Monday, December 31, 2007

The Year In Reading 2007

I barely purchased any books this year; however, I managed to read over 20 titles. Around this time last year, I rearranged my book shelves to place all the unread books on one shelf. I was more than a little surprised to find I needed two and a half shelves (or six and a half feet). So, I determined that I would aggressively winnow the back log down before I started buying again. Success of sorts then in the number completed. I have selected the easier titles to read and the next 20 titles will be tougher.

I was anticipating a hard slog through McCullough's John Adams but this was my personal favorite of the books I read this year. It was especially rewarding to be half way through it when Romney (Presidential hopeful) explained on Meet the Press how Adams would have agreed with him that you can't have freedom without religious morality. That was certainly not my interpretation of what Adams believed. Another notable nonfiction title I enjoyed was Overthrow written by NY Times reporter Stephan Kinzer. Kinzer takes the reader through all our foreign affair blunders from Hawaii to Afghanistan showing how the country and the leadership keep repeating the same mistakes time after time. He shows, using before and after comparisons, that the US involvement had appalling results for the citizens of the countries in question. Naturally, there are highly appropriate references to the current Iraq incursion. Rounding out the top three non-fiction titles was Dawkin's The God Delusion which I found immensely enjoyable. Just knowing our smirking, giggling, singing the wrong lyrics and generally clowning around during required weekly chapel at Melbourne Grammar School is not going to get me in trouble in the hereafter is enough for me.

Fiction. The Night Gardener (Pellecanos), One Good Turn (Atkinson) and Bangkok Haunts (Burdett) were my top three reads this year. Pellecanos sets his crime dramas in Washington DC and this one has the same tight character development and story line. Mrs PND has read Atkinson and I picked this up on her recommendation: She is as good a crime writer as you will find and I look forward to reading her other titles. Burdett launched his Thai/American protagonist about three books ago and he improves with each successive title. I also met the author at the Strand this year which is an added bonus. Read his books to understand more about Thailand and Bangkok generally. Of note, Burdett comes up with some of the most elaborate killing scenarios you will ever find.

Other notable books were Perry Garfinkel's Budda or Bust and Patrick White's A Fringe of Leaves. White won a Noble and is one of Australia's greatest authors. This title sat on my parents shelf since it was published (1976) and I decided to read it based on some controversy reported regarding the current state of Australian literature.

Here's looking forward to another year of reading.

A Year of Reading at The Millions

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This posting prompted me to reflect on my own reading for the past year. As a news junky and industry commentator I am surprised at the number of books I actually found time to read this year. Maybe I'll do my own list. Two that come to mind worth recommending are "Henry Kissinger and The New American Century" by historian Jeremi Suri (Belknap/Harvard), a quite original take on presenting a bio in a historical context, and the one I am just finishing, "The Genius of America. How the Constitution Saved America and Why it Can Again," by Eric Lane and Michael Orestes (Bloomsbury).
Thanks also for introducing me to The Millions site.
I was also interested to get acquainted with what I assume is your alma mater, The Melbourne School. Provincial that I am, I was looking for an address in the U.S. until I discovered that it is in Australia. Did you attend Grimwade and Wadhurst? Sounds to me straight out of Harry Potter.
-Gene Schwartz