All right! Let's keep this rolling! (It's very early, the office is freezing - perfect time to make some snap decisions about books?)
Swann's Way vs. A Passage to India
Winner: A Passage to India
A stumper right off the bat, huh. Sometimes I know which I'm going to pick right away. Other times, I start writing this paragraph first and hope I come to an answer eventually. Swann's Way was beautifully descriptive, but so dense that sometimes it was a slog to read. But was it rewarding enough to get past that? I'm not sure it was. I think in the end, A Passage to India gave me more food for thought. Although there are a few passages in Swann's Way I'll cherish forever. Not an easy choice, but A Passage to India gets the nod.
Lord Jim vs. The Idiot
Winner: The Idiot
Another really tight one - because I enjoyed both books but loved neither of them. So I ask myself, what would I rather sit down and read again? And those slow sections of Lord Jim make it hard to pick that one. When it's firing on all cylinders, it's a rollicking read. Unfortunately, those are sandwiched between some very tedious prose. I found Dostoyevsky an easier read, and the travails of poor Prince Myshkin were amusingly unpleasant.
Roadside Picnic vs. Hyperion
Sorry, Roadside Picnic. I enjoyed your bleak Russian science fiction stylings quite a lot - particularly the view on ordinary people faced with extraordinary artifacts on a long-term basis. But, Hyperion! It's a masterpiece, I love it, I'm just about to start the second book in the series. I've said it before, but few things had as strong an impact on me last year as did this book.
The Beautiful Mystery vs. When Gravity Fails
Winner: The Beautiful Mystery
When Gravity Fails was amusing science fiction, but certainly nowhere near the strongest SF I read last year. I am delighted by the rise of science fiction not set in the U.S., Europe, or their space-analogues, but I've read better entries into that genre. And The Beautiful Mystery broke me heart, and I can tell you why without spoiling a plotline that's been brewing slowly for books. Penny writes beautifully, and her insights into human nature are second to none in the mystery genre.
Moon Over Soho vs. The Singapore Grip
Winner: Moon Over Soho
Oh, an easy one! Fantastic! The Singapore Grip wasn't as gripping as I might have liked, but it was interesting. Moon Over Soho, on the other hand, is a worthy entry into the Peter Grant series, which I love. (Having only read the first two - I'm trying to pace myself!) In this one, Peter has to enter into his father's world of jazz to find out who is draining magicians of their magic, leaving suspicious-looking heart attacks in its wake. Moon Over Soho prevailed in one of the most difficult decisions of the first round, but sails through the second.