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The Times did one of their book list things last weekend, so I thought that it would be fun (read: a useful distraction from editing Teh Novel) to turn it into a meme to see how cultured I am. And the answer is – “not very cultured at all”. Oh well …



THE TIMES 100 BEST BOOKS OF THE LAST DECADE (AS AT 14th NOVEMBER 2009)

Bold the ones you’ve read, underline the ones that are on your ‘to read’ pile and italicise the ones you’d like to read.

1. The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

2. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.

3. Dreams From My Father: A Story Of Race And Inheritance by Barack Obama.

4. Masterworks Of The Classical Haida Mythtellers by Ghandl and Skaay (translated by Robert Bringhurst).

5. Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky.

6. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make A Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell.

7. Life Of Pi by Yann Martel.

8. Payback: Debt And The Shadow Side Of Wealth by Margaret Atwood.

9. Atonement by Ian McEwan.

10. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.

11. War And Peace by Leo Tolstoy (translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky).

12. A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers.

13. Austerlitz by W. G. Sebald.

14. Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir In Books by Azar Nafisi.

15. The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.

16. Rapture by Carol Ann Duffy.

17. Harry Potter And The Deadly Hallows by J. K. Rowling.

18. Bad Science by Ben Goldacre.

19. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen.

20. White Teeth by Zadie Smith.

21. The Plot Against America by Philip Roth.

22. The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman.

23. The 9/11 Commission Report.

24. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.

25. The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time by Mark Haddon.

26. Bad Blood by Lorna Sage.

27. Oxford Dictionary Of National Biography.

28. The Rest Is Noise: Listening To The Twentieth Century by Alex Ross.

29. The Accidental by Ali Smith.

30. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.

31. The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel.

32. Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer.

33. Chronicles: Volume One by Bob Dylan.

34. Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand.

35. The Arrival by Shaun Tan.

36. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff.

37. William Trevor: The Collected Stories.

38. The Noonday Demon: An Anatomy Of Depression by Andrew Solomon.

39. Runaway by Alice Munro.

40. Sir Gawain And The Green Knight (translated by Simon Armitage).

41. The Secret Scripture by Sebastan Barry.

42. Fun Home: A Family Tragiecomic by Alison Bechdel.

43. Thursbitch by Alan Garner.

44. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores The Hidden Side Of Everything by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner.

45. London: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd.

46. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides.

47. Collected Poems Of Ted Hughes.

48. A Short History Of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson.

49. The Ghost by Robert Harris.

50. No Logo: Taking Aim At The Brand Bullies by Naomi Klein.

51. Home by Marilynne Robinson.

52. Youth by J.M. Coetzee.

53. Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver.

54. Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach To Punctuation by Lynne Truss.

55. Imperial Life In The Emerald City: Inside Baghdad’s Green Zone by Rajiv Chandrasekaran.

56. If Nobody Speaks Of Remarkable Things by Jon McGregor.

57. Fleshmarket Close.

58. Dart by Alice Oswald.

59. Moondust: In Search Of The Men Who Fell To Earth by Andrew Smith.

60. Collapse: How Societies Choose To Fail Or Succeed by Jared Diamond.

61. The Line Of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst.

62. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters.

63. The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial Of Human Nature by Steven Pinker.

64. Staying Alive: Real Poems For Unreal Times by Neil Astley.

65. Peeling The Onion by Gunter Grass.

66. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell.

67. The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell.

68. Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson.

69. My Name Is Red by Orhan Pamuk.

70. The Power Book by Jeanette Winterson.

71. Experience by Martin Amis.

72. True History Of The Kelly Gang by Peter Carey.

73. Blind Willow: Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami.

74. War Music by Christopher Logue.

75. The Damned Utd by David Pearce.

76. England In Particular: A Celebration Of The Commonplace, The Local, The Vernacular And The Distinctive by Sue Clifford and Angela King.

77. Collected Poems by Michael Donaghy.

78. Giving Up The Ghost by Hilary Mantel.

79. Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid On Earth by Chris Ware.

80. The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga.

81. The Emperor’s Children by Claire Messud.

82. Born Yesterday: The News As A Novel by Gordon Burn.

83. This Republic Of Suffering: Death And The American Civil War by Drew Gilpin Faust.

84. Useless by Carol Shields.

85. Berlin: The Downfall, 1945 by Antony Beevor.

86. District And Circle by Seamus Heaney.

87. The Carhullan Army by Sarah Hall.

88. Fatal Purity: Robespierre And The French Revolution by Ruth Scurr.

89. The Enchantress Of Florence by Salman Rushdie.

90. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer.

91. My Father And Other Working-Class Football Heroes by Gary Imlach.

92. Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower.

