Posted by: Corri van de Stege | November 27, 2011

Christmas presents, must have books and notable books this year

Yes, it’s that time of the year again.  Sunday Papers and the NY Times Review present us with advise on what to buy our nearest and dearest, the good stocking fillers and gives a list of the top 100 books of the year 2011.

Let’s start with the Culture section of the Sunday Times.  Unfortunately, the Sunday Times no longer allows linking without pay, so I cannot provide you with the reference but there are some links to further ‘100 best’ lists at the end of this blog.

The Sunday Times promises a two parter: this week covers fiction (including crime, science and historical fiction and thrillers), history memoirs, poetry, food, art travel, gardening and science.   Starting with fiction I have read some of these and can whole-heartedly recommend them as well of you are looking for something good to gift:

Alan Hollinghurst – The Stranger’s Child which is pronounced here the book of the year

Julian Barnes – The Sense of an Ending (this year’s Man Booker prizewinner)

Robert Harris – The Fear Index

Jennifer EganA Visit from the Goon Squad

Gerald Seymour – A Deniable Death (thriller)

And that’s it….. OMG: life is too short, there is no way that I can catch up with 2011 and there are so many other books there that I’ve thought to add to my TBR list and some I have downloaded already such as Ross Raisin’s Waterline and Beryl Bainbridge‘s The Girl in the Polka Dot Dress.  But there are another eight at least that I am not anywhere near to reading, let alone the various crime fiction novels, the science fiction and thriller and the historical fiction.  There are authors on these lists I have not even heard of such as Deon Meyer‘s Trackers, a crime novel .

Of the science books I have only read Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies – which is a book that reads like fiction, with cancer the main character.

Next week we will get the best biographies, economics, music, celebrity, humour, politics, current affairs and children’ books.  Where to start?

The New York Times, the Sunday Book Review has a list of 100 notable books of 2011.  This list includes quite different books from the one in the Sunday Times, which is much shorter and has a fair number of English authors.  The NYT list includes De Lillo’s collection of short fiction The Angel Esmeralda (which I intend to read), and also  a number of books I have already read: Tess Hadley’s The London Train (which I very much enjoyed, but have not written a review of), Tea Obreht’s The Tiger’s Wife, Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending (not reviewed) and under non-fiction Christopher Hitchen’s Arguably (a book of essays) which I have just today downloaded onto my Kindle.  But that, in principle, leaves another 90 or so to read!

Life is too short to read everything, but there certainly are plenty of excellent books around and there’s no need to be bored, ever!  Isn’t that a very nice thought?

My advice: if you are struggling to read one book or another, just chuck it out, lose it on your bookshelf or give it away: there are so many other books to read that it’s not worthwhile telling yourself that you need to finish a book once started just because it had a good review or because it appeared on a list of 100 best books.  There are plenty of books around to spend time with!



  1. For me, the best books this year were One Day, which I finished early January and jeanette Winterson’s memoir “Why be happy when you could be normal?”. I am saving Murakami’s 19Q4 for next year 🙂

  2. I love these “best of” lists but always feel so overwhelmed by all of the great books that I still want to read!

  3. Ally: yes of course, One Day. I loved the book, however, I have not come across it on any of the lists… Have you read Winterson’s memoir? I’ve got it on my Kindle but haven’t read it it.
    Kathleen: I agree, the combination of lists and Kindles are fatal: it’s become so easy to just click and download all the fantastic books that you come across and are so tempting!

    • Yes, I have. It is truly amazing. So emotional, but I didn’t expect less from my favorite writer 🙂

  4. This is such great advice.
    “… if you are struggling to read one book or another, just chuck it out, lose it on your bookshelf or give it away: there are so many other books to read that it’s not worthwhile telling yourself that you need to finish a book once started…”

    So glad to read it here. I have only recently gone through shelves of our books to pull off those that no, we are just NOT going to read. It takes a firm realization to come to this. Hope others realize and follow the truth of your advice.

    So many great books to find and eat up – ain’t it grand?

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