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Books Read in 2006 with comments

Books Read in 2006 with comments

Here is what I've read so far this year. I'm always on the prowl for new authors--if you think we share the same taste in literature, please email me with your favorite authors/books. Happy reading!

Books listed in order read

  1. The Spring of the Ram by Dorothy Dunnett

    The second in the Niccolo Rising series of books. I'm blown away by how much this author knows about history. Unfortunately the Ann Arbor Library doesn't have the third book of the series so I'm waiting for Inter Library Loan for a copy.

  2. You Remind Me of Me by Dan Chaon

    Wow--beautifully written story about finding your self, perceiving reality, fuck ups and second chances. I'm gonna stick with it in the hope that the depressing as hell part won't be the entire book. The story has some tragic and depressing parts to it, but the overall trajectory is one towards hope and forgiveness.

  3. Race of Scorpions by Dorothy Dunnett

    The third in the Niccolo Rising series of books. I was annoyed with how one of the main female characters died in this book (too passive and saintly) but otherwise another romping good read.

  4. Scales of Gold by Dorothy Dunnett

    The fourth book in the Niccolo Rising series. What can I say? I'm turning into a Dunnett junkie. I liked the fact that there was finally a female character that was a match for Nicholas in this book.

  5. Best American Short Stories 2005 guest edited by Michael Chabon

    I was absolutely blown away by Joyce Carol Oates's epistolary story. I also liked Kelly Link's "Stone Animals" which ballanced the wierd and the real.

  6. The Unicorn Hunt by Dorothy Dunnett

    The fifth book in the Niccolo Rising series. I feel a little annoyed by Dunnett's decision to make the main character a "diviner". I think it takes away from the interest to give him mystical powers rather than simply excellent strategizing skills.

  7. Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace

    A collection of non-fiction pieces. I loved the essay about language use, despite the fact that I am one of the people he bitches about who never really learned grammar.

  8. Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

    I'm on a quest for good kid-lit. This one was ok, but nowhere near as appealing as her other book listed below.

  9. The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

    A wonderful example of kid-lit. Doesn't talk down to the kid, uses words like "perfidy" and tells you if you don't know the word to go look it up. And the characters from the mouse, to the dull-witted serving girl, to the various rats are all remarkably complex for uncomplicated prose.

  10. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken

    A favorite book from when I was about 12 years old. This re-read made it very clear what appealed to me back then: a main character who has trouble controlling her temper and some very nice descriptions of food. Oh, and the adventure plot is fun too.

  11. On Beauty by Zadie Smith

    Smith's homage to E.M. Forester. She attempted a present day "Howards End" set in the Boston area. The only character that came alive for me was Charlene Kipps--the character based on Mrs. Wilcox. Unfortunately she is also the least present character, as far as the number of pages she graces. Smith's editors should be scolded for all the gaffs in American English in the book--they were very distracting. Made me want to go read the original "Howards End" to get this one out of my head.

  12. Yarn Harlot by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

    If you don't get enough of the Yarn Harlot's almost daily posts in her blog, then read this.

  13. To Lie with Lions by Dorothy Dunnett

    What is this, book 6? Yup another Niccolo Rising book.

  14. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich

    A pretty amazing display of what it means to be the working poor.

  15. Empire Falls by Richard Russo

    Re-read for book group. I'm still blown away by how Russo manages to pack a whole ton of depressing subjects into a book that is not at all depressing.

  16. Caprice and Rondo by Dorothy Dunnett

    Whew! End of the Niccolo series. What a ride!

  17. Wicked by Gregory Maguire

    I was prepared to hate this since I once tried to read another of Maguire's re-telling of fairy tale books, the wicked step-sisters one, and hated it for its cutesy tone. But Wicked wasn't bad (I read it because my book group chose it). I thought the first half was much better than the second--once Elphaba and Glinda leave school, I thought the book lost steam. But I did think the book had some interesting scenarios and I did like the ending with the accident that Dorothy makes with the water bucket. It advertises itself as a having big things to say about the "nature of evil" which I don't think it really had the chops to take on fully, but for contemplations on "evil-light" I thought it was entertaining.

  18. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

    Fantastic, wistful, beautiful meditation on what it means to be human, how community brings meaning to life and how following rules can bring comfort, even when those rules result in death.

  19. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo

    Absolutely lovely story about learning to love and how feeling love means you have to be able to feel pain. Meant for children, but a good reminder of what matters for adults too.

  20. Intuition by Allegra Goodman

    I generally love Goodman's writing but found the subject matter, data manipulation in scientific research, to be a little chilly. The characters never came alive for me.

  21. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

    What fun! I keep reading that the book is the Miss Marple of Botswana, but maybe because I am much less familiar with the culture, it struck me as less trite than Agatha Christie. Mma Ramotswe is such a full, wonderful character and McCall Smith writes without frills, knowing just what to include and what to leave out. The book struck me as rarely ever "telling" the reader and did tons of "showing". Can't wait to read the next in the series.

  22. Tears of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith

    More lovely stories about Mma Ramotswe.

  23. The Penelopiad by Maragaret Atwood

    Atwood's trademark acidic prose employed to re-tell the story of Penelope, Odysseus' long suffering wife.

