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Season’s Readings: Looking Back On 2007

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Time to look back at the books that have accompanied me through the past twelve months.

This was the year I discovered Alan Bennett. I'd been aware of his work before, but this year I became an addict. His short stories, monologues and plays have been entertaining and inspirational.

But he wasn't the only author to hold my attention.  Joseph O'Connor's stunning novel set during the American Civil War was challenging, but ultimately satisfying. Meanwhile, Tim Moore confirmed his place in my Pantheon of favourite authors with his funny, yet poignant look at the zero heroes of Eurovision.

One author I didn't expect to read this year was Albert Camus. When The Plague was passed on to me, I didn't expect to finish it. However, I found it strangely compelling, and went on to read another Camus classic, The Outsider

The less I say about David Baldacci, the better, and I probably won't be beating a path to Douglas Coupland's books, either.  But a couple of turkeys in a couple of dozen books isn't too bad. 

And a special word for Neil Steinberg's Hatless Jack. Taking the widely held view that President Kennedy single-headedly killed the American hat business, Steinberg proceeds to debunk the myth, while taking the reader on an entertaining and informative journey through the lesser-known byways of the presidency. It gets my vote as my offbeat read of 2007.

So, farewell to the year that was. But before closing the door, here's my bite-sized book review of 2007. In reverse order of enjoyment…

Title: The Collectors
Author: David Baldacci
Review: A thriller that wasn't from a writer who couldn't. Awful.
Score: 1/10

Title: JPod
Author: Douglas Coupland
Review: Follies in geekland. Disappointing.
Score: 3/10

Title: This Book Will Save Your Life
Author: A. M. Homes
Review: Silly satire on Californian suburban life. Puzzling.
Score: 5/10

Title: The Edifice Complex
Author: Deyan Sudjic
Review: Deliciously gossipy insight into architecture as a weapon of mass seduction. Entertaining.
Score: 6/10

Title: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Author: Jonathan Safran Foer
Review: A youngster unravels a mystery left behind by his father when the Twin Towers fell. Moving.
Score: 6/10

Title: The Outsider
Author: Albert Camus
Review: Bleak story of a man who appears indifferent to his fate. Depressing.
Score: 6/10

Title: Be Near Me
Author: Andrew O'Hagan
Review: A parish priest's ministry turns tragic in a decaying Ayrshire town. Poetic.
Score: 6/10

Title: In God's Name: an investigation into the murder of Pope John Paul I
Author: David Yallop
Review: Dodgy doings at the Vatican. Compelling.
Score: 6/10

Title: The Plague
Author: Albert Camus
Review: Thought-provoking story of human responses to a deadly threat. Contagious.
Score: 6/10

Title: The Weather Makers: how man is changing the planet and what it means for life on Earth
Author: Tim Flannery
Review: An SOS for Earth. Convincing.
Score: 6/10

Title: And Now on Radio 4
Author: Simon Elmes
Review: Celebrating 40 years of a jewel in the BBC crown. Cosy.
Score: 6/10

Title: Basil Hume, the Monk Cardinal
Author: Anthony Howard
Review: Eminently absorbing biography of a man whom the Queen called "my cardinal". Insightful.
Score: 7/10

Title: Hatless Jack: the president, the fedora and the history of American style
Author: Neil Steinberg
Review: How JFK didn't kill the American hat industry. Offbeat
Score: 7/10

Title: Life of Pi
Author: Yann Martel 7/10
Review: A boy, a boat, adrift, alive. And a tiger called Richard Parker. Surprising.
Score: 7/10

Title: The Interpretation of Murder
Author: Jeb Rubenfeld
Review: History and mystery with a dash of psychology and a ration of passion. Excellent.
Score: 8/10

Title: Beyond Words
Author: John Humphrys
Review: Incisive and entertaining look at how language is shaping our lives. Revealing.
Score: 8/10

Title: Seminary Boy: a memoir
Author: John Cornwell 8/10
Review: Reflections on life inside a boarding school for trainee priests. Evocative
Score: 8/10

Title: Perfect Hostage:
Author: Justin Wintle
Review: Powerful biography of Burmese prisoner of conscience, Aung San Suu Kyi. Inspiring.
Score: 8/10

Title: The Berlin Wall: a world divided: 1961-1989
Author: Frederick Taylor
Review: Scholarly, but highly readable story of an icon of the Cold War. Gripping. Score: 9/10

Title: Nul Points
Author: Tim Moore
Review: Bellowing Balts and likeable Liverpudlians go to Eurovision with the highest of hopes and return with the lowest of scores. Winning.
Score: 9/10

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