Mad as Hell?

Or, Testosterone Fights Back.  Publishers Weekly has published its list of the ten best books of 2009, and they are all by men.  Some, like Richard Holmes’s Age of Wonder, are deeply thought and researched.  Others, like Geoff Dyer’s Jeff in Venice, are tired old paeans to the Male Member–and I don’t mean of Parliament.  Yes, doing lines under a Tintoretto ceiling in Venice after your well-humped lover has left you in the lurch, that is a worthy addition to the canon.

WILLA has started a Wiki list of books by women that might have merited a second glance this year.  It includes one of my own favorites, Laurie Moore’s The Gate at the Stairs.  You can add your own.  I think it’s a great resource for finding new books to read, but I’d love to have your own suggestions here–the best books you’ve read in 2009, whether by men or by women.

  • Penny Thornton

    Hahaha! What a wonderful description of the Dyer book! But seriously, it’s a scandal that male authors (simply because they are male)are considered always to be more serious writers than their female counterparts. Even when some of their efforts are rubbish.
    It’s that old thing about male anatomy, Sara, and if you haven’t got that one most important item,you’re just not worth considering!

  • Dan

    As far as female authors are concerned, I can’t recommend Meg Gardiner’s books enough. Her second ‘Jo Beckett’ novel, “The Memory Collector”, was released in June of this year. Her ‘Evan Delaney’ series was what got me hooked; I’m a big fan of her stuff.

    And, Sara, your comment on Geoff Dyer’s book had me laughing out loud.

  • pam newton

    And making a similar point (‘scuse the pun)

    Martin Amis recently had a go at a female Brit celeb novelist which prompted this op.ed piece about why some of the male literary “giants” might not be shifting so many books these days:

    “… part of the reason for that may be that with the bulk of modern consumers of fiction being women, the particular brand of literary writing in which a particular aptitude for fellatio suffices as characterisation for a woman is less interesting, or resonant, than it once was.”


    Looking at the PW list, things really haven’t changed that much since Mary Ann Evans found it necessary to become George Elliot, have they?

    Just finished Hardball, Bravo!

  • Shirley Harrison

    One of the best books of 2009 for me was “A Beautiful Place to Die” by Malla Nunn. She’s a South African screenwriter who wrote this mystery set back in ’50’s rural S. African apartheid when blacks and whites didn’t mix. Nunn teaches S. African history in the process of solving the crime. Very promising new series if the first one is any indication.

  • Thanks, both for the exciting ideas for reading, and for your responses–and for the link to the Guardian story. Hmm, yes, indeed!

  • genny from jersey

    It makes you wonder who had PW made the decisions. How many books did they actually read?

    It just goes to show that there is no accounting for some peoples’ taste.

  • Despite the fact that I am doing my level best to single-handedly keep the publishing industry afloat by buying as many books as I possibly can (instead of going to the library, or borrowing from friends), I have discovered I must not be a serious reader, as I have not read even one of the books on PW’s list. Sigh.
    What does that say about me? (other than the fact that, obviously, I have different tastes than PW?)
    (*Note to self – Start reading more seriously. err… Start seriously reading more. ummm… Seriously, start reading more.)

  • pam newton

    Nice to see Malla Nunn mentioned in dispatches! You have great taste Shirley H. It’s always encouraging to see a fellow Antipodean being read overseas. (Malla’s a resident down here in Oz and we share an agent.)

    LOL @ Bag Lady. I’ve started to regard the phrase as “beautifully written” in a book review to be code for – no plot – no story – no characters.

    When did the art of the novel become a beauty contest instead of being about content and ideas?

  • If you like historical fiction, read A Shocking & Unnatural Incident, the story about three young women whose lives reflect the three issues leading up to the First Woman’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, NY in 1848. I was an adult before I learned there had even been a First Woman’s Rights Convention. History consistently ignores women and their accomplishments and contributions. It’s time to change that.

  • Suzanne Keppler

    For a different take on the best books of the year (in Canada) there are the Giller Prize finalists:
    * • Kim Echlin for her novel THE DISAPPEARED, published by Hamish Hamilton Canada
    * • Annabel Lyon for her novel THE GOLDEN MEAN, published by Random House Canada
    * • Linden MacIntyre for his novel THE BISHOP’S MAN, published by Random House Canada
    * • Colin McAdam for his novel FALL, published by Hamish Hamilton Canada
    * • Anne Michaels for her novel THE WINTER VAULT, published by McClelland & Stewart
    Note: 3 women out of 5 finalists. Enjoy some new reads!


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