Tuesday, December 19, 2006

My (Paltry) List of the Best Books of 2006

This has not been a great year of reading for me. I’ve been preoccupied with writing my book and teaching journalism, which means I’ve read a paltry 18 to 20 books this year. That is way below my average of 40-45. And I can’t even claim to have read a lot of magazines in the interim.

But that won’t stop me from declaring my favorite books of the year. God knows, I am never short of opinions. To round things out I have once again asked a crew of some of the most voracious readers I know to weigh in on what books they enjoyed this year.

My list, in no particular order:

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel – This graphic novel about a young gay woman and her closeted dad was delightful for the pathos it evoked and all the literary references it managed to squeeze in. I’ve already given it as a present and plan to buy a whole bunch of copies for friends when it is released in paperback.

The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million by Daniel Mendelsohn – By examining the particular way his great uncle’s family was killed in the Holocaust, Mendelsohn gets at the heart of the question of how something so horrific could happen. He takes readers on a meandering journey across continents to a small town in Poland, all along revealing truths about himself. This was a very powerful book.

The Most Famous Man in the World: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher by Debby Applegate. In preparation for writing my biography, I have delved into the genre. I’ve read about the Vanderbilts, the Mellons, and the Hearsts. Applegate’s book took her more than a decade to complete, and she creates a fascinating portrait of a religious man and the world he created in the 19th century.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. I’ve blogged about this provocative book numerous times. Let’s just say it changed my mind about the food I eat.

I only have one novel on my list. How can that be? It’s Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. It’s the story of a boy with a privileged background who runs away to join the circus. He finds out about a world he never knew existed. Gruen creates a brutal, yet captivating world of a traveling circus.

Tomorrow I will share the lists from my crew of ravenous readers.

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