Wednesday, December 07, 2005

My Top Ten Books of the Year

The Top Ten Book Lists are out, and as a devotee of lists, I’ve perused them all. The New York Times has its favorites, as does the Los Angeles Times (non-fiction list and fiction list), Washington Post, and others.

I read a lot, but still only manage to read about 50 books a year. So I’ve asked some of my friends, people whose reading tastes I admire, to help me compile some top books. I have my favorites and they have theirs.

Frances’ Top 10 books of 2005


A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Occupied City by Anonymous
The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer
The Lost Painting by Jonathan Harr
The New New Journalism by Robert Boynton
Bookmark Now:Writing in Unreaderly Times by Kevin Smokler


The Inner Circle by T.C. Boyle
Freshwater Road by Denise Nichols (of Room 222 fame)
The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green by Joshua Braff
Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits by Laila Lalimi
Saturday by Ian McEwan

I asked Cindy Snow, one of the most voracious readers I know, for her favorite books of the year. Cindy works at A Great Gook Place for Books in Oakland and has access to a huge variety. In fact, she reads so much she had to narrow her list to …. 11.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Darling by Russell Banks
Incendiary by Chris Cleave
Drop City by T.C. Boyle
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
One Foot in Eden by Ron Rash
Rules for Old Men Waiting by Peter Pouncey
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
History of Love by Nicole Krauss

Betsy Blumenthal reads more non-fiction than anyone I know and is a great person to turn to for suggestions. She is the managing director for Kroll Associates in San Francisco, a risk consulting company, and serves on the board of Legal Services for Children in San Francisco.

Betsy Blumenthal’s Best Books of 2005:

Desert Queen: The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell, Adventurer, Advisor to Kings, Ally of Lawrence of Arabia by Janet Wallach
Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in a Fight to Free and Empire’s Slaves by Adam Hochschild
King Leopold’s Ghosts by Adam Hochschild
Skeleton of the Zahara: A True Story of Survival by Dean King
The Darling by Russell Banks

Nancy Traub Chirinos of San Francisco always has recommendations I trust. Her list includes:

The Darling by Russell Banks (that’s 3 recommendations; I will definitely read this!)
The Inner Circle by T.C. Boyle
The March by E.L. Doctorow
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
Persepolis I and II by Marjorie Satrapi
Crow Lake by Mary Lawson
The Line of Beauty by Alan Holingsworth
Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder
King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild

I just have so many friends with excellent taste. Elaine Smith, a designer in Oakland, recommends these books:

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
Kafka on the Shore by Murakami Haruki
On Beauty by Zadie Smith
Here is Where We Meet: A fiction by John Berger
Better Than Sane: Tales From a Dangling Girl by Alison C. Rose
A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit

My 13-year old daughter Charlotte, is also a big reader. Her favorite books were:

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Roots by Alex Haley
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

If anyone else has favorites to contribute, I love recommendations.


Anonymous said...

Frances, I haven't compiled my Top 10 (yet) but one of the books I enjoyed most this year was "Old School" by Tobias Wolff. I'm looking forward to investigating some of those on your list. Great blog! Tracey

exileonninthstreet said...

Found you through Kevin Smokler's Web site. Thought I'd add my Top 10 list of books

1. Their Eyes Were Watching God--Zora Neale Hurston
2. Angels--Denis Johnson
3. Jesus' Son--Denis Johnson
4. Buddha--Karen Armstrong
5. Everthing's Illuminated--Jonathan Safran Foer
6. Bookmark Now--Kevin Smokler editor
7. Misfortune--Wesley Stace
8. In the Shadow of Our House--Scott Blackwood
9. Moody Food--Ray Robertson
10. How to be Lost--Amanda Eyre Ward
Come and see me at

Mark Pritchard said...

Poor Michael Cunningham -- didn't anyone like his "Specimen Days"? Or Philip Roth's "The Plot Against America" -- I thought that was great! Or Mary Gaitskill's "Veronica"?

I'm reading Wm. Vollmann's "Europe Central" now and it's really something.

Frances said...

Mommy I really Liked the top ten books and thought it was cool. I want to lst my books as well! But I think my favorite book is: TO SING A SONG OF TUNA FISH! I am still reading it but it is very good!


Anonymous said...

I must say...I read these recommendations yesterday, and out of all of the books the one still on my mind today is TO SING A SONG OF TUNA FISH:)