Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Favorite Books I Read in 2005

1. Bleak House by Charles Dickens
An immense joy to read, with unforgettable characters. It's the most I've ever enjoyed Dickens and will probably convert me into a lifelong fan.

2. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Somehow I was never assigned this book in school (even as an English major), but I was curious, esp. after learning he won the Nobel prize. I fear books like this are ruined for people in school. I loved it as a classic action novel, and it works wonders with natural symbolism. It also reconfirmed for me that I have a lifelong love of stranded island stories.

3. The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
I've been savoring Holmes by reading one book a year since I got hooked.

4. Song of the Loon by Richard Amory
This 1966 work of gay pastoral erotica, a huge bestseller in its day, spawning sequels and a movie, was reissued this year, an event. Unpretentious, naive fantasy, this was great fun to read but also gave me a sense of insight into earlier gay culture. It's weirdly spiritual and wise, but its blindspots and failings are as interesting now as anything else about it.

5. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
It did exactly what it should have, getting us all speculating and confused and excited for the finale.

6. Courtroom 302: A Year Behind the Scenes in an American Criminal Courthouse by Steve Bogira
An excellent look at Chicago criminal justice, relevant far beyond Chicago.

7. What's the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America by Thomas Frank
I don't agree with Frank on everything (like his confidence that conservatives can't get what they want or his dismissal of symbolic politics) but he gave me so much to chew on.

8. (tie) The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter van Tilburg Clark
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
The year's two One Book, One Chicago selections were surprisingly good.

10. Rebels on the Backlot by Sharon Waxman
Excellent reporting on the more exciting filmmaking going on in Hollywood, with an informative look behind the scenes and into the inner workings. It helped me understand what's going on in Hollywood and made me more pessimistic about the future of Hollywood's cutting edge.

Honorable Mentions:
Two classic novellas: Maggie: A Girl of the Streets by Stephen Crane & At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft
I re-read a few Crane stories and read Maggie for the first time to get a better sense of what "realism" really is, and it was very interesting. My first Lovecraft was hard to get into at first, but by the end I enjoyed it, and I really came away with a sense of his personal style and achievment.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Strong prose and storytelling, but I came away somewhat unsatisfied, but I've pondered it often since finishing.

Candy Freak by Steve Almond
Greatly entertaining tour of the few mom-and-pop candy businesses left in America. Almond is smart, with a great sense of humor.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
Much more of a slog than I expected, I can't say I enjoyed this. But I learned a lot about Joyce and his work. The prose dazzled at times, and what a unique creation. I haven't relied on footnotes this much since Nabokov.

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner
Thought-provoking and easily digestible, but also screwy, self-congratulatory, padded and superficial. A lot of this is crap.



Post a Comment

<< Home