Tuesday, January 01, 2008

2007 Reading Year in Review...


2007, while not the best year as far as numbers go, was an exceptional year in regards to quality. For perhaps the first time ever, I had no qualms about laying aside books that didn’t particularly blow my skirt up. In the past, I’ve felt some inexplicable obligation to finish a book if I picked it up, but given the pressures of finishing my Master’s degree, moving cross country, and working three jobs, the enjoyment of reading definitely took first priority over finishing an unenjoyable book. Undoubtedly 2007’s legacy will be a year of higher quality reading than I’ve ever experienced, and I think that’s evident in the favorites I’ve chosen, and the fact that there are 14 of them! There was just no way I could keep my “bests” to 10 this year, and why should I? It’s my blog, goshdarnit! Without further ado, the list, in no particular order…

Special Topics in Calamity Physics, by Marisha Pessl
No One Belongs Here More Than You: Stories, by Miranda July
The Secret Lives of People in Love: Stories, by Simon Van Booy
A Cook’s Tour, by Anthony Bourdain
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J.K. Rowling
Eclipse, by Stephenie Meyer
The English Patient, by Michael Ondaatje
501 Minutes to Christ: Essays, by Poe Ballantine
The Call of the Weird: Travels in American Subcultures, by Louis Theroux
The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick
American Born Chinese, by Gene Yang
Patrimony, by Philip Roth
Specimen Days, by Michael Cunningham

Another hallmark of my reading in 2007 seems to be a willingness to step outside my former just-fiction comfort zone. While I still read far more fiction than anything else, I found myself enamored with short stories (something I’ve never experienced), and often drawn to personal essays and travel writing.

If I were handing out prizes for best books in varying genres, I would award The English Patient, my “Best of Fiction” trophy. Michael Ondaatje’s writing was just breathtaking. He wove together various storylines beautifully and created a staggering book.

The trophy for the best in short fiction is a big fat tie! Both The Secret Lives of People in Love and No One Belongs Here More Than You tickled me to no end. They couldn’t be more different. Van Booy’s collection reminded me of classic literature with a timeless feeling and some sort of old world literary charm (that’s the best way I can describe it). Miranda July, on the other hand, was no less talented but far more quirky, funny, and experimental.

The best in non-fiction is a dark horse winner: 501 Minutes to Christ, by Poe Ballantine. This independent writer, published by Hawthorne Books, reminded me of my transient relatives. Ballantine writes about his nomadic lifestyle with vigor and charm, and never failed to make me giggle, cringe, and shake my head in both admiration and shock.

My favorite new-to-me author this year is widely admired, and I’m almost sure I’m the last person on earth to read him for the first time. Thank you, David Sedaris, for making me laugh so hard I cried. Multiple times.

Other noteworthy reading experiences in 2007:

-My discovery of audio books. A long time ago I decided that I didn’t like audio books because they put me to sleep. However, a 40-minute commute changed my mind, and I’ve been listening to them for the better part of six months now. I can’t get enough!

-I discovered my admiration for independently published books. There are three in my “bests” and many more that I enjoyed this year. I look forward to reading more from Academy Chicago Publishers, Turtle Point Press, Hawthorne Books, and others in 2008.

-Estella’s Revenge! Editing the ‘zine has brought a number of new authors and publishers to my attention, and I feel sure my reading wouldn’t have been nearly as good without all the recommendations from the writers, and the authors and publishers it brought me into contact with.

17 comments:

  1. Happy New Year Andi! Seems like you had a very good reading year so hope this one will be more of the same! I'm looking forward to reading Secret Lives of People in Love for the dangerous challenge.

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  2. It does sound like you had a great reading year, Andi. I hope to read The English Patient this next year. It's one of my favorite movies, so it's about time I read the book, eh? I hear it's even better.

    Have a great New Year and happy reading.

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  3. More to add to my TBR List. Here's to a great 2008.

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  4. I haven't been by in AGES!

    I had an experience that amused me in a US bookstore in November... I couldn't remember the author's name, but knew the book I wanted was 'A Confederacy of Dunces', so I asked the girl at the checkout, who was maybe 21, if she could see if they had it.

