Best reads vs worst reads

I don’t know anything about the author of Stevereads blog, ( I found his blog quite by chance after reading Literary Saloon’s blog) but he has certainly put together an interesting list of his worst reads for 2010, including some of the titles that have been praised here.  It is always interesting to see what others love, but equally enjoyable to see what others have loathed.  The Privileges has been enjoyed by a few of us this year, but this it what Steve has to say about it.

Not one sentence of this novel is energetic; not one paragraph was profitably revised, not one ounce of heart is present throughout this whole exercise of socially-relevant ‘topical’ fiction reduced to the mindless driving of cap-and-piston.

Now that is what I call scathing!  Have a look at his list and see if you agree.

“I’m looking for a book for my husband/son/brother…what can you recommend?”

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 read two, how many have you read?

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.

Simply the best books of 2010

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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Exit Through the Giftshop

Cover image of "The Birth of Graffiti"This weekend I headed along to the 2010 New Zealand International Film Festival to see Exit Through the Giftshop, the (supposed) documentary directed by and featuring Banksy, enigmatic street artist extraordinaire. Deciding there’s a better story to tell than his own, Banksy turns the camera on one of his more interesting admirers Thierry Guetta. In true Banksy style, the film manages to make clever observations about popular culture in a tongue-in-cheek kind of way that you can’t help but grin at.

Thierry Guetta, you see, is a man on a mission. He takes his video camera wherever he goes and records everything he sees, desperate to capture each moment before it is lost forever. Introduced to the art of graffiti through his cousin, the Invader, he becomes obsessed with following various street artists as they sneak around the city at night with their spray cans and stencils. One serendipitous moment leads to the next, and Thierry’s biggest wish comes true – he gets the opportunity to meet the elusive Banksy. He becomes Banksy’s accomplice, helping him paint elephants and cause havoc at Disney Land, all the while with camera in hand. Eventually Banksy realises Thierry is not the documentary maker he has made himself out to be, and encourages him to ditch his film-making ambitions and start graffiti-ing the town instead. Thierry embraces Banksy’s instructions like God himself has spoken to him. He is reborn as Mr. Brainwash and sets out to take street art to a whole new level…

My favourite bit? Watching Thierry sit in the LA sun in all his 70s shirts and sideburns glory, waxing lyrical about his passions. His French accent and confused use of the English language makes him the new Bruno in my eyes. I’ll be quoting him for weeks to come. Oh, and the TV monster was AWESOME.

While Exit Through the Giftshop clearly points and laughs at the art world, you get the feeling that Banksy is having a bit of a giggle at his audience too. Hoax or not, it’s one worth seeing. Brilliant.

Who won the top Christmas Book?

First things first, and because I know the anticipation is killing you, Dan “Da Vinci” Brown squeaked into the UK top spot with The lost symbol  squeezing out the Guinness World Records 2010. Dan also triumphed in the US christmas fiction list beating James Patterson’s I, Alex Cross into second place.

We’ll have to wait until January 14th before Booksellers NZ releases New Zealand’s bestsellers for the period between December 19th 2009 and January 9th 2010 but it isn’t too great a stretch to imagine Dan recreating his triumph here. Love him or loathe him, the first print run for Dan’s latest “masterpiece” was 6.5 million copies and this tinsel triumph is his second UK festive number one, The Da Vinci code  climbed to the top of the christmas tree in 2004.

The  frenzied book-war for the UK’s Christmas title of 2009 began early this year with 800 new releases hitting the shelves on a single day, 1 October, or “Super Thursday” as journo-types have coined it. Book sales this year have been globally drab so the festive season run-up has been seen by many as pivotal to keeping the book industry afloat. Early hopefuls for the top bunk  included the second installment of the Peter Kay story Saturday Night Peter and memoirs from comedians Jo Brand, Jack Dee and Justin Lee Collins. New novels by Audrey Niffenegger, Kate Mosse, Martina Cole and  Cecelia Ahern kept the fiction flag flying. And of course there was the traditional turkey tussle between the chefs with Delia Smith and Jamie Oliver going head-to-head.

But more importantly what can we look forward to in 2010?

Committed : A sceptic makes peace with marriage by Elizabeth Gilbert.

The Swan Thieves by  Elizabeth Kostova.