  24. A Family Daughter by Maile Meloy

    The book is more interesting if you have read her first book, Liars and Saints since it references that book in many ways. I thought it started off well, but got unfocused and a little dull by the end. I also thought there were too many extraneous character--I kept forgetting who a few of the men were and what they were doing in the story.

  25. The Omnivore's Dillema by Michael Pollan

    You won't look at your food the same way after reading this book.

  26. Morality for Beautiful Girls by Alexander McCall Smith

  27. The Full Cupboard of Life by Alexander McCall Smith

  28. In the Company of Cheerful Ladies by Alexander McCall Smith

    Can you tell that I am hooked on Mma Ramotswe?

  29. The Life All Around Me by Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons

    A sequel to Gibbons' book Ellen Foster. The first book was excellent, this one is not. Half the time I couldn't follow who was saying what to whom. And the story line was just too twee for me.

  30. Fly by Night by Frances Hardinge

    Absolutely fantastic book--ostensibly for young adults but should appeal to anyone who loves words. Set in an alternate 18th C. England, the book achieves that rare ballance of stimulating thought and humor.

  31. The Man of My Dreams by Curtis Sittenfeld

    Decent, though not terribly memorable, contemporary fiction. I liked the pessimism of the main character.

  32. Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

    Kind of annoying, but kind of compelling. Kept scratching my head saying "Why am I continuing to read about over-privileged teenagers and the middle class kid who wants to be one of them?" and yet I kept reading.

  33. The Final Solution by Michael Chabon

    A lovely little quirky book. A fantastic chapter near the end from the point of view of a parrot.

  34. Bad Twin by Gary Troup

    Pretty stupid, gimmicky mystery book. Supposedly has some clues that tie to the TV show "Lost" (which I confess I enjoy) but beats the hell out of me what they are.

  35. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

    Exquisite--a new member of my Top 10 favorite books. Best summarized by a quotation from the book: "I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant."

  36. Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende

    It has been a while since I read any Allende--I got a little tired of the magical realism. I also prefered the secondary character, Tao, to the title character.

  37. Black Swan Green by David Mitchell

    Beautiful book. Loads of complexity lying beneath a simple surface plot of a year in a 13-year old boy's life.

  38. The Antelope Wife by Louise Erdrich

    Not one of her best. Fragmented and high use of violence to advance plot. Didn't help that my edition didn't have the family tree.

  39. Old School by Tobias Wolff

    Clean prose and an amazing tenderness that doesn't get sentimental and sappy. Couldn't help comparing it in my head with Prep (#32 above) due to the New England boarding school setting and realizing how superior this book is.

  40. Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller

    Best memoir I've read in ages. I'll probably re-read it; it's that good.

  41. Mary and O'Neil by Justin Cronin

    A beautiful novel, though I think the title is a little misleading--it seems to be much more about O'Neil with a little about Mary and I wish the author could have come up with a better title for the book.

  42. Small Island by Andrea Levy

    WWII Britian and Jamaica. Really enjoyed reading it though the ending was a little bit of a stretch for me.

  43. The Known World by Edward P. Jones

    Wonderful historical fiction about free black slave owners before the Civil War. Incredibly well drawn characters.

  44. Tied to the Tracks by Rosina Lippi

    Not sure why this was published under Lippi's name and not under her Sara Donati name. It is essentially a romance without the historical setting of her Wilderness novels. Couldn't be more different from Homestead, the only other novel she has published under the Lippi name. I was pretty disappointed by it, and perhaps I wouldn't have been as disappointed if I had been expecting a romance rather than literary fiction.

  45. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

    Wow. Breathtaking intertwined tales that go from 18th C to explorer to futuristic clone to post-apocolypse primitivism. Romping good adventures combined with exquisite meditations on being and the search for meaning in life.

  46. The Brambles by Eliza Minot

    Lovely novel about three siblings coming together for their father's death. Some of the best writing about the pleasures and pains of parenting.

  47. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

    Best story I've read about a boy's longing and love for his dead father. Funny and yet heartbreakingly sad.

  48. Bella at Midnight by Diane Stanley and Bagram Ibatoulline

    A nice empowered retelling of the Cinderella story for young readers.

  49. A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You by Amy Bloom

    Sparse prose in this enjoyable collection of stories. The author trusts her readers and doesn't feel the urge to over-explain anything.

  50. One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson

    A fun sequal to her book Case Histories. Again, the stories appear disparate and then turn out to be tightly entwined. The book isn't in the class of Behind the Scenes at the Museum, but is an enjoyable read.

  51. The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud

    I hated this book. I still can't believe that NYTimes Book Review named it one of the top 10 of the year. Navel gazing with no purpose.

  52. The Good German by Joseph Kanon

    A fun thriller. Haven't read one in a while. I happen to love stuff about WWII and immediately post WWII history and appreciated all the research into the state of Berlin while it was being divied up. But I can't imagine it as a movie.

In Progress reading--check to see if they make it to the first list or get dropped down to the abandoned list....

The sad list of abandoned books....

  1. Atonement by Ian McEwan

    I tried (again). I really tried. But I found the character Briony excruciating to read.

  2. Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link

    I read a few of the stories in this collection but none of them approached the quality of her story "Stone Animals" that was in the 2005 Best Short Stories collection I read recently.

  3. Two Lives by Vikram Seth

    Very nicely written, and an interesting mix of biography and autobiography about some very unique people. But soooooo slow. I lost interest about 1/2 way through.

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