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2007 reading in review

 

in 2007 i read quite a bit and there were a number of books that i enjoyed. a few of the best ones were classics that i was discovering for the first time and one or two of them were by modern authors.

2007 also saw my continued exploration into old-school science fiction and once more i uncovered some real gems. it was also the first year that my reading was dictated by a reading challenge, as i read fantasy books in the summer and horror books in the autumn for carl’s once upon a time and rip challenges. i really enjoyed these challenges, not least of all because of the spirit in which the other participants took part in it. i don’t know if its the people that carl attracts or the spirit he instils in them with his inspirational posts about the genre in question, but the atmosphere and camaraderie amongst the participants is always wonderfully warm and fun and makes me feel all happy!

here is the list of what i read in 2007:

(i haven’t linked to any reviews as this post has been long enough in the creation. if you want to read any reviews i wrote this year then just click on the “books” link on my sidebar.)

  1. the godmakers – frank herbert
  2. art by film directors – karl french
  3. the good doctor – damon galgut
  4. the door into summer – robert a. heinlein
  5. the chrysalids – john wyndham
  6. 300 – frank miller
  7. 2001: a space odyssey – arthur c. clarke
  8. time patrolman – poul anderson
  9. the treasures of leonardo da vinci – matthew landrus
  10. galactic cluster – james blish
  11. the dragon in the sea – frank herbert
  12. the man who sold the moon – robert a. heinlein
  13. creating a role – stanislavski
  14. ode to a nightingale and other poems – keats
  15. coraline – neil gaiman
  16. 2010: odyssey two – arthur c. clarke
  17. other places – sarah ruden
  18. the secret history – donna tartt
  19. the forbidden game – mike rylance
  20. REAL ultimate power: the official ninja book – robert hamburger
  21. spawn: angela – neil gaiman
  22. kafka on the shore – haruki murakami
  23. spider-man: carnage – david michelinie
  24. thud! – terry pratchett
  25. the shadow of the torturer – gene wolfe
  26. sexing the cherry – jeanette winterson
  27. 2061: odyssey three – arthur c. clarke
  28. the engines of dawn – paul cook
  29. the claw of the conciliator – gene wolfe
  30. stardust – neil gaiman
  31. the picture of dorian gray – oscar wilde
  32. the zombie survival guide – max brooks
  33. the rest falls away – colleen gleason
  34. the invisibles: say you want a revolution – grant morrison
  35. world war z – max brooks
  36. the electric michelangelo – sarah hall
  37. y: the last man: motherland – brian k. vaughan
  38. immortality – milan kundera
  39. 24 favorite one act plays – van cartwell (ed.)
  40. earth abides – george r. stewart
  41. dracula – bram stoker

so what were my favourites? there is one stand-out favourite, but i’ll take them all in the order i read them:

  • the door into summer – the year started really well with two back-to-back badass reads and “the door into summer” was the first of these. the best word i can use to describe this book is charming. i know its an old-fashioned word but it describes it best. this was just such a fun read – and such innocent fun at that – retro science-fiction at its best. from the blurb: his inventions stolen by a double-crossing business partner and a two-timing fiancee, dan davis decides to leave a life suddenly turned sour. using the Long Sleep he wakes up in the year 2000. to begin with, everything seems fine in the 21st century, but why are his old robots now mass produced and marketed under his own name? to find out, dan must bluff his way on a space jump – back to 1970…
  • the chrysalids – this is a really intelligent exploration on how a society responds to people who are different from the norm and also how it tries to impose order on a community. its also dystopian and post-apocalyptic and i really love those sub-genres. i especially liked how wyndham deals with his dystopia, they way he delves into the society and explores how it works. i also liked how he gives us hints of what the apocalypse in question was and how his world now corrolates with ours. and on top of that wyndham writes flowing and beautiful prose.
  • kafka on the shore – it took a while to sink in, but this was definitely the best book i read in 2007, and i discovered this only afterward when the book and its characters didn’t want to let me go. i so much missed murakami’s world and characters. in fact, the characters had become friends, and i found it very hard to be seperated from them. i would find myself missing them and wishing they were still here, wishing we’d had a few more moments together… even now, months on, i still miss them. the story is beautiful and haunting and told with the most delicate and lilting prose.
  • stardust – this is just a beautiful fairy tale, delicately told. i can’t point out any particular details that made me like the book, it was more the feel of it… that gaiman feel thats so wonderful.
  • the picture of dorian gray – this was quite a bit more than i expected. it was very subtle and complex and i really appreciated that. the gothic tone was very gentle, but still strong – so one gets to enjoy that slight sense of the macabre and horror. it is also very deep and a really interesting psychological exploration of power and responsibility – and not in the spider-man sense!
  • dracula – this was very cool! again, not what i was expecting. for one thing it is very literary and extremely well-written. stoker is really on the ball here. also, it was very interesting to see how it differed from every adaptation that i’d ever seen. even coppola’s “bram stoker’s dracula”, is only a little more bram stoker’s “dracula” than any other version. because of that there were lots of differences and surprises, which were very cool. i’m also somewhat surprised that no director has ever tried to be more faithful to the book, because i enjoyed it quite a bit more than any film version i’ve seen. if i think back to what i liked about this, i think more than anything i liked how well-constructed it is, how intricately woven, how delicately planned and how carefully and brilliantly constructed this novel is. it really is crafted.
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Categories: books
  1. January 15, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    What a great post. So glad you did this. You certainly have read some great authors, especially classic science fiction, which really caught my interest considering that I am currently in the midst of my own exploration of classic and current science fiction. I will definitely be going back to catch any of your reviews I missed as several titles caught my eye. This post, along with the great experience I’ve already had this year reading ‘classics’ has inspired me to add to the list and keep going! Well done!

