Tuesday, January 1, 2008

2007 in Reading Review


Here it is - the summation of this one reading life for the year 2007. Of course, this only includes books. It is impossible to keep track of magazines, newspapers, and internet reading. So, with the admission that this is only a partial summary, we will proceed. The grand total is 62 books, 31 fiction and 31 non-fiction. I really am not so uptight that I have to keep it that balanced, but do try to read a variety of things along the way. By the end of the year, fiction and non-fiction are pretty evenly split.

I am realizing now that in the future I should be more specific in the type of fiction or non-fiction a book is as I record it. A historical novel is very different from literary fiction is very different from a mystery novel. In the non-fiction world, a memoir is different from a biography is different from a history is different from a sociological or theological exploration of one subject or another. Some books incorporate characteristics of multiple genres, but it may be helpful to people looking for something to read in a particular style or genre to have more information than I am providing this year. We live and learn. If anyone has questions about any of the books listed below, feel free to email me and I will provide what information I can. Since I only started blogging in mid-October, the blog only gives thoughts on a relatively small number of these books.

Looking back, most of these books have some redeeming value, and very few of them were a total waste of time. Going back to the various types of books for a minute, I realize in looking over this list that well done fiction can be more "true" than a non-fiction book that is primarily the opinions and/or perspective of the author. For example: I would lay odds that Mary Doria Russell's books are "truer" than anything written by Ann Coulter, although I have not read any Ann Coulter and have no plans to. Also, historical fiction, if the author has done his/her homework, can open the window into the past in a way that is hard to find in history textbooks. This would make an interesting topic for discussion - the "truest" types of books, whether or not they are literally true. Anyway, I present the books now in the approximate order in which I read them, with the marker of F for fiction and N for non-fiction:

The Keep by Jennifer Egan (F)
The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama (N)
A Royal Affair by Stella Tillyard (N)
On Agate Hill by Lee Smith (F)
Founding Gospel by Jon Meacham (N)
A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell (F)
Last Man Out by Melissa Fay Greene (N)
Runaway by Alice Munro (F)
Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld (F)
How to Lose Friends and Alienate People by Toby Young (N)
Two Lives by Vikram Seth (N)
Grace (Eventually) by Anne Lamott (N)
What Is The What by Dave Eggers (F)
Saving Graces by Elizabeth Edwards (N)
FireWife by Tinling Choong (F)
The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million by Daniel Mendelsohn (N)
The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards (F)
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (N)
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (F)
An Emergent Manifesto of Hope ed. by Pagitt and Snow (N)
Faith for Beginners by Aaron Hamburger (F)
How (Not) to Speak of God by Peter Rollins (N)
The Temple Bombing by Melissa Fay Greene (N)
Atonement by Ian McEwan (F)
The Shame of the Nation by Jonathan Kozol (N)
The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan (N)
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (F) 2nd reading
The Children's Hospital by Chris Adrian (F)
Four Spirits by Sena Jeter Naslund (F) 2nd reading
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling (F)
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (F) 2nd reading
Nehru: A Political Life by Judith Brown (N)
Children of God by Mary Doria Russell (F) 2nd reading
Small Island by Andrea Levy (F)
The End of the World as We Know It by Robert Goolrick (NF)
The Worst hard Time by Timothy Egan (N)
The Canon:A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science by Natalie Angier (N)
The Circus in Winter by Cathy Day (F)
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers (F)
Innocent Traitor: a Novel of Lady Jane Grey by Alison Weir (F)
Jesus Land by Julia Scheeres (N)
Divining Women by Kay Gibbons (F)
Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture by Michael Frost (N)
Silent Spring by Rachel Carson (N)
The Echo Maker by Richard Powers (F)
About Alice by Calvin Trillin (N)
Robbing the Bees by Holley Bishop (N)
When Madeline Was Young by Jane Hamilton (F)
Christianity for the Rest of Us by Diana Butler Bass (N)
The Whole World Over by Julia Glass (F)
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (N)
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson (N)
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (F)
The Language of God by Francis Collins (N)
White Teeth by Zadie Smith (F)
Queen Victoria by Lytton Strachey (N)
The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud (F)
The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell (NF)
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin (N)
Bee Season by Myla Goldberg (F)
The Mulberry Empire by Philip Hensher (F)
The Worst Thing I've Done by Ursula Hegi

For a couple of years now, in my personal reading journal, I have chosen my own "top five" for the year in fiction and non-fiction (just like the Washington Post Book World). I offer these to you now, with the caveat that they are simply my own favorites, the ones I enjoyed the most and/or learned the most from or was the most moved by, not necessarily the "best" from a literary standpoint. If a book is being read a second or subsequent time, it is not a contender for top five except the year that I read it first. Also, it may go without saying, but these are not all books published in 2007, although some are.

