There were plenty of entries for the Best and Worst 2009 competition, and the winners are …
Read-aloud books – there’s so many favourites out there we’ve made this great list of read-alouds through the ages – there’s bound to be one of your favourites on it.
But my favourite read-aloud, and probably my vote for the book of the year, is one that has no words. Not a single piece of description. No dialogue, no tired rhymes from the thesaurus, no names, no cutesy chit chat.
It’s no easy choice – at the end of the day when you’re tired and you’re trying to get a ratty three-year-old to bed, the challenge of making up the narration and navigating the emotional rollercoaster of The Chicken Thief is sometimes the last thing you want to take on. The plot? A fox steals a chicken – her chicken partner and assorted friends chase them high and low for several nights, crossing mountains and oceans – but then the chicken ditches the lot of them for the fox!
And yet it’s a story choice we never regret. We talk about the action, the scenery, the characters, the drama, what might happen next – and every time we get a different, fun, entertaining version.
It’s magic that the illustrations capture so much, but what I really like is that it puts the reader in charge of the story somehow – deciding what to highlight, exaggerate or omit; choosing sound effects, what names the characters might have and so on.
Being a modest sort of outfit, Christchurch City Libraries blog has recently only been asking our readers for the best and worst books of 2009.
Not so the Guardian. This cultural behemoth has been taxing its readers with the vexatious question: what were your worst books of the decade? With 878 blog comments so far, this has clearly struck a chord and some of the responses are hilarious in a book-geeky kind of way. Several well-known authors and titles have been turning up with almost monotonous regularity: Ian McEwan’s Saturday has quite rightly taken a good kickin’, as has Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre, White Teeth by Zadie Smith, Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, John Updike’s Terrorist, Don DeLillo’s The falling man, David Mitchell’s Cloud atlas and anything published by Martin Amis, Dan Brown or Jeffrey Archer.
I too felt compelled to put my ten cents worth in and poured scorn on The divine secrets of the Ya-Ya sisterhood by Rebecca Wells. It was actually published in 1996 but I have never been able to shake off my absolute and profound hatred for this book. Anyway, have a chuckle at the sight of high-brow, prize-winning authors being shredded and roundly abused by the good readers of the Guardian.
And remember to get your Best and Worst reads of 2009 into us before December 16th and be in to win a lovely $50 book voucher.
There were a lot of books to like in 2009. Tops for me are the high school comic chronicles of Ariel Schrag, graphic novels that absolutely nail the hideousness and elation of adolescence, or what I can remember of it.
I wanted to put them on my best Young Adult novels list but they are not classified as Young Adult novels despite being about Young Adults and being written by a Young Adult but that’s an argument that could go on forever and has done since the term Young Adult was invented. How many times can I write Young Adult in one blog post? A lot of times.
While we’re on the subject of graphic novels and how they often seem tragically under-appreciated, my heart was gladdened by the appearance of that masterpiece Persepolis in second place on the Times Online list of the 100 best books of the last decade.
In the interest of getting one more Young Adult into this post, The Rehearsal by the scarily young and self-possessed Eleanor Catton was another high point in my reading year. I can’t wait to see what she does next after this wonderfully observant and knowing first novel.
Netherland by Joseph O’Neill, must be good because it’s a novel about cricket that engaged someone who has spent more hours than any lifetime can spare sitting on the sidelines in a Christchurch easterly watching a two day game grind to a draw. It’s also about family and love and New York and learning to drive. Something for everyone.
My non-fiction rave is Zeitoun by Dave Eggers which turned me into one of those crashing bores who treat friends and family to twenty minute descriptions of what’s been happening in the book they’re reading. I literally could not leave this alone; I kept sneaking back to it and turning the pages with horrified fascination and then complete incredulity. Eggers’ calm, measured recounting of what befell an ordinary working man in New Orleans, trying to do his best for his family and his city in the face of the madness that followed Hurricane Katrina, is perfect.
Haven’t really got any hates because I have dropped my previously Calvinistic attitude to finishing any book I started no matter how bad. As my life grows ever shorter and the list of books I want to read ever longer I can’t afford to waste time. On the disappointing rather than hate-worthy list for 2009 is Family album by Penelope Lively, probably because I revere her more than most novelists so was expecting great things. I finished it but found it a bit blah, somehow the family shenanigans just weren’t that interesting and the big secret not that surprising.
Twilight has been trashed, Fiona Farrell fêted and is all is well with the world. Or is it?
If you’ve got your own book-ish brickbats and bouquets enter the Best and Worst competition and be in to win one of four $50 book vouchers. Open until December 16th, keep those entries coming and for a little inspiration check out our blog comments!
In the spirit of Christmas giving, if your favourite author let you down then this is the perfect opportunity to put the boot in. Alternatively, if you’ve made a fab new discovery, please get enthused and rave away. Devoted or disaffected it’s time to dish the dirt, and we’ve got four $50 book vouchers for lucky customers. So don’t pull any punches tell us what you really think. The competition closes on 16 December.
To get the ball rolling, my most memorable read of 2009 is This is how by M.J. Hyland. Published this year it tells the story of Patrick, a lonely and confused young man whose short-lived engagement has abruptly ended casting him adrift. He lands up in a seaside B&B where, inexplicably he commits a life changing act of violence. Known for the claustrophobic quality of her work, Hyland creates a disconnected and damaged character, who longs for acceptance and love but has no talent for achieving it.
Published last year Life’s too f***ing short : a guide to getting what you want out of life without wasting time, effort or money by Janet Street-Porter is a feisty sounding title that promises much but delivers very little. Street-Porter, journalist and broadcaster, is a legend but this is a very shallow take on the values that drove her to succeed in the media, survive four marriages and be the thinking man’s crumpet despite her frankly unusual looks. Outspoken and ballsy she may be but this book is hypocritical and gimmicky trash. But guess what? A follow-up is soon to be with us Don’t let the b*****ds get you down, eek!
So what’s your best or worst this year? Fire away, then enter the draw.
The Best and Worst Children’s Books of the Year event is being held at Upper Riccarton Library from 7:30-9pm tonight. Come along to find out what the best and worst books were for children and young adults in 2009. Guest speakers include author and ex-children’s librarian Bill Nagelkerke, children’s literature specialist from the National Library, Bob Docherty, and Sheila Sinclair from The Children’s Bookshop. Refreshments will be available and someone will walk away with a Jenny Cooper original illustration which is being auctioned. Come and join us for a fun and entertaining night. You might even spot some christmas present ideas.
Next Wednesday (18 November) the annual Best and Worst Books of the Year event is being held at Upper Riccarton library from 7:30-9pm. Everybody is invited to come along and hear from librarians, booksellers, publishers and authors about what their favourite books were this year. It’s always a fun night with drinks and nibbles available and if you want to get your hands on a Jenny Cooper original illustration there is one being auctioned on the night.
Our Holiday Reading List is also being launched on the night so if you want to find some great children’s and young adults books to read over the summer break, come along and get a copy.