December 5th, 2005


The Year in Books

In her reply to my link to the NYTBR's "Year in Books" issue, yellowdoggrl posed a question interesting enough to deserve its own post: "If I were to be sure to have three books from 2005 on my replacement-books list, what would you say they should be?" (For those who don't know, yellowdoggrl lost too many of her worldly possessions when Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans, and is rebuilding her library.)

So: must-have books of 2005, eh? The question is complicated by the fact that I've been reading more genre stuff in the new century, as compared to the 1990s, so my current reading habits may have diverged with yellowdoggrl's tastes. (Not that she's a snob or anything.) The only book that I'd say with confidence belongs on a mutal list is 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.'

So here's my list of 2005 books I read this year -- it's well over half of the total list of books. (Some, like 'Wolves Eat Dogs,' might have come out last year -- I'm fuzzy on the publication dates.)

In no particular order:
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - J.K. Rowling

Freakonomics - Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

One Shot - Lee Child (part of an awesome series of thrillers -- discovered it from a short review in 'The New Yorker')

No Country for Old Men - Cormac McCarthy (highly readable modern-day noir Western, but politically problematic)

Prime - Poppy Z. Brite (fun but not as good as 'Liquor')

Wolves Eat Dogs - Martin Cruz Smith (an Arkady Renko mystery set primarily at modern-day Chernobyl)

Spin - Robert Charles Wilson (very good, very accessible, low-tech sci-fi writer; imagine Michael Crichton with a heart and soul)

Olympos - Dan Simmons (crushingly disappointing conclusion to insanely great 'Ilium')

Woken Furies - Richard K. Morgan (see entry for Nov. 20)
Market Forces - Richard K. Morgan (the author's own adaptation of his script for kind of a corporate satire version of 'Deathrace 2000.' Okay but not his best).

The Brief but Frightening Reign of Phil - George Saunders (see entry for Nov. 20)

Anansi Boys - Neal Gaiman (Nice enough, but I can barely remember it)

Flashman on the Match - George Macdonald Fraser (Good, but there are better books in the wonderful 'Flashman' series)

Summer Crossing - Truman Capote (unfinished, unpublished first novel posthumously released; it's not awful, but not representative of his talent)

The very good graphic novel 'Tricked' by Alex Robinson deserves a plug, too.

Books of 2005 I haven't yet read but are on my radar:
A Feast for Crows - George R.R. Martin (long-awaited fourth book in great fantasy epic -- the kind non-fantasy readers would like, too, if you could only get them to try it. A copy on hold is awaiting me at the library)
Saturday* - Ian McEwan (actually started it TWICE but had to put it down -- once because it was due at the library)
1776 - David McCullough, I think (gave to my Dad for Father's Day)
On Beauty* - Zadie Smith
The Lost Painting* - Jonathan Harr (I look forward to reading it; it also looks like a great book to give people in your Christmas list when you don't know what else to give them)
Looking for Jake - China Mieville (stories by one of my new favorite writers; on my Xmas wish list)

* On NYTBR's Top 10 list of 2005

So, 'On Beauty,' an academic satire/multi-culti comedy of manners with allusions to 'Howard's End,' sounds right up yellowdoggrl's alley. If I had to pick three, they would be that one, 'Half-Blood Prince,' and a title from 2004: 'America: The Book' by Jon Stewart and 'The Daily Show' staff.

Oh, and lest I forget:

101 Must-See Movies For Gay Men - Alonso Duralde (which I've yet to finish reading cover-to-cover, but is totally the next best thing to having moroccomole in the room with you.)