Saturday, January 5, 2008

favorite books of 2007

One of the best things that happened to me in 2007 was joining LibraryThing, the online community that I mentioned in an earlier post. When I joined LT, I was inspired to start reading again after a several year hiatus, and, in fact, ended up reading 123 books last year. Looking over that list of books, I decided to cull my favorites and post them here. I ended up with seventeen books, and thought, what the hell, why not the best seventeen books of the year? The only order these are in is the order in which I read them; that is to say I probably read the first one in January or February, and the last one in December.

I was delighted to realize that while the majority of the books are fiction, as usual, it is a slim majority, indeed, with nine of the seventeen books I selected being fiction and eight of them non-fiction. I made a conscious effort to read more non-fiction this year, with Julie's excellent assistance at selecting books.

Without further ado, here they are, and I hope you find something that looks interesting to you.

1. Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons - I loved this comedy of manners about a bright young thing from London who goes to stay with her cousins in the country and decides to re-arrange their lives. The cousins are straight out of a Thomas Hardy novel, and never know what hits them.

2. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott - I really loved this book. The author is so encouraging and honest in what she writes.

3. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield - I was concerned that this book wouldn't live up to all the hype, but I absolutely, un-reservedly enjoyed it. A wonderful first book for this author.

4. Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer - This is a fascinating - and really scary! - look at the Church of the Latter Day Saints. It details the history of the church, but also focuses on the heinous murder of a young Mormon woman and her daughter, brutally killed by two of her polygamous brothers-in-law.

5. Find Me by Carol O'Connell - The latest Mallory book. I sat up one night and read the whole thing. Once again the author takes the NYC detective on the road - this time down fabled Route 66. O'Connell expertly weaves Mallory's personal quest into the search for a serial child killer who has been burying bodies along the road for decades. I cried as I read the last page of this book, and that is very unusual for me.

6. When Madeline was Young by Jane Hamilton - I enjoyed this book so much. The narrator reminisces about his childhood growing up with his parents and his sister and his father's first wife, Madeline, who was severely brain-damaged as a young woman. This is a hauntingly beautiful novel.

7. Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell - I knew immediately I would enjoy this author's irreverent and smart-alecky writing style, but I didn't realize how much actual history I would learn from her. I want to go on an assassination vacation!

8. Going Back to Bisbee by Richard Shelton - I really enjoyed this book so much. After having visited friends in Sierra Vista, AZ earlier this year, I have seen much of what the author describes in this book. So I was interested in it from that aspect, but I also really enjoyed his witty and informative writing style. And his love of that part of the country shines through in every phrase and paragraph.

9. Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart - What a delight this book is! The author spent the summer of 1945 in New York City with her best friend, where they both worked at Tiffany's. She writes in such a sweet, straightforward way that is all the more charming for its simplicity.

10. The Pale Blue Eye by Louis Bayard - This may have been the best book of the year for me. An atmospheric mystery set at West Point during the time that Edgar Allen Poe was a cadet there.

11. The Unnatural History of Cypress Parrish by Elise Blackwell - This was a very interesting little book, to be read in small doses and savored. On the eve of Hurricane Katrina, an old man remembers the great flood of 1927 and the events that led up to the destruction of his home and many others in southern Louisiana.

12. Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane - This book created such a steadily building sense of dread in me that I finally had to read ahead to the ending. I hate it when I do that! And it was so surprisingly sad, as well.

13. The Pat Conroy Cookbook: Recipes of my Life by Pat Conroy - I love Pat Conroy, and his cookbook is written in the same wonderful, personal style as his novels.

14. Miss Alcott's E-mail: Yours for Reforms of All Kinds by Kit Bakke - I picked this book off the library shelf and put it back a couple of times before I actually brought it home and read it. I don't know why I hesitated, as it is a delightful and informative book.The author's idea is to send an email to Louisa May Alcott and see what happens next. What happens is a combination of memoir of Ms. Bakke's life in the turbulent 1960s, a biography of Louisa May Alcott, and an extremely readable history of the time in which she lived.

15. The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid - A young Pakistani man strikes up a conversation with an American in Lahore. He shares the story of the time he spent in the U.S. as events which seem to be beyond the control of both of them unfold. The narrative style of the book worked very well here, with the unsaid as important as what was said.

16. Letter From Point Clear by Dennis McFarland - There was a lot more to this book than I initially expected. Adult children of a dysfunctional family is a topic that has been done time and again, but this author came up with an interesting interpretation.

17.Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman - This is a really delightful collection of essays on the joys of books and reading. I bought a copy of it for Julie for Christmas.

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