23 January 2008

Cover to cover - 2007 books reviewed

Much like my grandmother's awaits the 11 o'clock Friday news to here the winning lottery numbers, I'm sure you have all awaited my yearly review of books. Who am I kidding? This is my first yearly review. Does that entitle me to refer to it as "annual"? (sidebar - don't you love those events that are called first annual - come on, at least wait until next year to attach the moniker annual to your little event!) Back to books....

In this post, I will review the books I read in 2007 - all 53 of them - in hopes of parsing out an overreaching theme. I will also finish with my "book of the year". To be honest, I haven't yet decided which of the books I will chose - I guess I better decide in the next 30 minutes! Note to my readers, this is a review of the books I read in 2007, not a review of the books from 2007. I probably only read 1 or 2 books that were published in 2007. There are just so many books to read, I can't reserve my readings to the actual present for at least another 20 years!

The decision to read a certain book is often a strange one. How I chose my books is sort of like throwing darts at a dartboard (why do we repeat the dart in board for this expression? isn't that much obvious?). As one of my life goals, I am trying to read 1,000 books. The start of this endeavor is January 2003. Since that time I have read 276 books. These books are mix of fiction, non-fiction, and graphic novel (ok, 1 of those!) For the most part, I read "literature". I'm not even sure how to distinguish that from fiction, but to me, if it comes in "pocket" form, that is not literature. Then again, many of Dickens' novels were serialized. Having said that, I am not averse to reading Stephen King, John Grisham, and anyone else who strikes my fancy at that time.

In attempts to reach this goal fo 1,000 books, I have also trying to read all the books from the following lists - because I love lists : Booker winners; Novel prize winners; Modern Library 2oth Century Top 100 novels; Radcliffe Publishing Top 100 of the 20th Century novels; The Observer's top 100 books of all time; and Chapter's Reader's Choice Top 100 picks. Seems like a lot, but there is much overlap. With regards to these lists, 2007 was a banner year - I finished the remaining Booker winners on my list. I also quite a few of the Modern Library Choices. 2007 was also the year that saw an end to the Harry Potter story line ("le sigh"). Finally, 2007 was the year that I started a book club with friends - a club which I think has been a big success.

Speaking of the book club, I think that the general consensus was that Atonement by Ian MacEwan was the favorite book. Midnight's Children was not everyone's cup of tea, nor was Prayer for Owen Meany. But Atonement seemed to really spark a good discussion and, well, everyone read it. It also marks the era of one-up-menship amongst our group in hosting book club - thanks Alicia :)

As for a theme to my readings of 2007. Clearly, my own personal theme would have to be "the earth". The year was full of novels rooted so to speak in the soil : Grapes of Wrath, O Pioneers!, The fifth sacred thing, Diet for a New America, 100 Mile Diet, Main street, Winesburg, Ohio, and Omnivore's Dilemma. These are all books that made me reevaluate my relationship to the earth - be it as a consumer or a producer. What effect does my lifestyle have on the earth? How can the planet, and more specifically the soil, provide me with the physical and emotional nutrients I need to survive? I would be remissed if I didn't mention Pearl S. Buck's the Good Earth, which I read right at the end of 2006.

Finally, as for my book of 2007, I would first like to mention a few contenders. The nominees for best book of 2007 are (drum roll please) - Grapes of Wrath, Midnight's Children, The Count of Monte Cristo and Waiting for the Barbarians. Actually, these are the runner ups. The first 3 stand on their own as individual masterpieces. The 4th, I highlighted as Cotzee's prose is just too powerful to ignore, albeit this short novel can't really be compared to the awesome power it takes to hold a reader's attention through 1000 pages, which is what Monte Cristo succeeds in doing.

The winner, for my favourite book of 2007 is......Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Really, there was no other choice when I thought of it. Rowling gets the benefit and power of her previous 6 books, but if she had not so thoroughly succeeded with the final installment, I would not have chosen it. No other book had my heart racing. On top of that, I think Rowling is brilliant. She has created an empire out of words. She has brought fiction back to the "in-crowd". Kids across the world enjoy reading again. She has elevated the genre to a new level by giving her characters a multi-dimensional personality. Of course, I realize her success has allowed her the liberty of publishing 800 page novels written for 7th graders! Having said all that, Deathly Hallows was riveting and an awesome ending to a brilliant set of books.

Thanks to everyone who played, see you next year!


Anonymous said...

Great choice in Deathly Hallows....and am so glad that the Count and Grapes of Wrath made the top 5! I may actually have decent taste in books...!

Anonymous said...

"I have also trying to read all the books from the following lists - because I love lists : Booker winners; Novel prize winners"

I'm owed some props somewhere around here