Sunday, January 02, 2005

My Favorite Books of 2004

As usual, only a few of them were actually new.

1. Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Book (2003) by Azar Nafisi

Completely re-energized my love of reading.

2. Moby-Dick or, The White Whale (1851) by Herman Melville (also enjoyed the poem "Monody" and re-reading the story "Bartleby the Scrivener")

What a sense of accomplishment I had finishing it, and I've fallen in love with Melville's style. Want to read more of his South Seas writing.

3. Franny & Zooey (1961) by J.D. Salinger

Read (or re-read) all of Salinger (except Catcher) this year, and just loved the Glass family saga. This was the only book I'd never read before.

4. Cloud Atlas (2004) by David Mitchell

It had Booker buzz, but failed to win in a tough contest. A magnificent book--especially the two outside and two inside "shells" to the story, the way they weave together. They come back to me all the time. The first section goes nicely with Melville, too, being a south-seas tale. That and another story involve Hawaii, one of my favorite places on Earth.

5. An Anthropologist on Mars: Seven Paradoxical Tales (1995) by Oliver Sacks

An incredible thinker, and a profoundly thoughtful observer. I enjoyed thinking of him as a neurologist version of Sherlock Holmes, recounting seven fascinating cases.

6. (tie) Pulp Friction: Uncovering the Golden Age of Gay Male Pulps (2002) ed. by Michael Bronski
and Tales Before Tolkien: The Roots of Modern Fantasy (2003) ed. by Douglas A. Anderson

What a treat to be taken by the hand and guided by these experts through two fascinating (and completely different) fields of fiction.

8. Babel-17 & Empire Star (1966) by Samuel Delaney

Pulpy science-fiction fun, clever and pop-intellectual, with a dazzling understanding of identity and cultural issues way ahead of his time.

9. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1940) by Carson McCullers

That young McCullers could achieve this level of understanding of such a broad array of characters is utterly inspiring. I was disappointed slightly in the ending, but not enough to keep me from re-reading it.

10. The Plot Against America (2004) by Philip Roth

One of the most suspenseful page-turners I've read, yet it's also highly literary, satisfying in so many ways.

11. Persepolis (2003)
and Persepolis 2 (2004) by Marjane Satrapi

Her artwork could be better, but her memoir is fascinating, heartfelt and inspirational.

12. A Study in Scarlet (1887) by Arthur Conan Doyle

Where it all began.

13. Frankenstein or, The Modern Prometheus (1818) by Mary Shelley

Of all the SF classics I've read in the last few years, this probably had the finest writing (over Orwell, Wells, etc.). So different from the movie!



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