A final look back on 2011 and some books published last year. It was ayear in which it seemed to take me forever to finish certain books, no matter how much I was enjoying them. In large part that was undoubtedly a time thing.
I don’t seem to have read that many books published in 2011 either but theres no question what my favourite book of the year was. ‘Reamde’ by Neal Stephenson may have been a thriller at its core but it was over 1,000 pages long and when you’re talking about Stephenson there’s a bit more going on than JUST a thriller.
In the case of ‘Reamde’ there’s plenty of commentary on today’s world as well as a little speculation about how a MMPO game might create wealth in the real world. Great character development too.
As with the case with musicians and their music, there are certain authors whose writing I just adore and Stephenson is one of these. Additionally ‘Reamde’ is a novel that is never predictable as to its ultimate destination. [Buy it]
Scottish novels worthy of note include ‘Pack Men’ by Alan Bissett an examination of the male participants in one side of the sectarian divide. As ever with Bissett’s writing, his characters are superbly drawn and believable people you can emphasise with, even if you don’t necessarily share their point of view. [Buy it]
There were also a couple of cracking Scottish thrillers, Chris Brookmyre dropped a fair bit of the satire and produced the more serious than normal ‘Where The Bodies Are Buried’ [Buy it] whilst Doug Johnstone’s ‘Smokeheads’ is a thriller which has the rare attribute of keeping you in the dark as to who is going to survive to the book’s end. [Buy it]
The Scottish based Charles Stross is another writer whose books I can count on to enjoy – regardless of the type of book he’s writing. 2011’s ‘ near future SF ‘Rule 34’ continued his Edinburgh police procedurals a decade or so hence and offered a cracking story allied to the usual insights on our current (and future) society. [Buy it]
I also enjoyed Sam Leith’s ‘The Coincidence Engine’ which was based on a bizarre change of events generated, as the title suggests, by coincidence. Entertaining though the book undoubtedly is since the rationale justifies absolutely anything, there’s a danger that it becomes nothing more than a series of random events. Leith though manages to make it work. [Buy it]
On the non-fiction front, two big musical heroes released autobiographies this year.
Kristin Hersh’s ‘Paradoxical Undressing’ was published at the start of the year in the UK and is the non-fiction equivalent of ‘Reamde’ – such a powerful and well written book that you don’t have to be a Throwing Muses fan to appreciate the story of 1 year in the life of the teenage Kristin. [Buy it]
Bob Mould’s ‘See A Little Light’ by comparison was a more straightforward autobiography but undoubtedly with a real arc of character development from angry punk rocker to far more settled and comfortable in his own skin gay musician. [Buy it]