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The Lists of 2007

Here they are: the lists of 2007.  I’ve read almost 200 books this year (ten days to go!), so I didn’t want to do just a simple “Best of 2007.”  Instead, I’ve done several “Top Ten” lists that are all based on books I’ve read this year.

 Authors I Can’t Believe I Waited This Long to Meet!
This is for writers who I first read this year, and now I want to read everything they’ve ever written!
Isak Dinesen
I’ve read Out of Africa and Seven Gothic Tales this year, and the beauty of her prose is still awe-inspiring.
Kazuo Ishiguro
It’s not often that you read an author who trusts the reader enough to leave many things unsaid. Ishiguro’s one of those authors, and I treasure that trust.
Charles de Lint
I’ve read two of his books this year, and both of them swept me into a world of heartwarming characters facing difficult decisions in a magical, urban fantasy setting
P.D. James
In all three of her books I’ve read, James delves effortlessly into a variety of psyches; she makes intelligent, thoughtful mystery writing look easy.
Eudora Welty
Southern writing at its best: quirky characters, hot summers, and languid plots.
Anthony Trollope
as I wrote in my original post about him, I think he’s my Charles Dickens. The Eustace Diamonds was continuously riveting, and the hunting scene was stunning.
Wilkie Collins
fast-paced mysteries steeped in gothic drama: what more could you ask for?
Naguib Mahfouz
he brings an entirely different culture to life, and while his plots seem like nothing special, I can’t stop turning the pages.
John Connolly
a master of many styles, but he always manages to give me goosebumps.
Elizabeth Bowen
rather like an Irish Eudora Welty, who manages to find profound truths in the everyday lives of her characters.

Page-Turning Non-Fiction
In my quest to read more non-fiction, these were the books that were compulsively readable and never felt like homework!
Oracle Bones by Peter Hessler
Hessler was a Peace Corps volunteer in China; afterwards, he became a journalist. This book about his life in ever-changing modern China had so many different character sketches, I couldn’t put it down.
Night Draws Near by Anthony Shadid
about the lives of ordinary Iraqis immediately before and during the current war, Shadid managed to capture humanity in his writing.
The Body Project by Joan Jacobs Brumber
a study of girls and puberty through the ages, this was full of interesting random facts as well as some profound philosophical implications.
Virginia Woolf by Hermione Lee
hands-down the best biography I’ve ever read; I spaced this out over months, because I couldn’t bear the thought of losing Bloomsbury.
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
full of insanely quirky characters and Southern gothica, it was a nice, light read.
House of Stone by Christina Lamb
an insightful study of Zimbabwe told through the life stories of a well-off white farmer and poor black bushwoman who eventually becomes his housekeeper/nanny/etc. full of pathos.
Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser
a call to action, that was super-readable as well as being super-informative.
Sixpence House by Paul Collins
impossible to pigeon-hole, this memoir of an American bibliophile who moves to Wales artfully jumps from topic to topic, but the writing always remains witty.
The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby
a collection of essays about books, book hording, and reading that is laugh-out-loud funny.
French Lessons by Alice Kaplan
an interesting memoir that spans decades, I appreciated the glimpse Kaplan offered into a life so different from my own.

Books I Didn’t Expect to Love, but Did
All of these books I hesitated to pick up, but once I did I had to eat some crow!
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
I think Anne’s my favourite of the sisters! This story of a wife stuck in an abusive household was touching and fast-paced.
Embers by Sandor Marai
a lyrical meditation on friendship, love, and hatred, coached in beautiful language, I was shocked at how drawn into the story I was.
Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz
Mahfouz breathes life into a family of Nasser’s Egypt, and really made me understand a worldview completely different from my own.
How Novels Work by John Mullan
Mullan never sounds didactic as he analyses the various aspects of fiction; I found myself reading books differently after this.
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
a reread, that I didn’t really enjoy the first time; the second time around, I thought it was clever and addictive!
Stiff by Mary Roach
I really didn’t like Spook, by the same author, so I didn’t expect to like this one either. However, Roach’s quirkiness is toned down in this one, allowing the fascinating subject matter to shine through.
Sketches From a Life by George Kennan
I expected this to feel lecture-y, but instead it showed sixty years of a man coming to terms with his environment and himself; his descriptions are beautiful.

Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Bradley
essentially chick lit from the nineteenth century, this managed to worm its way into my heart.
Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
I have a phobia of contemporary American fiction, although I’m not sure why, but I read this in commemoration of Vonngut and was impressed with its cleverness
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
ver expect to like bestsellers, but I loved all of the philosophies and themes running through the book.

