Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year! & A Look Back at 2008’s Favorites

Happy new year! С новым годом! I left my year-end blog entry for the very last hours of 2008 so will have to be quick...

Here are some favorites from the year’s reading:

Best contemporary fiction: Liudmila Ulitskaya’s Даниэль Штайн, переводчик (Daniel Stein, Translator). This book about history, religion, and kindness has really stuck with me, for both its polyphonic technique and its look at people. (Previous post) I also thought Zakhar Prilepin’s Грех (Sin) was very good. (Previous post)

Most fun novel: Aleksei Slapovskii’s Синдром феникса (The Phoenix Syndrome) is a funny, concise, and interesting take on contemporary Russia. (Previous post)

Favorite classic I read for the first time: Жизнь и судьба (Life and Fate), by Vasilii Grossman, beat out Nikolai Gogol’s Ревизор (Government Inspector) and Fedor Dostoevsky’s Игрок (The Gambler) because several scenes described so vividly the Holocaust. (Previous post)

Most satisfying reread: I’ve read Nikolai Gogol’s “Шинель” (“The Overcoat”) quite a few times over the years. As soon as I finish it, I always want to read it again. (Previous post)

Best nonfiction: I read so little nonfiction that this may sound like a “damning with faint praise” category, but I thought Orlando Figes’s The Whisperers was a very good book about the Stalin-era repression. (Previous post)

Favorite little-known book: As I looked back at my posts from 2008, I couldn’t help but smile when I saw Vera Panova’s Серёжа (Seryozha). This novella about the everyday joys and troubles in a Soviet child’s life left me with tremendous respect for Panova’s abilities to observe and describe. (Previous post)

I don’t have many specific reading plans for 2009. After finishing Vladimir Makanin’s Асан (Asan), I will read Anatolii Rybakov’s Тяжёлый песок (Heavy Sand) then reread War and Peace. I will blog about War and Peace, so if you or someone you know has always wanted to read or reread it, please join me! I’d love to have company.

A big thank you to all my subscribers and other regular readers. I appreciate your comments and visits! I wish all of you a very happy, healthy 2009 with many, many good stories and books!

Art: stock.xchng


  1. I just discovered you, and I'm looking forward to what you have to say about Voina i mir -- I'm almost halfway through it, and enjoying it greatly (though the hunting scene made me question whether my Russian is really as good as I think it is)!

  2. I'm glad you found the blog, Language, particularly since you're in time for Война и мир! I expect to get started in two or three weeks.

    I agree with you about the hunting scene. When I first read War and Peace in Russian a few years ago, I thought I'd have the most difficulties with military terminology, but the hunting scene was more problematic. We'll see how it feels this time around!

  3. I just realized my Blogger username (Blogger thinks "Language" is the first name of "Language Hat") doesn't connect to a usable identity page (which isn't surprising, since LH hasn't been on Blogger for over five years), so I might as well link to my blog (I mentioned you in this post).

  4. Thank you for the clarification, Language Hat... I thought that was probably you but didn't want to assume anything! Thank you, too, for your very gracious mention of my blog in your post.

    I've enjoyed your entries about War and Peace very much and will mention them, with links, when I write a pre-reading post about useful books and online materials for War and Peace readers.