Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Dust Cover Dust-Up 2016: Round One, Part One

I decided at the end of last year to approach the Dust Cover Dust-Up a little differently next time. Going with the books I read right up until December 31st, I wasn't finishing the complete Dust-Up until nearly February, which seemed awfully late. I felt a little stuck, though, because otherwise, I wouldn't actually be doing a tournament to find out my favourite book of the past year.

My husband helped me out of the kind of mental block I am prone to put on myself by pointing out that I'm pagan, and as such, my new year is actually October 31st. If I made the Dust Cover Dust-Up go from November to November each year, I could start posting these on my new year, and finish up by some time around the point the calendar flips over to 2017.

So that's what we're doing. As in other years, it's tournament style, book against book, in the order in which I read them, to eventually whittle this down to my top book of the year and a hopefully satisfying Top Ten list. So let's look at the first ten books I read in the past year and make some choices....


Dept. of Speculation  by Jenny Offill vs. Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder

Easy choice to get started with - I really disliked Sophie's World, in addition to being bored silly by it, so it's a guilty pleasure to knock it out in the first round.  Dept. of Speculation was an enjoyable read, although I can't say that it's stayed with me. But there's no question in my mind that it is the better of the two books.

Winner: Dept. of Speculation

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel vs.  

All right, now I'm being punished for the easy first choice, because I really loved both these books to an almost unreasonable degree. How can I choose? Under other circumstances, I'd expect both these books to make it to much later rounds, but I did read them back to back. While sitting in a hospital, ringing a bell for an exam.  Dammit. Okay. I particularly loved how having read The Bone Clocks made The Thousand Autumns a different read than it would have been if I'd read them in the opposite order. However, in the end, I have to give it to Station Eleven. This is the book I gave my Mom for Christmas. This is the one I've been getting a little evangelical for, and I wouldn't be surprised to have it fight it out as one of the best books of my last year.

Winner: Station Eleven

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson vs. Inversions by Iain M. Banks

I found Inversions to be one of the most accessible Culture novels I read in the last year or so, and it's one I would recommend. However, that doesn't mean it's going to win this particular battle. I read all three of Robinson's Gilead trilogy in the last year, and I wouldn't be surprised if one or more is still around in the very late rounds. All three moved me to tears, and this was my first introduction to her pacing and spare prose that is nonetheless so skillful it can reduce a reader to tears with a sentence.

Winner: Gilead

I Was a Teenage Katima-Victim by Will Ferguson vs. Just Looking by John Updike

This is one of those match-ups where I'm not strongly attached to either book. I didn't dislike either, by any means, but neither wormed its way inside my heart and made a place for itself. So if I'm going on pure readability, I'll end up picking Ferguson's romp through Canadian teenage nation-building over Updike's layperson's guide to art. 

Winner: I Was a Teenage Katima-Victim


Hush by Jacqueline Woodson vs.  Whiskey and Water by Elizabeth Bear
Now that's an interesting choice. I remember enjoying both of these books. Not, perhaps, falling head over heels with either, but thoroughly enjoying what they were and what they were trying to do. Unfortunately for Jacqueline Woodson, my preference for genre fiction is going to help Whiskey & Water win out. I am a sucker for fae-reemerging-into-the-world stories, and Bear's books are so deliciously twisty and painful.

Winner: Whiskey and Water

Have you read any of these? Agree or disagree with my choices?

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