Monday, July 16, 2007
The Books of 2007, Part 1
Last year I started keeping a list of all the books I've read, inspired by a former coworker. This year has been an especially book-heavy year for me, for some reason, though I have been remiss in reading nonfiction. I think I get my nonfiction from magazines and the internet.
Here's the list for the first half of 2007, with some commentary. The bold ones are the ones that really wowed me.
Best Short Stories 2006
The Ladies of Grace Adieu, Susannah Clarke. A collection of short stories that is the followup to Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, and expands on the magical yet very English world depicted in the book.
Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell. The struggles of six outcasts linked through time. The author invents new worlds and reimagines old ones, while writing in six different styles, all of them riveting. One of the best books I have ever read.
How Much Is Enough?, Clarke, Dawson, Bredehoft. A very good parenting book about how indulging kids harms them, and how to raise self-reliant kids.
Number 9 Dream, David Mitchell
All She Was Worth, Miyuki Miyabe. A curious Japanese noir novel about what credit cards can do to a person.
The Inheritance of Loss, Kiran Desai. This book was very well written, but sort of left me cold in the end.
Jesusland, Julia Scheeres. Page-turning memoir about a girl whose oblivious Christian parents adopt two African-American children, and how they all grow up, not too happily in rural Indiana.
Best Short Stories 2004
Last Evenings on Earth, Roberto Bolano. The author was a Chilean who wandered the earth, and lived out a noveau-bohemian stereotype of the chain-smoking, hard-living writer (there he is above, smoking away) before dying in his 50s. This is a book of short stories that is deceptively simple, and a fresh new look into the Spanish-speaking world without a single incident of magical realism.
Soar With Your Strengths, Donald Clifton and Paula Nelson. An annoying business book I had to read for a training. I hate business books.
Mothering Without a Map, Kathryn Black. A parenting book for mothers (or mothers to be, like me) who had absent, abusive or neglectful mothers. This book was a necessary read for me, and it made me really sad.
Serious Girls, Maxine Swann
The Zahir: A Novel of Obsession, Paulo Coelho. This is one of the worst, most half-baked books I've ever read.
The Mistress' Daughter, A.M. Homes. Another adoption memoir, about the novelist Homes' less than idyllic reunion with her birthparents.
Drown, Junot Diaz. Fantastic book of short stories about Dominicans in New York and the D.R. Tough-minded but really kind, too.
Eat The Document, Dana Spiotta. The story of 60s radicals who go underground after a bombing goes wrong. It has a lot to say about the leftist politics of the 60s and today.
Noone Belongs Here More Than You, Miranda July. Yeah, I know that Miranda July is a cool lady, but this book had a few good Lorrie Moore-esque stories and some that just weren't very good.
Norwegian Wood, Haruki Murakami. A surprisingly linear Murakami that was a lot of fun to read. I think I've read all of his novels now, except for his new one.
Suite Francaise, Irene Nemirovsky. Three linked novellas that tell the story of the German occupation of France and the ways the rich, poor and middle class adapted or resisted. This author, a Russian emigre to France, died at Auschwitz, and the novel was discovered only recently.
The Road, Cormac McCarthy. This dystopian novel about a father and his son looking for safety in a destroyed world was impossible to put down and has haunted me ever since I read it.
Now I'm on to the second half of the year. I've been wanting to read a book called The Emperor's Children, by Claire Messud, and have come close to shelling out $15 for it a couple of times. While walking through Noe Valley yesterday, I found a hardback of it lying on the ground, with someone's airline ticket stub and pictures of a mother and child inside.