Wednesday, January 03, 2007

2006: The Year In Books

So I've been trying to look for an overarching theme in the books that I read in 2006, to no avail. That's the fun part abut growing up; you don't need a grand narrative.

1. The Eiger Sanction: Trevanian ***Fluffy climbing read with a few lame sex scenes- the movie is better, but that's just cuz it's got Clint Eastwood climbing.
2. Caught Inside: Daniel Duane ****My introduction to surfing. I bet the Object regrets having given this to me, since for about six months after reading it, I woke him up in the middle of the night with yet another question about surfing. This quelled somewhat when he took me surfing, but will probably not abate totally until I get my ass out to southern Cali or back to Costa Rica.
3. The Golden Compass: Phillip Pullman *****Armored bears and peace through atheism. Nuff said.
4. The Subtle Knife: Phillip Pullman (Second book in the trilogy)
5. The Amber Spyglass: Phillip Pullman (Third book in the trilogy)
6. Winner of the National Book Award: Jincy Willett ****Hilarious satire of Rhode Island insularity- misanthropic cackle-out-loud funny. If you''re looking for the best Jincy Willett, pick up a copy of her short story, The Best of Betty.

TestMasters LSAT Prep Books 1-24 (Ok, I know these technically don't count, but I stopped reading anything else for two months)

7. The Lady and the Panda: Vicki Constantine Croake**Interesting story, but Croake had a hard time modifying her narrative from that of a journalist telling a story in 10,000 words to book length. The style just never really suited the story.
8. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: Haruki Murakama ****Brilliant and wonderfully cumbersome metaphysical detective story. This book took a month to read, just because I would need to set it down to digest the ideas properly.
9. The Sex Lives of Cannibals: J. Maarten Troost ***Nice, fluffy read that anyone who has lived in a developing country will appreciate reading and emapthizing with the frustrations of such .
10. Getting Stoned With Savages: J. Maarten Troost**Sequel, but a the story becomes a little tiresome halfway through.
11. Franny and Zooey: J.D. Salinger***** I don't know how I managed to live through 25 years without having read any Salinger. I see what all the fuss is about- he touches on pretty much every emotion associated with familial insularity and expectations in about 100 pages. By the way, my roommate's cats are called Franny and Zooey, which made for some weird mental pictures as I read the book.
12. Three by Flannery O'Connor I will never outgrow Flannery O'Connor and her satires of southern living.
13. The Monkey Wrench Gang: Edward Abbey ** A Valentine's Present from the Object, who loves hugging the trees. That said, it took Abbey 150 pages to blow up the first bridge, and by the time he got there, I hated the characters so much that I hoped they would all die in one of their eco-terrorism adventures. Too bad, the premise is really funny, but there was no redemption to the misanthropy.
14. Boys of Winter: Wayne Coffey *****Great sports read tying in the larger themes of the Cold War. The action scenes are so well written that you can smell the ice. I'm pretty indifferent to hockey, but I couldn't put this book down.
15. Areas of My Expertise: John Hodgman ***Hilarious book that's nice to come home to when you're too tired (or drunk) to read anything substantive. The nonsense he comes up with needs to be taken in small doses, much like the brandy he serves at his hilarious readings. The highlight of reading John Hodgman (you may know him as the PC Guy) is definitely then going to see John Hodgman, who is a comic genius. Also, he remembers names incredibly well. Also, if you meet him, maybe he'll hook you up with the hot Mac Guy.
16. DC Noir ed. George Pelecanos****Hit or miss essays in noir form (der). Definitely kept me up a few nights when I was reading crime stories that theoretically took place blocks from my house.
17. The Neverending Story: Michael Ende****I knicked this from the Object when he bailed on a hike halfway through the hike , then gobbled it in one sitting. Po-mo children's story written long before Sophie's World. Bad idea: watching the movie right after reading the book, which is seven bajillion times better, as books are wont to be.
18. Malice Aforethought: Francis Iles *****This may be my favorite read of the year- psycological crime drama (I believe it pretty much was the first of the genre) in which a petty English country doctor kills his wife only to find that his lover just isn't that into him. It's like reading Law & Order:SVU, excpet that instead of the characters being overwrought and angst-ridden, they're all parodies of themselves And it all takes place in rural England, so there's lots of tweeds and pipes involved (seriously).
19. Gates of Eden: Ethan Coen ***The story about the Mob's failure to take over Minneapolis almost made me peep in underpants.
20. My Antonia: Willa Cather ****Like reading Little House on the Prairie with every important theme in American literature tossed in. Delicious luscious read- much larger than what the Object asserts about the book, which is that it is "bullshit feminist claptrap".
21. Sellevision:Augustyn Burroughs **You know, every Augustyn Burroughs book I read has the same problem- the first two-thirds are brilliant, but then the final third peters off into nothingness, leaving the reader completely unsatisfied.
22. The Partly Cloudy Patriot:Sarah Vowell ****I have a hard time reading Sarah Vowell's works, because I'm pretty sure we are actually the same person. It creeps me out to read someone so very similar to me, but I'll take the compliment every time I get it.
23. A History of the World in Ten and A Half Chapters: Julian Barnes *****I'm pretty sure this should be required reading for humans. Revisionist history at its finest.
24. Genie: An Abused Child's Flight from Silence: Russ Rymer *****When a book is described as meticulously researched, it's generally damning with faint praise. Rymer's narrative makes cognitive psychology and linguistics fascinating as he weaves them seamlessly into the narrative of this case study of a feral child.
25. Lost in the City: Edward P. Jones- Ok, I only finished half of this, as I was then given Maus for Christmas, but gorgeous character sketches of the other side of DC life- the side outside of politics.
25. Maus: A Survivor's Tale: Art Spiegelman *****For more information, see Christmas pressies, awesomeness of. Seriously, though. The book tells the story of Art Spiegelman's father, Vledek, surviving of the Holocaust while portraying the effect it has had on their father-son relationship and the son's angst in taking on such a grand project- a meta-meta-narrative without ever trying to create a grand narrative. Amazing storytelling.