  2. jean pierre
    January 15, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    oh dear, carl. sorry about my paltry offerings in the review department! i didn’t mean for that comment about clicking on my “books” link to be misleading. because, being the excellent supporter of my blog that you are, you’ve already read all the reviews i’ve written – and there aren’t any new ones for you to read that you may have missed.

    i’m glad you liked the post – ’cause i’ve really enjoyed reading everyone else’s wraps for the year!

    its really cool that you’re delving into the oldies too – and i’m glad you’re inspired, ’cause reading about the oldies that you’re reading inspires me in turn! 🙂 especially since you’re reading different guys to me.

    and it really is so rewarding! ’cause, as you say, there is so much cool stuff to experience and discover. i, personally, really feel a nice warm glow with some of them. you know? theres that real warmth that eminates from some of them.

    and so many of them are just so much fun!

  3. January 15, 2008 at 5:41 pm

    I kind of thought I had, but I wasn’t sure. Damn false advertising! 😉

    What did you think of Donna Tart’s Secret History? That was a book sent to me by a friend that sat on a pile for a long time and then one day, years ago, when I was on a week long flu illness I picked it up and was sucked into the story. I was pretty medicated at the time and ended up really liking the story. My medication high though makes me wonder if it was as good as I thought or if I was just doped out of my mind!

  4. January 15, 2008 at 6:35 pm

    You know, even though I didn’t up not thinking of Kafka on the Shore when making my end of the year list, it definitely is a book that stayed with me. Like you, I really missed the characters when it was over.

    What did you think of Kundera’s Immortality?

  5. January 15, 2008 at 6:40 pm

    Awesome year in review! I’m dying to read Kafka on the Shore…I just finished Norwegian Wood by Murakami a few weeks ago and it was amazing. Same thoughts as you…it wasn’t my favorite book of the read as I read it, but now that I’m done and as it sinks in it really stays with you, haunts you, and really was quite an amazing book. I just can’t get the characters out of my mind. Kafka on the Shore will definitely be my next Murakami book. I recommend Norwegian Wood if you’re looking for another book of his, though of course, that’s the only thing I’ve read by him.

    The Chrysalids sounds awesome too…I don’t think I’ve ever heard of that one, but it’s definitely something I’d like to read. How was Gaiman’s Spawn? I used to love Spawn back in the day!

  6. January 16, 2008 at 12:08 am

    Oh, this was a wonderful post! But now I’ve got to go add more stuff to the wish list. After just reading (and loving) The Stainless Steel Rat, I really want to try The Door Into Summer. And The Chrysalids…well, that sounds like one I would absolutely adore. And I know I really need to Kafka on the Shore, though I’ve felt a bit intimidated by it. Stardust has been sitting on my TBR pile, just awaiting the appropriate moment. I actually had The Picture of Dorian Gray in my hand the last time I was at the bookstore, but ended up putting it back down. And believe it or not, Dracula arrived on my doorstop just this very afternoon! Oh my, too many darn good books…if only I could figure out a way to live to 6,438 years old so I could get to them all.

  7. Dark Orpheus
    January 16, 2008 at 6:11 am

    It’s always cool to look back on the past year’s readings and see where we have been, isn’t it?

    That is a lot of old-school sci-fi reading though. Except for Heinlein, I don’t think I’ve read authors like Blish or Stewart.

    But now that we are in 2008, any plans? Or are you just going to see what books fall into your hands?

  8. jean pierre
    January 16, 2008 at 10:00 am

    CARL:

    hmmm… “secret history”. well, i remember enjoying reading it, like the experience of reading it, but for me it was a bit like watching a Sort Of good thriller. you know what i mean? like those thrillers that capture your attention and keep you interested but somehow don’t quite satisfy you in the end.

    i don’t know, its hard… i liked the characters a lot – you know those students, but i hated that whining protagonist. also, i never quite felt that he was ever a part of the group. in a basic sense this is true, of course, as he didn’t really fit in, but i mean it in the more literal sense. as in, i didn’t really believe he was actually there. his interaction with the characters seemed extremely shallow, whereas they interacted with each other in a far more real and tangible way.

    my feeling about this was so strong that i wouldn’t have been surprised had he suddenly come to the shock realisation that he wasn’t actually interacting with them and that he was some ghost hanging around them and fabricating his interaction a la “the sixth sense”. that was obviously a problem for me.

