Best Books 2007

Oh, I do love the year end wrap ups! Belated, but still.   As I’ve already discussed, 2007 kicked 2006’s ass in volume (almost 60 more books read*), and it might have done so in substance, as well. I read some great books this year, and not all of them were slight - I mean, Les Miserables and The Decameron together was like, 2000+ pages of text. And so, without further ado, the ten** best books I read in 2007 (in no particular order)...

1. The Lost, Daniel Mendelsohn - I tell people about this book, and some of them are like, oh not another Holocaust book.  And I understand their initial reaction, because after awhile you think you’ve had enough of a sad story.  But we haven’t - we can’t, and Mendelsohn’s book reminds us why.  And he makes the actual loss of six real people remind us of just what the loss of six million meant for our world.  Everyone should read this book.

2. Absalom, Absalom! William Faulker - I came to this one kicking and screaming (well, metaphorically), since I had struggled through The Sound and the Fury, and because the first 100 pages might as well have been in Greek, for how long it took me to get through them.  And then, all of a sudden, it clicked, and I realized that this was one of the greatest books I’d ever read - if not the Great American Novel, certainly the Great Novel of the South.

3.  Cultural Amnesia, Clive James.  This is the book that had me underlining passages, and writing Yes!! and “this is so true” like some kind of 13 year old reading The Catcher in the Rye.  James’s world view, his ability to synthesize, the people who he thinks matter, and oh, the writing, blew my mind.  Made me realize that I am totally an uneducated buffoon, and made me want to learn our cultural patrimony.

4. The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, Michael Chabon. So, I love Chabon and loved this book.  Loved how he created this remarkably deep (and credible) alternate universe, and just went with it, trusting us to figure it out.  Love how he made his characters real, even in his made up world. Love how he taught me about a whole part of society about which I knew nothing.  Loved the genre stuff too - could double as the best mystery I read this year...

5. The Good Soldier, Ford Madox Ford - This touched me where I’m vulnerable - stiff upper lip Edwardian England (if it’d been WWI, I’d be a goner), and even though parts sat a little ill with me (viz, the Catholic bit), this one has stayed with me.  A hell of a book about honor and all that jazz...

6. Gilead, Marianne Robinson.  Oh my goodness, Gilead.  The best novel about life, and family, and faith, and aging and death.  The book about what Christianity ought to be, and about saying good bye, and living a good life.  The novel, maybe.

7. The Eustace Diamonds, Anthony Trollope.  A good old fashioned rollicking Victorian novel, with a wicked woman, and stolen diamonds, and a poor heroine, and a vacillating hero, and it is awesome.  Made me go from liking Trollope to loving Trollope (figures, once I figured he was a little trashy that I fell!).

8. Inside the Victorian Home, Judith Flanders.  An informative, fascinating, readable, myth-busting work of popular history.  Taught me more than hundreds of Victorian novels, and made me realize how lucky I have it to have been born after electricity.  The kind of book I’d like to write.  

9. The Path Between The Seas, David McCullough.  Along the same lines - a book that blew me away with its gargantuan tale of the Panama Canal - a thing I’d previously not given much thought to, and now appreciate.  Bonus points for making me care about engineering - and understand what a task it was - both politically and scientifically.

10. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling.  I know, not so intellectual, but this was one of my great reading experiences of the year.  Rowling pulled it together better than any of us could have hoped, and gave us a hell of a story, a satisfying ending, and made me think her books will live on with the great kid lit.  Plus, I liked the epilogue - I like to think of Harry as happy...

And, the honorable mentions:

Black Swan Green, Appointment in Samara, King Dork, Angle of Repose, The Thirteenth Tale, The Year of Magical Thinking, Maisie Dobbs, The Metamorphosis and Other Tales, Shade, The Book of Illusions, The History of Love

And, finally, the worst books I read in 2007.  Not ten - no need to pile on, but a few I couldn’t stand, and three I didn’t finish.

1. Mother To Daughter... Tillie Oleson, ed.  Maybe it’s unfair to pick on an anthology, but I actively disliked reading this book, so there you have it. 

2. Outlander, Diana Gabaldon.  I guess fantasy/romance is not for me, but I thought this book was both dim and cheesy (don't even get me started on the stupid sex scenes....)

3. Darcy's Story, Janet Aylme.  Ok, I have no one to blame but myself - it's not like I didn't know that a re-telling of Pride and Prejudice would be nothing but terrible fan-fic.  Which is what this was. Yuck.

4. The Rebel Angels, Robinson Davies.  This was mostly disappointing.  After falling in love with the Deptford Trilogy, I kept reading more Davies and getting more and more disappointed.  This is the one where the mumbo-jumbo just about broke me... 

And, two books I didn't finish (and lets face it, probably won't).  They aren't bad, per se, but they are the only two books I couldn't slog through the end for - so take that as you will

The Black Book, Orphan Pamuk - this was our last book club book, and I swore I'd slog through, even though I had similarly not finished Snow, by the same author.  But I didn't really enjoy it, and life intervened in the form of Jon's dad's stroke, and I gave up, guiltily.

