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Topic: 10 Best Books of 2007

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Subject: 10 Best Books of 2007
Date Posted: 12/24/2007 1:58 PM ET
Member Since: 8/11/2006
Posts: 6,597
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According to a recent New York Times article, the following are the 10 Best Books of 2007. How many have you read?


MAN GONE DOWN By Michael Thomas. Black Cat/Grove/Atlantic, paper, $14. This first novel explores the fragmented personal histories behind four desperate days in a black writer’s life.

OUT STEALING HORSES By Per Petterson. Translated by Anne Born. Graywolf Press, $22. In this short yet spacious Norwegian novel, an Oslo professional hopes to cure his loneliness with a plunge into solitude.

THE SAVAGE DETECTIVES By Roberto Bolaño. Translated by Natasha Wimmer. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $27. A craftily autobiographical novel about a band of literary guerrillas.

THEN WE CAME TO THE END By Joshua Ferris. Little, Brown & Company, $23.99. Layoff notices fly in Ferris’s acidly funny first novel, set in a white-collar office in the wake of the dot-com debacle.

TREE OF SMOKE By Denis Johnson. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $27. The author of “Jesus’ Son” offers a soulful novel about the travails of a large cast of characters during the Vietnam War.


IMPERIAL LIFE IN THE EMERALD CITY: Inside Iraq's Green Zone. By Rajiv Chandrasekaran. Alfred A. Knopf, $25.95; Vintage, paper, $14.95. The author, a Washington Post journalist, catalogs the arrogance and ineptitude that marked America’s governance of Iraq.

LITTLE HEATHENS: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression. By Mildred Armstrong Kalish. Bantam Books, $22. Kalish’s soaring love for her childhood memories saturates this memoir, which coaxes the reader into joy, wonder and even envy.

THE NINE: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court. By Jeffrey Toobin. Doubleday, $27.95. An erudite outsider’s account of the cloistered court’s inner workings.

THE ORDEAL OF ELIZABETH MARSH: A Woman in World History. By Linda Colley. Pantheon Books, $27.50. Colley tracks the “compulsively itinerant” Marsh across the 18th century and several continents.

THE REST IS NOISE: Listening to the Twentieth Century. By Alex Ross. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $30. In his own feat of orchestration, The New Yorker’s music critic presents a history of the last century as refracted through its classical music.


Date Posted: 12/24/2007 3:00 PM ET
Member Since: 8/25/2007
Posts: 13,134
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Well, I'm apparently not that well read as I've read not a one of those books.  Wouldn't mind reading "The Nine" though.  Wonder if the local library has it.

Date Posted: 12/24/2007 6:06 PM ET
Member Since: 2/5/2007
Posts: 30,805
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Haven't read even one of them.        Am not sure any of them are to my taste.

Date Posted: 12/24/2007 6:24 PM ET
Member Since: 2/2/2006
Posts: 2,246
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I haven't read any of the fiction, not much of a fiction reader unless it's mysteries, but I have read all of the non-fiction except the one about Elizabeth Marsh.

Little Heathens, of course, stole my heart and brought back all kinds of memories; the author might as well have been one of the kids down the lane from us. The Nine was an interesting exploration of the Supreme Court of the US prior to the recent changes - I'd like to fact-check some things before I pass judgment on it. Imperial Life in the Emerald City was just plain fascinating, surprisingly even-handed, and caused me to feel much the way I felt when I read The Ugly American almost 50 years ago. I didn't care much for The Rest is Noise, but I'm not a huge classical music fan; DW is, and she enjoyed it.

Now I have to track down the one about Elizabeth Marsh. Thanks!


Date Posted: 12/24/2007 10:29 PM ET
Member Since: 5/8/2007
Posts: 8,523
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Wow, I've only even heard of one of those!  That one is Then We Came to the End, which my husband is reading right now and really likes!

ETA: Okay, yes I've heard of The Nine, heh.  But that's it!

Last Edited on: 12/24/07 10:30 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/24/2007 10:44 PM ET
Member Since: 3/13/2006
Posts: 2,024
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Way to go, Lester, for getting out there and reading some good stuff this year!

While I've read some pretty good books this year, I haven't read any of these top ten.  Ah, well.

Date Posted: 12/24/2007 11:24 PM ET
Member Since: 8/22/2007
Posts: 565
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I haven't read any of them either, in fact I've never heard of them before.

Date Posted: 12/26/2007 11:43 PM ET
Member Since: 1/22/2007
Posts: 270
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I haven't read any of these either.  Most of them don't really sound like my type of books!

Date Posted: 12/27/2007 10:29 PM ET
Member Since: 3/10/2007
Posts: 3,272
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I've heard of "The Nine" but am sure that none of the other titles sound good to me.  Even with the descriptions....

Date Posted: 12/27/2007 11:44 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
Posts: 1,494
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I haven't heard of any of these books, Little Heathens is the only one that even sounds good to me...............

