Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Year of Magical Reading

[[B O O K S]] * With the calendar now creeping into the depths of December, newspapers and magazines are wont to issue their best-of-the-year book lists. I’m not going to try to keep track of all of them; but being a book lover myself, I do want to spread around some choice publication suggestions. Here, for instance, is The New York Times’ “10 Best Books of 2005” list:

Kafka on the Shore, by Haruki Murakami (Knopf, $25.95)
On Beauty, by Zadie Smith (Penguin Press, $25.95)
Prep, by Curtis Sittenfeld (Random House, $21.95; paper, $13.95)
Saturday, by Ian McEwan (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, $26)
Veronica, by Mary Gaitskill (Pantheon Books, $23)

The Assassins’ Gate: America in Iraq, by George Packer (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26)
De Kooning: An American Master, by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan (Knopf, $35)
The Lost Painting, by Jonathan Harr (Random House, $24.95)
Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945, by Tony Judt (Penguin Press, $39.95)
The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion (Knopf, $23.95)

This was in many ways a very good year for books in general, even if some categories (such as crime fiction--one of my favorites) seemed ... well, richer in numbers than novelty, compared with what has been made available during previous years. I must confess that my own selection of favorite reads for the last year has absolutely no crossover with the Times rundown, but that’s only because I haven’t yet read any of the titles mentioned above. When asked recently to inventory my own favorite books of 2005, I came up with the following:

Strange Affair, by Peter Robinson (Morrow, 24.95)
The Devil’s Wind, by Richard Rayner (HarperCollins, $24.95)
Rosa, by Jonathan Rabb (Crown, $24.95)
Cold Granite, by Stuart MacBride (St. Martin’s Minotaur, $24.95)
The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (Penguin, $15)
White Stone Day, by John MacLachlan Gray (St. Martin’s Minotaur, $24.95)
The Vanished Hands, by Robert Wilson (Harcourt, $25)

Judgment Days: Lyndon Baines Johnson, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Laws That Changed America, by Nick Kotz (Houghton Mifflin, $26)
When the Trumpet Calls: Theodore Roosevelt After the White House, by Patricia O’Toole (Simon & Schuster, $30)
Boss Tweed: The Rise and Fall of the Corrupt Pol Who Conceived the Soul of Modern New York, by Kenneth D. Ackerman (Carroll & Graf, $27)

There were a number of other fine titles published over the last 12 months, too, and far be it from me to neglect excellence when it appears. So here’s my list of books that didn’t quite make my top 10, but are nonetheless worth reading (or giving as presents):

● A Cold Treachery, by Charles Todd (fiction)
● The Great Stink, by Clare Clark (historical fiction)
● Lost Stories, by Dashiell Hammett (crime fiction short stories)
● The Killings of Stanley Ketchel, by James Carlos Blake
(historical fiction)
● The Third Secret, by Steve Berry (thriller fiction)
● Road to Paradise, by Max Allan Collins (crime fiction)
● Martin Van Buren, by Ted Widmer (biography)
● Looking Like the Enemy: My Story of Imprisonment in Japanese-American Internment Camps, by Mary Matsuda Gruenewald (autobiography)
A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906, by Simon Winchester (history)
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, by Doris Kearns Goodwin (biography)
Five Days in Philadelphia: The Amazing “We Want Wilkie!” Convention of 1940 and How It Freed FDR to Save the Western World, by Charles Peters (history)
Breaking Rank, by Norm Stamper (autobiography)
The World on Sunday: Graphic Art in Joseph Pulitzer’s Newspaper (1898-1911), by Nicholson Baker and Margaret Brentano (history)

Here’s hoping that 2006 brings us all many more books worth appreciating ... and me, more time to read.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If lush historical fiction is your thing, if you wonder where are the new Tracy Chevaliers and Sarah Dunnants, check out Arthur Japin. His new novel In Lucia's Eyes is amazing!