us what you thought of the ones that you have read from the list.

Every year since 2000, we have been compiling the favourite reads of the year – from staff, customers and those great ‘best of’ lists that we spot.

Our Best reads of 2010 list has just been launched, and we’ll keep adding to it as we spot lists (The New York Times 100 notable books of 2010 has just been published) and we want YOU to have your say too via our short survey.

What’s on the list already? Here’s a wee tasty sampler to whet your appetite:
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Read more about Cornelia’s picks of top NZ non-fiction for 2009

Oh the ag0ny of the wanting-to-be well-read this time of year when the annual Best Books lists are published.       I opened the Listener a couple of weeks ago and discovered I had not read any on the first page of their list.  What had I been frivoling my time away on?  I knew the answer – I had beeen re-reading a lot of old favourites, especially aged mysteries.  However things got better when I turned the page and found Home by Marilynne Robinson which I had just read.   But it is her earlier book Gilead, to which Home is a companion rather than a sequel, that really stands out for me as the best book I have read this year.  Robinson’s subjects are love, redemption and morality in small-town Iowa.  Themes not so different from many other novels but few portray the inner life of their characters with such charm, wisdom and compassion.  Both are worth reading.  Try Gilead first as it illuminates the events in Home.

The Ringmaster

The Ringmaster

I had read a few other Listener picks including Vanda Symon’s The Ringmaster.  Symon is a terrific writer  – great plots, fast-paced, compulsive reading, but her heroine, detective Sam Shephard, is soo irritating!  Mouthy, prejudiced, impulsive  and opinionated.   It shows the quality of  Symon’s writing that I am eagerly looking  forward to her next book despite this.

I now have a very long list of holds for other “bests” of 2008 and haven’t even started on the library’s own Best Reads of 2008.   It should only take me until December 2009.

It is Cup Day in Christchurch, signalling the slippery slope to Christmas and the New Year. For the last few years we have been soliciting your best reads. What were the books that “rocked your world” this year?

 You can let us know here, or on the website.  Here are some of the picks so far:

Girls of RiyadhHarry PotterThey call me

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