Tuesday, 31 December 2013

The 2013 Tony's Reading List Awards

Welcome one and all to the post you've all been waiting for, the culmination of a year's reading and reviewing - The Tony's Reading List Awards for 2013!  For the fifth year in a row, I'm summing up a year of literary delights, praising the good, mocking the bad, and consigning the ugly to the great remainder basket in the sky.

So, without further ado, let's get started...

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As always, the first prize is the Most-Read Author Award, and as I need to have read three books by the same author in the year, the shortlist is, well, pretty short...


Aira is a writer I first encountered this year, and he takes out the award straight away - well done, sir :)

There were a lot of writers stuck on two books (including perpetual winner Anthony Trollope), but only these three made it past that mark.  It's also worth noting that the four books I read by the winner probably only comprised 400 pages in total...

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Next up, it's the Most-Read Country Award - which country have I visited most in my literary travels this year?

1) Japan (26)
2) Argentina (11)
3) Germany (8)
4) France (6)

No contest this year - Japan takes the prize, hands down :)  I wouldn't have expected Argentina to be up there, but with Aira and Borges high on my reading agenda, I suppose it was inevitable.  Surprisingly, England fails to even make the list, being one of several countries on five books.

If we look at the annual statistics for English-language books versus the rest of the world, my focus on literature in translation becomes very clear.  Of the 130 books I read, only 13 were originally published in English, meaning that an amazing 117 (of which I read 22 in the original language) were originally written in a language other than English. 

That's exactly 90% - wow...

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The third award tonight is the one which most people enjoy - yes, it's time to dish out the drumsticks and find out who has won the Golden Turkey Award this year!  And the nominees are...


And the winner is... Rustic Baroque!  Why?  Well, firstly I have to apologise to Jiří Hájíček as I quite enjoyed his book.  Sadly, I felt that Gale A. Kirking's translation really let down an interesting story...

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But enough of the dross - it's time to get on with the big one, namely the Book of the Year Award!  As has been the case for a couple of years now, I have nominated a great read in each of my monthly wrap-ups, and these are the books that have fought their way through to my annual longlist (links are to my reviews).  It's a harsh system, but I'm a harsh man...

January - The Old Capital by Yasunari Kawabata (Japan)
February - War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (Russia)
March - The Detour by Gerbrand Bakker (Netherlands)
April - Seven Types of Ambiguity by Elliot Perlman (Australia)
May - A Heart so White by Javier Marías (Spain)
June - Stone upon Stone by Wiesław Myśliwski (Poland)
July - Three Strong Women by Marie NDiaye (France)
August - The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann (Germany)
September - The Sorrow of Angels by Jón Kalman Stefánsson (Iceland)
October - The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante (Italy)
November - Woodcutters by Thomas Bernhard (Austria)
December - Blinding: The Left Wing by Mircea Cărtărescu (Romania)

I'm sure you'll agree - that is a great list of books :)  Where do they come from?  Well, interestingly this year's final dozen come from twelve different countries and were written in eleven different languages (two were written in German).  Only one Anglophone book among this bunch...

And what's a shortlist without a longlist?  Nothing, that's what ;)  Here, then, are the cream of the crop for this year...

War and Peace
Seven Types of Ambiguity
A Heart so White
The Magic Mountain
The Sorrow of Angels
Blinding

At which point, the many sides of my persona fought it out behind the locked doors of my self-conscious, only emerging (bruised and bleeding...) when a winner had been chosen.  And here it is - the Tony's Reading List Book of the Year for 2013 is (highlight below to see the winner):

War and Peace

I was tempted to go for one of the newer novels, but sometimes you just have to admit that a book is a classic for a reason - and Tolstoy's epic is nothing if not a classic :)

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And that's it - year five on the blog is complete :)  Thanks to everyone who has read or commented on my posts this year...

...but stay tuned for January in Japan!

20 comments:

  1. Congrats on your choices and methods for making choices. I chickened out by not naming any bests....just a list of all books read in 2014.
    Harvee
    Book Dilettante

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    1. Harvee - My first three years I picked series ;) It takes a lot to put your neck out there and make a solid choice, but I'm happy with the one I went for.

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  2. I've read three (and parts of a fourth) of your monthly champions, Tony, and can't really argue with them or your overall winner. Drats! However, pleased to see Argentina do so well on your yearly totals by country since it's practically my adopted home country at least in my mind. Continued happy reading to you next year--will see you for January in Japan, of course. Cheers!

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    1. Richard - Hope to see your thoughts in January :)

      I was surprised about Argentina, but I think I did a lot more Latin-American reading in 2013 - it's certainly not 'terra incognita' any more ;)

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  3. Very interesting list - and isn't it funny how some countries can take over...! But I'm afraid I didn't manage to see which book was the winner - somehow the highlight or link isn't working for me.

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    1. Marina Sofia - Just highlight the whole blank area (the text is in white!).

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  4. Jacqui (@jacquiwine)31 December 2013 at 19:00

    Great list, Tony. I loved The Detour and A Heart So White. Happy New Year to you and roll on January in Japan!

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    1. Jacqui - A couple of great books, but then there were so many this year...

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  5. I'm impressed by the number of Japanese books you've read Tony. I think I managed maybe two... And I really like that you chose a favourite book from each month too - such a nice idea.^^

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    1. Sakura - Well, with 'January in Japan' and the initial burst of enthusiam over Bellezza's event, I'm always likely to get through a good few :)

      As for the monthly thing, it's great, but I do have some books which are hard done by. An example: 'Three Strong Women' crept home in a relatively weak month while 'The Mussel Feast' was kept out by 'War and Peace'...

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  6. I think it's really interesting that the best of come from 12 different countries. And like sakura I'm impressed by the number of Japanese books.
    I wish you a great 2014, Tony.

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    1. Caroline - Complete fluke (it's a shame it wasn't twelve different languages too!). A happy 2014 to you too :)

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  7. I love the way you've done your awards. I don't agree with everything - I think Feast of The Goat is Llosa's best book and I couldn't take to The Detour at all. Difficult to compete with War and Peace as novel of the year though!

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    1. 1streading - I just thought 'The Feast of the Goat' didn't live up to expectations ('Coversation in the Cathedral', by contrast, was an excellent story). I can see that 'The Detour' wouldn't appeal to everyone though...

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  8. I really need to read War and Peace. Russian literature as a whole is a bit of a gap in my reading landscape and I'd love to change that next year. I loved The Street Sweeper by Perlman, but haven't tried any of his others yet, I hope you have a wonderful 2014!

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    1. Jackie - Lots of great Russian books out there to try - Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Turgenev, Andrei Bely, Gogol, Chekhov... Maybe now's the year to give them a go :)

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  9. Impressive list, Tony. 130 books in a year, wow.
    I like the way you made your choices.
    I wish you a Happy New Reading Year.

    PS: I can't see the winner. Not easy to highlight something with a tablet.(at least for me. I'm sure there are people more agile than me)

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    1. Emma - Thanks :) Here's to a great 2014 for you too (and access to a PC so that you can highlight the white text and find out the winner!).

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    2. Well, I stopped the war with the tablet and made peace with the PC, so I've seen the winner.

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    3. Emma - Good to hear - hope it was worth it ;)

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