Monday, December 18, 2006

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.

ON BEAUTY by Zadie Smith

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.

THE BLACK DAHLIA by James Ellroy

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.


Blogger Sam said...

Ok - I'll play!
Favorite books of 2006 in no particular order:
The Dogs of Riga & The Fifth Woman by Henning Mankel
Triptych - by Karen Slaughter
The Devil of Nanking - by Mo Hayder
Shade's Children - Garth Nix
A Delicate Storm &
Forty Words for Sorrow -Giles Blunt
Virtual Murder- J. Macaire
Basket Case - Carl Hiaasen
The Wake Up - Robert Ferrigno
Afterburn - S.L. Veihl

3:30 AM  
Blogger Dee said...

Interesting - this year a lot of my favorites let me down. But I discovered some new authors - because of agent/editor blogs like this.

Without a doubt Anansi Boys - Neil Gaiman. Unbelievable storytelling. Unbelievable writing.

Locked Rooms - Laurie King - If I could have injected the Mary Russell books into me to read them faster I would have. Simply brilliant. Monstrous Women is my favorite - but I adored the POV switch in Locked Rooms.

Crazy Cool - Tara Janzen. Just balls out romance, action, sex and men.

2:10 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth Krecker said...

So glad to hear the book Hard News is worth reading. Like a lot of former New Yorkers, I read the Times religiously, but was disheartened by its recent fall from grace. Maybe there will be comfort in knowledge...

2006 was the year of reading books that I'd somehow missed when they were published some time ago. Here's my list:

The Killng Floor - Lee Childs (Fabulous! Picked it up at 3 on a Friday afternoon, and didn't put it down again until 4 a.m. on Saturday.)

The Codex - Douglas Preston (A really fun read!)

Lessons from a Lifetime of Writing - David Morrell (well worth the read no matter your experience)

Hard Rain - Barry Eisler (I'm reading Eisler from the beginning, this was book 2 and as much as I enjoyed the first, I liked this one even better.)

Closing Time - Jim Fusilli (character-driven and lush with New York cityscapes)

In Harm's Way - Douglas Stanton (who knew history could be so gripping)

Trojan Odyssey - Clive Cussler (after all these years and all those books, I'm still a sucker for everything Cussler!)

Winning with People - John Maxwell (ignore the cheesy title, this is an excellent book for anyone in management)

Rift Zone - Raelynn Hillhouse (a fascinating glimpse into life behind the Iron Curtain by someone who lived the Cold War)

And last, but totally not the least:

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek - Annie Dillard (I've read it twice, and love the first sentence...ok, so it was three sentences: "I used to have a cat, an old fighting tom, who would jump through the window by my bed in the middle of the night and land on my chest. I'd half-awaken. He'd stick his skull under my nose and purr, stinking of urine and blood." Ok, so maybe you've got to have grown up with cats and dogs and horses to appreciate it.)

Thanks for the great blogging, Jason! Happy New Year!!!!

1:18 AM  

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