Wednesday, January 03, 2007

more 2006

While I think you should read my review archives, peer pressure has made me think I should give a list of my favorite reads from 2006. At first, I scoffed, “the best”- what does that even mean? Then I was listening to an old bat segundo show (#60 with literary journalist Robert Birnbaum) and RB said about media’s tendency lists and list making this: “I think there’s a very understandable impulse there… The good impulse is that, really, don’t you always try to keep somewhere in your top of mind or close to you a list of the things that you really like? You know? Don’t you frequently find when someone asks you, you can’t remember them? [chuckles] So, making the list, sort of, is a way of organizing the information… You’re just trying to stay in touch with the things you’ve liked and experienced.”
Ding ding! So true! Staying in touch with the things I like is what try harder is all about.

I had a great reading year. It is hard to pick favorites (and impossible to pick a favorite) and truthfully my list would change if you asked me tomorrow. And since I haven’t finished reviewing some of these books, I hope you find some surprises:
_ Mothers & Other Monsters by Maureen F. McHugh (short stories)
An amazing short story collection. Just read it.
_ Willful Creatures by Aimee Bender (short stories)
Twisted, awesome stories about lost people and times.
_ Fun Home by Alison Blechdel (graphic memoir)
A beautifully realized memoir that is a treat for book folks.
_ Pure and Radiant Heart by Lydia Millet (novel)
A novel that took a silly “what if” and turned it into a sharp and incisive look into contemporary America. Chilling and sad and funny.
_ Persuasion Nation by George Saunders (short stories)
Excellent, funny short science fiction.

Upon reflection, I realized that there are a few more books I wish I hadn’t wasted my time reading, simply because they did nothing but waste my time. Here they are:
_ The Secret Society of Demolition Writers, edited by Marc Parent
_ My Uncle Oswald by Roald Dahl

My top author discoveries were:

Aimee Bender
Lydia Millet
Kelly Link
These women are smart, wicked and great at plucking elements from the mind and the world and making them into something new.

My favorite personal trends this year:

Reading lots of great SF, and actually buying single issue comic books, going to literary events

What I’d like to do in 2007:

Read more nonfiction
Read more reprints of old novels (a la NYRB)
Read more translation
Go to more readings
Read more men
Read more small presses
Keep try harder going and gain more smart, informed, sharing readers like you
Improve my book writing


Anonymous said...

I've been wanting to read Fun Home. I see it turning up on lots of best of lists this year. Yay for reading more nonfiction too!

Anonymous said...

i'll encourage you to read nonfiction if you encourage me to stop reading nothing but nonfiction.

unrelated, i thought for a crazy moment that you had typed 'read more reprints of old novels (a la nkotb)' and I wasn't sure what that had to do with anything (is jordan knight a literary figure now?) and i have had TOO MUCH COFFEE!!!! happy new year.

Carrie said...

Hey Mary,

I'm not so sure what I could do to convince you to read more nonfiction. Maybe you should try PRH. It is kinda based on a real moment in history and you can get it at the library. How about comics?

Do we need some kind of cross-genre support group?

Anonymous said...

I wish that I had heard of more of the writers on your list -- but I do like your goals for 2007. I'm going to try to go to more readings too.

CC said...


I feel as if we have similar tastes in books! For another fantastic author, try Jeff Vandermeer.

Like China Mieville, he builds beautiful, surreal worlds, tinged with the slightly sinister, and populates those worlds with a fascinating set of characters.

He has an extraordinary sense of play, (one of his stories is entirely coded with page numbers) and he also writes beautifully.

I'd start out with Veniss Underground or Cities of Saints and Madmen, both are heady books.

Love your blog btw =)


Carrie said...

Thanks for stopping by, Cindy.