Friday, December 15, 2006

Top Ten Books Of 2006

About five years ago, I started compiling a list of the books I read for one big reason: I forget what I read. I don't have the original list, but I've been keeping a list over at Linkup for the past 2.5 years or so. I like talking about books, and when you don't remember the titles..its kind of hard to talk about the books. So yesterday I went over the list and came up with my top ten. So, when I want to go back to my book list, I put the complete list at the bottom of this post. If you're interested in hearing about any of these books, just holler.

Top Ten Books

Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger--I never read this in high school. I avoided it like the plague. I think I would've liked it in high school, but it really struck me when I read it a few months ago.

From Beirut to Jerusalem by Thomas Friedman--I should've read this 10 years ago. I hope Friedman goes back and updates this book again. A must-read for anyone who is looking to understand Lebanon, Jerusalem and the general struggle in the middle east.

The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy--I read All the Pretty Horses in High school or college, and enjoyed it but thought the book disturbing. This year I finished the other two books of McCarthy's Border trilogy. Of the last two, I feel this was the stronger book, and strongest in the series, but the ending of the last book, Cities of the Plain, was beautiful. The Crossing is about a teenage cowboy's trips into Mexico right before World War II.

"Flag of our Fathers" James Bradley--Each one of these books are stories that stick with you. This book is more than a chronicles of the war, it tells the back-story of each of these men who raised the 2nd flag on Iwo Jima, and the survivor's struggles to deal with life in the aftermath of sudden fame after fighting in one of the most savage battles of World War II.

Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides I adored this book, and urge many (but not all) to give this story of a hermaphrodite a chance. As Publisher's Weekly stated, "This is simultaneously the tale of a gene passed down through three generations and the story of Calliope Stephanides, the recipient of that gene." Truly unforgettable book.

Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner. When I think back to some of the most memorable books I have read, I see and feel a kaleidoscope of images, emotions and passages of prose. This is one of those books. The protagonist of the book, a retired historian afflicted with a degenerative bone disease researches his grandmother and tells her story, in a sense the story of the American West and ultimately a family tragedy that she and her husband couldn't get over. The historian is forced to admit that even though he finds solace in the past and his grandparent's story, he goes through a self-examination. My words simply don't do it justice.

The Known World - by Edward P. Jones. A novel about slaves who owned slaves 20 years before the end of the Civil War. Simply heartbreaking, and powerful.

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. Of all of these books, this may be the one I treasure the most, but I imagine that would be like picking kids. Gilead is another story where the protagonist is looking back to the past. The protagonist is a preacher in Iowa, sick with a heart condition and knows that he won't be on the earth much longer. He writes a letter to his six year old boy in the 1950s, telling the boy his family history, the conflict between his grandfather (a bloody abolitionist preacher) his father (a pacifist preacher) and his own story. The main character isn't perfect but is a quiet hero, a truly wise older man trying to give his young son a sense of self and watching out for others to the best of his ability..and reconciling with his own past. Another Pulitzer Prize winner--breathless masterpiece.

Agony and the Ectasy by Irving Stone. I wish I would've read this book before I went to Rome in '04 and Florence in '05. I read this book shortly after I came back from Florence and was struck by the research the author did to write this piece of historical fiction. If you ever find yourself going to Italy, read this before you go.

Annapurna by Maurice Herzog--This account of the ascent on Annapurna is absolutely riveting. Herzog's team had to find the route, the threat of the Monsoon was always there, they barely make it up to the top, and literally barely make it back alive. The story of the descent is just as harrowing (more so because of the injuries sustained during the final assault on the mountain) as the ascent.

Complete list of books I read this year:

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
Tell me a riddle by Tillie Olsen
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas By Hunter S. Thompson
The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thorton Wilder
The Plot Against America-Philip Roth
Cormac McCarthy Cities of the Plain
Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
Chronicles volume 1 by Bob Dylan
Miracle of Forgiveness By Spencer W Kimball
From Beirut to Jerusalem by Thomas Friedman
The Pact Jodi Picoult
32 Stories: The Complete Optic Nerve Mini-Comics by Adrian Tomine
The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho
The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy
"Flag of our Fathers" James Bradley
Sarah, Sencilla y alta
The Ugly American
The Exile by Pearl Buck
Dolly Parton's autobiography. Actually, not bad.
Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides
Postcards from the Edge Carrie Fisher
Shipping News By E. Annie Proulx
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner
Charles Dickens by Great Expectations
The Known World LP - by Edward P. Jones
So Big by Edna Ferber
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
A feather on the breath of god by sigrid nuñez
Persuasion by Jane Austen
A year in Provence by Peter Mayle
Agony and the Ectasy by Irving Stone


Guy Murray said...

Impressive list. I'll take your recommendation on Friedman's From Beirut to Jerusalem, particularly in light of all that is happening in that volatile area. Thanks for this list. More reading is one of my resolutions.

aisy said...

very impressive indeed. i only finished five books this year and that's pathetic.

Boo said...

Your list makes me long for graduation and the freedom to read books that aren't required. Thanks for the suggestions.

Sherpa said...

I really only pleasure read on the Metro. Boo, I didn't read as much when I was in Grad school (obviously), but I did usually have a novel that I was working on.