Monday, December 28, 2009

My teen fiction confession and my books of the year

I was talking about books the other day and I said, "I've been reading a lot of Young Adult fiction recently."

"What?" she said, this person I was talking to, who had been telling me about a Nathaniel Hawthorne book she hadn't read. "What?"

"Teen fiction." I said, feeling slightly embarrassed.

"Teen? Is that some kind of porn?"

"What? Hey? No."

"I thought you meant you meant fiction about... teens. And adult. Erotic. And... what exactly does... ?"

I explained how 'teen fiction' was, y'know, books for the youths. Probably more emotionally & linguistically complex than the fictions for the kiddiewinkles and usually about your actual teensters. But I was feeling grubby by this time. Guilt by association with someone else's filthy minded brainbox. Or lack of knowledge of the classifications system at my local library. I tried to explain how I spend 30 or 40 minutes a day on the train - but split into little journeys and any number of minutes waiting for the train to arrive. And how 'teen fiction' books tend to be small, fit into my bag quite easily, have biggish writing and are easy enough to read when you're standing in the queue. Or bunched up n standin up on a smelly ole train.

Books for busy idiots. Or to help me avoid reading the pap in the free Metro paper. But y'know, it was time to change the subject. So I didn't press it. It's not like I was telling her to read graphic novels. It's not like I was pressing a copy of Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi into her hand. Something I feel I should do to everyone who hasn't read it. I could have suggested the Y:The Last Man series of graphic novels. Really - it's smashing. But it wasn't appropriate. All the men in the world have died. She'd have loved it...

But yes. Teen fiction. The realistic type rather than the vampire type (I've read 'that' book as well. All the unnecessary adverbs and unedited adjectives made me feel physically ill.) But anyway, it does feel like I shouldn't be reading all these *teen* books, but I have.

I have been writing a novel that's kinda a youth fiction novel. Is my major excuse. A book for clever kids and stupid adults s the way I try to describe it. One day someone will read it hopefully someone who is stupid enough to like it. In the meantime and without further a do-do - here is my list of bestest books that I have read in 2009. Because I keep a list in an Excel spreadsheet like the sad man I am. Or else I forget what I have read and read them again. And there's too many books in the world to be re-reading anything - with a few notable exceptions of course. Here are my best-of-2009 - in order of best-iality:

  1. I wouldn't start from here by Andrew Mueller - amazing journalistic travelling about into war zones and horrid places that make no sense to the outsider or the people actually living there. Clever and amusing though.
  2. Ant Colony by Jenny Valentine. My top teen fiction title. Tears in my eyes at the end. Actual man tears. More shame. Not the best book in the world in theory, but very very good in a small way. As was Finding Violet Park her previous book.
  3. A Man Without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut. The great man's thoughts on the world. I wish he had been my granddad. Amazing writing and perspicacity.
  4. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. Look at this. When I'm not reading contemporary teen fiction (by women generally for some reason) - I'm reading novels from 1943 about crazy mixed up young women. Odd. I really loved this book. Who knew that the author of 101 Dalmations (Dodie Smith) was such a magnificent wordsmith. Shockingly good writing. Empathetic. A 1st person narration that convinces completely. You'd think the world had had enough of silly love stories, but it hasn't. My excuse for reading this was it was included in The Guardian's 1000 books to read before you die. Or Time Out's. One of them big lists that I'm trying to work my way through. As was the next choice:
  5. Reflections in a Golden Eye by Carson McCullers. This was a book that I would never have bothered with unless I was working through some paper's list of 'good' books I have to read before I die yadda yadda. I'd read another of her's years ago and thought it was *alright*. Nowt special. But the shifting of point-of-view in this book and the general craziosity of the characters is incredible. I won't bother to delineate the plot. But they're a reet bunch of odd-bods these people on a military base. Someone chops their wotnots off just as an aside. You don't expect that in a dusty old 'Virago classic'. And it's short so you can read it on the train.
  6. Angus, thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison. A pathetic choice. How can this be at number 6 on an adult male's best books of the year list? But it is. I told a 34 year old female that the heroine of this book reminded me of her; she was not best pleased.
  7. Yes man: the amazing tale of what happens by Danny Wallace. Another book I wouldn't have thought I would have liked. Too mainstream and obvious, I'd have said. But it amused me and I could relate to it and I decided to say yes to stuff more. Trite as it is, it is a good philosophy to have.
  8. sleepwalk and other stories by adrian tomine. I like all of Tomine's graphic novels equally. They're odd. But they hover in your head. I read this whilst trying to dry out some damp floorboards with a hairdryer. That was a fun hour and a half. But see: you can read a graphic novel like that without losing your place.
  9. Fifth Business by Robertson Davies. Bushy beardy old Robertson is like a god in my house. He's a long train journey kinda author. A stuck at an airport read. Not flashy but engrossing. I forget which ones I've read so I can read them again a few years later.
  10. juliet, naked by nick hornby. Liking Nick Hornby seems to be akin to saying to you think U2 have quite good tunes. He's neither trashy nor hyper-clever and nor is he (arguably) as good as he used to be. Sometimes, like with a band, you find that once you're heard (read) one of theirs - you're heard (read) em all. They're a bit samey. Sometimes, if you like one, you like em all - despite that same-osity-ness. This is half a good book and half not so fantastic. But I raced through it. And it's the second actual 2009 book on my list so that makes me feel up-to-date. Hurrah. A big list. Like in a Nick Hornby novel. Pshaw!


  1. Poopie9:31 pm

    What does 'Pshaw' mean? It seems something that only ever crops up in trendy pieces of journalism - do people actually say this, and if so, how is it pronounced?

  2. Snoopy9:32 pm

    I feel so out of date reading this only now... thanks for the tips, Juliet, Naked is waiting for me at Chorlton Library. Is it better or worse than A Long Way Down? Doubt I'll have time to read both :(