Date Posted: 12/28/2007 5:30 PM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2007
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I haven't heard of any of these.
Date Posted: 12/28/2007 6:24 PM ET
Member Since: 1/14/2007
Posts: 775
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No, I don't recognize any of the titles either, but "Little Heathens" and  "The Nine" sound interesting to me. Thanks  for the listing.


Date Posted: 12/28/2007 9:09 PM ET
Member Since: 2/12/2006
Posts: 4,868
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And here are the top from the Washington Post and the Boston Globe - not identical, but many of the same.... and, no I haven't read any of them, but intend to get my hands on The Savage Detectives and Cheating at Canasta:

  • The Washington Post
    Book World's Holiday Issue
    • Fiction
    • Finn, by Jon Clinch (Random House).
    Huck not only finds Pap, but Huck is half black -- a daring invention, to be sure, but also a brilliant embodiment of the liminal spot in which he lives, that chaotic Missouri boundary between freedom and slavery. -- Ron Charles
    • The Last Cavalier, by Alexandre Dumas;
    translated from the French by Lauren Yoder (Pegasus). A newly unearthed novel by the author of The Three Musketeers. Full of melodrama and coincidence, shamelessly studded with every possible romantic cliche and period flourish. But it's absolutely wonderful. -- Michael Dirda
    • On Chesil Beach, by Ian McEwan (Doubleday).
    The story of a wedding night. It takes on subjects of universal interest and creates a small but complete universe around them. McEwan's prose is as masterly as ever. No one now writing in English surpasses or even matches McEwan's accomplishment. -- Jonathan Yardley
    • The Savage Detectives, by Roberto Bolano;
    translated from the Spanish by Natasha Wimmer (Farrar Straus Giroux). Not since Gabriel Garcia Marquez has a Latin American redrawn the map of world literature so emphatically. -- Ilan Stavans
    • Tree of Smoke, by Denis Johnson (FSG).
    To write a fat novel about the Vietnam War nearly 35 years after it ended is an act of literary bravado. To do so as brilliantly as Denis Johnson has is positively a miracle. -- David Ignatius
    • Nonfiction
    • Edith Wharton, by Hermione Lee (Knopf).
    Today, at the remove of a century, she seems greater than many earlier critics allowed. A meticulous, generous biography. -- Diane Johnson
    • FDR, by Jean Edward Smith (Random House).
    A model presidential biography. Now, at last, we have the book that is right for the man. -- Jonathan Yardley
    • Ralph Ellison: A Biography, by Arnold Rampersad (Knopf).
    Rampersad's chronicle of Ellison's long, turbulent and finally peaceful marriage is the most compelling and troubling part of this consistently intriguing, thoroughly researched book. -- Jabari Asim
    • The Unnatural History of the Sea, by Callum Roberts (Island Press).
    The resources of the sea are as limited as those of land and air, and our penchant for exploiting them to the point of extinction is appalling. A passionate and immensely important book. A galvanizing call to arms. -- Jonathan Yardley
    • The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story, by Diane Ackerman (Norton).
    A lovely story about the Holocaust might seem like a grotesque oxymoron. But here is a true story -- of human empathy and its opposite -- that is simultaneously grave and exuberant, wise and playful. Ackerman has a wonderful tale to tell, and she tells it wonderfully. -- Susie Linfield

    • Boston Globe
    Best Fiction and Nonfiction Books of 2007
    • Fiction

    • The Welsh Girl  By Peter Ho Davies  Houghton Mifflin
    Set in the mountains of northern Wales during the months surrounding D-day, "The Welsh Girl" is a careful, deceptively simple novel of war and moral consequence: A 17-year-old barmaid and daughter of a shepherd befriends a German prisoner of war. How they each translate these ill-timed affections forms the ballast of the novel. What Davies manages to evoke in this straightforward tale, marked by irony and fate, is a beautifully wrought portrait of humanity under duress — held by the greater forces of land and time.
    • Falling Man  By Don DeLillo  Scribner
    Few other writers could dare to capture the shadowy cataclysm of 9/11 and pull it off with such masterful precision. In its close-focus lens on one man's walk away from the collapsing Trade Center towers, "Falling Man" is a spare, brilliant novel that evokes an elegiac world of ash and anguish. Because Don DeLillo has used his breathtaking narrative intelligence with such restraint, he manages to take that sunny September morning of 2001 and render history into myth.
    • The Gathering  By Anne Enright  Black Cat
    Irish writer Anne Enright won the 2007 Man Booker Prize for "The Gathering," which has shades of classic tales of the body being borne, bringing to mind William Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying." The nine surviving siblings of the Hegarty family are in Dublin to bury their brother Liam, who walked into the ocean to end his pain. The narrator, his 39-year-old sister, delivers a memory-laden story as marked by the sad errors of the past as it is by Enright's shimmering prose.
    • Tree of Smoke  By Denis Johnson  Farrar, Straus and Giroux
    This sprawling, acid-mad Vietnam novel, which won the National Book Award, is Denis Johnson at his visionary best: muscle-bound prose, Mistah-Kurtz characters, and a Byzantine military-intelligence clubhouse that even Yossarian of "Catch 22" would find daunting. Johnson captures the rock'n'roll hubris of the Vietnam War and visits it upon a full-throttle plot of sinister intrigue. His memorable cast includes an aging CIA cowboy, retired from Psy Ops, who sustains himself with old football memories and Bushmills whiskey.
    • On Chesil Beach  By Ian McEwan  Doubleday
    In structure and design, this small and exquisite novel is markedly different from Ian McEwan's magisterial "Atonement," but it still possesses the author's moody worldview, wherein beauty and human intimacy are frailties too often crushed by chance. A newly married couple in mid-20th-century England, bringing their worries and their pasts to their wedding night, try only to connect. The result is a cello suite of sadness, encompassing an entire swatch of English culture and the legacy of roads not taken.
    • Cheating at Canasta  By William Trevor  Viking
    This collection of stories from Irish master William Trevor is so finely wrought, delivered with such confidence and grace, that even their most shocking consequences possess the inevitability of truth unfolding. In his unerring tales of redemption and regret, Trevor can deliver a glimpse of all Ireland through one simple dilemma: a man protecting his dementia-ridden wife, a broken soul facing the cruelties of his past. But because Trevor's fatalism is always trumped by his humanity, even the darkest of these stories can be consoling. His is a moral sensibility even larger than the world of sorrows he assumes.

