Sunday, December 31, 2006

Year in Books: 2006

It's the last day of 2006: let the Listmania begin! Let's start with the year in books:

Best: Special Topics in Calamity Physics. No surprise here. The long-time reader of Fosco Lives! knows that Fosco loved this book. Haters need not reply.

Second Best: Twilight of the Superheroes. Sometimes Fosco thinks that he is one of the last 100 readers in the world of short story collections. In the past, he has had a fraught relationship with the short stories of Deborah Eisenberg. Not anymore: four of the six stories in this collection are masterpieces.

Best Cover: Icelander. McSweeney's books are almost always beautifully designed. You can't really get a sense of this cover from the picture (because there's glitter embedded in it!). Good cover.

Biggest Disappointment: Against the Day. Fosco was so looking forward to this novel--for months! After all, Pynchon's previous novel, Mason & Dixon, instantly became one of Fosco's five favorite books ever. So you can imagine Fosco's disappointment to discover that Pynchon's new novel is... terrible. I mean really bad. (True-blue Pynchon fans shouldn't bother to accuse me of misunderstanding on this one: I've read every word he's ever written and I understand the virtues of Pynchon. This novel just doesn't contain most of them.)

Second Biggest Disappointment: The Keep. How did this book make the cover of the NYT Book Review? Did the reviewer only read the first half? And why can't Jennifer Egan write a good second half of a book?

Book I Keep Forgetting That I Read: Trance. Huh. Apparently this book came out in 2005. But pretty much everything about this book is news to me anyway.

Book I Started and Never Finished: Icelander. Fosco loves Iceland and so this well-reviewed book should have been a slam-dunk. But he only made it through page 11, to the end of the descriptions of the characters in the novel: a character list which included "Philip Leshio" and "Constance Lingus" (wait for it...). After he read these names, Fosco thought to himself: "Do I really need to read this?" The answer was no.

Book I Probably Should Have Read: The Emperor's Children. I heard it was good.

Well-Reviewed Book I Have No Intention of Ever Reading: Absurdistan. I don't care if the NYTimes Book Review editor knocks on my door and begs me to read this novel. I won't. I read the excerpt in The New Yorker and I hated it. As far as I can tell, this book is like Borat for highbrows.

Book Everyone Hated That I Liked: This Book Will Save Your Life. Maybe most readers found the title to promise a bit too much. I've always had a soft spot in my heart for A.M. Homes and maybe that's why I was willing to accept the emotional resonance of this novel.

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