Wednesday, January 04, 2006

This year I read 116 books (four more than last year): 31 non-fiction, 21 young adult or children's, 5 short story collections, 2 graphic novels, and 57 adult fiction titles.

Here are the best ones (excluding books I re-read, otherwise it would just be a list of Sean Stewart titles), in the order in which I read them during the year:

Name All The Animals by Alison Smith
An emotional and beautifully written memoir of the first few years after the author's brother's death.

Project X by Jim Shepard
I don't know if I want to ever read it again. The characters and dialogue felt so true, which made the events in the book that much harder to read.

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
Becky Sharp has joined my list of favorite fictional characters. She's scheming and manipulative but Thackeray clearly had a great affection for her and can't bear to make her unsympathetic.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
I loved everything about this book - the interlocking stories, the abrupt shifts in tone and style, the skillful writing, the characters and their stories... everything. I read all of Mitchell's novels this year, but this was the best.

Ballad of the Whiskey Robber by Julian Rubenstein
So weird and hysterical that I had to constantly remind myself it was non fiction and not some madcap crime novel about a hockey player who became the most successful bank robber his country had ever seen.

Cassandra At The Wedding and Our Gifted Son by Dorothy Baker
Baker was one of my favorite discoveries this year. She wrote novels that, from the outside, seem so simple, but that are packed so full of emotion and family drama that they end up seeming far larger than they actually are.

Homeland by Sam Lipsyte
The single funniest book I read all year.

The Big Nowhere by James Ellroy
It didn't quite pack the punch of White Jazz and I really need to read it in order, but this tale of murder, McCarthyism, and corruption in LA was still riveting.

The History Of Love by Nicole Krauss
A beautifully written book about an old Jewish man who has lost nearly everything in his life and a young girl who is trying to hold on to what she has.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller
I'm catching up on my graphic novels and this is one of the best. An aging Batman comes out of retirement when an old enemy, supposedly rehabilitated, starts creating havoc in Gotham. Pundits explore his psychology, the city turns against him, and Superman visits to make him toe the line or else.

The Bridge Of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder
A bridge collapses, killing several people. A priest who deems it an act of God, sets out to see if he can discover why those people were there at that time - why they were taken by God. It was just beautiful.

Chronicle Of A Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
All the way through this, even though I had been told at the beginning of the death, I kept hoping there was some way to change the events. Who knew you could create so much suspense in a story when the outcome is already known?

The People Of Paper by Salvador Plascencia
This book blew me away. And it wasn't all the inventive structure or postmodern tricks that did it, either. There is a lot of overwhelming emotion in this book which keeps it from being a mere stylistic exercise. The structure is necessary and not an affectation. If I had to pick a #1 title from this list it would be hard to chose between this one and Cloud Atlas.

Decline And Fall and Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh
So funny and satirical of the upper class. Loved them.

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