Saturday, January 12, 2008

Best of 2007: Books

I'm at home watching football - the Seahawks vs. the Packers (so much snow!) - and I decided it was a good time to write about my favorite books of 2007. Nothing fits with football quite like literature.

This list is the hardest one for me to make. I keep a list of the books I read, otherwise I wouldn't be able to tell you what I read last week. I also use to compliment my memory when summarizing books. If only Amazon could remind me what I thought about the book right after I finished reading it. I might need to add notes to supplement my list.

Here is my list of the best books I read in 2007 in chronological order.
  • City of Falling Angels by John Berendt. This is a nonfiction book about Venice with the mysterious fire of the Fenice Opera House the main character, besides Venice. If you've been to Venice, you'll probably enjoy reading this book about life in this unique city.

  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. I read this book in elementary school and decided to read it again when I found out Disney was making a movie out of it. The relationship between Jesse and Leslie is written so well that you can't help but be heartbroken by the way the story plays out.

  • Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes. Almost nothing like the movie, this book is about an American couple that lives in Italy during the summer and holidays and their experience. Being someone that has lived in a different country and adapted to a different culture, I enjoyed reading about someone else's experience.

  • Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. I remember liking this book. I remember feeling engaged with the characters and enjoying the story and writing. But I had to read the synopsis on Amazon to remember what it was about. I still can't remember any details. I still feel like it should be on my list.

  • The Reader by Bernhard Schlink. Anytime I read a book that has been translated to English from another language, I wonder if I'm missing something in the translation because other languages have expressions we don't have and words can be translated different ways. How do translators make their choices? That won't stop me from reading translations, but it's always on my mind. This is one such book. You've got sex, war crimes, literacy and guilt in this book. What more can you ask for? Oh, a movie version with Ralph Fiennes and Kate Winslet! Excellent casting choices by the way.

  • His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman: The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, the Amber Spyglass. Just like the Harry Potter series, each book in this series was better than the its predecessor. All the talk about these books and the movie being anti-religion are missing the point. The story is about children fighting an oppressive, corrupted authority and making huge sacrifices to do what is right for the world. It just happens that the authority in the book is organized religion, but it could be any authority with corrupted values and leaders . The heroine Lyra is a great character, and it's nice to read a children's fantasy book with a female heroine. If you saw the movie, the actress did a great job of personifying Lyra's attitude and strength.

  • A Thousand Splendid Sons by Khaled Hosseini. The author of the Kite Runner has created another great book about living in Afghanistan, this time following the lives of two women through several decades and leadership changes in the country.

  • Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer. Here is what I wrote about the book after I read it around Thanksgiving. Under the Banner of Heaven is an intriguing study of Mormon Fundamentalism. The author dissects the case of the two Lafferty brothers who murdered their brother's wife and child because God told them to do it and places it in the context of Mormon Fundamentalism. To understand Mormon Fundamentalism, you have to understand the history of Mormonism and why the Fundamentalists have broken off from the official Mormon church. It all seems to boil down to polygamy. The book was fascinating. Occasionally he made statements that I wish were followed by a source ID, but he provided a lengthy reference list at the end of the, so I guess that counts.

  • Atonement by Ian McEwan. It look me a while to get into this book because I don't generally like long, narrative passages, but once the exposition and initial character development were out of the way, I didn't want to put the book down. McEwan is a great descriptive author because I read all his words and can clearly form pictures in my head. (Literature snobs, don't hate me, but I have a tendency to skip long, descriptive passages.)
What great books did you read this year?


rdh97j said...

I just finished reading "The Secret Life of Bees". I liked it for it's beautiful descriptive language and narratives. The setting and characters were engaging. The only thing was, about halfway through I felt like the book switched gears in order to wrap up the story. Still worth a read though, especially the first half.

Jamie said...

I read that book and remember liking it. I think they are making a movie out of it.