The very best thing my mother ever did was to teach me how to read at 1 and a half years old. She often boasts that it was her secret to keeping me and my younger brother entertained while she held down a full-time job teaching, cleaned the house, ran errands, sent my dad to cases AND cooked a 5-dish dinner (including soup) every night.
One of my earliest memories was reading Enid Blyton’s The Faraway Tree at 4 years old while waiting for my mom to pick me up from Castles Gym, and some nosy old crone coming up to me and rudely ripping my book away, saying “Eh, you so small, where can you read this book?”.
I protested testily that I could comprehend just fine. But to my horror, Old Crone decided that she would give me an impromptu pop quiz to satiate her curiosity/need to prove a 4 year old wrong, and started to ejaculate a series of inane questions like “eh ah, on page 42 ah, what did Fanny say to Dick arh?”.
Oh I could think of a choice few answers to that question today! Obviously to Old Crone, Literacy and Photographic Memory Capabilities were pretty much the same thing. I often wonder how her kids turned out.
Those were simpler times. Mom’s idea of getting her errands done was to drop me and my brother Darryll at a bookstore (Evernew in Bras Basah or Sunny Books in Far East Plaza), leaving us to devour mounds of books, often coming back hours later to pick us up.
If we had been good we were allowed to buy a book each, and my mother thought it was a most cost-efficient solution for voracious readers given that we would often finish even the “saved up” novel in the car by the time we got home.
Anyway, getting back to the topic, 2010 was a great year for reading – firstly, art school exposed me to many new sources of inspiration and philosophy, and secondly, the long winter in Victoria means that there’s lots of time spent lazing in front of the fireplace with hot mugs of tea and a stack of books.
At any point of time, I normally have about 3-5 novels that I’m dipping into, 5-6 non-fiction books, a pile of magazines and back issues of The New Yorker and Artforum, so I will attempt to remember the most memorable books I’ve read this year for the sake of fellow list-lovers.
My most memorable reads of 2010
– Invisible Cities – Italo Calvino (Perhaps my favourite read of the year. Genius)
– Oh the Glory of it all – Sean Wilsey (Reminds me of reading Dave Eggers, compelling and fun)
– A Diamond as Big as the Ritz – F. Scott Fitzgerald (Fantastical and cruelly funny)
– Imperial Bedrooms – Brett Easton Ellis (B.E.E. is always a good read, but I really wanted more from this)
– Super Sad True Love Story: A Novel – Gary Shteyngart (A really fresh read)
– Samedi the Deafness – Jesse Ball (I loved the concept of the verisylum)
– It’s Beginning to Hurt – James Lasdun (Such stark, elegant prose. “Later they would find themselves back in one of their rooms making love. And the next day they would go their separate ways, each heavy with the rich freight of a new human being inside them.”)
– Never Let Me Go – Kasuo Ishiguro (Beautifully composed and thought provoking)
– The Garden of Last Days – Andre Dubus III (Started off very well, needed editing and a punchier ending)
– Labyrinths – Jorge Luis Borges (A school reading, profound and mysterious)
– Shutter Island – Dennis Lehane (An easy holiday thriller with a satisfying conclusion)
– Call I You Need Me – Raymond Carver (Carver is genius)
– Generation A – Douglas Coupland (Pure zeitgeist. Campy, contrived fun.)
– Walden – Thoreau (Big-themed memoir about Thoreau’s experiment in self-sufficiency and isolation)
– Nothing if not Critical – Robert Hughes (I am a Hughes-addict. Next up – The Fatal Shore, which Mark has been raving about)
– What Good are the Arts? – John Carey (SUCH a good read, even if you have no interest in the arts.)
– Sharks fin and Sichuan Pepper – Fuchsia Dunlop (Loved her memoirs and this sparked my recent foray into Sichuan cooking, even though my Chinese family snobbily refuses to eat Sichuan food on the grounds that it is too oily, pairs badly with wines and has simplistic flavour profiles. Pah! Mark adores my Dan Dan noodles.)
– Through the Children’s Gate – Adam Gopnik (I read every article Gopnik writes for The New Yorker, just because his voice is so inteliigently familiar)
– Miracles of Life – J.G. Ballard (Ballard is one of my all time fav authors, and one of my Dad’s too. I remember reading Crash at 8 yrs old. Not a good idea. Probably explains a lot)
– 7 Days in the Art World – Sarah Thornton
– Split: A Memoir of Divorce – Suzanne Finnamore (Kooky and compelling)
– Just Kids – Patti Smith (Hip and transporting)
– The Way We Lived Then – Domminick Dunne (Anne lent me this book, a great summer read)
– The War against Cliche – Martin Amis (classic Amis)
– Bunny Williams’ Scrapbook for Living – Bunny Wiliams (A WASPy essential for the houseproud hostess)
– Table Talk: Sweet And Sour, Salt And Bitter – A.A. Gill (Great toilet read)
– Memory, History, Forgetting – Paul Ricoeur (Heavy-weight philosophy doorstop. Consume sparingly…)
– Regarding the Pain of Others – Susan Sontag (This, along with On Photography, are artistic bibles)
Books on my bedside table
– The Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters – Charlotte Mosley
– You’re Not the Boss of Me: Brat-proofing Your Four to Twelve-Year-Old Child
– Goya – Robert Hughes
– Things I Didn’t Know – Robert Hughes
– The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
– The Big Short – Michael Lewis
– The Sheltering Sky – Paul Bowles
– Endless Love – Scott Spenser
– In Persuasion Nation – George Saunders
– Sunset Park – Paul Auster
– The Summer We Read Gatsby – Danielle Ganek (Irritating, un-funny and vacuous)
– Generation A – Douglas Coupland (Also on my most memorable reads list, but some parts of this, including the tenuous construct of the 2nd half of the book made me want to fill out a prescription for Solon too. Coupland, this COULD have been a great book if you didn’t decide to treat “plot” like an embarrassingly outdated fashion accessory )
Next up – Finn & Dylan’s favourite books….