Reader's ChoiceReaders' Choice 2005

The judges have spoken and here is a list of the books customers and librarians liked best in 2005. Some new, some old, all beloved by someone somewhere and all worth checking out.

All tomorrow's parties William Gibson
Gibson is a poet - most writers can write a decent plot but the way that Gibson writes is lyrical.
Almost Perfect Diane Blacklock
Quite simply it is the best chick-lit book I have ever read, totally unpredictable and the writing style gripped me from page one.
The Bartimaeus trilogy (The Amulet of Samarkand, The golem's eye, Ptolemy's gate) Jonathan Stroud
The third book has just been published and provides a satisfying conclusion to one of the best recent fantasy series. Each book features excellent world building, engaging characters, including the demon Bartimaeus, and genuine suspense. You will find these books in the children's section - but why should the kids get the best reads? For children or adults, this is a powerful story not to be missed.
Also this year the second installment of Greg Keyes's Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone (The briar king, The charnel prince) keeps up the high standard of the first. I'm looking forward to number three! J.C.
Blindsight Maurice Gee
A compelling and quite moving tale set in Wellington now and a few decades ago. P.T.
The Bomb: a life Gerard de Groot
My book of 2005 - it is all there; splitting the atom, Manhattan Project, scientists irradiating themselves, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands, and the U.S. setting off bombs and frying poor Japanese fishermen who happened to be in wrong place at wrong time. One soldier told how they were near the bomb blast and could see the bones of their hand a la an x-ray from the flash. Another story told how some cows had the hair scorched off their back and when it grew back it was colourless. D.R.
A breath of snow and ashes Diana Gabaldon
The sixth book starring Claire and Jamie Fraser, this time unwillingly involved in the American Revolution, shows a return to form by Diana Gabaldon. It is a great read: I couldn't put it down. I can no longer say that my favourite books in the series are the ones set in Scotland.
A changed man Francine Prose
A satirical novel with a strong moral edge that makes you think and makes you cringe. P.T.
Don Quixote Miguel de Cervantes
The complete book.
The Da Vinci code Dan Brown
Held me captivated right until the very end.
Eat Fat, Lose Weight Anne Louise Gittleman
Here is one I recommend as being easy to read and 'wow' in subject matter.
Catchy title, a subject dear to many hearts. And what it offers is some research-backed facts about food, fats & oils that quite simply blow right out of the water many of the fads and fables about these food items. Gives constructive information and even some menu suggestions. L.S.
Foreign Babes in Beijing Rachel de Woskin
The author gives an insight into an American woman living in China in the 1990s, trying to understand where she fits in. Interesting viewpoint of Chinese-American relationships, both on the political and personal spectra.
Great lies to tell small kids Andy Riley
It's a cartoon book so it's a quick read but immensely entertaining. From the author of "Bunny Suicides", this offering is similarly off the wall but a good deal warmer, and a lot less gross. Great fodder for mischievous aunties and uncles!
Harry Potter and the half-blood prince J K Rowling
I don't know how she does it - yet another great read! Top marks for bringing together so many different strands and creating such a cohesive whole. Can't wait for the last one in the series.
Harry Potter and the prisoner of Azkaban J.K Rowling
Because it was interesting, scary and adventurous all rolled into one fabulous book, I recommend this book to all readers, young and old.
Heartland Neil Cross
A memoir of a messed-up family, self-deluded stepfather and love addicted mother. Lots of cultural references from 70's and 80's Britain but largely a personal story beautifully told. J.F.
The historian Elizabeth Kostova
Any novel that gives important roles to archivists and librarians, provides stunningly evocative writing about exotic locales and mixes gripping suspense with some interesting facts is worth a read. don't be put off by the hefty size of it, once you get started you will fly through. R.S.
If the spirit moves you Justine Picardie
When Justine Picardies sister died of cancer in her thirties Picardie could not bear to think she would never see or speak to her again. She embarked on a quest to contact her sister on the other side; without too much belief or hope that she would be successful. This almost unbearably sad but often funny and always beautifully written book is a mediation on grief, on family, on belief and on what it means to be human. The absolute best book I read all year. R.S.
The inner circle T. Coraghessan Boyle
This book is about Alfred Kinsey, sex researcher, through the eyes of a young protege. About sex, hero-worship, love and power, this is the one book I could not put down this year.
Iqbal Francesco d'Adamo
This has been placed in the children's collection, but its appeal stretches to all ages. A touching eye-opening fictionalised story based on the life of Iqbal Masih, who rebelled against slavery in a Pakistani carpet factory. Iqbal's bravery deserves greater recognition.
Journey to Ixtlan Carlos Castaneda
Simple, clear and concise words of wisdom from Juan.
The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini
Wonderfully written, thought provoking and heart wrenching.
