Monday, December 27, 2010

What Is Your Favorite Book of 2010?

I started thinking about all the new books (70+) that I read this year, trying to figure out which one I enjoyed the most. My answer to this question surprised me: El corazon helado by the Spanish author Almudena Grandes. This book is 1248 pages long and could have easily been at least 200 pages shorter because it does get repetitive in places. Still, it's really good. Almudena Grandes first became popular when she wrote her pornographic bestseller The Ages of Lulu. Since then, the writer has been trying hard to prove that she can attract readers with anything other than graphic sex scenes.

Even though I have published scholarly articles on Almudena Grandes and used her work in my doctoral dissertation, I didn't really consider her to be a serious writer. Her magnum opus Corazon helado, El (Spanish Edition) (translated into English asThe Frozen Heart) finally managed to convince me that Almudena Grandes is worthy of attention as an actual artist. The novel is about the trauma of the Spanish Civil War as it is relived by the representatives of my generation. Even though this topic has been addressed by numerous writers, Almudena Grandes still managed to make her lengthy novel impossible to forget or confuse with any other.

I haven't read the English translation of this novel, so I don't know whether it's any good. It does exist, however, which is always a testimony to a novel's success.

Of course, unless you are really interested in the Spanish Civil War, I don't think I would necessarily recommend this novel to you. El corazon helado is also a beautiful love story, which, in my opinion, is an absolutely impossible genre to write in nowadays. Everybody who writes about love ends up being either vulgar or sappy. Almudena Grandes, for the most part, manages to avoid that. Seeing a good romantic story that is well-written and not all that cheesy might be a reason to read the book.

The reason why I'm writing about this book is that I'm truly surprised that it was the one I enjoyed the most out of the entire year of reading. There have been more important and better-written books, yet I still remember this one with the greatest fondness.

Which was the book you enjoyed the most in 2010? Please share your favorite in the comment section.


Anonymous said...

Hi, Clarissa.
My question is a bit off topic: what novels in American and world literature, both classic and contemporary, would you recommend as absolute musts? I'm a voracious reader and love thick novels, but I have hard time finding really complelling novels. Also, English being my second language, I have some difficulty getting into the classics because its language can be a bit hard to comprehend. Your suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

Pagan Topologist said...

My favorite book for the year, by a LARGE margin is Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor. She is really amazing, disturbing, and wonderful. This is her third published novel, and if she keeps getting better at this rate, she will be receiving a Nobel for literature someday. I hope I live to see it.

Clarissa said...

Anonymous: it's difficult to offer suggestions when I don't know what your tastes are, but I can tell you that my favorite American novel (which is also deliciously long) is Theodore Dreiser's "An American Tragedy." And my favorite British novel is Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre." This great feminist work of literature has been killed by inept film versions, so it's always important to read it and see what the original text is all about.

Clarissa said...

Pagan Topologist: do you think there is a chance of anybody writing in the fantasy genre getting a Noble Prize? That would, indeed, be interesting to see.

Pagan Topologist said...

Eventaully. After all, Octavia Butler was awarded a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, which no one would have expected an sf/f author to get before that.

If you read Nnedi's books, I would love to read here what you think of them.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Clarissa. "Jane Eyre" is my favorite novel and the one I re-read the most. My other favorites are "To Kill an Mockingbird", "Auntie Mame" (hated the film version but the novel is hilarious), "The House of Mirth". I'm not a big fan of Russian classics, even though Russian is my first language ;). Any suggestions will be appreciated.

Clarissa said...

Welcome to the blog, fellow Russian speaker. :-)

Maybe Philip Roth's American Pastoral might interest you? Roth is the greatest living American writer (in my opinion, which is shared by many), and this is his best novel.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Clarissa. I'll try "American Pastoral". I've never read Philip Roth before. For some reason he appeared to me a bit pessimistic but I'm willing to change my opinion. :)