Reading, 2007, continued

So now I’ll post some of my favorite books of the year. First, considering the stats I posted yesterday, I was surprised that I’d read books by men and women in almost equal numbers, 33 and 34 respectively. I didn’t plan it that way! This ratio is much more even than the previous year’s, which was 24 and 32 in favor of women. I couldn’t tell you why this changed because I rarely think about gender when I pick up a book. Then, to get completely dorky for a moment, 83% of the books I read were from the 20th or 21st century in 2007, a number I wish were a little lower. The number is similar to that of 2006, which is 80%. I wish I had numbers from previous years because doing this kind of analysis is fun! It satisfies the math geek in me.

Oooh, and another interesting fact: the amount of fiction I read stayed the same from 2006 to 2007, at about 66% of the whole. Most of the rest was nonfiction with a small percentage of poetry thrown in there. Also, Stefanie correctly noted that the number of books I read went up from last year to this one — I went from 56 books to 70. There’s a good reason for that: I didn’t start blogging until March of 2006, at which point my reading rate started to increase. It took me a while to get the momentum going, though, hence the lower number for 2006. You see how blogging has changed my life?

Okay, now to my book list. I’m a little uncertain how to handle the big books I read: In Search of Lost Time, Don Quixote, and Boswell’s Life of Johnson. Obviously, those are wonderful books, they were very important ones for me to read, and they deserve a spot on my list of top books of the year. How could they not belong there? But they are also fairly boring, obvious choices. So I think I’ll just acknowledge that they are wonderful, and then choose my best books from among the other ones I read. Maybe I can limit my list of favorites to seven, which would be the top 10%.

  • Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. Ishiguro is wonderful, and I should read everything he’s written. It’s hard to believe that someone could write so movingly about clones. This book was powerful, at least as much for its psychological insights as for its exploration of a scientific dystopia. I made several people read this book, I liked it so much (they liked it too).
  • Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love. Apparently everyone else loves this book too — my posts on it get more hits than anything else, by a long shot. Gilbert’s courage comes through clearly — her courage to take risks, travel, and explore new ways of living and being, and also her courage to write about what she experienced. I started off slightly irritated by her writing voice, but quickly gave in and fell in love with the book.
  • W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn. I’m never sure whether to call this fiction or nonfiction; I counted it as fiction for my year-end stats, but it could as easily have gone the other way. This was beautiful and moving, an example of a new favorite genre of mine: the walking book. Sebald covers so much ground, so to speak, telling stories about the places his narrator walks through, connecting geography and history and evoking a somber, thoughtful mood as he contemplates the traces of past events on the landscape.
  • Naguib Mahfouz’s Palace Walk. This was a long and satisfying novel, one that slowly accumulates detail about its characters and its place so that you feel you are living in its world. It leaves you with a sense of loss when you are finished. It draws you into a familial story in the beginning, and then slowly turns its attention to politics, so that you begin to see how large and small events converge and how the domestic and the political affect one another.
  • Frances Willard’s A Wheel Within a Wheel. I loved this book so much I gave a copy to a non-cycling friend of mine, who I hope will appreciate the author’s unique voice as much as I did. The book isn’t interesting solely for the cycling, anyway; it’s the author’s personality that holds your attention, her funny turns of phrase, her willingness to entertain ideas others might find shocking, and the odd combination of old-fashioned, moralistic radicalism.
  • Ursula LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. Perhaps I should read more science fiction. I loved the way the characters developed over the course of the novel. I found the ending tremendously exciting, and I thought the way LeGuin explored gender roles was fascinating. The book started off a bit slowly, but soon enough I was hooked and didn’t want to put it down.
  • Gabriel Josipovici’s Goldberg: Variations. I haven’t posted on this one yet, as I just finished it a couple days ago. But I should clarify that I finished a second reading a couple days ago; as soon as I finished, I started over again, to try to understand it better and to ensure that the rather odd experience of reading it didn’t end so soon. I’m still gathering my thoughts about it, but I can say that I loved the way Josipovici gathered together different stories and threads of thought and turned them into something lovely and wise.

A few others I loved: Richard Holmes’s Footsteps, Geoff Dyer’s Yoga for People Who Can’t Be Bothered to Do It, Rosamund Lehmann’s A Note in Music, Barbara Pym’s Excellent Women, and Thomas DeQuincey’s Confessions of an English Opium-Eater. I’m noticing how much nonfiction I liked; I’m not sure if this means I should read more of it, or if it’s something I need to read at a fairly slow pace. Nonfiction tends to stand out more than the novels I read, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I should read significantly more of them.

