Written by Sian Cain
TOP FIVE FICTION BOOKS OF 2011:
1Q84– Haruki Murakami.
It is Japan, 1984. Aomame is in a taxi, trapped in a traffic jam and in a rush to get to an appointment. The taxi driver offers her two options; stay in the taxi and be late, or get out the taxi and get there on time, but her life will be changed forever. Meanwhile, Tengo is a failing novelist who is offered the opportunity to re-write a manuscript and pass it off as the masterpiece of a 17-year-old girl.
As I work in a bookstore and am a huge Murakami fan, I have been lucky enough to read 1Q84 before it is published in English on the 15th of October. I am going to refrain from saying too much, as much of the joy in Murakami’s works comes from the surprises.
A Dance with Dragons– George R.R Martin.
After the success of the HBO TV series Game of Thrones, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone in Australia who doesn’t know who George R.R Martin is. The fifth book, A Dance of Dragons, was released in 2011, six years after the previous book. Martin had to win back many disgruntled fans with Dragons– and he more than succeeded. Though we may be facing another six years for the sixth book, Martin has kindly released the titles of the last two books- The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring.
The Sense of an Ending– Julian Barnes
All of Julian Barnes’ books are filled black humour, love, longing and memorable, yet incredibly normal characters. The Sense of an Ending is Barnes’ most personal and touching book so far. Tony Webster is left a diary in the will of his childhood best friend, Adrian. As Tony reads it, he is forced to examine his own memories of the same events and whether what he has always considered the truth is a lie.
The Pale King– David Foster Wallace
You may know who David Foster Wallace is. He is most famous for his dystopian 1000-page long, mind-bend of a novel Infinite Jest. The Pale King is Wallace’s last novel, published posthumously after he killed himself in 2008. Though left unfinished at the time of Wallace’s death, The Pale King was released this year. Set (sometimes) in an American tax office in the eighties, The Pale King is an uncomfortable exploration of the human condition and the darkness boredom brings.
The Tiger’s Wife– Tea Obreht.
Tea Obreht is a clever lady. At just 25, she is the youngest person ever to win the Orange Prize and be named on the New Yorkers ‘Top 20 Writers Under 40’ list. Obreht has a beautifully descriptive lexical technique, giving the tale’s backdrop- the Balkans- an almost magical feel. The Tiger’s Wife is a dizzying story about memories and family, story telling and history.
TOP FIVE NONFICTION BOOKS OF 2011:
I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey on the Road to Peace and Human Dignity– Izzeldin Abuelaish
Izzeldin Abuelaish is a remarkable human being. A gynaecologist in the Gaza Strip, he has consistently been an advocate for peace between Palestine and Israel, despite threats and violence. Abuelaish has never wavered on his message, even after his three daughters were killed in a bomb attack on his home. I Shall Not Hate is a breathtaking biography that gives hope to the creed that peace and tolerance are more powerful than violence.
Sideshow– Lindsay Tanner
A scathing, but balanced analysis of the mess that is Australia’s political and media scene. Tanner, an ex-federal politician, is sick of Australia’s politicians pandering to media demands and only talking in polarities and media-friendly sound bites. It is time we all changed, Tanner says, and it is oh-so-refreshing. An important read for everyone, especially for tomorrows journalists and politicians.
The Psychopath Test– Jon Ronson
Jon Ronson is interested in people- the weirder the better. In his first book The Men Who Stare at Goats, Ronson looked at the US military’s failed psychic program. In The Psychopath Test, Ronson goes through the official ‘psychopath checklist’ and explores what separates a psychopath from other people. Both funny and frightening, The Psychopath Test is one of those books you’ll be bookmarking to share quotes with other people.
Arguably– Christopher Hitchens
Christopher Hitchens is Arguably (Ha, see what I did?) one of the world’s most talented journalists. He has an unrivalled way with words and an encyclopedic level of knowledge. Hitchen’s stage four cancer diagnosis has spurned somewhat of a flood of Hitchen’s related books. Arguably is a compilation of Hitchen’s articles and essays and there isn’t a topic he doesn’t know about or avoids. The Iraq war? Yep. Religion? Sure! The history of blowjobs? Yes, it’s in here. And all of it is fascinating.
The Emperor of all Maladies: a biography of cancer– Siddhartha Mukherjee
By the end of 2011, more than seven million people around the world will have died of cancer in just 12 months. Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Emperor of all Maladies is a comprehensive exploration of cancer. This is an incredibly important book. While an exhausting amount of research evidently went into this book, The Emperor of all Maladies is incredibly lucid and readable. There are a number of real stories from patients and oncologists, and as Mukherjee is an oncologist himself, it also contains a lot of passion.
Sideshow– Lindsay Tanner
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