Highlights for 2007: My brother gave me Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, which I'm actually having a hard time getting into, mostly because I'm not feeling like devoting myself to 800 pages at the moment. I might snike some of the Object's books I gave him for Christmas... Master and Margarita is calling my name- in Russian!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

now i'm pissed. i just lost a long comment i'd written. so now it will be shorter.

agree on julian barnes. i tried to give this book to young sparky before i knew that you had it. so now he has dark, evil blood meridian instead.

phillip pullman - i'm two books in. didn't like the second book - a reader shouldn't be so aware that the man behind the curtain is making it up as he goes along - smart and independent lyra suddenly becomes meek and servile, characters (like lord boreal) are introduced and vanish with no purpose except to introduce an idea or advance the thought. and for a book that seems so hostile toward organized religion, it's actually rooted in some pretty basic christian philosophy, which the book falls back on frequently to explain plot points or move the plot forward. disappointing, but i'll wait until the end to pass judgement.


3:05 PM  
Blogger rock_ninja said...

Lyra's change in character is striking, but I feel like it's not out of nowhere- her character changes right about the time her daemon matures into one shape. I saw it as more of a transition into maturity- one that was necessary on her part for that which is coming. That said, your point is valid- upon refelection, I really kind of stopped liking her character that point, and saw her as only a foil to carry out the plot- I agree that character development is definitely the weak part in the series (although EVERYONE and then some comes back in the third book). While it is rooted in Christian theology- I think a book in the genre has to be, since the larger cultural impliations are also rooted in such- Pullman def. takes an atheistic viewpoint- it's very much an experimental theology, akin to Milton, that explores the idea that a G/god isn't necessary for spirituality (what I've always learned was the definition of soft atheism). If I recall properly, the second book was my least favorite- mostly because the lack of Iorek Byrnison, who is the most redeeming character in the book.

The third book gets crazy and expands into new universes- some of which are really unecessary to the story, but I'd be very interested to see what you think of the final battle. All in all, I found the series a solid addition to the genre, albeit, I should admit that I'm not terribly well versed in it.

I'm not sure how much young Sparky (since I'm older than him, I'll take great pleasure in calling him that) would actually like History of the World in 10 and a Half chapters, as he doesn't have any religious background whatsoever- as much as he likes to pretend that the year or so he spent in UU Sunday school counts,- he doesn't know most of the basic bibles stories (I think I've told him about Joseph and also the Arky Arky), but I feel like the book would be hard to approach without some basic knowledge of theology and/or Bible stories- any suggestions on where to start with that? I guess the obvs answer is Genesis...

3:52 PM  
Anonymous Chris Chan said...

I'm glad you liked Malice Aforethought so much. I've only read Julian Barnes' Arthur and George, a fictional retelling of the true story where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle investigated a mysterious crime and attempted to clear the name of an innocent man. It's a great, great novel.

11:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. 25 books + LSAT stuff. I'm jealous for sure. I'll have to add some of your 2006 list to my 2007 list.

9:06 AM  
Blogger rock_ninja said...

You probably shouldn't be jealous, since books are my only friends.

10:02 AM  
Blogger jen said...

thanks, i'm going to use your reviews to pick me some readin'.

sorry to hear you wasted time studying lsat books. i think i'm going to have to stop reading your blog now because i'm not in the mood to give my "are you fucking crazy, why the hell would you want to go to law school?" talk again.

9:37 AM  
Blogger rock_ninja said...

Oh, don't worry about the lecture, as I figured out really quickly on my own that I have absolutely no desire left to go to law school. It was a phase. Let us never speak of it again.

9:51 AM  

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