11 Comments

Filed under Books, Lists, Reading

11 responses to “Reading, 2007, continued

  1. I’ve enjoyed looking over your list. I’ll be reading eat, pray, love soon to discuss with my bookclub. I also have a copy of Palace Walk that I’d like to get to at some point – your ranking of it certainly increases the likelihood of that.

  2. Eva

    I loved Palace Walk as well-so excited that I got Mahfouz’s Ancient Egypt trilogy for Christmas! (and must eventually read the other two in the PW series…too many books)

    Never Let Me Go is on my shelf, waiting for next year…this year, I read Remains of the Day, and I was utterly, utterly blown away.

    I haven’t read anything else on your list-I’ll have to look into them. :)

  3. I love doing this exercise. Never Let Me Go was a great read (in 2006 for me), and I have Sebald’s Rings of Saturn high on my wishlist. As for the others, it’s only through bookblogs like yours that I’ve heard of them. What a comfort to know there are great books out there!

  4. I’m very much enjoying your round up of the year, Dorothy! I have Footsteps to read, wholly due to your recommendation, and feel rather interested in Palace Walk, too, which is a book I used to sell a lot of when I worked in the bookstore, but have never thought to read myself.

    I’ll do my own list soon. It’s always fun to look back over the year.

  5. Your reading is so nice and varied really (between men and woman authors and lots of NF). I love Kazuo Ishiguro and need to read a few of his earlier novels (though all the later stuff I’ve read). And I have noted down a few of your favorites to read next year–Mahfouz and Sebald for sure. I’m very curious about Josipovici. I hear such good things about him, but I’m not quite sure I know what he writes about! Thanks for sharing your list–I always look forward to these!

  6. There are several on your list of favourites that I’ve been meaning to read and your inclusion of them on that list puts them even closer to the top of my TBR pile. You haven’t steered me wrong with a recommendation yet!

  7. I really enjoyed “Confessions of an English Opium-Eater”. When I was in pharmacy school we studied opium and laudanum. I would then go to English Lit class and learn what writers through history had used the drug and what effects it had on them and their writing.

  8. SFP

    Great list. I hope to get to Palace Walk and Goldberg: Variations in 2008. I’ll be looking forward to anything you have to say about Josipovici; I’ve the idea he’s quite intimidating.

  9. your list has a lot of unexpected choices. i’ve definitely been meaning to read ishiguro. interesting point about nonfiction–i think it works a different part of the mind than fiction. i may need to add more to my reading diet too.

  10. What good books you read! I really liked Never Let me Go quite a lot too. I’ve been looking for Footsteps at the used bookstore since you blogged about it but it has yet to turn up. I’m going to either have to pay full price or borrow it from the library and pretend I don’t want to own it because my shelves are groaning enough as it is.

  11. Tara — I hope you enjoy both of those books; really they are quite good!

    Eva — I’d like to read more of Mahfouz too; I’ll have to make sure not to miss the rest of the Palace Walk trilogy — I saw them in the bookstore the other day and was tempted, although now isn’t quite the time …

    Smithereens — a great comfort indeed! And I hope you enjoy the Sebald when you get there — I’ll look for your review.

    Litlove — do enjoy Footsteps! And Palace Walk is a great read too — a long, absorbing novel when you’re in the mood for such a thing.

    Danielle — now having read Josipovici, I can’t say I know what he writes about either! But I did like the novel I read very much (which you’ll see from today’s post) and highly recommend him — he’s brilliant, but not scarily, off-puttingly so.

    Kate — well that’s good to hear about the recommendations! It is a worry that someone else won’t love something as much as I did …

    Crawdaddy52 — now that’s an interesting combination of subjects! You’d certainly get a unique perspective on drugs and on drug literature!

    SFP — I didn’t find Josipovici intimidating — he doesn’t write straightforward narrative (at least not in the one novel I read), but it’s easily readable and a lot of fun.

    Snackywombat — I do like the variety of going back and forth between fiction and nonfiction — if it does work different parts of the brain, then we should be fairly well-rounded!

    Stefanie — I certainly understand about the groaning shelves — but it’s so hard to resist new books, isn’t it? You could always borrow it from the library and buy it later if it seems like something you’d want to own.

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