Didn't manage to read 50 books as I had planned but here we go:
The Way of Kings - Brandon Sanderson
The Immortal Prince - Jennifer Fallon
The Greatest Show on Earth - Richard Dawkins
The Warded Man - Peter V. Brett
The Dark Mirror - Juliet Marillier
Brother Tariq - Caroline Fourest
The Way of Shadows - Brent Weeks
Bright of the Sky - Kay Kenyon
Lord of Snow and Shadows - Sarah Ash
Assassin's Apprentice - Robin Hobb
I gotta say I didn't have lots of time for reading this year... Had to choose 10 books among 33 (I'm currently finishing Assassin's Apprentice, but It should be finished around early January)... so some of the books listed were very good but would probably not have been listed had I had the time to read more.
Still, I had some GREAT books in my list which are:
The Way of Kings - Brandon Sanderson: Here's an author that has become a favorite ever since I laid my eyes on his first published book Elantris. It's a monster of 1008 pages, the longest fantasy book I've ever read and to be honest the most difficult to get into. But once the first 400 pages were read, I was in for one of the greatest ride of the year. Again he's delivered a masterpiece and I can't wait to get my hands on the following book in the Stormlight Archives Series.
The Immortal Prince - Jennifer Fallon: The only book I'd read from Jennifer Fallon before that one was Medalon about three years ago. It was a good read, but at the time I had just restarted reading, and French being my mother tongue it was a bit of a challenge hence instead of looking at a dictionary every two words, I had chosen to read it entirely in one go even if it meant I would miss some key points in the book. Obviously I was not impressed. Still, looking at the gorgeous cover of The Immortal Prince, I couldn't help but want to read it. It was GREAT. I enjoyed it almost as much as The Way of Kings and I would recommend it to any epic fantasy fan.
The Greatest Show on Earth - Richard Dawkins: Controversial author I guess for some readers here. But the guy is great when it comes to the evolution FACT by means of natural selection. Being a former Muslim, I had read my fill of creationist books before, thought the way evolution was taught at school was poorly done and although I had watched lots of documentaries on the subject, I could understand why people coming from a religious background would have doubts about it. How could there be a consensus on Darwin's theory in the scientific community? Well. Now I know. The Greatest Show on Earth was a mind blowing book for me, it's wonderfully written, it explains proofs after proofs after proofs in every field of science from biology, to paleontology, to genetics, epigenetics, geology etc... how all sciences gather and support the theory of evolution. It leaves absolutely no doubt over the veracity of the Evolution fact and doesn't leave a single creationist suspicion unanswered. Anybody used to creationist arguments would have a hard time contradicting what's in there... Belief or not in the existence of a supreme being cannot shatter such truth. The enthusiasm Dawkins feel about Nature and how all species and plants evolved is so great, it pours out of the pages. It left me wanting for more and after reading it, I now have an additional 10 books on by TBR pile just to get into some subjects broached by Dawkins in more details.
The Warded Man - Peter V. Brett and The Way of Shadows - Brent Weeks: I put these two books together because they're part of the same mold. It's good fantasy that doesn't dwell too much into politics. It's action packed in a pop-corn way. It leaves you a bit raw, on edge because there's no rest, no true time of peace for the main characters who are always torn one way or the other. These two books are not for the faint hearted, and not for people who don't have time on their hands. You take two days off to read it otherwise it's better not to start. These are two cliffhanger books, great read. Not fantasy books I'd say would leave a lasting impression... rather It's like watching Spiderman or Transformers, you had a great time watching them while you know they're not the most original movies you've seen in your life. You could reread them and have just as much fun ^^
Brother Tariq: The Doublespeak of Tariq Ramadan - Caroline Fourest : I actually read the original version which is in French under the title Frère Tariq: Le double discours de Tariq Ramadan. Again this is a non-fiction book. I guess that one is much more personal and is directly linked to the worrying political climate we have in Europe. When I was still Muslim, I saw that book in a bookshop years ago and didn't open it. Like many Muslims, I thought journalists were fueling paranoia against Muslims because of their Islamophobia. Tariq Ramadan, is one guy who is well listened, admired even, by the Muslim community. My family have some of his tapes, but I only listened a few of them... At the time, they made me ill at ease, because I just could not agree with him on some things while he, being the religious figure so much admired, I felt I should do what he preached... And it conflicted with my desire for independence, equality of gender and my will of raising my own family BUT with sharing the tasks with a husband (i.e I won't give up my career for children, he doesn't have to either, so let's try to reach a compromise so that each of us contribute to their upbringing. My mom raised us alone, my father was the one to work, so while I see how important her presence has been for us, I also as an adult now know how much sacrifices she had to do and I feel guilty about it. I won't give that guilt to my own children, but I won't let them without parental support either.)
Anyway, we have a worrying rise of the extreme right here (although by "extreme right" I'd say the ideas that are widely spread by the "Front National" is regarding Family and Immigration close to what you've got in the Republican party in the US. The French "Extreme Right" is not the Ku Klux Klan.) and It has been a while I haven't seen Tariq Ramadan on TV... So I decided to look into it when my Muslim older brother told me he knew Tariq Ramadan had been driven out because French people are becoming increasingly racist (which is NOT my impression btw).
Caroline Fourest is known for being from the left, firmly attached to Secularism and for having written a couple of books against all forms of fundamentalisms being Christians or Muslims. She's also known for her fight against homophobia, the right of women, equality of gender and racism. She's got one hell of a biography for such a young age (she turned 35 in 2010 but started to get published and to contribute in newspapers since her early 20s). In short, she's a person, I've learned to trust by her impressive work, never judgmental, always well documented and well balanced.
In this book, she did not disappoint. By tracing T.Ramadan's origins, his influences, history, family in a first part. She explains how his ideology was built. In a second part, using only Tariq Ramadan's books and tapes along with some conferences he's given and some shows he appeared in, she crushes the myth of Ramadan's being a "moderate" Muslims. Basically, his top notch reputation is shredded and he appears as what he really is: an extremist.
More importantly, Caroline Fourest manages to denounce him without putting Muslims in the same mold. Explaining how Tariq Ramadan's views are not the one of the French Muslim community but that because of his presence in the media, T. Ramadan raises suspicions from non-Muslims while getting an aura to innocent young Muslims who then risks getting more and more radical under his influence.
First, Ramadan appears as a moderate... and once you're trapped and start to listen to him it goes into extremism.
I wish this book was more widely spread, so that Muslims can react and say they're not like this guy, they don't share the same ideas. That's wishful thinking... But that book is a call for all Muslims around the world, atheists, agnostics and Christians that to live well together we should be aware of Wolves in sheep's' clothings
Well that's it basically. I could have said something on The Dark Mirror but my memory of it is blurry although I really loved it. Most of my books were not in my "GREAT" category, but the few that did left a big impression of me. Especially the two non-fiction ones.
Hope to get further into those two subjects next year.
Happy New Year everyone!