Monday, December 06, 2004

Best of the Year

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.



LadyLitBlitzin said...

I'd love to see the list of faves.

You know, I never could get into TC Boyle. I have tried. I read The Road to Wellville, and something about it creeped me out. I started Drop City, and didn't finish it -- again, creeped out. I don't know what it is, but it's like there's something about his style I just can't get into.

Hebdomeros said...

Wellville's a rather silly book. I'm not a big fan of his novels, but he has a number of really good short stories out there. I have his collected shorts, which I guess is everything up to the year 2000 or so. A big thick thing, so I'm still working my way through it, but so far it's pretty solid.

LadyLitBlitzin said...

I've known people who were too into alternative health, which I think also creeped me about Wellville. Maybe the silliness was the suspension of disbelief that was hard to achieve, but then again, having known such wackos, maybe that was what bugged me.

Maybe I should try his shorts instead of his novels.

Hebdomeros said...

He's both in the New Yorker and Atlantic Monthly somewhat regularly, and has a few collections out there. Your friendly neighborhood library should have at least one!