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JM Coetzee Reveals His Top Reads of 2011

The Australian has released a 5-part Books of the Year 2011 “wrap-up” – a list of the favourite books read by a selection of writers and critics this year. In his introduction to the series, Stephen Romei, Books Editor of The Australian, notes that he had only one restriction – that the books must have been read this year.

MemorialAs Long as It's BigWaitThe Collected ProseCollected PoemsThe Journey of Anders Sparrman

One of the contributors to this round-up is Nobel laureate, JM Coetzee, who features in Part 2 alongside Peter Carey. Though Coetzee’s list of favourites is dominated by books published outside of 2011, there are some interesting exceptions to this. One title that caught us particularly off-guard was Tim Parks’ Teach Us to Sit Still: A Sceptic’s Search for Health and Healing which Coetzee describes as “a moving chronicle of a mid-life conversion”:

J. M. Coetzee, novelist: The revelation of the year is the “excavation” of the Iliad by British poet Alice Oswald: Memorial. Also a scabrous satirical poem about American politics, As Long as It is Big (2005), by John Bricuth. C. K. Williams, master of the long line, writes with undiminished power in Wait (2010). Zbigniew Herbert’s indispensable Collected Poems (2007) now has a companion, Collected Prose (2010), both translated by Alissa Valles. Daniel Mendelsohn gives us Constantine Cavafy Englished in Collected Poems (2009). Among new novels, The Journey of Anders Sparrman by Per Wastberg (translation 2010) leaves a strong impression. The Microscripts of Robert Walser come to us in selected translations by Susan Bernofsky (2010). The letters of Samuel Beckett continue to absorb: Volume Two, Letters 1941-56. Elena Gorokhova has written a sobering memoir of a Soviet childhood: A Mountain of Crumbs (2010). Tim Parks’s Teach Us to Sit Still is a moving chronicle of a mid-life conversion. Raimond Gaita’s After Romulus includes an affecting memoir of his mother. Anna Wierzbicka continues her pioneering deconstruction of the English language in Experience, Evidence, & Sense (2010).

MicroscriptsThe Letters of Samuel BeckettA Mountain of CrumbsTeach Us to Sit StillAfter RomulusExperience, Evidence, & Sense

As Coetzee’s list is not particularly easy to read, we bring you the complete list of titles in point form:

~ ~ ~

TrackersLife and Times of Michael KThe Granta Book of the African Short StoryThe Honor CodeOne Day I Will Write About This Place

Elsewhere on The Australian‘s Books of the Year lists we were thrilled to find such titles as Trackers by Deon Meyer (recommended by Graeme Blundell), Coetzee’s own Life and Times of Michael K (recommended by Raimond Gaita – is this a case of I recommend yours, you recommend mine?), The Granta Book of the African Short Story (recommended by Aminatta Forna), The Honor Code by Kwame Anthony Appiah (recommended by Janette Turner Hospital), One Day I Will Write About This Place by Binyavanga Wainaina (recommended by Cate Kennedy).

Note: If you aren’t already subscribed to The Australian, you’ll need to register for a free 28-day pass to access these sources.

  • Books of the Year Part 3: Miriam Cosic, Peter Craven, Sophie Cunningham, Delia Falconer, Aminatta Forna, Sonya Hartnett, Raimond Gaita
  • Books of the Year Part 4: Peter Goldsworthy, Robert Gray, Gideon Haigh, Marion Halligan, Melinda Harvey, Ashley Hay, Susan Hayes
  • Books of the Year Part 5: Janette Turner Hospital, Deborah Jones, Evelyn Juers, Cate Kennedy, Richard King, John Kinsella

Book details

Photo courtesy The Australian


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Kelwyn Sole</a>
    Kelwyn Sole
    December 20th, 2011 @15:19 #

    Gosh, is this the reclusive post-modernist I used to work with at UCT, who would nary give an interview to anyone, let alone let another soul have a whiff of what his views were? Way to go, John.


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