Ship of Fools, Katherine Anne Porter - maybe if I'd been reading a paperback I'd have forced through, but the prose was clunky and the book heavy, and I put it down.  Maybe someday (probably not).

There you go - the highlights of 2007! Time to get going on my 2008 backlog!!

*though, I don’t really want to count and find out if the difference is that I read 60 mysteries this year, because that would be sort of depressing.  Whatever, they’re still books.

** Why ten? Who knows.  Because, I guess. I could have easily done more, but needed to stop somewhere...


The 2007 Book List

1. Wodehouse: A Life, Robert McCrum

2. Charming Billy, Alice McDermott

3. Jenny and the Jaws of Life, Jincy Willett

4. The Ministry of Fear, Graham Greene

5. Lords and Ladies, Terry Pratchett

6. Forever in Blue: The Fourth Summer of the Sisterhood, Ann Brashares

7. Without My Cloak, Kate O’Brian

8. The Last Continent, Terry Pratchett

9. The History of Love, Nicole Krauss

10. Kim, Rudyard Kipling

11. The Boleyn Inheritance, Phillipa Gregory

12. The Magic Toyshop, Angela Carter

13. Blood and Roses: One Family’s Struggle and Triumph During the     Tumultuous Wars of the Roses, Helen Castor

14. Mother to Daughter - Daughter to Mother - Mothers on Mothering, Tillie Olsen

15. The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion

16. American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracy, Michael W. Kauffman

17. Flashman, George MacDonald Fraser

18. The Sisters Mortland, Sally Beauman

19. All-of-a-Kind-Family Downtown, Sydney Taylor

20. Joy in the Morning, P.G. Wodehouse

21. Lucia in London, E.F. Benson

22. The Thin Place, Kathryn Davis

23. Native Son, Richard Wright

24. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser

25. A Stricken Field, Martha Gelhorn

26. Dead Man’s Folly, Agatha Christie

27. Sad Cypress, Agatha Christie

28. Murder in Three Acts, Agatha Christie

29. Women in Love, D.H. Lawrence

30. Miss Mapp, E.F. Benson

31. Crooked House, Agatha Christie

32. Murder in Mesopotamia, Agatha Christie

33. Mapp and Lucia, E. F. Benson

34. Sparkling Cyanide, Agatha Christie

35. Les Miserables, Victor Hugo

36. Miss Lonelyhearts, Nathaniel West

37. The Day of the Locust, Nathaniel West

38. The Moving Finger, Agatha Christie

39. Murder in the Mews, Agatha Christie

40. The Sea, The Sea, Iris Murdoch

41. Misfortune, Wesley Stace

42. Paris to the Moon,  Adam Gopnik

43. Carpe Jugulum, Terry Pratchett

44. A Certain Justice, P.D. James

45. Anna’s Book, Barbara Vine

46. Devices and Desires, P.D. James

47. The Black Tower, P.D. James

48. A Mind to Murder, P.D. James

49. Unnatural Causes, P.D. James

50. Shroud for a Nightingale, P.D. James

51. The Book of Illusions, Paul Auster

52. Outlander, Diana Gabaldon

53. The Laws of Our Fathers, Scott Turow

54. Death of an Expert Witness, P.D. James

55. V for Vendetta, Alan Moore & David Lloyd

56. The Skull Beneath the Skin, P.D. James

57. Cover Her Face, P.D. James

58. The Friendship -Wordsworth & Coleridge, Adam Sisman

59. The Lost: a search for six of the six million, Daniel Mendelsohn

60. The World My Wilderness, Rose Macauley

61. Special Topics in Calamity Physics, Marianne Pessl

62. A Taste For Death, P.D. James

63. A Sleeping Life, Ruth Rendell

64. If I Am Missing Or Dead, Janine Latus

65. The Girl in the Green Glass Mirror, Elizabeth McGregor

66. The Babes in the Wood, Ruth Rendell

67. Inside the Victorian Home, Judith Flanders

68. One Good Turn, Kate Atkinson

69. Our Hearts Were Young and Gay, Cornelia Otis Skinner and Emily Kimbrough

70. Maisie Dobbs, Jacqueline Winspear

71. The Solitary Summer, Elizabeth von Arnim

72. Original Sin, P.D. James

73. Sweet and Low, Rich Cohen

74. Shade, Neil Jordan

75. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E.L. Konigsburg

76. Phineas Finn, Anthony Trollope

77. A Caribbean Mystery, Agatha Christie

78. Death Comes for the Archbishop, Willa Cather

79. Men at Arms, Evelyn Waugh

80. Sam the Sudden, P.G. Wodehouse

81. The Worshipful Lucia (aka Lucia’s Progress), E.F. Benson

82. Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette, Judith Thurman

83. The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck

84. Cat Among the Pigeons, Agatha Christie

85. Maggie: A Girl of the Streets and other stories, Stephen Crane

86. At Bertram’s Hotel, Agatha Christie

87. The Good Soldier, Ford Maddox Ford

88. Neuromancer, William Gibson

89. The Caravaners, Elizabeth von Arnim

90. The Metamorphosis, In The Penal Colony & Other Stories, Franz Kafka

