The year's not yet over, but I thought I'd share my list of what I've read in 2007; things have gotten so busy that I probably won't be able to add too many more titles to it before year's end. The books I especially liked are marked with an *.
1. The Fugitive Wife by Peter C. Brown (finished 1/1/07)
A novel about a Midwestern farmer's wife joining the stampede for gold in Alaska in 1900. Sounded promising -- not so great.
*2. The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan (1/8)
Absolutely fascinating account of a not-too-distant but almost entirely unknown part of American history. It won the National Book Award for nonfiction, and deservedly so.
3. Working Stiff: The Misadventures of an Accidental Sexpert by Grant Stoddard (2/8)
Could've been a lot more fun, but it tried way too hard. Heh heh, I said "hard."
4. Zodiac by Robert Graysmith (2/28)
Here's something I rarely say: the movie was better.
5. 40 Days and 40 Nights: Darwin, Intelligent Design, God, OxyContin & Other Oddities on Trial in Pennsylvania by Matthew Chapman (3/6)
Written by a direct descendant of Charles Darwin... well, that's about all it had going for it. Formless and uninspiring.
*6. The Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber (3/18)
Fun, exciting novel about the search for a heretofore unknown Shakespeare manuscript. Really entertaining passages about book preservation. Honestly!
*7. The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz (3/21)
Funny, fast-paced mystery about a family of private investigators. Strangely enough, what I liked best about it is that the author seemed to have no idea how to shape a traditional novel, so she veered all over the place in creative ways.
*8. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver (5/3)
It took me bloody forever to finish this one, but it's a subject near to my heart and so well-written.
9. Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy (5/27)
I don't get excited about too many kids' books, but this novel, first in a new series, made me laugh out loud.
10. Mary Modern by Camille DeAngelis (6/25)
A scientist clones her own grandmother. Another promising premise, but not that well-written.
11. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling (7/13)
A reread in preparation for Book #7.
*12. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling (7/18)
See above. My favorite book in the series.
13. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (7/22)
The mostly satisfying conclusion to the series. Too much camping, though.
*14. Away by Amy Bloom (8/3)
Best novel I read all year. Lyrical, funny, full of twists that are not at all contrived. And the heroine ends up in Alaska! So, so satisfying.
*15. The World Without Us by Alan Weisman (8/7)
What would happen to the planet if all human life suddenly vanished today? A fascinating premise, rendered elegantly.
16. Service Included: Four-Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter by Phoebe Damrosch (8/20)
17. Smile When You're Lying: Confessions of a Rogue Travel Writer by Chuck Thompson (8/25)
Amusing collection of tales you'll never come across in "real" travel guides.
18. House Lust: America's Obsession with Our Homes by Daniel McGinn (9/6)
Nothing special, but it satisfied my inner desire to "flip this house."
19. Backyard Giants: The Passionate, Heartbreaking & Glorious Quest to Grow the Biggest Pumpkin Ever by Susan Warren (9/16)
Another great premise that didn't meet my expectations. In fact, this book actively disappointed me.
20. (Not That You Asked): Rants, Exploits, & Obsessions by Steve Almond (9/28)
Uneven collection of short pieces by the author of the delightful Candyfreak. The best item by far was the long essay on Kurt Vonnegut.
21. The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold (10/1)
*22. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks (10/19)
A terrific novel that travels back in time, exploring the physical history of a single book. Really entertaining passages about book preservation. Honestly!
23. A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban (10/24)
A funny, charming kids' book by my dear friend Linda. She brought tears to my eyes, as well as made me laugh out loud.
24. The Witch's Trinity by Erika Mailman (11/1)
An absorbing novel of a witch hunt set in 16th century Germany. The narrator, an old woman who is losing both her memory and her grip on reality, makes for a fascinating storyteller. It's not so much that we can't trust her -- she can't trust herself.
That's it so far. I just started The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig over the weekend; I read only the first chapter, but it was so brilliantly written that I think I should start over and really slow down so I can absorb the language. And what can you conclude about me from my reading list? I think it's obvious I have a bit of a thing for both Alaska and book preservation. And, if a book's premise excites me, I'll soldier through to the end, hoping against hope it will be good, despite ample evidence to the contrary.
An appropriately-themed blog you should check out: Judge a Book by Its Cover