Books I Read Straight Through
These are the books that made me go to bed late, because I couldn’t bear to stop reading them. You know the kind-that even though you’re super-tired the next morning, you’re also super-satisfied.
Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
an awesome ghost story that manages to turn most of the characters on their heads, but in so subtle a way the reader barely notices it happening; also, a compelling plot
The Witching Hour by Anne Rice
Rice has awesome plots, and in this first book of the Mayfair Witches series, she gives more than a passing nod to Wilkie Collins in the construction: between old letters, journals, and general point of view changes, she uses almost as many voices! But in the end, I really, really had to find out if the latest Mayfair Witch could escape the creepy ghost that’s haunted her family for generations.
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness d’Orczy
straight-up adventure, with memorable characters and some hair raising scenes; I loved every second of it
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
despite it’s super-difficult subject matter (Nazi Germany), I couldn’t put this down; Zusak uses foreshadowing so effectively I think creative writing classes should use this as a text!
So Many Books, So Little Time by Sara Nelson
perhaps because this felt a lot like a blog, I tore right through it; it really had the same feel as digging through all the archives of a new-to-you book blogger
Twilight by Stephanie Meyers
the classic “he loves me, he loves me not” teen story meets a big twist in this vampire tale; I’m not really sure why I couldn’t put this down, but I couldn’t
Sorcery and Cecilia by Patricia Wede and Caroline Stevermer
one of the most delightful books I’ve ever read, I didn’t want to leave Cecilia and Kate’s charming correspondence and have to re-enter twenty-first century, non-magical America
Blackbird House by Alice Hoffman
somehow, this collection of interlinked stories about different people who all live in the same New England house drew me in; I couldn’t rest until the last page was turned
Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
expertly weaving several seperate plots together, this exploration of humanity was made page-turning by three different murder mysteries; this is another possible creative writing text, to show students how to juggle disparate story lines
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
another wielder of foreshadowing and hinter of dark secrets, I simply had to know the story behind the mysterious writer with such a Gothic past; I tried to draw this one out, so I could savour it, but I failed miserably

Writing That Made Me Gasp
Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen
easily the most stunning, lyrical descriptions I’ve ever read in my life
Half of Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Adichie can turn a phrase just right, so it captures some painful truth in an exquisite sentence
The Ghost Writer by John Harwood
the part that made me gasp was the ghost stories contained within the novel; they were just so perfect, it was difficult to believe they were real
Mariette in Ecstasy by Ron Hansen
while his prose style was quite experimental, and could have easily become silly and pretentious, Hansen pulled it off and managed to make the style an integral part of the story itself
Stardust by Neil Gaiman
the style hit the perfect note of fairy tale; there was never a discordant sound in the entire novel
The Collector by John Fowles
his abrupt change of voice halfway through the novel really showed Fowles power: he manages to capture both a scared teenage girl and an obsessive stalker-turned-kidnapper on the page and make the reader believe in them
Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
I couldn’t believe that Ishiguro wasn’t a British butler from the interwar era; that’s how convincing his main character’s voice was; I still can’t get over just how incredible the writing was
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
this story of love and longing was couched in language that really evoked the kind of nostlagic air the characters seemed to feel
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
Bradbury immediately draws the reader into a strange, Halloween world and keeps him there throughout; the descriptive passages were simply stunning
Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman
her essay voice is so good the reader almost doesn’t notice it; she makes such polished writing look easy in this collection about her love affair with books

Books that Took Me Away From My Problems
These are the stories I turned to when my real life wasn’t going so well; they provided just enough succor for me to forget everything for awhile, and when I finally emerged back into life, I felt a bit stronger.
I, Coriander by Sally Gardner
I listened to this on CD, and the story just completely blew me away; as Coriander struggles in both the real and faerie world, the reader also enjoys immersion in seventeenth-century England (down with Cromwell!)
The Moor by Laurie King
part of her Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes detective series, this one is King’s homage to The Hound of the Baskervilles; Russell and Holmes are back on the moor to solve a new problem. The writing is so atmospheric, it’s impossible not to get sucked in.
The Stolen Child by Keith Donahue
the tale of a changeling and the human boy who becomes a faerie, with hints of a German musical prodigy, this combination fairy-tale, coming-of-age tale, and ode to the power of music and books is a stunning retreat for the tired reader
The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander
while short, this historical book about the last Romanovs brought me into dying, Imperial Russia, and made me wish I could stay there even longer
Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde
my favourite of the Thursday Next series, Thursday must fight in both her ‘real’ universe and within the world of books; the combination of tight plotting and cameos from various literary characters is irresistable
Bachelor Brothers’ Bed and Breakfast by Bill Richardson
a gentle, meandering collection of stories, lists, and recipes, I could almost pretend I was curled up at the B&B somewhere in rural Canada, with nothing on my agenda but reading and more reading
Emma by Jane Austen
the great novelist of the English countryside, with all of the manners and courtships that went with it, Emma’s complete lack of resemblance to me helped me get away from it all
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
a fun YA pirate novel, the swashbuckling adventure can push all other thoughts out of your mind, as you anxiously see how Charlotte deals with a psychotically strict captain
Thirteen Problems by Agatha Christie
a collection of short stories featuring Miss Marple, the little puzzles will distract the reader by begging for solution
Marked by P.C. and Kristin Cast
pure escapism, YA vampire fantasy; the angst of high school came rushing back to me, drowning all other feelings

