1) What are the three best books you've read this year?
1.) Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. I've gushed about this book at length, but that's because I really did love it. I spent a lot of this year reading books I really didn't enjoy, so to sit down and read this book, and end up devouring it in about three days, was a joy. It helped me find that love of reading that I'd lost this year.
2.) City of Glass by Cassandra Clare. These books made me return to YA fiction with a vengeance, for which I'm glad. They're full of action, which I like, but there's a heapload of tension throughout the book and I loved reading it.
3.) 44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith. Another book I simply couldn't put down. This book, and its sequels, kept me reading right through. The characters are delightful and endearing right from the first page. You can't help but love them and it keeps you hooked on this series like nothing else.
2) If you could meet one author (living or dead), who would it be?
I guess this one is pretty easy. It would have to be Jane Austen, my all-time favourite author. Not only do I believe she'd be a very amusing guest and a fascinating conversationalist, but there's just so little known about her. I'd have a few questions for her. Like:
"Tell me, Jane - can I call you Jane? - tell me, did you ever actually fall in love? or were you just writing emotional propaganda?"
"Say, what's with this Tom Lefory character, anyway? Did you two, like, hook up? or was it just a fling?"
"If you were alive today, d you think you would still be writing books about marriage?"
"Is there any man on earth who even remotely resembles Mr Darcy in any way? Or is he really too delicious to be true?"
Ok, so maybe I'm playing up my teenage-speak a little. But I honestly would love to meet Jane Austen. She was so mysterious, it would be fascinating to get into that head and learn just a little bit about who the real Jane Austen really was.
3) What book are you most looking forward to in 2010?
Hmm. That would probably have to be the first book in Cassandra Clare's new Infernal Devices series. It looks awesome, and I love the Victorian/steampunk setting, I have very high hopes for this book.
...and my own questions:
4.) Three worst books of 2009?
1.) The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe. I was initially attracted to this book because of Northanger Abbey, which is one of my favourite Austen novels. Catherine Morland is obsessed with Udolpho in the book, and when I saw it into the book in the library I knew I had to see what it was like.
Four volumes later, I was finished. First of all, I was ready for a really good scaring in Udolpho. The only time I felt so much as a prickle of fear was near the end of the fourth volume. I think you really have to read the novel from a nineteenth century perspective to understand what was so terrifying about this book; not the ghosts or castles or bodies but the loose morals of the antagonists.
What really prevented me from getting into this book was the main character. She was irritatingly good - saintly, really - and when faced with a difficult decision she did one of two things, which was to faint or cry, sometimes both, though not at the same time (I hope) as that would have been terribly uncomfortable. All in all, I'm glad this book isn't widely read anymore; Emily is not the sort of heroine young women should be looking up to. (But then neither is Bella Swan, so perhaps modern heroines are no better.)
2.) The Last Man by Mary Shelley. I thought this book, as what is probably the first post-apocalyptic novel in the style of so many Uglies and Pretties of today's world would be a really cool read. Added to that was the persuasion that it was written by none other than the author of Frankenstein, which some say was the first science fiction novel ever. (Wouldn't that look good on your resume?)
But I was sadly disappointed with The Last Man. First of all because it's quite easy to argue that Shelley has a feminist agenda in writing Frankenstein; it's much harder to see that in this book, which is polluted by nineteenth century patriarchal values and is, essentially, a love song to Shelley's deceased husband and his big, bad buddy Byron. I can understand why, in her creeping and lonely middle age, Shelley wrote The Last Man, but it's just nowhere near as good as Frankenstein. Like Frankenstein, the main character quickly becomes a pain, and questionable in terms of his hopes, beliefs and motives. I found this book immensely hard to get through and was left with a sense of dissatisfaction which also affected the way I looked at the rest of Shelley's work as well.
3.) Fairest, by Gail Carson Levine. I hovered between love and hate, but ultimately I think it was written for a younger, less mature audience and I found the simplistic writing style a little irritating. There seemed to be very little motivation for anything; the main character seemed to do everything simply because, well, she wasn't pretty. It was the explanation for everything and I think it was blown a little out of proportion, despite being the basis of the plot.
That would have to be No One Writes to the Colonel, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. This was a beautiful, short book which I finished in one morning. I love the way Marquez writes and Of Love and Other Demons was also among my favourite books this year.
7.) 'Most Worth It' of 2009?
Dante's Inferno would be it, without a doubt. Thought it took a long time to read, and I kept switching between translations, once I'd finished it I felt not only so happy; it's an amazing work, and I haven't even read Purgatorio or Paradiso yet. The way Dante captures the journey through Hell; the way he creates this terrifyingly ordered and structured afterlife is incredible and incredibly disturbing.
8.) Books you almost gave up on?
I almost gave up on Udolpho several times, as well as The Last Man. But I almost gave up on Uglies several times, perhaps because I just didn't enjoy the way it was written. The writing and the characters didn't hold much life for me, but I found that it improved as it went on, so I'm glad I didn't give up.
9.) Most 'different' book you read this year?
I think that would have to be the Agatha Christie books I read, including The Clocks. I've never read crime or mystery books before, so this was a new experience for me, and I really enjoyed it. Hunting and Gathering was another book. I don't know quite how you would class it; perhaps somewhere around 'chick-lit', and it just wasn't the sort of thing I usually read. But I was glad I did, because I really loved reading it.
main picture from deviantart