Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Books of the Year 2009: Nonfiction, Short Fiction, and Plays

I read 4 books of nonfiction this year, but my favourite is clear. I read 18 plays, mostly for school. Four of my reads I consider short fiction. I'm kind of arbitrarily deciding how many favourites I get in each section, it's just how many seem to fit there--one nonfiction, two short fiction, three plays.

The Mitford Girls, by Mary S. Lovell, would definitely be in the running for most enjoyable book in any category this year. It is 529 pages but I absolutely sped through it. I forget how much I love biographies, but this was biography at its best, giving both a picture of its subjects' personalties and a clear view of their place in history. I found it completely fascinating. Original post here.

Short Fiction
The Lady in the Van, by Alan Bennett, doesn't quite count as fiction at all, because it's a true story and is mostly made up of Alan Bennett's diary entries about Miss Shepherd, the woman who lived in her van on the author's door step for 20 years. Despite its truth, though, I'm including it here because it is a story, and isn't comprehensive the way nonfiction would be. It was one of those stories that induced compulsive reading aloud, and I loved it. Original post here.

The Awakening, by Kate Chopin, is kind of a given for good short fiction. It's one of those books that is an experience to read, because it's so evocative and intuitive. I'm sorry I never really wrote a post about it; I would have liked to revisit my initial reactions. But I know it was good.

It feels somehow like cheating to include The Real Inspector Hound, by Tom Stoppard, since I didn't just read it, I produced it and costumed it and assistant stage managed it. But all that aside, it is a good play. It's one you sort of have to read more than once to get the full meaning out of, because it has so many layers. It's very good fun, and I can't resist theatre about theatre.

The Zoo Story, by Edward Albee, is a short, contained play. What I liked was the language, something about the two characters' expressions, the way it rolled. I don't know that I would have expected this to be the one play out of the thirteen from my comparative literature class that I liked best, or even that it absolutely is the best, but it's one I know I'll remember.

What can I say about Shakespeare's King Richard III? It always feels odd somehow to put a Shakespeare play on a list like this. But I suppose there's some Shakespeare I wouldn't put on this list, so putting Richard III here works. I thought he was a fascinating character, historically accurate or not, and this play does have some really great lines.

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