Thursday, December 20, 2007

Best in show

btt button

  1. What fiction book (or books) would you nominate to be the best new book published in 2007?
    (Older books that you read for the first time in 2007 don’t count.)
  2. What non-fiction book (or books) would you nominate to be the best new book published in 2007?
    (Older books that you read for the first time in 2007 don’t count.)
  3. And, do “best of” lists influence your reading?
I don't really read enough new books to have a "best of" list. I tend to read brand new books only if I think they will be really really good. The only fiction published in '07 that I've read was:

The Welsh Girl
The Indian Clerk
The Yiddish Policeman's Union
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

The first two were both strong books, but my winner would be David Leavitt's The Indian Clerk. I've linked any reviews of the above. I read many more from 2005 and 2006, those are still new to me. I guess it takes me that long to find out about them, and then there's the fact that I know I can count on a few book cards around christmas time so I wait to purchase those hardcovers. Also, with graduate school going on, I tend to save up months of the book review and read it on summer and winter breaks, then I combine that with what I've read in my on-line community and then finally finally get around to buying them. Darkmans and The Invention of Hugo Cabret sit atop my TBR pile as I write this. I'm planning on getting to the latter before the year is over.

On the non-fiction side it's even worse I read one book actually published in 2007 - Proust was a Neuroscientist. You can't really count The Ghost Map, although the paperback edition I read was published in 2007. They were both excellent, but Jonah Lehrer's book wins my "best" non-fiction kudos, if only by virtue of its copyright date. Although if you read my posts on it, you'll know it's not just for that reason. Now I do have a number of non-fiction books from '07 just waiting for me by my bedside, I may even get to Oliver Sacks's before this year is out. Steven Pinker's will just have to wait until 2008.

As for question # 3 - do lists influence me - the answer is absolutely, but the question really is whose list and of what kind of book. I wouldn't spend two seconds looking at best crafts books of 2007, but I'd look at best cook books, fiction, or books on Russia. I love the 139 books someone tells me I have to read before I drop, I love everything bookish, so I love book lists. They're a method of accounting. Hmm - how rich or poor am I? How many of these 100 books by women have I read, I can ask? So that I can answer "Oh, what a good boy am I!" or "I've only read 9 - I'd better add some books to that toppling pile." I love book lists and while I know someone else's best isn't always mine, I often use them as confirmation for end of the year purchases, or a second look at something I maybe shouldn't have passed up. The Echo Maker, The Emporer's Children and The Thirteenth Tale were all last year's toward-the-end-of-the- year purchases. Sometimes the lists backfire on me because I like to be contrary - if everyone is reading it, it couldn't possibly be good. Other times the lists give me a little edge of competitiveness - a desire to keep up.

I'm sure I'll look at The New York Times list for this year. I read about the whole Booker prize and as a kid I loved reading Newberry Award winners. Something about that big seal on the cover really added to my excitement of anticipation as I began The Headless Cupid (I even remember that it won). But I don't really care for best seller lists or best of lists by commercial booksellers. The best of lists I like best are either small book shop recommendations or when someone publishes what specific people think are the best books of.... whatever category - best victorian novels, best essays ever written, best fiction with dogs in them. I loved seeing what books President Clinton took on his vacation, I really like seeing best book lists of favorite writers, actors or architects - those fascinate me. Although I found Liev Schreiber's acting (he's one of my favorite actors) far superior to his taste in fiction.


gautami tripathy said...

Hey, that was one great post. THe Indian Clerk is on my read list.

Many have read Hosseini. He is on my list too.

Ted said...

Gautami - Thank you! I'll be interested to hear what you think of the Leavitt book.

Jane said...

I haven't read The Indian Clerk. I will have to look for it.

Jodie Robson said...

"best fiction with dogs" - hmmm, I'll look out for that one. I think the only published-this-year book I have was a present.

I like the sound of The Yiddish Policeman's Union, even with your caveats. Wonder if it's on

Sya said...

Proust Was A Neuroscientist reminds me of a recent New Yorker piece that deconstructed Proust and the Squid. I wonder if they're similar?