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.