Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Best Reading of 2006

So, I thought that in honor of the approaching new year, I would post some kind of list. I considered trying to do one every day until Sunday, but frankly, I don't have a lot to make lists of, and I'm too lazy besides.

I try, in general, to read a book a week. Sometimes I do better than that; sometimes I read only one book in a month, but as I've mentioned before, I don't get cable so that what free time I have can be devoted to reading, blogging, gardening and making stuff. Reading will always be first on that list. I don't think there's ever been a time in my life when I didn't have at least one book going, even if I was just re-reading an old favorite.

So I read a lot of books this year. And a few really stood out. Here they are, in no particular order. (Note: these are not books that came out this year. These are just books I read this year.)

The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
How is possible I waited so long to read this book? I'm so contrary sometimes. An amazing history lesson so tied into the fiction that you forget you're learning. More important to me than most, maybe, as my husband is in the comics business so, essentially, I was learning our bread and butter. But if you know me, you know that I read for story above ALL other things. A beautiful story.

The House on Dream Street by Dana Sachs
I'm slightly acquainted with Dana Sachs, so I put off reading this book for a long time. I never wanted to read it just because I knew her. But I got it at the library booksale for 75 cents. I left it to the bottom of my pile because I'm not so into travel memoirs. But this far transcends that genre. I was impressed by Dana's willingness portray herself fully, even when she was doing something that might make you think less of her. Brave, engaging writing.

The Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Another one I kept putting off. It seemed so gimmicky and the first chapter was just. so. boring. But a bengal tiger named Richard Parker so charmed me that I was hooked. The ending of this book is masterful. If it doesn't, as it claims, make you believe in God, it at least forces you to know your own heart, which maybe is the same thing.

Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
Once again, I'm a contrary bitch. And I would have stayed one, as far as this book was concerned if it hadn't been the voice of Alex which ran a lovely counterpoint through the whole novel.

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
I admit that I am an absolute sucker for a good love story. And to me, this is one of the best. It haunted me for weeks. This book asks you to give in entirely, to give up not just logic but its facsimile as well--I stopped even trying to follow the "story logic" of Henry's time travel--and it is this, I think, that leaves you so raw and open to the story, just like love does.

A Million Little Pieces by James Frey
I read this after the controversy, so I knew what I was in for. But this novel swept me away anyway. I read it like a person on fire, reached the end, turned it over and started again. As I said, I read for story above all else. It was a great story.

The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst
Something about the imperfect relationship between the two main characters really struck me about this book and lent it, for me, something beyond the standard grief/love story. Also, I am a dog fiend.

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
I just finished this recently, so I haven't had as much time to reflect on it as I did the others. But it kept me sequestered for two days, grunting non-commitally in response to Thomas's questions and behind in my work.

Two old friends I revisted this year:

The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan
I hadn't thought of this before, but my feelings for this book are very similar to those for The Time Traveler's Wife. But added to this lovely novel is the insidious way that Amy Tan's dialect makes the world seem skewed and new, like seeing with different eyes.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Just finished this for the 4th time this morning. It was the perfect choice through my illness--familiar enough not to keep me awake with suspense when I needed to sleep, but elusive enough never to seem too familiar. There is something about this book that can never be owned no matter how many times you read it. I hate to make grand pronouncements, but this may be favorite book of all time. There's something so delicate about it, and yet it's as powerful as a sledgehammer.

Thank God for the library book sale and for the library of Ali, my sister, who keeps me in reading material all year long. I've probably read 120 books this year, altogether. For 8 of them to have been exceptional enough to mention seems like a great gift. 8 times this year, I sat up in bed, holding a finished book and crying, either for the characters, or because the book was over, or because someone in the world made something so true and beautiful that it made me afraid I could never do the same.

2006 was a good year.


hat said...

I concur: Dana's House Dream Street is an interesting read. But it was different for me, as I read it from the perspective of a Viet Kieu born in VN but raised in the US. I also recommend Andrew Pham's book Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora.

ashley said...

Thanks for the list! I haven't read a lot of these. But I have to say The Time Traveler's Wife left me absolutely limp with exhaustion - in a good way. Like I was so tied to Henry (I LOVE Henry!) that I could not quite let him go after the book ended. Ah, books.

Gina said...

I tend to turn to sci-fi/fantasy for my reading (when I have the time). I will keep these in mind on my next trip to the library.

penelope said...

Thanks for this list! I just finished The Time Traveler's Wife, and it slayed me. So good. Some of the others will go on my "Must Read" list pronto.

velocibadgergirl said...

Oooooh, I LOVE LOVE LOVE The Hundred Secret Senses! It's my favorite of Amy Tan's books. Have you read The Bone-Setter's Daughter? It's also awesome.

Megs said...

I have read the Bone-Setter's Daughter, but not in a bunch of years. I'll dig it up and read it again when I'm done with my current book. Whilst Christmas shopping, I saw that she has a new one out. Have you read it?

Cue Gal said...

Awesomeness, man. Thank you. I've read most of these, and I'm still really reluctant to read "Life of Pi" for all the reasons we discussed, but I'm going to DO IT, darn it. If only because I trust your judgment so much. ;) PS, I also read "The Secret History" annually. It's lovely every single time.

velocibadgergirl said...

I haven't...I checked it out from the library, but ended up having to take it back before I had time to read it. Another Tan-fan friend of mine said it didn't get great reviews, but I think out of loyalty I'm going to give it a shot anyway.