Popular Picks 2000Popular Picks 2000

Here are some librarians' picks of the year's best books, movies and television.

Alison Burt, Shirley Library

Fiona Allison, Central Library

My favourite movie was American Psycho - killingly funny and stylish, and so much less traumatizing than the book; also Onegin - an achingly melancholic Russian period drama with the added attractions of the very beautiful Ralph Fiennes and Liv Tyler.

The best TV series was The Sopranos - James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano could be the most unlikely sex symbol since Homer Simpson, and the show gives an insight to what being married to the Mob would be like. Buried in some obscure timeslot was The Aristocrats, the story of the Lennox sisters in the years 1750-1832. The library has the book of this, an illustrated companion to the series and it is also available as a talking book.

In a splendid year for books, my best of the year was a surprise: Anthropology and a hundred other stories by Dan Rhodes is filled with short sharp stories that will blow your mind. Other favourites include Face forward by Kevyn Aucoin with makeup ideas and stunning star portraits (Tori Amos as Mary Queen of Scots, Gywneth Paltrow as James Dean). Experience, a memoir by Martin Amis was warm and involving. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood was a well deserved Booker winner.

Donna Robertson, Central Library

Book of the year: An equal music Vikram Seth

Sue Sutherland, Librarian

  • Plain truth Jodi Picoult - the story of Amish people involved in a English lawsuit
  • Bee season - Myla Goldberg - the story of a Jewish girl and her ability to spell which is overshadowed by the expectations of her father for her to do well.

Catherine Parr, Central Library

Disgrace J.M. Coetzee, Booker Prize winner - combines 4 of my favourite things - human relationships, English literature, farm life and dogs, starkly told - quite chilling and honest. An English professor falls from grace, out of his sheltered but censorious world of the university into the real world of the backblocks of his daughter's farm. Here he is faced with the violence that is South Africa. Brilliant.

Four Letters of Love Niall Williams - for me much, much better than Angela's Ashes. Two stories told quite separately- one of a young Irish girl who feels reponsible for her brother's illness and the other of a young Irish boy brought up by a father who decides one day to give up his job as God as called on him to be a painter. Not until the last chapters do their lives intertwine. It is told in magical, beautiful, poetic language. If you like going beyond realism and if youv'e ever wondered if there is a guiding force in all this seeming chaos - then try this.

The Peculiar Memories of Thomas Penman Bruce Robinson - a crazy, funny book which divulges a rite of passage as bleak and as bold as Billy Liar's. Thomas, a 1950s adolescent struggles in his search for identity, finding out more from Olanda's crystal ball than he does from his parents. The Penmans are a dysfunctional family, inhabiting a dislocated house. They communicate through silence and excrement. This is a sad, funny tale superably told - not for the squeamish.

Movies enjoyed were Holy Smoke and Magik and Rose.

My fave TV - is of course Coronation Street - what else is there?

Wendy Murray, Central Library

Books of the year for me were the two Booker Prize shortlisted novels, Trezza Azzopardi's remarkable first novel The hiding place, a quite powerful tale of a Maltese family in Cardiff in the 1960s. Terrible things happen to the family yet it is told in a quiet unemphatic prose and the book is all the better for it. The other Booker hopeful was The keepers of truth by Irish author Michael Collins, about a Midwest town in the 1970s at the time industry closed down and was moved to overseas locations where labour was cheaper. It's written in the first person in a deliberately over the top manner and it evokes a pretty awful time and place very vividly.

Russell Banks' 1990 novel Affliction was one of my best books of the year, a very powerful account of the unravelling of a small town policeman. He's a terrific writer and his portrait of messy lives in small town America always convinces. I read a couple of novels by a similar writer, Larry Brown, during the year but, good as they are, they sink under their weight of sordid violent detail and come close to parody of trailer trash fiction. Other than that, two Evelyn Waugh novels I read for the first time, Scoop, the delightful classic comedy about journalism, and The ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold, the bizarre and disquieting black comedy about a man's breakdown during an ocean voyage.

The movies of the year for me were mainly British, not the irritating gangsters down the East End stuff that the British film industry is obsessed with these days, but a period piece and two tales of contemporary London. In the first category was Mike Leigh's very long, totally engrossing tale of Gilbert and Sullivan and the genesis of their masterpiece, The Mikado,Topsy turvy. In the latter category was a truly original black comedy, Beautiful people, which made a point about the idiocy of conflict in its tale of Bosnians, Serbs, Welsh nationalists and more in London, and Wonderland, which took the lives of three sisters and their parents in South London. It painted a picture of messy lives and sordid everyday realities which still contained a sense of wonder. It also had an exceptional performance by Gina McKee who, in a just world, would be a household name but probably will never be.

The best big mainstream movie for me was The insider, a big, loud, sometimes over dramatised account of one man's fight against a tobacco giant. It had Al Pacino doing what he does best, acting at the top of his voice. Also very good but a little risible in its melodramatics and Graham Greene derived tortured Catholicism was The end of the affair. It did make me wonder if London was really so wet at thetime and why people had heart to hearts in the pouring rain.

Television was worse than ever and the one TV1 highlight, its Sunday night playhouse, was cluttered with dull vehicles for popular TV stars like Robson Green, John Thaw and Pauline Quirke. Prime Television managed to keep its programming at a high level, implying that viewers might have a brain. It is a shame, however, how many people don't take advantage of it. It had three exceptional British series this year, all examples of what should have been in TV1s quality slot. These were Holding on, Births, marriages and deathsand Amongst women.These series have now been shown twice on Prime yet the number of people who must have seen them is obviously quite small if general discussion among TV watchers is any guide. So the message with quality channels is use it or risk losing it.

Philip Tew, Central Library

Marie Gant-Roxburgh, Sumner Library