Hoping I am not too late for a retrospective post, I present to you my best reads of 2007:
Classic Fiction: Tender is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald
“Sometimes I think Gene and I are like Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald,” I told my dad after reading this.
“Yes?” my dad said, choking on his burger in an effort to keep a straight face.
“Well, we have lots of socializing,” I mused. “And…I mean, not the drinking to excess so much. Or the madness. Or the social butterfly thing, really. And we don’t have the inevitable bleak dissolution that makes the whole thing so poignant and delicate and…I guess we’re not that much like them, actually.”
“Yes,” my dad said, relaxing.
Contemporary Fiction: Run, Anne Patchett
Actually, my vote for best contemporary novel is wavering between Patchett’s Run and Franzen’s The Corrections, but, much like it will probably do in the primary, my vote swung towards Patchett because I wanted more girls on the list.
No, actually Run is a great book, a little sensational in its plot points but very understated in its language. Her best is still Bel Canto for my money, but this is also excellent.
Fantasy: Dragonhaven, Robin McKinley
This is being billed as a young adult novel, presumably because it’s about a young adult, but like (almost) all McKinley stories this is full of three-dimensional people with fully-adult feelings and problems. She takes a hard-to-swallow situation (young boy forced to play nursemaid to young dragon) and makes it completely believable by adding a wealth of details: the wearying labor of cleaning up dragon droppings every day, the difficulty of masking dragon smell, plus the dragon evolves from needy, faceless infant to an individual personality as she gets older just like a real kid does.
Young Adult: Green Angel, Alice Hoffman
This is about a girl whose family dies in a loosely-sketched apocalypse. Hoffman wisely avoids filling in the details of why civilization just crashed, focusing instead on the aftermath of guilt and grief. She also deals nicely with teen self-mutilation without getting preachy, judgmental or gross. And the language is knock-you-over gorgeous, as Hoffman’s language always is.
Plays: Representative Plays, J.M. Barrie
Yep, *that* J.M. Barrie, the one who wrote Peter Pan. I expected that these plays would just be an interesting curiosity for my shelf, but these are inventive, strange, funny and occasionally heartbreaking.
Travel: I See By My Outfit, Peter S. Beagle
Autobiography: The Enchanted Places, Christopher Milne
Christopher Milne, better known as Christopher Robin, tells a calm, chatty tale of growing up as the son of the man who created Winnie the Pooh. I enjoyed the half-pleased, half-frustrated tone of the book, which is about two pages long, the perfect size to stuff in your purse or coat pocket for subway rides.
Biography: Anais Nin: A Biography, Deirdre Bair
The woman who wrote the biographies of Simone de Beauvoir and Samuel Beckett turns her attention to Anais Nin, who Bair calls one of the “major minor writers” of our times. Bair is pretty unforgiving of Nin’s lies, rewrites and selfishness, but if you want to know the real skinny on Nin’s life this book can’t be beat. It is exhaustively researched.
Essays: Consider the Lobster, David Foster Wallace
I loved a few of the essays in this book so much that the whole book glows in my memory, though when I go back I remember there are more than a few rambling, kind of dull chapters that I skipped entirely. Still, it’s worth buying just for the porn essay and, of course, the essay on lobster eating.
Non-Fiction: Somebody is Going to Die if Lilly Beth Doesn’t Catch That Bouquet: The Official Southern Ladies’ Guide to Hosting the Perfect Wedding, Gayden Metcalfe & Charlotte Hays
I have no idea where or why I picked this up, but I really kind of loved it, as I love all glimpses of how the Southern half lives. This is written by a couple of gleefully drunken, high class Southern ladies, and it’s peppered with hilariously viscious gossip and hilariously gluten-heavy recipes.
Comics: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 8, Joss Whedon
Granted, Y: The Last Man is one of the best comic series out there, and I did read that this year. But nothing makes me happier than seeing Buffy continued. I am the kind of nerd that even the other nerds scorn to associate with.
And a call for papers:
I’m currently looking for something new to read. If you made it to the end of this long, boring post, you’re either a rabid book fan or you like me a lot. Either way, I trust you to recommend something, so if you’ve got favorite books you read in 07, leave ’em in the comments please.