The Language of Baklava Diana Abu-Jaber
Reminiscent of her wonderful fiction title Crescent.In this non-fiction title we visit her eclectic passionate family whose daily existence in American and Jordan seems to revolve around food, family dramas and celebrations. Scattered throughout are mouth watering middle eastern recipes. J.K.
Leading The cheers Justin Cartwright
Very readable. Main character flawed but honest. The novel was not predictable. Memories of school days and how people don't really change in later life was so real.
A long long way Sebastian Barry
A superb and moving novel about what it was like for soldiers in the trenches of World War I. P.T
Lucky in the corner Anshaw, Carol
Lovable, weird characters and an offbeat story.
Memoir John McGahern
This is a moving evocation of well-known novelist McGaherns Catholic upbringing in Ireland and those who read his superb earlier novel Amongst women will be interested in the real story that this novel was based on. P.T.
Memoirs of a Geisha Arthur Golden
An oldie but definitely a goodie. And the film is coming out in NZ in January! Great unputdownable read - the story reveals the magic but also the nastiness of the "floating world" of the geishas of Gion.
My mothers wedding dress Justine Picardie
Clothes we all wear them, some of us even care about them. Their manufacture must be one of one of the worlds largest industries. Entire publishing conglomerates are devoted to their display, and to the lives of the men and women who design them. Yet somehow their significance in our lives has been largely overlooked, apart from specialised academic commentary. In this charming little book Justine Picardie redresses the balance somewhat, looking at what clothes can symbolise and what they can mean to the people who wear them, and the people who look at them. R.S.
Never Let Me Go Kazuo Ishiguro
Ishiguro's subject matter is quite different from the rest of his books but he retains that cool, understated, refined prose that makes it so hard to believe he is not a born and bred English writer. Perhaps the fact that he worked as a grouse beater for the Queen Mother has something to do with it.
Never Let Me Go is told retrospectively by 31 year old Kathy H, a student at a rather sinister English boarding school. What is so sinister about this boarding school is only revealed little by little from the children's perspectives. The reader is not sure what is true and what is hidden and not all is revealed even in the end. It is a sad, heartfelt story of human relationships where science and morality clash head on. It reminded me of my favourite Margaret Atwood novel, A Handmaid's Tale.
I couldn't put it down but to reveal its underlying secret is to spoil the novel. Ishiguro somehow can do "terrifying and yet banal" at the same time. I only thing I wondered was, surely someone would rebel against their grim fate. W.M.
Ninth life of Louis Drax Liz Jensen
Dark and disturbing. J.F.
On Beauty Zadie Smith
Zadie Smith creates a great cast of characters and delivers a witty, bittersweet tale of families, growing up, academic life, love and ambition.
Passing under Heaven Justin Hill
The writer blends history and fiction well in this novel about Xuanji Yu, one of China's greatest women poets, who lived about 1000 years ago during the Tang dynasty. Her poetry has been placed sensitively within the text and has been referenced clearly.
Prep Curtis Sittenfeld
Confirms what last years Tom Wolfe novel told us: higher education in the U.S. is a terrifying place to be. P.T.
Remembrance Theresa Breslin
It really helps you to understand how hard it must have been during the First World War from a teenagers perspective. It is very well written and very touching, it made me respect the people who went through that time a whole lot more.
Saturday Ian McEwan
A day in the life of a middleclass neurosurgeon that goes pear shaped. What could have been dull in the hands of another writer becomes a fascinating study in daily life. Ian McEwan was a Booker winner with "Amsterdam". J.K.
The sea John Banville
An unpopular choice for the 2005 Man Booker. 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
shouldnt take away from the fact that this is a beautifully crafted book and quite haunting. P.T.
A short history of tractors in Ukrainian Marina Lewcycka
Funny, moving, desperately sad, elevated not-so-chick lit. J.F.

Although it's hard to imagine a more uninspiring title, this novel is a funny and touching story about a family who survived the war in Europe and their relationships with each other and with the past. S.C.

Sleeping Arrangements Laura Shaine Cunningham
Memoir, wonderful characters positive but realistic, sad and humorous, beautifully written, stays with you long after you have finished it. A compassionate book.
Sunshine Robin McKinley
It's fantasy which I really enjoy, but also very good reading with a real human touch. She really makes the main character come alive, and leaves a lot to the readers imagination. This is a book I have read three times and plan to buy.
The Tea Rose Jennifer Donnelly
A very believable account of a very likeable woman. No boring bits in it at all.
Thread of Grace Mary Doria Russell
A gripping tale of Italy in the last days of World War 2. Well researched, with characters you will come to love. However, do not become too attached.
Thud! Terry Prachett
I have enjoyed many of Terry's Discworld books and this is one of the best
To kill a mocking bird Harper Lee
Wholesome with good moral messages.
Whitethorn Bryce Courtenay
Just a great story. Very similar to "Power of One".