At times uproarious, often sentimental, and always laced with the wit and charm we've come to expect from Steve Martin, this is a warm and enjoyable portrait of his life in stand-up from childhood to his last show in 1981.
Despite never having been into the whole "zombie thing," I picked up World War Z. Halfway through, it dawned on me that I was becoming really, deeply scared. A few more pages in and I was trying to figure out how, exactly, to make my house both impenetrable and easily escapable. (Let's just say that ladders came into play.) Finally, I was gripped by the solid fear born of the all-too-solid knowledge that something will eventually go wrong and that we, the human race, are unprepared. Woe. Well-written, absorbing woe.
Bad Monkeys twists, turns, shifts, and shakes its way through the story of one Jane Charlotte, a woman who claims to be member of a clandestine organization dedicated to fighting evil known as the Final Disposition of Irredeemable Persons. A gripping, witty, and hilariously bizarre story about lies, betrayal, and a secret world.
Rumored to have caused countless suicides in Germany when first published more than 200 years ago, The Sorrows of Young Werther epitomizes the height of German Romanticism to me. This short novel swings through the full spectrum of emotions from the heights of rabid love to the depths of darkest despair. Be sure to have a handkerchief handy.
Put simply, Bolaño's novel The Savage Detectives is a retelling of Homer's Odyssey. The comparison to Joyce's literary monument Ulysses comes naturally, and Bolaño's work is arguably the better of the two, though it can also be considered homage to Joyce. The Savage Detectives at once mirrors and furthers the epic, is expansive where Ulysses is mysterious, and plies new understandings of people, religions, and nations from its reader in ways that Ulysses does not. Bolaño's tale is that of Arturo Belano and Ulises Lima, two friends who have gone in search of a missing poet, Cesarea Tinajera. Told in pieces by many characters over the course of decades, The Savage Detectives is a sometimes violent, passionate story of lost men in search of the puzzle that is before you.
I'm left with no recourse but to declare Joe Hill a genuine original. The stories in 20th Century Ghosts contain many tropes that will be familiar to readers of horror and dark fantasy, and yet there is an X-factor that marks each story as truly unique and startlingly original. Twentieth Century Ghosts grabbed me with its first story and refused to let go. I read the entire book straight through, much like a novel, and would have started right back at the beginning if my pile of unread bedside reading weren't threatening to topple onto me as I sleep.
Peter Sis is a master children's book author and illustrator, as his newest work clearly demonstrates. Combining intricate, beautiful artwork with autobiography and political history, he creates a poignant, deeply personal story about Cold War Czechoslovakia. Sis defines the value of artistic freedom in a book that is innovative and visually stunning.
Readers used to Dillard's nonfiction nature writing might initially be surprised at this novel about the subtle undercurrents that make up love. The surprise won't last; Dillard does in The Maytrees what she always does asks big brave questions of her subject material. Negative criticism of this novel centers on her writerly prose (especially her ornate and sometimes obsolete vocabulary), which can knock you out of the narrative by making you glimpse the writer's hand. However, Dillard's skill is so undeniable that this awareness affects us like seeing a Chinese glass bottle painted from the inside it only increases awe.
In The Raw Shark Texts, Steven Hall produces a novel that is both literary bravura and a thoughtful meditation of identity and loss. A stunning debut by a writer of enormous talent.
Aryn Kyle's story of Alice Winston resonates with my own childhood experience growing up among the ranchers and farmers in an isolated town. I recognized a kindred spirit in this independent young girl as she gradually discovered the tears and snags of the adult world around her. I haven't been moved by a story in a while, and I found myself cheering Alice on and empathizing with her disappointments. Aryn Kyle's writing is as beautiful and subtle as her characters are bold.
1. Thirteen by Richard K. Morgan
Thirteen is a futuristic techno-thriller and a sci-fi masterpiece. I was reminded of Dan Simmons's Hyperion the world and its people are that richly drawn. At once gripping and thoughtful, this is a novel worthy of the top awards. It's got my vote.
1. Un Lun Dun by China Miéville
This dark romp follows a regular girl through the looking glass into a crazy alternative London. It's a world fraught with packs of evil carnivorous giraffes and protected by ninja trash bins (binjas)! Miéville's prose almost literally comes alive in this book: In the city of Un Lun Dun, words live, fight, and sometimes die for their young heroine. This book will please the language lover who isn't afraid of a pun or two.
Only five top books for 2007?
It seems an impossible task to whittle our favorites down to a mere quintet, but
that's the name of the game! So, without further ado, here are our Top Five Books of 2007 according to Powell's over-read staff.