Secrets of Eden by Chris Bohjalian

The Pregnant widow by Martin Amis

Blood men by Paul Cleave

Ape house by Sara Gruen

The unnamed by Johua Ferris

Message from an unknown Chinese mother : Stories of loss and love by Xinran

And many, many more ……yippeee

The Christmas Top 10 Uk books:

New Zealand’s Top Five Christmas sellers from Nielsen BookScan:

  • The lost symbol by Dan Brown
  • Ali’s book of tall tales by Ali Williams
  • The story of Danny Dunn by Bryce Courtenay
  • Guinness world records 2010
  • A song in the daylight by Paullina Simons

New Year’s Resolution Reading

I’m going to lose weight

Does this clutter make my butt look fat?: An Easy Plan for Losing Weight and Living More
Clutter expert Walsh believes that somehow the clutter in our lives is connected to the clutter (fat) in our bodies. I’m not convinced, but hopefully reading the book could at least get the house tidied.

Skinny bastard
Follow up to Skinny bitch, (made popular by Victoria Beckham). I wonder if David Beckham has read it?

The 6-Week Cure for the Middle-Aged Middle: The Simple Plan to Flatten Your Belly Fast!
Shows you how to “regain in midlife the figure of sleek, flat-bellied youth”. What if you didn’t have a sleek flat bellied youth, will the book still work?

I’m going to look after my health

50 reasons to stop smoking / 50 reasons to keep smoking
Conventional self-help books and social ostracising haven’t always provided the solution, so perhaps a humorous approach will?

The Real Man’s Tool Box: A DIY Health Manual for Men
The book that partners and wives will read, and then summarise for the men in their lives.

I’m going to get fit

Brain Training for Runners: A Revolutionary New Training System to Improve Endurance, Speed, Health, and Results
Train the brain as well as the body.

Bikram Yoga: The Guru Behind Hot Yoga Shows the Way to Radiant Health and Personal Fulfillment
The yoga everyone who is anyone seems to be doing at the moment. Sweat your way to personal fulfilment, buy the yoga mat and get the gear

I will find love

“Relate” Guide to Finding Love
According to the publishers this book is filled with practical and sensible advice.

Getting Past Your Breakup: How to Turn a Devastating Loss into the Best Thing That Ever Happened to You
A very positive way to start the year!

The Chase: What I’ve learned from one million men on dating, sex and relationships
No, this woman hasn’t had relationships with 1 million men, but she is a well known Australian blogger who has heard it all.

I need a holiday

Picnic spots & camping sites : Christchurch and Canterbury : great places for families
Ideal guide book for fabulous places to visit around Canterbury.

Let’s go camping : 66 great places to pitch your tent or park your van and things to do when you get there
In depth reviews on campsites throughout New Zealand as well as hints and tips on how to best enjoy your holiday in the great outdoors

I’m going to learn to cook

The thrifty cookbook : 476 ways to eat well with leftovers
Need to use up those Christmas leftovers? The author tackles frequently asked questions such how much mould we can scrape off the jam, and how some well-chosen store cupboard basics can transform any leftover carrot or bacon rind into a satisfying meal.

Julie Biuso’s never-ending summer : stunning barbecue dishes to tempt you all year round
All recipes are designed for the BBQ, but can easily be cooked in-doors if the weather turns. Very handy for a Christchurch summer!

I need a new job

Balance your life and work : how to get the best from your job and still have a life
If you feel overwhelmed by the constant juggling of different areas of your life, this book can help. Containing a quiz, step-by-step guidance and action points, top tips to bear in mind for the future, common mistakes and advice on how to avoid them.

How to keep your cool if you lose your job : a workbook for surviving redundancy
The reader is introduced to ten crucial tips for surviving redundancy: keep your cool; don’t take it personally; get professional support; lay the foundations; get structured; take your time; get flexible; take action; tell people; stay positive.

See our page on New Year’s resolutions for more ideas of making changes in 2010 …

Music legend James Taylor is coming to New Zealand

MusicnotesWhen I read on James Taylor’s fan site that the great man himself was coming to Auckland on April 10, 2010  along with Carole King, I was ecstatic! Their Troubadour Reunion concert was advertised yesterday in the Sunday Star Times, along with an interview with Taylor and his long-time friend and collaborator Carole King.   I have been a fan of James Taylor for years now after my dad introduced me to his music and his albums take up a significant space in my CD collection.  He’s one of those artists that whenever I listen to his music my soul glows because it just makes me so happy.  He has an amazing voice, which I think has aged like a fine wine, and has written some amazing songs, such as Fire and Rain, Carolina in my mind, Line ’em up, and My travelling star.

I’ll definitely be lining up for tickets when they go on sale on Monday 23 November.

If you’re also a fan, we have some of his albums in the library including my favourites October Road, You’ve got a friend: the best of James Taylor, and One Man Band.