Top 12 fiction of 2009

I think, pedant that I am, I can now post my Top 12 fiction books of the year, since the book I’m currently reading (interesting though it is) won’t be on it, and I won’t be finishing another one before January 1 comes around. I am listing 12 because Tom at A Common Reader said I could! Picking 12 is about as subjective as I’m going to get and so I am going to list them in the order I read them rather than in any further order of quality:

Sleeping Reader

Why I didn't read enough classics (Courtesy: OCAL via

There are some interesting (to me, anyhow) observations to make about this list:

  • two are short story collections;
  • six (ie half) are by Australian authors;
  • only 3 are by women authors;
  • three are works in translation by European (that includes Turkish!) authors;
  • two thirds were published this century; and
  • there are no classics (not because none made it to the Top 12 but because for some rather odd reason I didn’t read any this year – well, except for Maria Edgeworth’s delightful little novella, Castle Rackrent, which nearly made this list)

Like most statistics, these only tell part of the truth. They show my increasing interest in short stories (collections and individual), my continued commitment to Australian literature, and my desire to extend beyond anglo-literature. They don’t show, however, my longstanding commitment to reading works by women and my love of “the classics” (however you define that term). Maybe my 2010 resolution – cos I do like, for fun, to make one – will be to redress this imbalance!

16 thoughts on “Top 12 fiction of 2009

  1. Great list, Whisperinggums! I didn’t read much in the way of classics either last year. For me, a classic would usually mean a re-read, and I don’t do that too often. One of the purposes of our blogs is to define the new classics, right? lol. ‘Snow’ was on my list too. Didn’t know that Jessica Anderson wrote anything since ‘Tirra Lirra by the River’ which made a big splash in the states when it was written, but we haven’t heard anything of her since. I want to read Richard Flanagan soon. I’ve read Adiga, Ishiguro, Foer, Anderson, Pamuk, and you know I’ve read Jolley.
    Male to female ratio for me tends to be about 60% to 40% every year

    • Thanks Tony for your response. As you may have checked, The commandant was her third novel, and Tirra Lirra her fourth. She has three after that, of which on has been on my TBR pile for the longest time. I’m starting to PANIC!

      And I still have “classics” to read. For example, I’ve only read about 6 Dickens’ novels, have still to read Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mary Barton … and am woefully behind when it comes to the French and Russians.

      Your male:female ratio seems pretty good. I’m usually more 50:50. A few years ago I was more like 70:30 (female:male) but recently have picked up on the males again!

      • It’s interesting to see the female:male ratio! My 2009 reading was quite male-dominated, with an overrepresentation of Coetzee and Patrick White. Indeed, I have some Jolley and Woolf to catch up on, so perhaps 2010 will be a feminist’s delight.
        I have to agree with you on the matter of Ishiguro. Nocturnes was just perfect.

  2. Thanks for popping by sisyphean task (love the name). Coetzee was in my top 10 in 2008, and most years that I’ve read him…didn’t read one of his this year (though I reviewed Diary of a bad year, based on last year’s read!). Patrick White is another favourite and I’ll be rereading Voss next year. If I love it as much the second time around it’s sure to be on next year’s lists. (BTW I had trouble with that “notify me” check box on comments on your blog. If you tick it before you Submit a comment you lose the comment – at least I did a few times – but you can’t do it after you submit. Is it just me or is there something wrong?)

  3. Orhan Pamuk is an author I must read – he has a new one out now and I have a book token in my wallet. Everything is Illuminated is a book I found very difficult and seem to remember I gave up on it. White Tiger is on my tbr pile. I find short stories a little difficult – as soon as I get into one it finshes!

    An interesting list – Australian fiction remains largely a closed book to me other than the obvious internationally renowned authors – Grenville, Carey etc.

    • He is worth a go…I’ll be reading his new one in a couple of months. Gave it to my brother for Xmas but when I went to get a copy for myself they’d sold out! Everything is illuminated IS a strange book and gets a variety of responses from readers I’ve noticed. I loved the language but you had to get into the flow to make sense of it all with its multiple strands… I know you read other difficult books so it’s clearly that for some reason you could not get into the flow of this one.

      Short stories can be frustrating on a couple of counts (you just get into them and they are over, and/or you get to the end and you wonder “what was that about?)… but they can also be very rewarding. I went through a couple of decades of reading very few – did read some though – but have started reading them a little more regularly of late.

      LOL I have noticed a dearth of Aussies on your blog, which, unfortunately I can’t read at present – some goblin at my end is cutting me (just me it appears as I”ve had others check) off all typepad blogs. Frustrating …. and we will resolve it soon I hope.

      • I am moving back to WordPress! My Typepad account renews at end of April so I have about 15 weeks of hard slog to convert post by post. Done 11 in the last week so I’m on schedule. I’m updating links to the Book Depository Aff scheme and making sure the links are on the images as well as the text. I can redirect the existing URL otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it.

        Strangely, I love doing this sort of thing. A perfectionist, picky, streak in me I think

  4. Why are you moving back? I know why I changed from Blogger (where I set up my first blog for my reading group) to WordPress BUT I don’t know much are Typepad except that it’s not free. Did/does it have extra functionality? Anyhow, let me know when you start adding new posts to WordPress so I can change my google reader subscription… (BTW My husband rebooted our router – he knows more than I do why that’s a good thing to do – and I can again get my 3 typepad blogs I like to check).

  5. Well, Typepad is very good, but its expensive and they don’t let you do simeple changes like changing the header image without charging you for an upgraed to a more expensive plan. And as a lifelong tekkie, I’m finding it a bit humiliating when WP provides all that for free – if you download the software to your own site, as I have done. The later versions are hopefully hack-proof. I’ll make sure that noone has to change their subscriptions by keeping the same URL.

  6. AH I recollect now that you had a hacker problem or something a while ago with WordPress? Is that right? I haven’t been hacked (yet) but I guess that’s no guarantee. I regularly (about fortnightly – you’re English so you’ll know that term!) export/download my site for backup purposes. I presume that would help if anything goes astray? Am glad that you can manage it so our subscriptions (I assume you mean like Google Reader?) will continue to work. Good luck…

  7. You’re on where they host the blog for you and its pretty immune from hacking. I download the software to my own site and unless you get the security just right it can be vulnerable. The rewards are total control over every element of the blog and infinite customisation options. The downside last time was an attack which made the whole site unusable and cause Google to ban me from their searches! — not quite what a book blogger wants.

  8. An interesting list… I have a few in the TBR (The Boat and The White Tiger), read a few in the past (Safran Coer, Flanagan and Pamuk) and noted down the rest for future potential purchases! I did see the Halligan book on my Australian travels — and it looked absolutely gorgeous — but couldn’t bring myself to pay the equivalent of roughly £20 for a book that would normally cost about £8 here!! I’d forgotten just how expensive novels are in Oz — or maybe they’re just excessively cheap here in the UK (the equivalent of around $12).

  9. Novels are cheap in the UK too? c$12 – can’t remember when we were paying that sort of amount! Anyhow, that’s clearly why Book Depository is a deal for us! The Halligan is a gorgeous production as well as a delightful read. I’m guessing from your comment you are back home…how was the trip.

  10. Pingback: Saturday Review of Books (and Lists): January 2, 2010 : Semicolon

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