Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Books I Heard in 2007, Part I

By the time I get through this year's collection of audiobooks, you all are going to think I'm Mikey (as in "Let's get Mikey! He hates everything!") of Life cereal fame. It's not true. I liked...a couple of books this year. Probably close to half of what I listened to, even. (Hey, it's not my fault if more than half of everything written these days just plain sucks.)

1. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffeneger: Loved it...and wrote about it on my old blog. Read all about it.

2. All Aunt Hagar’s Children by Edward P. Jones: It wasn’t The Known World, but nothing could be. Still, it passed my personal short-story test: I wanted more. Not more of a particular story, because Jones is a good writer, and his stories were complete in themselves. But more of the characters, because they were so alive and vibrant. I wanted to hear more about them, and spend more time with them.

3. Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner: Oh, dear god, no. No. I can’t believe I listened to this entire book. I can’t believe I wasted my time on this...plot. And these characterizations. And that ENDING. Holy shit, that sucked. (The one saving grace? Weiner is such a pro as a writer overall that there are funny moments, good turns of phrase, etc. The writing as writing—as words, one after the other, making sense, having a ring to them—doesn’t suck. But the book? Totally sucks.)

4. After This by Alice McDermott: Nope. That definitely didn’t do it for me. I didn’t like these people, and I didn’t especially care about them, and I wasn’t at all sad when this was over.

5. The Art of Mending by Elizabeth Berg: I really have to remember to write my impressions of these books immediately after listening to them, because if I let it go even a little while, the wholly forgettable ones among them get, well, forgotten. And yet, I know I found this book fairly compelling as a story, and that I ‘read’ (listened to) it with a fair amount of emotion. I just can’t remember what that emotion was, or whether it was positive or negative. (I’m guessing I’ve just blown my chance of being quoted on the jacket cover of this book’s next reprint, huh?)

6. Don’t Get Too Comfortable by David Rakoff: What is it with these hysterically funny gay men and their devastating and hilarious books of essays? I fall in love with them one after another...Sedaris, Burroughs, and now Rakoff. I wish I had half his sense of humor, and a quarter of his writing talent.

7. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson: Yeah, it dragged here and there a little bit. But not enough to make a difference: It’s a good book, a great premise, and I am now a Bryson fan.

8. Digging to America by Anne Tyler: Ugh. Why do I keep reading Tyler when I haven’t found anything I’ve liked since Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant? (Or MAYbe the Accidental Tourist, except the movie version was so awful, and Gina Davis so annoying in it, that it’s been forever tainted in my mind.) In any case, this didn’t break my “nope, still not especially liking Tyler’s books” streak.

9. Heat by Bill Buford: Damn, I’m hungry now.

10. The Night Watch by Sarah Waters: Incredibly good. I thought it would annoy me, the sort of contrived structure of the piece, but it actually worked beautifully. Left me with many questions, but was still so satisfying as a story, as a novel, as a world to exist in for a little while.

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