Friday, December 07, 2007

The Old, Old Story -- and Some New Ones

Since childhood I have loved to read fiction. I have always been an omnivore, gobbling up stories of every description. As a kid they were escape and education, often read illicitly after bedtime, by the light from the hallway.

Stories are an important way of conveying a message when I preach and as I noted recently, telling and teaching The Story is so important for the Christian community.

This seems to be the time of year for lists of various kinds, including best fiction. I decided to include a list of my own, of novels that I enjoyed through 2007. When I say "enjoy" I have included books that challenged me to think deeply and those which entertained me and even some which brought me the kind of pleasure which might be described as joy. In no particular order:

Ghostwritten -- an earlier novel by the mental gymnast David Mitchell. I enjoyed his Cloud Atlas more, but this was challenging.
Housekeeping --Marilynne Robinson -- an author who has written only two novels, 25 years apart, both award-winners. Her second, Gilead, won the Pulitzer prize. This is a sad story, beautifully written.
Life and Times of Michael K --J M Coetzee -- his novels of South Africa are not easy reads, but this one won the Nobel Prize in literature.
Jayber Crow -- Wendell Berry -- about a nobody from nowhere who drifts through life but observes the world with great wisdom.
The Yiddish Policemen's Union -- Michael Chabon -- excellent novel by the author of the brilliant Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay.
The Naming of the Dead & Exit Music --Ian Rankin -- the last two of his wonderful John Rebus crime fiction novels. Sigh.
Shadow of the Wind -- Carlos Ruiz Zafón-- ridiculously overwrought potboiler -- thoroughly enjoyable!
The Piano Tuner -- Daniel Mason-- a mesmerizing story which is not predictable in any way.
Water for Elephants -- Sara Gruen -- a book club favourite which has some great insights into the vicissitudes of aging and the happy ending we all want.
Restless -- William Boyd -- a spy thriller, well written, and with a great twist (mother and daughter).

Havana Best Friends -- Jose Latour -- a suspense novel written by an ex-pat Cuban who now lives in Canada. It was perfect after visiting Havana earlier this year.
The Maytrees -- Annie Dillard -- not as good as I had hoped, yet containing some marvellous descriptions of intertidal life.

There are more, but I'll stop with one for each month of the year. Do those of you who are on blogger have a "best novel of the year" you can post?

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