I’ve never done this before, but then again I’ve never before been so systematic with my reading, so I don’t think it would have been possible. Let me just say that by picking out the books (or in some cases, short stories) that I liked the best this year, I am not denigrating any of the other really wonderful books I read.
Why seven books, and not five or ten? (I know, in an earlier post I said I’d pick five.) I tried to pick five, and couldn’t narrow it down below seven. So there you go.
I’m not going to go into detail about any of these, but will just provide links to my earlier reviews. I haven’t been able to impose any hierarchy on them beyond the top seven, so consider it a seven-way tie. (They are alphabetized by title.)
The short story The Faerie Handbag, by Kelly Link, in the collection Magic for Beginners
The Final Solution by Michael Chabon
The short story Joan, Jeanne, La Pucelle, Maid of Orleans, by Judy Budnitz, in the collection This is Not Chick Lit
The Last of Her Kind by Sigrid Nunez
The short story The Poacher, by Ursula Le Guin, in the collection Unlocking the Air
Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi
Ursula, Under by Ingrid Hill
A few books almost made the cut, so I don’t feel that I can fail to mention them. They include Beauty Before Comfort by Alison Glock, The Children’s War by Monique Charlesworth, Leeway Cottage by Beth Gutcheon, and Abide with Me by Elizabeth Strout.
Analyzing the List and Looking Ahead
It was interesting, compiling the list of books I read this year, and then choosing the ones I liked best. Of the 11 books (or stories) that were my favorites, only one was written by a man. I read only 16 books by men this year (out of 54), and of those 16, there were two books each by Alexander McCall Smith and Bill Bryson, so really only 14 male authors. Hmmm. I don’t try to do this on purpose. It’s just that there are so many great books by women out there waiting to be read that it’s hard to fit in the ones by men. But I know that I have a few male authors in my TBR pile for next year. These include Vikram Seth, Daniel Handler, Julian Barnes, Guy Gavriel Kay, Robert Hellenga and more books by Bill Bryson and Alexander McCall Smith. I also am looking forward to my favorite mysteries and suspense books by John Le Carre, Tony Hillerman, and Donald E. Westlake, and a few by some authors who are new to me, including Peter Robinson, and Barry Maitland.
I have some favorite women writers who were conspicuously absent from my list in 2006. I think it’s because many of them had new books out either in the end of 2005 or some time in 2006. New books mean long waits for the library copies, or paying for the hardback. I’ve only recently risen to the top of the queue for some of these books. Favorite writers I’m looking forward to reading soon include Hilary Mantel, Kate Atkinson, Margaret Atwood, Anne Tyler, Sue Miller, Jane Urquart, Elinor Lipman, Margaret Drabble, Joanna Trollope and Julia Glass.
Of course I’m also sure I'll get distracted from my path by something with a quirky cover on the New Fiction shelf.