93. The Ascent Of Money: A Financial History Of The World by Niall Ferguson.

94. Maximum City: Bombay Lost And Found by Suketu Mehta.

95. The Emperor’s Babe by Bernardine Evaristo.

96. The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda’s Road To 9/11 by Lawrence Wright.

97. The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz.

98. Half Of A Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

99. The Lost Leader by Mick Imlah.

100. The Position by Meg Wolitzer.

14 books read, 3 on my ‘to read’ list and 15 that I’d like to read.

Number 36 in The Times list is How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, which offers a nice segue into the British SCBWI Conference, which I attended this weekend in Winchester and where Meg Rosoff was one of the guests of honour. I’ve only been a member of the SCBWI since last November, so this was the first conference that I’ve ever attended and I think that it was incredibly well organised given that it’s done by volunteers in their spare time.

I met up with the delightful lilifae for the first time and hopefully will meet up with her again in future (unless she’s already screaming and heading for the hills …). The talks were v. interesting. Fiona Dunbar did a talk on trilogies, which has given me a lot to think about for Teh Novel (on the basis that I know it’s got a sequel and I think it’s got trilogy potential). There were also two marketing and promotion sessions – one held by Alison Beaverstock and the second of which was a panel event with Sue Eves, Cliff McNish and Fiona Dunbar, which has set the cogs going in my head for promotional opportunities should Teh Novel ever get published (fingers crossed).

Meg Rosoff did a session on authorial voice, which was both excellent and ironic in that she had a honking cold and was losing her voice. She’s a writer who I’d been aware of (How I Live Now won numerous awards) and had considered buying some of her work, but the strength of her talk made me head straight to the book stall to pick up some copies. She doesn’t pull her punches and says what she thinks, which is a rare quality and it was also refreshing to hear an author talk about their method while emphasizing that it was something that probably wouldn’t work for everyone.

Philip Ardagh was the after dinner speaker on Saturday night. He won the Roald Dahl Award last month for his Grubtown books and his talk was v. funny (although I don’t think the waiting staff saw the funny side when he told one of them to stop whistling). This morning he signed my copy of The Scandalous Life Of The Lawless Sisters, which I’m looking forward to reading. He is a very tall man. And very beardy.

Amongst the conference pack documents was a booking form for the 2010 SCBWI Professional Series talks, which I’ve already filled out and will be sending out tomorrow. If the SCBWI is doing a retreat again next year then I’ll also go out to that because I went to their last one in May and it was really useful, and I had a Gothic moment as I was entering the large Victorian manor house where the retreat was being held and forked lightning suddenly cracked through the sky over head. It’s the type of thing that automatically makes you think that someone would only be leaving that house in a box …

I was staying at a really nice B&B in Winchester just a couple of minutes walk away from the conference site (I’d give it a plug, but the owners are shutting down in December, which is a shame). The B&B had a shortcut to the main road via their incredibly large back garden and on Saturday morning the owner very kindly gave me a key to the back gate and a large torch that I could leave next to it so that I could take the shortcut back that night. So at 10pm on Saturday night I trot down to the back gate, pick up the torch and switch it on.

Spooky, doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Large, bare trees towered above me. It was pitch black, the branches casting twisted shadows across the grass. Leaves and twigs snapped underfoot and every so often, there were leathery creaks from the bats winging their way to and from their colony.

I picked my way very carefully along the garden, the white beam from the torch swinging in front of me. My heart pumped in my chest. Then, halfway back to the house, the torchlight guttered and died.

At exactly that moment, all I could hear was a loud HUNH-HUNH-HUNH coming closer behind me.

Then something cold and wet pushed its way into the pit of my knee.

I shot 50 feet up into the air, more hysterical than a former glamour model faced with having to eat a kangaroo’s scrotum.

When I came back down, it was to find a large shaggy dog grinning at me as if to say: “Hello! Are you my friend? Would you like me to show you the way back?”

So yes, that was my Hound of the Baskervilles moment of the weekend.

Work is likely to be rather busy this week, but I’m hoping that I can get out to meet a couple of people for drinks, which would be good.

Tags:

Comments

( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
thunderemerald
Nov. 23rd, 2009 01:01 am (UTC)
Wolf Brother is on the list? Huh. I thought I was the only one who'd ever even heard of that -- but hey, glad the series has a following! Who knew!

(Kind of interesting how Rowling's LAST book made the list, and Meyer's FIRST book was the one they picked. So many assumptions, just waiting to be made.)
hooton
Nov. 23rd, 2009 02:22 pm (UTC)
Wolf Brother is pretty popular over on this side of the Pond (not as big as Twiglet and HP, obviously, but still a critical and popular darling). This brings me onto my near-brush with greatness story in that I trained at the law firm where Michelle Paver worked as a partner and joined her department a week or so after she left to concentrate on her writing career (I believe that she was working on Wolf Brother at the time, having been a historical romance writer before then). Anyway, I "inherited" her secretary who on hearing of my own writing aspirations, snniffed dismissively and assured me that I'd never be a patch on Michelle.

