Last year's ReadySteadyBook Books of the Year symposium 2005 was a great success. So, I'll be doing similar this year, and the symposium should be up on the site over Xmas. No doubt, I'm as ambivalent as many of you are about these lists, but they do sometimes remind one of forgotten titles or, better still, introduce you to books that somehow have passed you by.

Prospect magazine have a fine Books of the Year list up online already, actually:

Books of the year features can seem pretty pointless, ladling hype on books that have already been fulsomely praised. In order to elicit livelier responses, Prospect asked a range of contributors to nominate their "most overrated and underrated books of 2006."

David Cox, broadcaster (nope, I don't know him either), is amusingly cross with regard to these overrated titles:

The Night Watch, Sarah Waters (Virago). An imitation Catherine Cookson for dim but pretentious lesbians.
The Inheritance of Loss, Kiran Desai (Hamish Hamilton). A typically box-ticking, offence-avoiding Booker winner whose supposedly innovative structure is more sensibly viewed as narrative incompetence.
The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins (Bantam). Dreary rant by anti-religious fanatic lacking any grasp of all but a minor aspect of the subject he purports to address.

David Herman, writer, has the good sense to choose my year-favourite:

The Singer on the Shore: Essays, 1991-2004 by Gabriel Josipovici (Carcanet). Superb collection of essays by one of the greatest critics of the last 30 years. Worth it just for the first essay on the Bible.

Finally, Sandra, over at Book World, is "struggling to decide on [her] five favourite books of the year":

Depressingly, there are at least twelve books (which will remain nameless) which with hindsight I wish I'd given up on. But one always reads in hope. And even to the last page I worry in case a tedious book might suddenly pull itself together and turn out to be amazing and that I'll miss something if I give up. So far I have finished 69 books this year (and given up on half a dozen along the way) and I'm seriously tempted to say that it was too many.

Readers Comments

  1. "David Cox, broadcaster (nope, I don't know him either)"

    Given the dire list of books he recommends, I can only conclude that Dawkins must be relieved to have denounced by him.

  2. Hi Richard,

    I hope you didn't think that my amusement at Cox's choice of overrated titles was in any way an endorsement of the books he considers underrated. It wasn't.


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