As the year winds down both The New York Times and The Washington Post offer up what they feel to be the best books of 2004. Not surprisingly, there's a good deal of overlap with books like Mallon's Bandbox, The Fall by Joyce Carol Oates, TC Boyles The Inner Circle and yes even Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Clarke.
The list from the Post seems slightly more diverse by including things like Hard Revolution by George Pelecanos (a D.C. writer I really keep meaning to read) and China Mieville's The Iron Council.
I'm slightly embarrassed to admit I've read very little on either list. Kunzru's Transmissions, to me anyway, was a fun book, but kind of a throw-away. It had a little bit to say on how the U.S. takes advantage of workers on Visas and did a great job in making computer viruses seem exciting, but I don't see it as a work of lasting merit. Dan Chaon's You Remind Me of Me, though, I thought was great character novel and stepped so close to brilliance I think Chaon may have even bumped his nose on it once or twice. A number of other things like Perotta's Little Children and Madeleine Is Sleeping by Sarah Shun-lien Bynum are on my to-read pile, and I'll probably add a handful more from these lists.
Washington Post luminaries Michael Dirda and Jonathan Yardley make a point to list some of their favorites. Yardley, hardnose that he is, uses it as a moment to take a snipe at the National Book Awards. But at least he admits he's picking work by people like himself: middle-aged, white males. Dirda, as always, puts up a very broad range of books, some of which look really interesting (note that he's picked Grace and Gravity, the anthology of D.C. women writers).
I'll have to give it some thought, and see if I have a worthwhile list of faves for 2004. We'll see what kind of list I can pull together.