Tru fax, yo.
thunderemerald
Nov. 23rd, 2009 07:22 pm (UTC)
Hah! That is both hilarious and annoying. Now go and become an international bestseller. :)
hooton
Nov. 23rd, 2009 10:26 pm (UTC)
:nods:

I certainly shall. And then I shall go back and find that secretary so that I can delete her name from my Little Book Of Vengeance ...

Mwah ha ha ha ha!
magic_at_mungos
Nov. 23rd, 2009 08:13 am (UTC)
I loathed White Teeth with an absolute passion.
hooton
Nov. 23rd, 2009 02:24 pm (UTC)
I've heard the same sentiment from a number of people now, which is probably why it's still languishing on my To Read Pile.

Mind you, I lost any and all respect for Zadie Smith as a human being when I heard how:

1. her query letter to an agent included a photograph of herself and the statement that she should be published on the basis that she didn't look like the back end of a bus; and

2. her decision not to appoint a winner in a short story competition that she was judging on the basis that none of the short stories were any good.

hecallaghan
Nov. 23rd, 2009 06:02 pm (UTC)
Interestingly enough, I was one of the reviewer judges at the Amazon First Novel contest some years ago and she was one of the literary judges and gave a speech.

She was so contemptuously dismissive of first time novelists in general, and the bits of the longlist she'd read in particular, that I had absolutely zero desire to read anything she'd ever written.
hooton
Nov. 23rd, 2009 10:29 pm (UTC)
She was so contemptuously dismissive of first time novelists in general, and the bits of the longlist she'd read in particular

Oh, do not get me started ...
magic_at_mungos
Nov. 23rd, 2009 08:47 pm (UTC)
I was told to read when she was the media darling of the moment and she was meant to the face of the new mixed race authors. It just grated and the writing wasn't all that.

The mini series wasn't great either.
hooton
Nov. 23rd, 2009 10:29 pm (UTC)
:pushes White Teeth closer to the bottom of the To Read Pile:
fyrie
Nov. 23rd, 2009 05:24 pm (UTC)
I'll second this. Forced myself to finish reading it, but never want to even look at it again. I'm glad I only had to borrow my flatmate's copy, rather than buy it.
magic_at_mungos
Nov. 23rd, 2009 08:50 pm (UTC)
I read my mum's copy. I only finished it on a matter of principle to see if it got any better.
ashfae
Nov. 23rd, 2009 02:03 pm (UTC)
TWILIGHT?!?!! FUCKING TWILIGHT IS ON THAT LIST?!?!?! I have to go vomit now.

Popular is NOT the same as "best".
hooton
Nov. 23rd, 2009 02:27 pm (UTC)
Yeah. I know. I'm putting it down to The Times confusing "Best" with "most influential", which would explain some of the other choices on their list (e.g. Da Vinci Code - although to be fair, The Times did also include that in their 5 worst books of the decade as well).
casfic
Nov. 23rd, 2009 07:53 pm (UTC)
I am clearly not as cultured as I like to think I am, as I have only read ten of these. :( On the plus side, whoever compiled the list seems to have a rather strange idea of the meaning of 'best'.

There's a lot of poetry on the list which is unusual for this sort of thing.
hooton
Nov. 23rd, 2009 10:30 pm (UTC)
On the plus side, whoever compiled the list seems to have a rather strange idea of the meaning of 'best'.

Yes - although I should have mentioned that The Da Vinci Code did end up on their list of 5 worst novels to be published in the last 10 years, as though The Times just wanted to make sure that no one actually thought they had taken the book seriously ...
lilifae
Nov. 23rd, 2009 08:22 pm (UTC)
It was so so good to meet you! We should maybe do a Saturday meet-up in town and infest a coffee shop to write, talk and go somewhere to stroke pretty books.

Uhm.

I wish I could split myself this weekend in order to attend MOAR of the talks! Personally I felt that our dinner could have been of better quality - next time maybe we order in Pizza Express or something. Do what Candy did, actually!



hooton
Nov. 23rd, 2009 10:32 pm (UTC)
I am pathologically incapable of just stroking pretty books - I have to take them home with me ... Actually, I'm not going to finish that because I've realised how pervy it makes me look.

I'm kicking myself for not going to Cliff McNish's talk as every one was raving about it. Oh well, c'est La Conference.

A weekend meet up would be good!
uninvitedcat
Nov. 23rd, 2009 09:36 pm (UTC)
Hmm. I've definitely read 9 of those, and there's two others that I'd need to double-check. So a maximum of 11. Obviously I don't read enough!
hooton
Nov. 23rd, 2009 10:28 pm (UTC)
Obviously I don't read enough!

Yes, this is clearly your biggest problem.

:nods and mutters "As if ..." under her breath ...:
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )

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Caroline Hooton

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