I was at a meeting yesterday, where we were discussing some of the things that the library will be focusing on in the next few months.  This kind of discussion always tends to make me feel a bit nervous, owing to my inability to even think about the next few days, let alone the end of the year.  To make matters worse, when I returned to my library, there were a set of posters advertising the very popular annual Best & Worst Children’s Books event sitting on my desk.

Now, to be fair, this event isn’t until November, but the combination of the posters and the discussion, and the (not unreasonable) fear that one day soon I will step into a mall and there will be tinsel for sale, and Snoopy’s Christmas playing, all combined to make me think that I really need to be starting to think about my own best and worst reads of the year.

Is it too early to be picking favourites? I hesitate to say this, but I think I may already have found my best read of 2012.  Even worse, I read it in May. Can it really be that everything else is downhill from this book? Or should I be optimistically believing that there are even greater reads just around the corner?  Looking at my holds list, I am thinking maybe not – the list is full, but it seems to be a conglomeration of sequels, regular favourite authors, and things I’ve seen come by at the returns desk.

And what happens if I DO name my picks for 2012 now, and then at the very last minute I come across something even better?  Can I retract my choices and start again, or is that like saying “Til death us do part (or until someonething better comes along)”?

Perhaps I should just stop angsting about it and wait for serendipity, for someone to recommend something, for a book to just catch my eye on the shelf. Or should I instead throw myself into feverishly reading the blog, hunting down reviews, trawling the bookshops, working my way backwards through previous years’ lists, all in search of that most elusive of things – the best book ever.

Your thoughts, please, avid readers?

Cover image of book "What could he be thinking?"Are men as hard to find library books for, as they are to buy presents for?

In a female-dominated workplace such as the Library, I often look at our book displays and recommendations, and wonder if we are doing enough to cater to the needs and wants of our male readers. What else can we be doing to make the library more “guy-friendly”?

As we review the best reads of 2010 and prepare displays brimming with good books for you to take away on holiday, we want to know what authors and titles you blokes have enjoyed and would recommend to the other fellas out there. Tell us what kinds of books you want us to have ready for you to grab and go. And if you are not a man but go hunting for library books on behalf of one, tell us what has been a successful find.

Do men have more sophisticated tastes than we give them credit for, or will a pile of action-packed thrillers and mysteries suffice?

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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Having just read Ms Keenan’s very demoralising post, I realise that I have completely wasted my holiday.  Not only should I have been placing reserves on all those very worthy sounding titles, I should also have been out jogging while eating celery, reorganising my stamp collection, enrolling in Magyar language classes and retraining as a camel herder.

Instead, I lolled around the house reading a vast assortment of books.  All the books, in fact, that have been sitting on my reserve list and on the bedside table for weeks and weeks.  And how did they measure up?

Well, I have to say it was a little of the ‘Good/Bad/Ugly’ scenario.  Repeated several times.

The Good:  Audrey Niffenegger’s Her Fearful Symmetry – loved loved loved it! 

Stephen King’s Under the Dome ( this one has been scaring me off for weeks due both to its size and the fact that his last few have been pretty crap).  Also a great read, although a little difficult to prop up one-handed, and thus not particularly portable.

A couple of great little teen ghost/horror romances called Ruined, by Paula Morris (a Kiwi!), and Beautiful Creatures, by Kami Garcia, and a sparklingly silly horror/comedy called The Gates: A Strange Novel for Strange Young People, by John Connolly, that was everything that Eoin Colfer’s book could and should have been (see below).

And non-fiction faves X Saves the World, and Madresfield, just to keep me clever.  Ooh, and graphic novel sequels Hatter M 2: Mad With Wonder and The Umbrella Academy 2: Dallas

The Bad:  Dean Koontz, you are getting lazy, and formulaic, and a bit twee.  I persevered with Breathless, but only because it was too hot to move from the couch. 

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters – average, and I didn’t finish it.  I loved Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but this ‘reworking’ seems a bit more try-hard (plus, S&S isn’t one of my faves to start with, and maybe you have to love the original? ).

And The Ugly:  Oh dear oh dear.  I was right to be frightened by the news that someone (anyone) was going to have a go at a Hitchhikers book.  And Another Thing was the most disappointing book I have read for ages:  messy, overly complex, and far too pleased with itself.  I made it nearly halfway through before I cried and threw it away (metaphorically, of course). 

And I know this isn’t a book, but Oh. My. Goodness.  Why didn’t anyone warn me?  Transformers 2, Revenge of the Fallen.  Officially WORST MOVIE I HAVE EVER SEEN.  (Copies available soon at your local library …)

Twelve books, nine days.  Not too shabby, I think.  Can anyone beat that?  Course you can …

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Read more about Cornelia’s picks of top NZ non-fiction for 2009

Since 2000, we have been collecting information on what were the most popular reads for the year. We’d love you to add your recommendations for the 2008 list.
Some of the picks so far:

  • The Journal of Dora Damage by Belinda Starling – “brilliant story, glorious heroine, and lots of naughty but educational (so that’s ok) bits about the history of pornography”
  • Catherine O’Flynn What was lost – “quirky and sad with a setting we are all familiar with – i.e. the mall”
  • Perfumes: the guide by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez. Essential, it’s non-fiction, but it is also extraordinarily poetic, and entertaining.
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