Friday, December 28, 2007

Favorite Books I Read in 2007

1. Call Me by Your Name by Andre Aciman - A stunningly good novel, with prose that's so much better than what you find in most fiction today. Aciman captures what it's like to fall in love for the first time, especially when you don't know whether that love can even be declared, let alone returned. A classic. Colm Toibin has been recommending this book left and right, Amazon has championed it repeatedly, and PW was just one site that included it in their best of the year coverage. (And because I've gotten addicted to blog searches, here are two random blogs I found that also recommend it.)

2. The Road by Cormac McCarthy - Another supremely powerful reading experience. I've been reading post-apocalyptic stories since I was a kid, but this was an experience like none other.

3. Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them by Francine Prose - The aptly named Prose renewed and sharpened my love of reading.

4. The Marquise of O: and Other Stories by Heinrich von Kleist - I learned about this book from book #3. It's a stunning collection of stories, indelibly written. (The Greenberg translation, intro by Thomas Mann, is difficult to find but worth the effort.)

5. Something Happened by Joseph Heller - I wanted to try something more by the author of Catch-22, and I ended up getting walloped by this blistering doorstop of a novel. A nasty, yet singular experience.

6. Finistere by Fritz Peters - A gay bestseller from the 50s that sold hundreds of thousands of copies in its day saw the light again, and once it hit its stride I was thoroughly impressed. It shattered my ideas of pre-Stonewall history. Anyone with an interest in gay literature should read this. Another triumph for Little Sister's Classics.

7. The World Without Us by Alan Weisman - An odd thought experiment - what would happen to the Earth if mankind suddenly disappeared? - yields fascinating results.

8. In the Land of Time and other Fantasy Tales by Lord Dunsany - An ideal introductory sampler. I'm primed for more by this early master of fantasy writing.

9. At Large and At Small: Familiar Essays by Anne Fadiman - From ice cream to Charles Lamb, Fadiman's musings are charming and thoughtful.

10. Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon - I haven't yet mustered the will to read his Jews-in-Alaska book, but I loved this Jews-with-swords book, a throwback to Leiber-style adventure - the first of many, I hope.

Honorable Mentions:
Art Out of Time: Unknown Comics Visionaries, 1900-1969 ed. by Dan Nadel - I could have placed this in my top ten, easily. A collection that offers up samples of work by some of the neglected giants of American comics. Probably the most fun reading of the year.

Mothers & Sons by Colm Toibin and Cheating at Canasta by William Trevor (several stories online) both impressed me. Does anyone write short stories as well as the Irish?

Middlemarch by George Eliot - I wasn't as thrilled with this classic as many are, but by the end I enjoyed and respected it.

Le Grand Meaulnes by Henri Alain-Fournier - On David Mitchell's recommendation, I read this beautiful coming of age classic.

Reflections in a Golden Eye by Carson McCullers - A taut, gothic character study.

Atonement and On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan - Still sorting out what I think of McEwan, but I certainly find his work consistently interesting. I'd recommend both of these books.

Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders by Neil Gaiman - Uneven, but the best stories here are marvels. I look forward to reading more Gaiman.

Like You'd Understand, Anyway: Stories by Jim Shepard - The psychology and tone of these stories got a little repetitious for me, but there's no denying the collection's stunning diversity of settings and situations. This was an inspiring read. "Sans Farine" is one of the best historical fictions I've read.

Highlights of Short Reading:
"Pale Horse, Pale Rider" by Katherine Anne Porter (the novella is easily one of the 6 or 7 best things I read this year), various stories from Ill Met in Lankhmar by Fritz Leiber (I'd never heard of Leiber until recently - what a genius!), various stories from White Walls by Tatyana Tolstaya (the first 2 stories are incredibly rich - I plan to finish this gradually), "The Insufferable Gaucho" by Roberto Bolano, "Swimming" by T. Cooper, Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson, and The Salon by Nick Bertozzi (entertaining graphic novel that blends dark fantasy and art history).



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