TOP FIVE FICTION 2007:
What Is The What by Dave Eggers
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
The Whole World Over by Julia Glass
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson MCullers

Honorable Mentions:
On Agate Hill by Lee Smith
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Atonement by Ian McEwan
When Madeline Was Young by Jane Hamilton

TOP FIVE NON-FICTION 2007
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million by Daniel Mendelsohn
The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan

Honorable Mentions:
The Canon: A Whirligig Tour Through the Beautiful Basics of Science by Natalie Angier
How (Not) to Speak of God by Peter Rollins
Christianity for the Rest of Us by Diana Butler Bass

For my own amusement (and maybe that of my readers), I have given a few other "awards" to certain books. They are as follows:

Most Theologically/Spiritually Broadening: How (Not) to Speak of God by Peter Rollins
Most Thought Provoking: An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, Snow and Pagitt editors
Most Inspiring: Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace, One School at a Time by Greg Mortensen and David Oliver Relin
Biggest Disappointment: The Children's Hospital by Chris Adrian (too weird), and The Echo Maker by Richard Powers (too boring - a real yawner)
Surprise Hit: Small Island by Andrea Levy
Scariest: Silent Spring by Rachel Carson (no contest)
Most Stomach-Churning: Jesus Land by Julia Scheeres or The End of the World as We Know It by Robert Goolrick
Funniest: The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell
Most Edifying about a Random Topic: Robbing the Bees by Holley Bishop (about honey's role in human history, beekeeping, and the process of harvesting honey)

That's about it. Send me your faves and not-faves for 2007, I'm interested to hear what my reading friends do and do not enjoy. Here's to peace in our world for 2008. A happy, healthy, book-filled year to each of you!

Reverent Reader

11 Comments:

At 1/2/08, 12:03 PM , Anonymous Erin said...

Here are my submissions:

Top Five Non-fiction
1. The Lost by Daniel Mendelsohn
2. Parting the Waters by Taylor Branch
3. The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan
4. The Woman at the Washington Zoo by Marjorie Williams
5. Charlie Wilson's War by George Crile

Honorable Mentions:
1. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
2. There is No Me Without You by Melissa Faye Greene
3. The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan

Top Five Fictions
1. Small Island by Andrea Levy
2. The God of Animals by Aryn Kyle
3. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
4. Deafening by Frances Itani
5. Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin

Honorable Mentions
1. Andy Catlett by Wendell Berry
2. Children of God by Mary Doria Russell
3. What is the What by Dave Eggers
4. Saturday by Ian McEwen

Most Spritually Broadening: The Sprial Staircase by Karen Armstrong

Most Thought Provoking: Parting the Waters by Taylor Branch

Most Inspiring: There is No Me Without You by Melissa Faye Greene

Biggest Disappointment: Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick (really looked forward to it and found it okay but kind of a snoozer)

Surprise Hit: The God of Animals by Aryn Kyle

Scariest: Charlie Wilson's War by George Crile

Stomach-Churning: The Woman at the Washington Zoo by Marjorie Williams

Funniest: Handling Sin by Michael Malone (this is my third reading so I didn't put it in the top 5 for this year, but it had no competition for funniest book and is one of my all time favorites)

Edifying about a Random Topic: The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan

 
At 1/2/08, 12:35 PM , Blogger Reverent Reader said...

Girl - excellent submissions. "Parting the Waters" made my top five for 06. I'm looking forward to "Pillar of Fire" this year sometime. Loved "Woman at the Washington Zoo" - think I read that in 05. Thanks for getting into the spirit of the post!

 
At 1/2/08, 7:45 PM , Anonymous Maggie Moo said...

Here are my favorites for the year 2007:

1. A Katie Kazoo Christmas
2. Katie Kazoo Camp Rules
3. Ivy and Bean
4. Utterly Me, Clarice Bean
5. Ramona and Her Father
6. Beezus and Ramona
7. Judy Moody Predicts the Future
8. Junie B. Jones is a Party Animal
9. Henrietta There's No One Better
10. Judy Moody Around the World in 8 1/2 Days

 
At 1/2/08, 8:40 PM , Blogger Cerebus said...

Fiction:
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula LeGuin

 
At 1/3/08, 6:42 AM , Blogger TET said...

For me, The Omnivore's Dilemma earns best book of 2007. I devoured it and I tend not to read all that often during the school year. Absolutely incredible. His presentation is amazing and he turns it into a story!
Michael Pollan has a new one out too!

http://www.amazon.com/Defense-Food-Eaters-Manifesto/dp/1594201455/ref=pd_bbs_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1199360536&sr=8-2

Check it out!

 
At 1/3/08, 8:01 PM , OpenID peripateticpolarbear said...

Oh Jesus land totally gave me nightmares.

 
At 1/4/08, 5:03 PM , Blogger ssf said...

Great post, I'm looking forward to reading some of those. On a completely different topic...
Did you see the article in the NY Times about the Stinky Cheese author? We were talking about him over the holidays and I thought you might be interested. Here's the link:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/03/books/03laur.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

 
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