Friday, December 28, 2007

My Top Ten of 2007

So here's my list of the top ten books I've read this year.

Up until a few weeks ago, the best book I'd read this year was the second book I read- Everything is Illuminated, by Jonathan Safran Foer. I read the book because I loved the movie but the book was even better. Darker, more morally complex and less hokey, with more complicated characters yet dizzying in its verbal virtuosity, it is an incredible work. The movie I loved, but found uneven; it starts off as a very funny fish-out-of-water story and then about three quarters of the way through takes a sharp left turn into the gloomy world of the Holocaust and never really recovers. Some of the problems I had with one of the characters were resolved by the book, which is to say this character received a flattering makeover by the filmmakers but I found the book's version more convincing. The movie is good (and the soundtrack is fun too) but the book is great.

But the best book I read this year was Gestures, by H.S. Bhabra, which I reviewed earlier this month. It's a moving and fascinating character study of a deluded diplomat at the end of his life, full of regret but really not sure why. It's a portrait of a life that was full in some respects but so bitterly empty in others. The writing is absolutely beautiful and deserves to rank up there with much more famous writers like Ian McEwan and Martin Amis. In fact, having recently seen the film Atonement, based on McEwan's Booker-nominated novel of the same name, I was reminded again of how good good writing can be and it really is a shame that Gestures has not received more recognition. Can someone explain this to me, because I really don't get it.

So here's the list, with links to my reviews where applicable:
  1. Gestures by H. S. Bhabra
  2. Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
  3. Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo
  4. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
  5. Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart
  6. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engel
  7. The Gum Thief by Douglas Coupland
  8. Cancer Made Me A Shallower Person by Miriam Engleberg
  9. Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko
  10. My Cat Loki by Bettina Kurkoski
Breakfast with Buddha was a very well-written, very satisfying read. Roland Merullo just keeps getting better and better. Life of Pi was suspenseful and fascinating, a real page-turner. The Gum Thief was fun and moving and very good. A Wrinkle in Time is a treasure of a book and I wish I'd read it as a child. Absurdistan was touching and funny and sad, and I loved its protagonist and the note of optimism on which it ended. I'd love to see a movie made of it, directed with energy and joie de vivre. Cancer Made Me a Shallower Person is a raw, real and vivid cancer memoir in graphic-novel form. Miriam Engleberg's rough drawings were a great compliment to her spare yet poetic writing. Night Watch was suspenseful and fun with a very likable narrator- the best and only vampire novel I've read. And I just loved My Cat Loki.

So there it is, my best of 2007. I'll start up again after the New Year with some new books, some resolutions and some other stuff too. Oh yeah, and I have to get started on War and Peace!