    She asked me twice to spell 'Confederacy' which, given the history of the US, I thought was bizarre. She couldn't even say the word; she said 'What was that conf... word again?'

    Maybe it was my accent. English can so confuse people.

    Aaaaaanyway, now I've offloaded that shite story, I'll go back into hiding. Happy new year. x

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  5. Thanks, Iliana! I hope my good luck holds out for 2008, too! I'm looking forward to discussing Secret Lives with you!

    Wendy, I hope you enjoy The English Patient as much as I did. I think you will. It's a gorgeous book.

    LOL, I love to enable, Kristy!

    Badgerdaddy, that story makes my butt pucker for the state of the youngsters of America. Ugg!

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  6. I really need to learn how to do that as well - put aside a book I'm not enjoying with no guilt. I was very lucky in 2007, though. There were only 2 or 3 books I had to force myself to finish.

    The only book I've read from your Tp 14 is Harry Potter, but the others do sound wonderful. I hope I get to read some of them in 2008.

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  7. What Nymeth said. I read far too many books that felt like torture - books I should have just abandoned - this year. Setting them aside is one of my goals for 2008.

    I loved The English Patient, btw. And, of course, you know I raved about Simon's book. He needs to hurry up with that novel, don'tcha think?

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  8. Ah! I left you a really long comment, and lost it when I typed in the spam thingy wrong.

    Basically I said that I love The Invention of Hugo Cabret, too, and the travels in subcultures book sounds fascinating, and then I told a story that badgerdaddy's story reminded me of. Maybe I'll type that up again on my own blog tomorrow.

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  9. Thank, Nymeth! Good luck with setting aside those pesky non-winners in 2008. It's taken me a LONG time to get to the point where I can do it. Oftentimes the books I set aside are simply subject to my finicky reading moods and I can come back to them with no problem. Such was the case with Specimen Days and it was a fave for the year.

    Nancy, he definitely needs to hurry a novel along! I can't wait to read more of his stuff.

    Sorry to hear that your comment bit the dust, Dewey. I HATE it when that happens. Hugo Cabret was wonderful wasn't it? I'm looking forward to whatever else Selznick comes up with in the future. And I hope you do decide to type up your story on your blog.

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  10. Yay for great reading years!!!

    I got Special Topics for Christmas. I can't wait to dive in. It looks yummy.

    Estella has been great (or not so great, depending on how you look at it) for my reading too. Just wish I had more time to read all the books cluttering up my TBR now because of it!

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  11. Congratulations on a successful reading year. I always enjoy stopping by your blog to see what you're reading. I have decided to join the Year of Reading Dangerously even though I don't have a good track record with reading challenges. But, it sounds like fun. Hope you have a safe, happy, and healthy 2008!

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  12. OK, both you and Nancy raved about The Secret Lives of People In Love. Guess I'll have to track down a copy and see what all the fuss is about. :)

    Goshdarnit!??? ;)

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  13. Heatheroo, you're right...the Estella thing is definitely a double-edged sword! I hope you enjoy Special Topics as much as I did. It took a while to get into, but once I did, I was hoooooked.

    Thanks so much, Lisa. And I'm tickled that you'll be joining us for the Year of Reading Dangerously. I hope you have fun with it!

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  14. Les, I think you'll love The Secret Lives of People in Love! It's right up your alley.

    Andi

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  15. Happy New Year! Sounds like you had a great reading year. Quality definitely trumps quantity!
    I'm looking forward to reading The Secret Lives of People in Love for My Year of Reading Dangerously. And I bought The Invention of Hugo Cabret after you and Heather raved about it but still haven't gotten to it. Must try to rectify that this year.
    Oh and you're not the last to read Sedaris. (hanging head)

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  16. Nat - I just finished The Invention of Hugo Cabret. You're in for a treat!

    Andi - I haven't read Sedaris yet. Maybe this year.

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  17. Nat, Hugo Cabret is a deceptively quick read. The illustrations make the story go really quickly. I want to say I read it in a day or two. It's wooonderful! Enjoy!

    Les, you must try Sedaris! He's laugh-so-hard-I-cry funny. :)

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