Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Keeping up with the best books, if only by proxy

The NYT and Salon have each posted their lists of the 10 best books of 2007 posted, which reminds me that I promised to comment on the NYT Book Review's list of 2007 Notable Books a few weeks ago.

It's been a good year for big names, with Mario Vargas Llosa, Philip Roth, and Don DeLillo all releasing new novels, as well as Haruki Murakami, Richard Russo, William Trevor, Ha Jin, and young favorites Michael Chabon and Dave Eggers.

Of course, I haven't read any of those books. (I started the Eggers, but I still wish that he'd written the book as nonfiction) In fact, I've read only one book released this year (two if you count Harry Potter, which the NYT apparently does), Remainder by Tom McCarthy. (Which was good. Not life-changingly good, but good.)

Varieties of Disturbance by Lydia Davis is sitting on my shelf waiting to be read, and especially since I'll be reading her translation of Swann's Way next semester, I may well try to fit her in my winter break intensive-reading period.

But those are the only two books that I've managed to add to my bookshelf this year. Not coincidentally, they were both paperback originals. The other books that catch my interest largely fall into the buy-it-in-paperback pile. Highest on that list are The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao, a first novel by Junot Díaz, Out Stealing Horses by Per Patterson, which got a glowing review from Thomas McGuane, and The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño.

I'm also really excited to see Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine on the NYT's list. Between Tomine this year and Alison Bechdel's Fun Home on last year's list, it's nice to see really good graphic narrative getting some attention.

As in previous years, I haven't read a single book on either the NYT or Salon's nonfiction lists, but I do actually own one this year: Tom Bissell's The Father of All Things, and I'm very much looking forward to it. (I'm reading Bissell's first book, Chasing the Sea, right now.) I don't normally read biography, but I've been reading Gertrude Stein lately, and Janet Malcom's Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice has caught my eye. I'm reading more Stein this spring, and maybe I'll be compelled to look for the paperback.

Well, December is wrapping up, so I'll have my 2007 read-list posted soon (hint: classes = more books read), but I'm hoping to add a book or two to that list before the new year.

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