Monday, December 18, 2006

My year in books

I suppose I can resist no longer -- it's time to begin summing up my year in books. I think I'll do a couple posts on the topic and at least one on my year in cycling. But for now, here's a list of the books from 2006 I liked the best. I only read maybe 2 or 3 books published this year (some of them I'm not sure if they are this year or last), so it's by no means a guide to this year's books. It's just a list of things I liked.

  • Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. I loved these books and flew through them. I haven't read young adults books in forever, and these books made me think that's a shame. I'm certain I'll re-read them at some point when I need something fun. I found the plot absorbing, but the ideas were too.
  • Mary Oliver's American Primitive. This is the first book of poems I picked up when I decided to try reading poetry again after years of not doing it, and I'm so glad I did. The poems are beautiful and moving, and -- if you like poems about nature that aren't sentimental (in the bad sense) or sappy, give this book a try.
  • Elaine Scarry's On Beauty and Being Just. This short book inspired me to write about it on this blog so many times, I was afraid you all would get tired of hearing about it. I found it a beautiful book, as befits the title, one that I read through slowly because I wanted to stop and think about its ideas so often.
  • Rebecca West's The Fountain Overflows. West captures childhood so well in this novel. The narrative voice is irresistable. It's a portrait of a troubled family, and it seems to me to describe a young girl's experience of such a family perfectly.
  • Marcel Proust's Swann's Way. Many thanks to Stefanie for starting the Proust blog and inspiring me to tackle this book -- actually, I've tackled all of In Search of Lost Time, which I should be able to finish in 2007. Without the group blog, I may never have read this book, and I'm so glad I did.
  • Nicholson Baker's The Mezzanine. Another one I posted about often. This novel follows the main character's thoughts as he travels up an escalator on his way back to work after his lunch hour. And that's the whole plot. It felt more essayistic to me than novelistic, complete with footnotes as it was. And it got me off on a long string of posts about footnotes.
  • Rory Stewart's The Places in Between. I was enthralled at Stewart's sense of adventure and his bravery and his ability to write about his walk across Afghanistan. I finished this one only recently, and it's inspired me to read more contemporary travel writing, particularly books about long walks.
I could list more, probably, but as I will have read 56 or 57 books by the end of the year, listing 7 favorites seems about right, if I'm trying to focus on the ones I thought were the best. Actually, it's 9 favorite books because I counted the Pullman books separately in my year's total. As I was coming up with the list, I didn't try to pick different genres, but I'm happy to see there was variety, with some poetry and nonfiction on the list, and it makes me think I should make sure to read lots of both next year, along with tons of novels, of course.