Best of 2007

The New Year came around so quickly (we were out visiting family for a week) that I nearly forgot about posting my annual favorites list. It's been a slower year: being a parent of two, moving to Kansas and starting on the long house-building process, having high-speed Internet access at home (and watching more TV shows) have all taken their toll on my reading time. I managed to post about 80 books or so this year but unlike previous years I didn't have any trouble narrowing it down to ten. In fact, I wasn't even sure whether I'd have ten, and added a little filler.

First, the only book I gave a "3-brain" rating to actually has no words: The Arrival by Shaun Tan. It's a gorgeous graphic novel about immigration told with Tan's signature surreal illustrations, and it's a beautiful depiction of what it's like to find yourself in a totally unfamiliar world.

Next up, a book that I read twice this year, once in March and then again in December as a bedtime story for Robyn: Celandine by Steve Augarde. In the post-Harry Potter world, it seems that every other fantasy book is marketed as "perfect for the Harry Potter fan!" Strangely, though, this one (second in a trilogy) is nowhere to be seen—you can find it online but I've had trouble finding it at, say, Borders. In my opinion it's much better than Eragon (too derivative), The Spiderwick Chronicles (too short), Artemis Fowl (too snarky), and many of the other contenders. That's not to say that it's anything like Harry Potter, though, or that it's something that I'd recommend to somebody based on their love for Rowling. But for something that immerses you in a new world and a fantastic journey, this is a book you should check out. The final volume should be out this month, and I'm definitely planning to complete my collection.

I suppose it's only fair to mention the Book Event of the Year, Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling. But as I said in my review, there's not really much I can say about it that makes any difference. Either you'll read it or you won't. I did.

The best non-fiction book I read this year (I admit there weren't many) was Green With Envy by Shira Boss. It's a great book to read about finances, not to learn how to save or make more, but to change the way you think about money and wealth. It's helpful to realize how much we really have, and maybe that will make a difference in our attitudes about money.

Another non-fiction book in a totally different genre, The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam by Ann Marie Fleming is a hard-to-believe true story about her great-grandfather, a Chinese magician who traveled the world amazing his audiences. A remarkable read, told in a sort of scrapbook form. I'm hoping to watch the documentary film sometime.

The Folded World by Amity Gaige was a great piece of fiction, one which I hope to own at some point so I can re-read it or just peruse it from time to time. It's a story of a relationship that's less dysfunctional than most of what I've found in adult literature, and contains passages that just make you want to read them aloud.

My favorite science fiction of the year was Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang. From a reimagining of the Tower of Babel to voluntary calliagnosia, Chiang's short stories are mind-bending and unlike other sci-fi I've read. You've probably never heard of him, but if you enjoy sci-fi you should look for this book. (Further research doesn't turn up too many books by him, which is disappointing; I can only hope he'll publish some more in the future.)

Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman takes on the superhero genre, both parodying and honoring its cliches. Think of it as "The Incredibles" for grown-ups.

Another great book for young adults is Deadline by Chris Crutcher. It's a coming-of-age story in fast-forward about a high school senior who discovers he has a year to live. A little unbelievable in places, but thought-provoking and well-executed.

The "I Can't Believe I Haven't Read This Before" Award goes to Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Have you actually sat down and read this? Strangeness piled upon strangeness and ever so clever.

I did read some pretty good graphic novels this year, but most of that was back before the move in the first half of the year, and it's harder for me to pull up the memories clearly.

What's in store for 2008? I keep telling myself I'll spend more time reading books I own than books I borrow, but it never seems to happen, so I won't make any promises. We did stock up at a big book sale just before we left Portland, though, so maybe I'll dig into those soon. There's some good, meaty non-fiction sitting on the shelves, just waiting to be devoured.

Remember, it's a leap year so you get one extra day to read this year. Plus, with the writer's strike, you'll get a break from "must-watch" TV for a little while. Make it count!

Fed to jonathan's brain | January 02, 2008 | Comments (0)


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