91. Cultural Amnesia, Clive James

92. The Man Who Would Be King & Other Stories, Rudyard Kipling

93. The Polysyllabic Spree, Nick Hornby

94. Housekeeping Versus The Dirt, Nick Hornby

95. Appointment in Samarra, John O’Hara

96. The Magician’s Wife, Brian Moore

97. The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, Michael Chabon

98. Fun e, Alison Bechdel

99. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling

100. King, Queen, Knave, Vladimir Nabokov

101. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, J.K. Rowling

102. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J.K. Rowling

103. Gilead, Marilynne Robinson

104. The Boy Who Fell Out of the Sky, Ken Dornstein

105. Tomorrow Will Be Better, Betty Smith

106. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling

107. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,  J.K. Rowling

108. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, J.K. Rowling

109. Murther and Walking Spirits, Robertson Davies

110. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe

111. The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton, Jane Smiley

112. Missing Joseph, Elizabeth George

113. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling

114. Darcy’s Story, Janet Aylmer

115. The Eustace Diamonds, Anthony Trollope

116. The Book of Merlyn, T.H. White

117. The Death of the Heart, Elizabeth Bowen

118. I, Robot,  Isaac Asimov

119. A Test of Wills, Charles Todd

120. Artists in Crime, Ngaio Marsh

121. Enter a Murderer, Ngaio Marsh

122. The Rebel Angels, Robertson Davies

123. The Nursing Home Murder, Ngaio Marsh

124. Death in Ecstasy, Ngaio Marsh

125. Overture to Death, Ngaio Marsh

126. Death of a Peer, Ngaio Marsh

127. The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky

128. Death and the Dancing Footman, Ngaio Marsh

129. Colour Scheme, Ngaio Marsh

130. Died in the Wool, Ngaio Marsh

131. The Decameron, Giovanni Boccaccio

132. Ava’s Man, Rick Bragg

133. The Fortress of Solitude, Jonathan Lethem

134. The Red Badge of Courage & Other Stories, Stephen Crane

135. Diary of a Provincial Lady, E.M. Delafield

135. The Reluctant Mr. Darwin, David Quammen

137. The Dogs of Babel, Caroline Parkhurst

138. The Voyage of the Beagle, Charles Darwin

139. Dead As A Dodo, Jane Langton

140. The Ladies of Grace Adieu, Susanna Clarke

141. Suite Francaise, Irene Nemirovsky

142. Sister Carrie, Theodore Dreiser

143. Ghost Hunters, Deborah Blum

144. Doctor Fischer of Geneva, or The Bombing Party, Graham Greene

145. The Mathematics of Love, Emma Darwin

146. American Gods, Neil Gaiman

147. The Kite Runner, Khaled Housseini

Absalom, Absalom! William Faulkner

A Drink Before The War, Dennis Lehane

150. Black Swan Green, David Mitchell

151. The Path Between The Seas, David McCullough

152. The Children of Men, P.D. James

153. Call For The Dead, John Le Carre

154. Blandings Castle, P.G. Wodehouse

155. I Love You, Beth Cooper, Larry Doyle

156. On Chesil Beach, Ian McEwan

157. Gone, Baby, Gone - Dennis Lehane

158. Arthur & George, Julian Barnes

159. The Provincial Lady in London - E.M. Delafield

160. King Dork, Frank Portman

161. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

162. The Minotaur, Barbara Vine

163. Sin in the Second City, Karen Abbott

164. The Master, Colm Toibin

165. The Dante Game, Jane Langton

166. The Thief of Venice, Jane Langton

167. The Good Son, Craig Nova

168. Murder at Monticello, Jane Langton

169. The God of Small Things, Arunhati Roy

170. The Transcendental Murder, Jane Langton

171. Shutter Island, Dennis Lehane

172. The Escher Twist, Jane Langton

173. Every Secret Thing, Laura Lippman

174. The Blue Girl, Charles de Lint

175. Lily’s Ghosts, Laura Ruby

176. Maskerade, Terry Pratchett

177. Angle of Repose, Wallace Stegner

178. Thunderstruck, Erik Larson

179. The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield

180. Light Thickens, Ngaio Marsh

181. Phineas Redux, Anthony Trollope

182. Death of a Fool, Ngaio Marsh

183. The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe

184. Photo Finish, Ngaio Marsh

185. Scales of Justice, Ngaio Marsh

186. Clutch of Constables, Ngaio Marsh

187. Night at the Vulcan, Ngaio Marsh

188. The Late George Apley, John P. Marquand

189. Hand In Glove, Ngaio Marsh

190. The Gathering, Anne Enright

191. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, John Le Carre

192. Random Family, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc


© Carrie Dunsmore 2017