Sunday, January 9, 2011

2010 Year-In Review

I took the week off so as to avoid reading Timothy Ferriss's The 4-Hour Body, but will resume this bloggerly venture next week with Rachel Ray's Look + Cook. In the mean time, here is an overview of some of the books I read this year.

Dostoevksy, Fyodor. Demons. (Translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.) I'm not sure how to go about "blurbing" one of Dostoevsky's numerous heavy masterpieces, especially since I read this one back in March. I guess one could say it chronicles the political degeneracy of a Russian town, but this seems grossly inadequate. What I can say is that I thoroughly enjoyed it, even if I can't remember any of the Russian names off the top of my head.

Turgenev, Ivan. Virgin Soil. (Translation by Constance Garnett.) It may be Garnett's drab translation, but this Russian political novel did not grab me in quite the same fashion that Demons did. Thankfully, it's a lot shorter in length.

Oe, Kenzaburo. A Personal Matter. (Translation by John Nathan.) This may be the most disturbing book I read this year. Most Japanese novels seem that way. It is also the first work by Oe I've read that does not focus on World War II. Instead, it chronicles the days following the birth of "Bird's" son, who is born with a grotesquely misshapen head.

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Beautiful and Damned. I know, I know. No one likes this book. Except for me, I suppose. It's such a New York-centric book that I found every bit of it comforting while I was reading it in the dreary heartland of Texas.

Nabokov, Vladimir. Glory. (Translation by Dmitri Nabokov.) This is the book I must have read exactly one year ago, and it has already completely slipped from my memory. I think it had something to do with a Russian. 

Patchett, Ann. Bel Canto. This novel falls under that big umbrella known as "chick-lit," a novel in which men are always falling indiscriminately and constantly in love with women. It's very annoying.

Grass, Gunter. Cat and Mouse. (Translation by Ralph Manheim.) I fell so in love with Grass's The Tin Drum, that I've continuously gone back to the man's other books, only to be disappointed time and again. Though not his worst work, Can and Mouse seems like a paltry follower to his masterpiece.

Hesse, Hermann. Siddhartha. (Translation by Hilda Rosner.) On the cover of my edition, the publisher has cleverly written, "His most famous novel." Which is too bad, because it is certainly not his best. (I think Steppenwolf is.)

Martin, Steve. An Object of Beauty. Another great New York book. Martin deftly chronicles the art world from the early 1990's through 2009. There's not much of a plot, but the setting is really all that counts here. Also, it's short and illustrated.

I am now reading an excellent new novel by Aminatta Forna, The Memory of Love, which chronicles both pre- and post-war Sierra Leone, the country in which the author was born and raised. Probably the best book I've read all year.

1 comment:

  1. Heavy on the Russians, good work. And I liked Siddhartha a lot, but I already told you that. I think that means I'm further along on the path to spiritual enlightenment, but I can't be sure.