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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Top Five 2007 Reads

Now that 2008 has officially begun, the door has closed on the number of potential books that could have been read in 2007. In my December 13th post, I was up to 59, and lamenting the short stack of library books that I felt forced to read, and read quickly. I managed to squeeze in three more books before December 31st, and they were (in the order read):

  • "The Air We Breathe" by Andrea Barrett

  • "Olive Kitteridge" by Elizabeth Strout (an Early Reviewers book, the review of which I'll post shortly; my copy was advanced)

  • "Water for Elephants" by Sarah Gruen (who didn't read this book last year?)

I looked through my book journal to pick out my five favorite reads of 2007. I based these choices simply on pure enjoyment of the story, or because they surprised me (something not many books can do). Most of these books have been around for awhile.

#5 "The Terror" by Dan Simmons

Set in the far north, this adventure story has a historical context: a fictionalized speculation of the doomed 1840s Arctic expedition led by Sir John Franklin. The account is brilliantly descriptive like all expedition literature should be, but as should be expected of a horror/sci-fi author, Simmons throws in some supernatural ingredients. This story worked for me, and I thoroughly enjoyed this book. So great is my enthusiasm for this book, I even convinced a fellow Costco-shopper to buy it the other day. It's escapist, while also having historical elements.

#4 "Alas, Babylon" by Pat Frank

This is Cold War literature at its best. Originally published in 1959, most of this book occurs in a small Floridian community that has managed to be providentially upwind from atomic bomb fallout. Though a grim-sounding premise, and though it contains a convincing description of global nuclear war, this book is wonderfully hopeful and deserves to be read. My book club friend, Kathie, originally recommended it, saying she reads it once a year when she wants to be cheered up. Don't believe it? Take the challenge.

#3 "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card

I had been seeing this guy's sci-fi books everywhere, and "Ender's Game" in particular highly touted as a "classic" sci-fi book. Sci-fi is actually a new genre for me. I could never get interested in the techie, futuristic, alien-species storylines. But this book is so well-thought out, methodical without being boring, philosophical, and surprising that I absolutely loved it! I'm much, much more interested in reading sci-fi now, and have added many sci-fi authors to my "to read" pile.

#2 "A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini

I liked "The Kite Runner," but unlike most people it didn't rock my world. There was some aspect of it I just couldn't get inside. However, Hosseini's second book did rock me. Characterized by women - daughters, lovers, mothers, sisters, friends - this was a story I could deeply identify with and read very quickly. My impression upon putting it down, after wiping away my tears, was that every woman should read it, perhaps every person interested in Middle-Eastern issues. It will evoke every emotion possible.

#1 "The Sparrow" by Mary Doria Russell

I've had this book on my shelf for a long time. Its title kept springing up on "must read" lists. At one point, I even had two copies; when I'd temporarily misplaced one, I couldn't sleep at night so went out and bought another. It didn't disappoint. The chronology of the story jumps back and forth between the past and the present circumstances, and for awhile the reader has an incomplete picture of events. Consequently, it can take awhile to understand what's going on and to become emotionally involved in the story. Anyway, this is a story about interplanetary travel, about religious faith, and the nature of God. It's heavy stuff and rendered with total genius. This is the kind of book that I can't stop thinking about. While the religious content won't appeal to everyone, it was very relevant to me; I was just blown away.

So, there ya go. The year's top five.


At 11:47 AM, Blogger Liz in Seattle said...

_Ender's Game_ is probably Brendan's #1 from this year. He was thrilled it made your esteemed list.

Just finished (finally) _The Kite Runner_, and am off to Half Price Books to get _A Thousand Splendid Suns_.

At 9:49 AM, Blogger Liz in Seattle said...

One more comment re _Ender's Game_. Both Steve and I just finished it, and I raced through _Ender's Shadow_, a complementary novel written from the perspective of another student. If you liked the first, I'd strongly encourage reading the second.

See you soon!


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