Saturday, January 5, 2008
The Books of 2007, Part 2
My list of books read in 2007 has come to an end, along with the year itself. Above, the brilliant David Mitchell holds my favorite book of the year, Cloud Atlas. My other favorites? The Road, Fun Home, Last Evenings on Earth, The Emperor's Children, and All Aunt Hagar's Children were pretty amazing.
I feel like I've accomplished something--I read 37 books. Why am I so ridiculously goal oriented and obsessed with numerical measures? That is a question for another day.
So here are the rest of the books I read in 2007, from July through December. Once again, the books in bold are the ones that wowed me.
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, Alison Bechdel. This graphic novel deserved to be named the 2006 best book of the year by Time Magazine (even if Cloud Atlas was the best book of the year.) The drawings were meticulous and lovely. The autobiographical coming-of-age story introduces us to a young girl who realizes that her home-decor-obsessed dad is gay, and that she is a lesbian. They live in a funeral home. And yup, they deal with their sexuality in very different ways. Gripping and well-structured.
The Emperor's Children, Claire Messud. I have heard a lot of people hating on the supposed superficiality of this book about the intertwined hijinks of liberal, ambitiously literary New Yorkers. What does that say about me? Because I ate up every minute of it.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, JK Rowling.
Ghostwritten, David Mitchell. This book was absorbing and brilliant, but can any book ever be as good as Cloud Atlas? Not likely.
The Happiest Baby On The Block, Harvey Karp. Someday when we really do adopt, this book is going to come in very handy, if I haven't completely forgotten the five S's by then.
The Whole World Over, Julia Glass.
Imagining Argentina, Lawrence Thornton. I liked the premise (a man can see the fates of the disappeared in Argentina, during that country's Dirty War) a little better than I liked the book, but it was worth reading. It was strange that the author never visited Argentina before writing the book.
Imperial Life in the Emerald City, Rajiv Chandrasekaran. Excellent book about the debacle that has been the American occupation of Iraq. I was torn between horror and schadenfreude. For the 1,000,000th time, yes, real life is more surreal than fiction.
The Last Life, Claire Messud. Messud's first novel, about the travails of a French/Algerian/American teenager, came off as precious and navel-gazing, and was a bit of a slog.
The Dissident, Nell Freudenberger. Satisfying and readable book about a dissident Chinese avante-garde artist who goes on a residency to the United States and gets involved with a crazy rich family. I would never have learned about the fascinating East Village Chinese art scene without this book.
Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler. I had always wanted to read Octavia Butler. Like a lot of science fiction, I suppose, the ideas in the book were more interesting than the plot. I think the main character was Octavia, though, and I really liked her.
The Crazed, Ha Jin. This was an (intentionally, most likely) dreary book about a demented Chinese professor who reveals the emptiness of his life to his protege, who must then make some decisions of his own. In the end I was glad I read it, because it went to unexpected places.
A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Miserable Mill, Lemony Snicket.
All Aunt Hagar's Children, Edward Jones. This author fascinates me. He seems so monastic and committed to his work. Just look at his glasses! And his work is brilliant! Each one of these stories, which are mostly about African-American life in DC, paints a rich and vivid world. He gives Alice Munro a run for her money.
Collected Stories, Amy Hempel. Okay, I really, really didn't like this book. It took me months to get through, and it annoyed the hell out of me. It was just so damn quirky and idiosyncratic. The strange thing is that I had the terribly mistaken idea that I would love it.
Exit Wounds, Rutu Modan. This graphic novel, set in Israel, revolves around the disappearance of an elderly man who, at first glance, no one seems to care much about. Was he killed in a suicide bombing? His cranky taxi-driving son and a very tall young woman try to find out, and reveal a lot about Israeli society in the process. I loved it.
Love is a Mix Tape, Rob Sheffield. I got this for T for Christmas, and we both read it in a day or two. It's a love story (and a loss story) built around mix tapes and the music the author shared with his late wife. Sometimes it was annoyingly clever and rambling, other times it was geekily epic.