Books I Expected To Love, but Didn’t
I almost didn’t do this category, because I thought it might be mean. But really, none of these books are bad; they just weren’t what I was expecting, or they didn’t speak to me. And since that’s a part of reading, I thought this list ought to be here.
Black Book by Orhan Pamuk
I thought I’d absolutely adore this book, set in Istanbul (a city that fascinates me); I thought it’d be rather like a Turksih Umberto Eco. Instead, I spent two months dragging myself through it; while about half the chapters were compelling, every other one bored me so much I didn’t need sleeping pills.
The Rest Falls Away by Colleen Gleason
a ton of bloggers whose taste I respect and admire love this series; I’ve even seen Gleason compared to Jane Austen; unfortunately, her style just didn’t mesh with me. This still annoys me!
Candide by Voltaire
I enjoy philosophy, and I enjoy the French. I also enjoy short books. :) But I thought the text was so dreary, and the cartoons so creepy, that this one couldn’t be short enough.
Nocturnes & Preludes by Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman is one of my favourite authors, so I expected to adore this first volume of The Sandman series; however, not being used to comic books, I found it difficult reading and the illustrations often repulsed me.
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
I’ve heard so much good about this book, and parts of it were brilliant. However, it never ‘clicked’ for me; somehow, I think a lot of truth got bogged down in Capote’s overly-complicated sentences
Dangerous Liasons by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
I’ve seen both the literal movie adaptation and the more loosely based Cruel Intentions and really enjoyed them both, so I was looking forward to enjoying the original; unfortunately, the epistolatory format left something to be desired.
How Reading Changed My Life by Anna Quindlen
with a title like that, how could it not be great? But I thought it was too short to be really resonant, and much of it seemed to be discussing the literati community, and the world of professional reviewers, which didn’t connect with my at all
The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon by Richard Zimler
I’m fascinated by Portugal, and I saw Zimler compared to Eco, so I was expecting this historical, literary mystery invoking kabbala seemed to be so good; while I enjoyed the setting and the aspects of kabala and religion woven in, the protagonist was so whiny I sometimes found myself wishing he would just die already.
The War of the Saints by Jorge Amado
I’m also fascinated by Brazil (go lusophones!), and I loooove magical realism, so this book about a Caribbean goddess coming to life for one weekend and fixing her followers’ lives seemed perfect; even while I was reading it, I found myself thinking the story was so neat, but I also had to force myself to read more than about four pages at a time; I’m still not sure why
The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCall Smith
while I haven’t read Smith’s Botswana series, my mom loves it; I adore, adore, adore Edinburgh, and I enjoy philosophy and mysteries, so I couldn’t wait to read this; however, there wasn’t really too much mystery, and no philosophy at all, which was a bit of a let down.

Books I’d Recommend to Anybody
After all that, here are the books I think anyone, regardless of whether they love to read, or what kind of book they love to read, would end up enjoying. I’ve mentioned most of them in one of the lists above, so I’ll only provide commentary for the new ones.
Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen
Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
A Hercule Poirot mystery set on a cruise ship in Egypt, this one has enough atmosphere and character to keep the reader interested, as well as a truly clever plot
The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Ghost Writer by John Harwood
The Stolen Child by Keith Donahue
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
True Notebooks by Mark Salzman
Salzman writes about his first year volunteer teaching a creative writing class inside a hall for juvenile offenders; his depiction of the inmates, as well as excerpts from their own writing, will affect anyone’s view on crime and prisons
Sketches From a Life by George Kennan

4 Comments leave one →
  1. December 28, 2007 5:47 pm

    haha, go lusophones :D Last week I was helping my boyfriend pick a book to give my mother for Christmas, and, being Brazilian, he wanted to give her something by a Brazilian author. I suggested “War of the Saint”, partially because it sounds so interesting, partially because then I could borrow it :P Does that make me a horrible person? Anyway, we couldn’t find it and ended up going with Machado de Assis. It’s too bad you were disappointed with the book, but I still want to read it, just because I love the premise so much.

    I really love your lists, especially the “Writing that Made me Gasp” one. I absolutely agree about the four books on that list that I’ve read (Stardust, Something Wicked…, Love in the Times of Cholera and The Remains of the Day), so now I really want to read the others!

  2. December 28, 2007 6:40 pm

    I thought you’d appreciate the lusophones. :) I’m definitely giving Amado another chance…maybe the time just wasn’t right. (And I totally sometimes give books with the intention of borrowing them! Not horrible at all!)

    Glad you liked the lists-I’m also glad you commented. I was beginning to worry I’d typed them up for nothing! (And I had a huge fight w/ WordPress about the formatting for some reason)

  3. December 29, 2007 7:37 am

    I *really* enjoyed reading your lists here and appreciate your extra commentary. 200 books -Wow! I know I’ll be back to this post in the future. Congrats on your House at Riverton ARC – I bought a copy from book depository but have been waiting for just the right moment to read it.

  4. December 29, 2007 12:43 pm

    Tara, thanks so much! :) I just started House at Riverton this morning, but I think it’s a book I’m going to draw out so I can savour it more.

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