Believe it or not, 2011 is the first year in which I have kept a record of every single book I have read and as of today, 19th December, I have read exactly 100 books. I'm thrilled with that and still hope to finish a few more before the start of 2012. Having kept such a record for the first time, it has been easy for me to look back and see what books I have very much enjoyed this year. I've highlighted one favourite book from each month to share with you all over a series of posts. Today's post covers Jan - April:
The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ by Philip Pullman
This retelling of the life of Jesus is a thoughtful examination of how stories change depending on who is telling them and on the role of the church in creating and shaping myth. Pullman separates Jesus into two characters - Jesus (in the Jewish tradition) and Christ (who starts to create the new Christian ideas). Despite it attracting a lot of controversy, I found that most of Pullman's anger was directed at the institution of the Church, not religion itself. A great book for anyone who likes to be made to think.
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This is all about human lives against the backdrop of civil war in Nigeria. This book was my first introduction to Adichie, and since then I have read all of her published books this year. Adichie alternates sections about the war and sections about life before the war to show how the war has altered everything and how everyday concerns just vanish in the face of extreme difficulty. Recommended for fans of historical fiction, literary fiction and armchair travellers.
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
OK, OK - this one is in here partially because I am proud of myself for completing it, but mainly because I am proud of myself for enjoying it. I hadn't read much classic Russian literature before trying this book and I was pleasantly surprised by how accessible and soap-opera-ish it was. It's a true epic with many interweaving characters and stories threaded together by Tolstoy's wonderfully perceptive observations about what it is to be a human. Recommended for fans of classics, even if you think you can't do it.
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
People of the Book is historical fiction at it's finest. Hanna works as a book conservationist and is sent to war-torn Sarajevo to restore an immensely valuable Jewish Haggadah. Through the use of many characters in settings such as Spain at the time of the Spanish Inquisition, Venice and Yugoslavia, Brooks lets us see the journey of the book and the factors contributing to it's survival. Recommended for historical fiction fans and general book lovers.
Next time: May - August, including some non-fiction as well as fiction.
Interestingly, three out of these four books were library books. I use the library a lot more than I really should, given the amount of unread books I actually own, but I have been introduced to some great authors through randomly picking books up off the shelves.