Browse Page 2 of our Top 5s of 2007
See also: Staff Top 5s from 2006
One of the best reads of the year is also one of the best films. Michael Clayton is a superb moral drama disguised as legal thriller. Now if only John Grisham would take a lesson from Tony Gilroy...
The End of America should be required reading for every American. Rather than giving us a partisan 600-page tome on the crimes of the Bush administration, Naomi Wolf lays out clearly and concisely how we as a people have allowed our government to move perilously close to fascism and points the blame squarely where it belongs: at ourselves. Starting with the premise that it only takes ten changes to move a country from democracy to fascism, she points out the subtle, overlooked ways in which our government is making this happen. Wolf is the new Paul Revere, warning us that only we as citizens can stop the march toward an American fascist state. Anyone who reads this will realize that we are close to the end of real democracy in America, and if we don't stand up and demand real change now, it will soon be far too late.
Judith Jones has lived an amazing life, and she shares it with the reader in a straightforward and almost matter-of-fact way. Jones has been in all of our kitchens, whether it was through her own recipes or the many cookbooks she has edited and helped create. She is resourceful, experimental, fearless, and passionate, and she manages to translate that into a book that will stay in my kitchen forever as an inspirational guide.
To be honest, I could not finish this book. It made me too angry. These are the stories about our country you don't want to know. Naomi Klein has cast a spotlight on the dark secrets lurking beneath the surface of the American dream. The Shock Doctrine makes it hard to ignore the tragedy that results from the ruthless logic of maximizing profit at the expense of the people.
How we translate our past actions and experiences is at least as important as those actions and experiences themselves. Out Stealing Horses, itself superbly translated from the Norwegian, follows the arc of Trond Sander's life as he reflects during a quiet retirement on the violent summer that marked his coming of age. Forced to confront a long-avoided past, he finally deliberates on the adolescent loss, aching beauty, and harrowing grief that underpinned his adulthood. With finely drawn characters, a stark natural setting, and haunting minimalist prose, this quiet, powerful, and spare novel of acceptance is a meditative tale for all.
George Orwell once said, "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act." No one has captured that revolutionary spirit more than Dahr Jamail. Jamail, like all of us, heard the lies the media was spewing to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq and decided to go there "to counter what they were doing by showing the real situation on the ground." This book collects a number of his essays from the eight months he spent in Iraq and provides the reader a rare opportunity to hear about the war from the vantage point of the people of the Middle East.
Lisa Lutz manages to combine a wicked combination of wit, charm, and substance in this debut novel that follows a wacky family of private investigators. Just when you start fantasizing about how cool it would be if your parents ran their own P.I. firm, Mom and Dad Spellman put a tail (their thirteen-year-old daughter) on their oldest daughter Izzy to find out who she's dating. This book made me laugh out loud, and I can't wait for the second installment due spring of 2008.
Elliot Perlman writes so beautifully and thoughtfully of society's struggles with anxiety, sexual confusion, and downsizing that I never wanted this book to end. Each line makes you look forward to the next. This is Perlman's third book, and, like his previous two works, it's a real winner.
Territory is one of the coolest books I've read in a long time. It's the classic tale of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday in Tombstone, Arizona, but with a twist there's magic at work! It's the first book in a projected series (the famous shoot-out doesn't happen in this
one), and I'm anxious to read more. I happily recommend this to readers of fantasy, westerns, and even paranormal historical romances. (And for those of you who follow the thinking that Wyatt Earp was less than the hero Kurt Russell portrayed in the movie, this book is for you.)
I am not usually interested in memoirs. They normally tend towards narcissism and inflated self-importance; however, Amy Fusselman's was written with careful attention to the beautiful, collective experiences of which life is composed. She also touches on a childhood trauma that she has since overcome (though still affects her), yet it is never the focal point of the memoir. Rather, it serves to emphasize universal feelings and fears we all have realized at some point. She also integrates themes of parenting, self-expression, and the significance of life.
Falling Man is Don DeLillo's exquisite, memorable take on 9/11. Somewhat more stylistically spare than his earlier books, Falling Man nonetheless feels like the book DeLillo was meant to write; themes he has addressed throughout his body of work terrorism, religion, signs, and symbols come together eerily in this novel, which is by far the most significant work of fiction about 9/11 to date.
Two siblings exist in a surreal reality, having grown up in a land of their father's own making, using a language of their own. This comes to a head when, after a traumatic morning, the two are faced with the outside world. The question raised is both profound and seemingly obvious to most people: how would you deal with the outside world if you never knew it existed? This powerful little novel rested atop Quebec's bestseller list for 32 weeks.