Tag Archives: Favourite Books

Novel Insights’ Top 12 Books – 2011

I am savouring my last day off work today and feeling a little bit smug to be sat indoors out of the rain with nothing more taxing to do than mull over my favourite books of the past year. Actually, I say it’s not taxing but I started by trying to pick five books, then changed it to ten, and then bumped it up to twelve – whoops! Well that is one for every month – a perfectly good excuse in my opinion. Here they are:

How To Be a Woman, by Caitlin Moran

5 stars 5/5

“…challenges all the stupid things that women are told (and tell themselves) with a big bucketful of humour…” Read full review.

Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro

5 stars 5/5

“…an important book and one that I think is up there with some of the best dystopian novels.” Read full review.

Never Let Me Go

In Love & Trouble, by Alice Walker

5 stars 5/5

“…each time I picked up Alice Walker’s collection of short stories, I felt as if time was suspended and I was transported completely to heat of the Southern America… The richness and vitality of Walker’s writing makes this book an utter pleasure to read.” Read full review.

Through the Wall, by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya

5 stars 5/5

“The stories sound barmy, and there is a heavy dose of the surreal, but at their heart Petrushevskaya’s tales  are real human experiences of grief, love and loss.” Read full review.

Through the Wall, by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya

Purls of Wisdom, by Jenny Lord

5 stars 5/5

“…a book that I know I will refer to time and time again. I love the informal writing style because it feels just as if a friend is teaching you…” (AKA the book to blame for my knitting obsession in 2011!) Read full review.

Purls of Wisdom: The Book of Knitting

Mr Chartwell, by Rebecca Hunt

4.5 stars4.5/5

“I struggle to think of many other books that convey what is a very serious message with so much originality and seemingly so effortlessly.” Read full review.

Mary Anne, by Daphne du Maurier

4.5 stars4.5/5

“…a book, packed with with witty lines, and a richly described period setting which creates the backdrop for the story of a fascinating protagonist based on du Maurier’s own great-great-grandmother.” Read full review.

The Mermaids Singing, by Val McDermid

4.5 stars4.5/5

“I think that I might have found a new favourite crime writer to add to my list!” Read full review.

The Mermaids Singing

A Grief Observed, by C.S. Lewis

4 stars4/5

“Of course, this is a sad book to read, but also so beautifully and eloquently written… In an odd way, I believe that this little book could be comforting at a time of loss, if only because of how openly the author shares his experience.” Read full review.

Fateless, by Imre Kertész

4 stars4/5

“… a novel that will stay with me, because it is unique in the way that it addresses the experience of concentration camps. The writing is deceptively simple, and peppered with imaginative ideas…” Read full review.

Fateless, by Imre Kertesz

Journey by Moonlight, by Antal Szerb

4 stars4/5

“…has the qualities that I associate with a real classic… A rich and many-layered story.” Read full review.

Before I go to Sleep, by S.J. Watson

4.5 stars4.5/5

“…smartly plotted, written compellingly and the premise is well-executed.” Read full review.

Before I go to Sleep

A retrospective look at Novel Insights tells me that in 2011 I read a total of 43 books which is a whole 30% lower than last year’s count of 62. I don’t get too hung up about the number of books that I read because I don’t like to over-organise or analyse the things I do for pleasure and for this reason I don’t really make reading resolutions.

That said, I do think that my reading and blogging can be seen as a bit of a barometer of how I’m feeling. While sometimes I read less because I’ve been occupied with nice, fun stuff (including quite a lot of knitting this year!) I have felt quite busy over the past few months and it is one of my resolutions to find a better balance between work and my leisure time.

Well that’s my little bit of naval-gazing over and done with! How was your 2011? Do you have any reading resolutions? What books really stood out for you this year?

Why I love Daphne du Maurier

It might be a little dramatic to declare that ‘I love’ Daphne du Maurier, and I suppose I really should say that I love her writing. After all I never knew her (though I wish I had) but somehow, it is difficult for me to separate the woman and her work. I’m not an expert, or even a student of du Maurier (like the earnest young woman in Justine Picardie’s wonderful Daphne) but when I read her books I feel as if she is in the room with me, telling her stories.

When I picked up my first Daphne du Maurier book – Jamaica Inn – it was with little expectation. Actually I was attracted to the slightly naff cover and remembered someone saying that it was their favourite novel. I expected it to be romantic I suppose. Du Maurier has historically been so often dismissed as simply a ‘romantic novelist’ which anyway, I believe is nothing to be sniffed at, but is still a rather two-dimensional perspective. Perhaps it is the way that she has been promoted (you only have to look at a sample of her covers), and now reading The Loving Spirit (review coming tomorrow, 2nd Oct)I would have to admit that there is a strong element of romance in her early writing.

But, wow is she so much more than a romance writer! Her novels have such dark themes – I was positively horrified by the concept of ‘wrecking’ and the gruesome images of human greed that du Maurier conjures in Jamaica Inn. In each book that I read of du Maurier’s she explores something different. The Parasites for example is an intimate, insular and claustrophobic story of familial ties and near-incestuous relationships. Mary Anne (review coming Sun 9th) is both a historical novel and a homage to du Maurier’s wild-at-heart great-great grandmother. It’s rare that I read a whole book of short stories that I like, but du Maurier’s hit the nail on the head nearly every time, and in the case of Don’t Look Now (Sun 23rd) leave a chill running down my spine. When I pick up a du Maurier novel I know I’m going to be swept away with vivid descriptions and characters who seem really and truly alive in the moment that I am reading the book.

And how can I forget Rebecca? Rebecca is a wonderful, literary journey which I will be picking up again at the end of Discovering Daphne month.

I can’t wait to tread that path to Manderlay again…

Are you a fan (if so what’s your favourite novel?), are a Daphne du Maurier novice or are you a skeptic?

If you need any more convincing of that you should join in this Discovering Daphne month, pop over to find out why Savidge Reads loves Daphne du Maurier.

Moonlighting @ Reading Matters

Today I’m honoured to be part of Reading Matters’ weekly Triple Choice Tuesday feature.

Click here or on the button to visit, and find out what I picked!