This is a list of books I’ve read this year. And a brief description for each.
READING LIST FROM 2006:
38. The Sound of the Mountain by Yasunari Kawabata. I think this would be a fitting way to end a year of reading. I almost don’t want to pick up another book for the last few days of 2006 so that I can let this one linger as I close out this year and ring in 2007. I loved this book, it may be my favorite of all Kawabata’s novels so far. Here are the first few lines:
Ogata Shingo, his brow slightly furrowed, his lips slightly parted, wore an air of thought. Perhaps to a stranger it would not have appeared so. It might have seemed rather that something had saddened him.
37. The Lost Blogs by Paul Davidson. You don’t need a computer to read blogs! You can buy a book of blogs. Blogs written by Lincoln and Jesus and other historical notables, that is. Written very tongue in cheek, you’ll be chuckling. Good for cheering up on a gloomy day.
36. Dracula by Bram Stoker. It creeped the SHIT out of me! Brilliant work.
35. She by H. Ryder Haggard. Weird.
34. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. He is a genius storyteller. There are few who can tell it like Dickens. I love the characters of Miss Havisham and Estella.
33. Villette by Charlotte Bronte. A complicated Jane Eyre–I rather like it.
32. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley…a masterpiece of 19th century lit.
31. Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin…Baldwin is one of the great writing masters! Though I’d read his short stories, this is the first Baldwin novel I’ve read. It was touching, it pierced my psyche, it made me cry, it kept me on edge, even though doom was cast on the entire cast of characters from the first sentence of the book. I don’t think I’ll ever forget this book. It was, also an intriguing book to examine from a craft level. Such risks!
30. Old School by Tobias Wolff…I started reading this on a Satuday morning, and finished it that night. I couldn’t put it down! The voice of the first person narrator is so captivating!
29. Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata…the writing is so gentle, the scenery so vivid, the story very heartbreaking, the pacing so very gradual. The patience of the author is amazing. This is the second novel I’ve read by Kawabata, whose writing has really pierced my psyche in recent days. May I also take on some of his patience and brilliant storytelling.
28. Palm-of-the-Hand Stories by Yasunari Kawabata…vignettes, really, more than a formal semblance of short stories, some of these pieces are less than a page long, a bit of description that feels unfinished, other seem like excerpts. But mostly they are nuggets, seeds of great things, and Kawabata’s irreverence to adhere to a “form” is really intriguing. Read this with an open mind, and really, with a love for language more than story.
27. The Nasty Bits by Anthony Bourdain…this is a collage of his writing, and it many ways reads like a personal journal (some entries are only a page and a half long and end abruptly). this is not his best work (I think it’s Kitchen Confidential, followed by A Cook’s Tour), but if you are a fan of AB, then this work will satisfy your AB cravings.
26. Heat by Bill Buford…I read this over 3 days, the last 2/3 over the course of one day, it was so riveting. It’s about Mario Batali! Food! New York! Hurrah! Best nonfiction book I’ve read this year by far.
25. Thousand Cranes by Yasunari Kawabata…I think I’ve discovered a genius.
24. Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl…I want to go to New York and eat now.
23. The Apprentice by Jacques Pepin…if you’re a fan of his (“No, no, no, Claudine, you are doing it wrong!”–(But DAD!)), then you’re a fan of this book. his voice rings true and clear in the narrative, and I loved reading about his rise through the ranks.
22. The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Polllan…changed the way I see food. Better than “Fast Food Nation.”
21. The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten…one of the masters of food writing.
20. It Must’ve Been Something I Ate by Jeffrey Steingarten…I read this before TMWAE, and I must say this is the better of his two books. I loved this book.
19. Thousand Years of Good Prayers by Yiyun Li…I started this collection late last year, and pored through each story slowly until I finished it earlier this year. This is the best short story collection I’ve read in recent memory, not a dud among them. Every story has the expansiveness of a novel with the intricacy of a short story.
18. Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami…one of my favorites, but I always love Murakami. I love the characters in this story.
17. Goodbye Tsugumi by Banana Yoshimoto…I was rooting for this story to be good, but somehow I feel like it never took off. I’ve never read Yoshimoto before, should I choose another of her books?
16. Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami…ugh. I hated this. I really did. I couldn’t get past the first few chapters. I feel blasphemous, being the Murakami fan that I am.
15. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion…sad, so sad. I saw reflections of my life in this memoir.
14. Veronica by Mary Gaitskill…Gaitskill is so merciless towards her characters, I love it. I wish I had that kind of bravery as a writer.
13. Prep by Curtis Sittenfield…this is one very unlikable first person narrator. And she kept getting more and more detestable as the story wore on. I know that Gaitskill also writes unlikable narrators, but somehow her characters are more “complete,” and “messy,” in that they are fully formed in my mind.
12. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon…a really good book, I think. The first person narrator is a very limited boy, and yet Haddon totally pulls it off. I laughed a lot, I think I smiled through most of the book.
11. The Emigrants by W.G. Sebold…an interesting non-westernized narrative.
10. Oranges by John McPhee…this was a BRILLIANT, and captivating book on (what do you think?) oranges. He made oranges as fascinating to me as a pile of glittering gold and money to a venture capitalist (no offense of course to my VC friends).
9. The Book of Salt by Monique Truong….I read this while at Hedgebrook. She wrote part of this while staying in the same cottage. I could feel the rhythm of the same environment in the part about the mother (the part she wrote there). The rain fell on the roof, same as it did in the narrative, it was an eerie experience.
8. Random Family by Adrian LeBlanc…gritty detailed awesome. Every character she portrays crackles with life and by the end of the book, some of them break your heart.
7. Burning Down the House by Charles Baxter…wonderful essays on writing by one of the masters. I especially loved the one titled “Against Epiphanies.”
6. On Becoming a Novelist by John Gardner…I found this inspiring, though others may find it traditionalist and confining. Not for the weakhearted or anyone who is “not sure they are a writer.” It also helps if you’re writing a novel.
5. Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller…memoir about living in Africa, an interesting perspective.
4. Istanbul, Memories and the City by Orhan Pamuk…Orhan Pamuk is such a great writer. He is a fascinating character.
3. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett…her ability to keep me in suspense the whole time is amazing. I loved the writing in this book, even though I wasn’t too keen on the ending (but I don’t always read a novel for the ending, I read a novel for its journey). One of my favorite books.
2. A Million Little Pieces by James Frey…the prose is atrocious, even though the passion behind the writing is palpable. Throw in the story falsification, and you get a very so-so nonfiction memoir, and a very subpar fiction piece
1. The Bridegroom Was a Dog by Yoko Tawada…described to me as Haruki Murakami taken up a few more notches–more like more gratuitous violence and sex. Has its surreal moments, and the title story is the best of the 3 short stories in this collection.