Wednesday 15 December 2010

2010: A Review of the Year in Books and Comics; 2. A Bloody Great List

Lists. Everybody loves lists. Checklists, playlists, shopping lists. A life without lists is a life without order. Or something. And around this time of year, magazines and websites and telly shows and radio shows are heaving with lists: lists of books, lists of albums, lists of singles, lists of hair, lists of mice... you name it. So why should Existential Ennui's weirdly outdated, hermetically sealed 2010 Review of the Year in Books and Comics be any different? Answer: it shouldn't. Here, then, is a bloody great list – as in a long list, but also, as it happens, a fairly great one, too – of the books wot I done read this year, in the order wot I done read them. I posted the first half of it back in July, by which point I was halfway through Justin Cronin's The Passage (as recommended to me by Book Glutton). But I'd actually forgotten to include the graphic novels I'd read too, an oversight I've now corrected. Let's have a look at the thing, and then reconvene afterwards for a chat, shall we?

The Green Man by Kingsley Amis
Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay
Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith
Live and Let Die by Ian Fleming
The Hacienda: or How Not to Run a Club by Peter Hook
Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
The Way Home by George Pelecanos
The Wrong Side of the Sky by Gavin Lyall
Point Blank by Richard Stark
The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson
Hellblazer: Pandemonium by Jamie Delano and Jock
The Man with the Getaway Face by Richard Stark
Moonraker by Ian Fleming
Killy by Donald Westlake
The Outfit by Richard Stark
The Mourner by Richard Stark
The Score by Richard Stark
The Jugger by Richard Stark
The Split by Richard Stark
The Handle by Richard Stark
The Blunderer by Patricia Highsmith
Weathercraft by Jim Woodring
The Most Dangerous Game by Gavin Lyall
The Damsel by Richard Stark
A God Somewhere by John Arcudi, Peter Snejbjerg and Bjarne Hansen
The Rare Coin Score by Richard Stark
The Hot Rock by Donald Westlake
The Hot Rock by LAX
Dig My Grave Deep by Peter Rabe
Modesty Blaise by Peter O'Donnell
Wilson by Dan Clowes
The Green Eagle Score by Richard Stark
The Glass Cell by Patricia Highsmith
The Passage by Justin Cronin
The Black Ice Score by Richard Stark
Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household
Ordinary Thunderstorms by William Boyd
Concrete Island by J. G. Ballard
Bank Shot by Donald Westlake
Dexter by Design by Jeff Lindsay
The Sour Lemon Score by Richard Stark
The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum
The Secret Servant by Gavin Lyall
Werewolves of Montpellier by Jason
The Dame by Richard Stark
Deadly Edge by Richard Stark
Blacklands by Belinda Bauer
Richard Stark’s Parker: The Outfit by Darwyn Cooke
Diamonds are Forever by Ian Fleming
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carre
The Honourable Scoolboy by John le Carre
Spy in the Vodka/The Cold War Swap by Ross Thomas
Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
A Drink Before the War by Dennis Lehane
Darkness, Take My Hand by Dennis Lehane
The Blackbird by Richard Stark
The ACME Novelty Library #20: Lint by Chris Ware
The Porkchoppers by Ross Thomas
Chinaman’s Chance by Ross Thomas
Slayground by Richard Stark
The Playwright by Eddie Campbell and Darren Whitte
Cast a Yellow Shadow by Ross Thomas
What Became of Jane Austen? by Kingsley Amis
The Naked Runner by Francis Clifford
The Anatomy of Ghosts by Andrew Taylor (still reading)
The Out is Death by Peter Rabe (still reading)
Colonel Sun by Robert Markham (still reading)
Adventures on the High Teas by Stuart Maconie (still reading)

I make that sixty-five done, dusted, read and shelved books and graphic novels, with a further four books still in progress. Hopefully I'll have a couple of those finished by the end of the year, and maybe a couple more besides. I suspect Olman – currently on his seventieth book of the year – will still beat me, but even so: not a bad effort.

Breaking the list down a bit, out of all those books, just sixteen could be classed as relatively 'new' – i.e. published in the last year or two – and out of those, nine are graphic novels, and three are non-fiction. Which means, if my maths is correct, I read just four relatively new novels this year – and indeed one of those I'm still reading. The remaining fifty-three books on the list – all but one of them novels – were all first published between five and seventy years ago. And out of those, over a third were written by Donald E. Westlake. I guess that shouldn't really come as a surprise, given the overwhelmingly Westlake-centric nature of Existential Ennui throughout the year, but even so: that's still an impressive percentage. No other author even approaches Westlake's mighty total of twenty books; I think Ross Thomas comes closest with four. It really was the Year of Westlake.

All being well I'll be revisiting this list in a subsequent 2010 Review of the Year post to see if I can work out which, in my estimation, was the best book I read all year. In fact, I wonder if another list might be appropriate... a top twenty, perhaps? One to ponder there. Either way, I'll update it before the year's out to see what the final tally is. Because I ain't done yet. Not by a long chalk. Watch out, Olman. I'm coming up fast from behind. Er, so to speak.

Go here for the 2010 Review of the Year in Books and Comics, Part 1

Go here for the 2010 Review of the Year in Books and Comics, Part 3


  1. I like lists.

    Four books written by women, of which three by Patricia Highsmith... no wonder you're such a laddish beer-footie-and-Nuts Magazine type...

  2. That's me to a tee. By the way, did you realise you were wearing a paper hat from a cracker when I saw you earlier?

  3. Wow, dude! Silent assassin. I'm such an obsessive geek that I actually copied and pasted your list into a spreadsheet to get the count. It was only after doing that (and marvelling at the amount) that I got to the next sentence where you actually did the work for your readers.

    In any case, a very impressive reading list this year. That is pretty cool that you basically read almost the entire Stark ouevre in a single year. I'm curious if you have some new insight or perspective on Westlake as a writer now?

    And the race is on!

  4. I'm not sure actually, beyond what I've already written in the various Parker Progress Reports. And even in those I don't know if I had any new insights. One thing I think I have begun to appreciate more are the games Westlake played to keep himself interested, like trying out different sorts of genre novel in the Grofield books, or the structural games in the Parkers, seeing what he could do within that four act frame. But all that stuff's been written about before I think. I still think I'll take up Book Glutton's suggestion when I've read a couple more Dortmunders to do a compare/contrast between Parker and Dortmunder.

  5. Just popping in to say nice site.