Favorite Books of the (Reading) Year
I'm going to take a page from Stephen King (not too often I get to do that, other than for the title of this website) and offer my top six books of the year that were not necesarily published in 2006. Because I only get to read for pleasure about 5% of the time I'd actually like to be reading for pleasure, I'm sure I missed many terrific books that will make up my 2007 and 2008 lists. I am omitting books I edited/acquired. And of course, I'm curious to hear what others feel were the best of their reading year.
COMPANY by Max Barry
A stingingly funny, yet oddly sympathetic satire about corporate life. Set in a modern day conglomerate in which employees aren't exactly sure what the company does, COMPANY follows the path of a young hire and his struggle to uncover the nefarious (and bizarre) plan at the heart of Zephyr Holdings. And though its donut-dominated cover has received mixed reviews, after reading the book you'll see why this mangled sugary concoction is so apt.
A hilarious and touching look at the inhabitants of Wellington, a fictional New England liberal arts university, and the ways in which race, sex, and education create hope for them as well as provide misery. No character is left with merely two dimensions, and no page contains an iota of laziness or carelessness. Misguided ambition runs rampant, and it contains one of the most thought-provoking characters I've recently read in that of a young black poet/rapper whose talents outshine those who seek to both hold him down and/or exploit him.
Don't bother seeing the convoluted and stripped-down film version of this brilliant book. Instead savor the gritty and propulsive plot, the pitch-perfect rendering of police and government politics, one of the greatest boxing matches ever to hit the printed page, and the harrowing tale of two men and their descent into madness over the murder of a woman whose only true love was found in death.
THE LINCOLN LAWYER by Michael Connelly
Connelly takes another departure from his Harry Bosch series and offers up what might be his best book yet. We watch defense attorney (to the scumbags) Mickey Haller as he:
1) Takes on his biggest case to date
2) Plays the legal institution like a fiddle
3) Realizes that what appears to be an open-and-shut case is something far more sinister
4) Finds the soul he thought was lost long ago.
A DANGEROUS MAN by Charlie Huston
Do yourself a favor and read Huston's CAUGHT STEALING and SIX BAD THINGS before you read the brilliant, violent, and ultimately heartbreaking final volume of his Hank Thompson trilogy. As our (anti) hero struggles with his descent into hell to keep his family alive, Huston offers a harrowing and heartfelt story of a good man gone bad. If not for circumstance, Henry Thompson could be the guy at the bar chatting about the baseball game, yet instead he's an assassin for a vicious (and hilariously depicted) Russian mob boss. Yet as Thompson struggles to retain his humanity, he realizes that his last chance for heaven might come in the guise of someone closer to his heart than he ever thought possible. Not to mention an ending that feels like an emotional punch to the gut.
HARD NEWS by Seth Mnookin
For my second novel I've been doing a lot of research on the newspaper industry, and I stumbled upon this treasure almost by accident. HARD NEWS is Mnookin's account of the rise and fall of Howell Raines and the scandals at the New York Times under his watch. It has the pacing of a finely-honed thriller with the bones and giddy excitement of terrific journalism. Though Mnookin's allegiances are easy to decipher, you can sense the passion he has for his industry and his disgust at a hallowed institution plagued by avoidable scandal.