ReadingWhat stood out and what might be stocking fillers for this year

This sounds like those articles in Metro and the like where celebrities are asked what they'd like to be given for Christmas. Unfortunately I'm too late to round up any celebrities (I'd though of writing to Nicky Watson, Steve Crow and Charlotte Dawson, but I wasn't sure if they were Friends Of Libraries) so I've rounded up what I and others have observed.

The prize winners of the year all seem to be well deserved. The Montana award for fiction went to Patricia Grace for her novel Tu and this is a feather in the cap for this wonderful unassuming New Zealand writer. The Man Booker was an unpopular choice, John Banville's The sea. Whether the fact that Banville himself doesn't seem to be that popular or the central character of the novel isn't that pleasant, it shouldn't take away from the fact that this is a beautifully crafted book and quite haunting. Other novels that really stand out are Sebastian Barry's superb and moving novel A long long way about what it was like for soldiers in the trenches of World War I; Zadie Smith's third novel, On beauty, which is a modern take on E.M. Forster's Howard's end; Curtis Sittenfeld's Prep, which confirms what last year's Tom Wolfe novel told us: higher education in the U.S. is a terrifying place to be; Francine Prose's A changed man, a satirical novel with a strong moral edge that made you think and made you cringe; Maurice Gee's Blindsight which is a compelling and quite moving tale set in Wellington now and a few decades ago. And that's just a few of the novels that you might like to read or get as a present. The truth is that people all over the world will be getting that Dan Brown novel in their stocking or, if not, one of the many spin offs of it. If I was a good writer, or better still a bad writer, I'd whip up something that linked the Catholic church, a link between Mary Magdalene and Hilary Clinton, a link between George Bush and Mohammed, and go from there.

The year was filled with books easy to market and sell: all those 100 places to go/things to read/movies to watch/ whatever before you die great scissors and paste stuff for people who like lists (seemingly, most of us); celebrity drivel (everyone from Paris Hilton to the chestily challenged Jordan); All Blacks telling us that some of the boys like a few drinks; books allegedly written by their authors (the Beckhams etc) and possibly not even read by their authors; health paranoia (Natural cures they don't want you to know about it's always they who don't want us to know about natural cures, UFOs, satanic abuse, you name it).

There were some interesting books that challenged people and created a lot of talk; Steven Levitt's Freakanomics was a case in point as a book that you might not agree with but certainly made you think. Malcolm Gladwell's Blink was another in this vein. Dinner parties last year had people nattering about the parlous state of punctuation after the Lynne Truss book and there is already a lot of interest, albeit not as much, about her new one that tells us how rude we all are. The interest in autobiographies from "ordinary" people rather than celebrities continues and the success last year of the memorable Another bullshit night in suck city was echoed by the equally disturbing Alexander Masters book Stuart: a life backwards and Kathleen O'Malley's Childhood interrupted which deals with an unfortunate Catholic upbringing in Ireland. And, although he's well known, novelist John McGahern's Memoir is a moving evocation of his Catholic upbringing in the same country and those who read his superb earlier novel Amongst women will be interested in the real story that this novel was based on. O. Winfrey continues with her classic book club and it seems that William Faulkner was not her most popular choice so for her next Oprah zeroed in on overcoming dysfunctional childhoods (always a popular theme with Oprah) with James Frey's A million little pieces, and this 2003 book went on to enormous success.

There were a few New Zealand books that would make terrific Christmas presents, most notably Douglas Lloyd-Jenkins's At home: a century of New Zealand design and the beautifully produced revised edition of David McGill's Landmarks. The top sellers were probably David Lange's autobiography in which he settled a few political scores and Ngaire Thomas's Behind closed doors which put the kind of item that you'd see on 20/20 into book form. The reprint of Geoffrey Rice's Black November, about the 1918 flu epidemic, has created a lot of interest because of constant media coverage of bird flu at present.

Children's books were dominated as always by Harry Potter, with Jacqueline Wilson and Christopher Paolini also selling hugely. The days of celebrities penning (or ghosting) a children's book are still with us and they have invaded the world of the six to nine year olds (Guy Ritchie's endlessly self-inventing wife) and glutinous advice to and about children (Arnold Schwarzenegger's wife) and we can expect more. Adult novelists are having a go at children's books, sometimes with success (Carl Hiassen) and sometimes not.

The Daisy Meadows fairy books have created big interest (fairies are the new angels) and there've been some terrifically successful children's books such as Emily Gravett's Wolves and Julia Donaldson's Charley Cook's favourite book. Narnia is getting a real boost at the moment and as well as the novels and the making of the film books, biographies of C.S. Lewis are being reprinted.

No year would be complete without Margaret Mahy and she has produced two first rate novels, one for children (Maddigan's fantasia) and one for YA (Kaitangata twitch). Another local (well, she used to live here) author with an excellent novel was Kate De Goldi with Uncle Jack.

None of what I've written is gospel and I'd love to see what other people thought were the best, the worst, the good, the bad and the ugly of the year.

Philip Tew, Library Resource Services