    • Nonfiction
    • Journals: 1952-2000  By Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., edited by Andrew and Stephen Schlesinger  Penguin
    Arthur Schlesinger Jr.'s sometimes stirring, occasionally sad, and often sardonic writings across the five decades from Harry Truman to George Bush form a labor-intensive public works project for his fellow historians and biographers. The work is both gossipy and profound, as befits a prize-winning writer who doubled as a longtime Democratic policy adviser. It is always candid, never dull.
    • The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War  By David Halberstam  Hyperion
    In this book, the posthumous legacy of an American original, David Halberstam approaches the story of the Korean War like the journalist he often was, but tells the tale like a historian. Halberstam, who died last April at 73 in a car accident, took as his starting point conversations with war veterans, as a reporter would, working his way toward documents and "official centers of decision-making.'' The result is compelling and insightful, one of the best of Halberstam's more than 20 books.
    • The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944  By Rick Atkinson  Holt
    The second volume of Atkinson's history of the southern campaign in World War II shows a profound grasp of tactics and strategy, while his use of quotes brings the conflict alive with a terrible vividness. While author Rick Atkinson argues for the necessity of the horrific 608-day campaign to take the fortified Italian hill town of Monte Cassino, he never forgets what war did to the men who fought it, nor the price they paid.
    • Legacy of Ashes  By Tim Weiner  Doubleday
    This history points to the flaws in intelligence leading up to the Iraq war as merely the latest major misstep by the Central Intelligence Agency, a bureaucracy that has rarely accomplished its central mission since its birth, the author argues. The work, which won a National Book Award, is scathingly critical, carefully researched and smartly written, painting a frightening portrait of a hapless bureaucracy whose drastic miscalculations — from Korea through the Cold War to Vietnam and now Iraq — have cost the United States dearly in blood, treasure, and prestige.
    • Brother, I'm Dying  By Edwidge Danticat  Knopf
    This modern-day memoir tells the story of two Haitian brothers, the writer's father and her uncle. For 30 years, they were separated, one having immigrated to America, the other remaining behind. They were finally united only in death, buried in a cemetery in Queens, N.Y. The book finds sad but poetic truths in the relentless hardships of Haiti and its people. And, in a heartbreaking postscript, when her uncle finally decides to join his brother in America, he dies in a detention center in Miami, waiting to see whether he'll be granted asylum.
    • Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography  By David Michaelis  HarperCollins
    This biography of the comic strip legend feels written from the inside out, despite the author never having had the opportunity to interview Schulz, who died in 2000. David Michaelis had to depend, instead, on conversations with family members and research into materials at Schulz's California studio. The triumph of the book is that it takes readers inside the mind of a fundamentally solitary man whose simple-looking postwar comic strip became a visual reflection, interpretation of, and guide to the times.
    • Ralph Ellison  By Arnold Rampersad  Knopf
    This biography of Ralph Ellison asks: What happened to this promising writer's long-awaited second novel, and to the man himself? And after asking the questions, it provides answers. The acclaim that greeted Ellison's 1952 debut novel "Invisible Man" consolidated his status as a cosmopolitan, certified New York intellectual. But the sparkling achievement, and the honors that followed, bore their own cost over the ensuing decades. The author chronicles the toll that Ellison's position took on him, in a book that lifts the veil and reveals the personality behind the persona.
    • Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution  By Woody Holton  Hill & Wang
    The author of this tale, a National Book Award finalist, argues that the rebellions, threats, and warnings of the post-revolutionary years played a key role in the framing of the US Constitution. This populist vision places the book squarely among recent revisionist studies that have given prominence to grassroots agitation in the origins of both the American Revolution and the Constitution that followed.

Last Edited on: 12/28/07 9:13 PM ET - Total times edited: 1