    and, i guess, this bachanalian (sp?) stuff was touched on a bit too briefly, so that the critical point that changes everything kind of felt… well, not a big enough deal. like, it wasn’t “wrong” or “bad” enough. i don’t know, the build up to that event (or perhaps the even itself) wasn’t big enough for me to warrant its fallout.

    that said, the fallout was very cool and it was nice to see how it happens. the helix going out of control. but in here my frustration raised its head again, ’cause richard (was that his name? the main character) was in the middle of it all and yet his interaction with his “friends” felt empty. again, of course sometimes it was meant to be, but one felt that they were really meant to be connecting at some moments. actually now that i think back, those were some of the moments where i did, in fact, feel a real connection between him and the others, but it wasn’t consistent and it felt like watching tv with your signal going out intermittently…

    i did quite like the ending in one way, but in another it didn’t feel right…

    perhaps my criticism of the book comes from the fact that tartt does so many things right, but that her story is so grand that she makes it harder for herself and gives herself more opportunities for making “mistakes”.

    ’cause there is a lot i like. the characters are so memorable. and the book was extremely visual for me. this is a personal frustration of mine – i can’t always picture books clearly or as well as i’d wish to, but this, this was like a movie. crystal clear. and that i loved.

    and the pacing and the tone was very cool… and the whole premise, this university and these students and the greek stuff. but then the greek stuff wasn’t well enough used, for me. after setting it all up she didn’t use it enough and the pagan stuff the get into was either not gone into enough or they didn’t go far enough into it themselves. it was almost like watching a film in which they set something up and then don’t have the budget to follow through with it.

    so yeah, i’m critical of some things and there are some things i enjoyed. i certainly enjoyed reading it, the actual experience of reading it – and thats a big thing for me. thats something i really like from a book. i enjoyed turning the pages, and like you i seriously got myself sucked into the story. so thats a big positive.

  9. jean pierre
    January 16, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    NYMETH:

    i’m glad you had the same experience. i don’t even know what it is about them?! maybe they were just nice 😉

    “immortality”… i’m a little ambivalent about that, although, overall, i liked it a lot. i like what he’s doing with it but i sometimes wondered if the concept was a bit big for him? or perhaps whether he tried to do too much with the book – in that the scope of characters and issues addressed is very wide and thus makes it that much harder for the novel to have unity.

    but then, by that same token, the very ambition and originality of the work is what i liked most about it. i liked that idea of his of not having a story without an ending.

    CHRIS:

    well, if thats the effect that “norwegian wood” had, then i’m definitely going to be reading that!

    as for the spawn comic, as it happens, that is one of the books that i do have a review for – you’d have to page through my blog to june 18. i also quite liked spawn. eventhough its dated, theres still a lot of originality there and i really appreciate that.

    “the chrysalids” is very very cool!

    DEBI:

    i can’t believe how many connections you have to my favourite books of the year – how sirendipetous! i can’t believe “stardust” is on your pile, that you had “dorian gray” in your hands AND that “dracula” arrived today…

    “the door into summer” is a real charmer and i’m sure you’ll enjoy it! and, as if it weren’t good enough already, there’s even a cat called pete in it who features quite prominently. and like i said to chris, “the chrysalids” is very good indeed!

    you’re right, there are way too many good books! and this internet thing has just made us aware of even more of them! yeah, 6,438 years would do nicely 😉

    DARK ORPHEUS:

    yeah, there are quite a few old guys in there. because i like science fiction i wanted to read some older novels to try and contextualise modern day science fiction a bit more and sort of, you know, pick up on the movement of science fiction as genre a bit – see what the currents are and how it has evolved.

    as for 2008? oh yes, there are definite plans 🙂 i’ll be putting up a post about it in the next week.

  10. January 16, 2008 at 9:41 pm

    JP, I was going to say that Immortality was the book that made me sort of give up on Kundera, and that’s why I wanted to know what you made of it, but it turns out I got it mixed up: it was Identity. I haven’t read Immortality.

    But I do get that feeling with him sometimes – that the concepts he’s trying to execute are too big for the book, and the whole thing gets away from him. He is original, that’s for sure, but sometimes the whole thing doesn’t quite work.

    Identity was a book that tired me out. It was too full of world-weariness, too – I realize this would probably make some people throw particularly heavy and pointy rocks at me – full of things that read like the concerns of a seventeen year old. Is there such a thing as intimacy? Do we ever get to truly know a loved one? Is life worth living? Who am I? There is probably more to the book than that, but these aspects stood out a little too much for my taste.

    But The Unbearable Lightness of Being is still a great book.

  11. January 17, 2008 at 3:43 am

    What a great post!! Of your favorite reads this year, I have to agree with you on a few. The Chrysalids was such a great book!! I absolutely loved it!! And Dorian Gray will always be one of my very favorites. Oscar Wilde makes me laugh, even when the book is rather dark. And of course, I don’t need to explain my love of Gaiman!!

    I never did read Dracula. Man. I have to get on that!!

  12. jean pierre
    January 17, 2008 at 10:50 am

    NYMETH:

    ah… identity! i haven’t read it. i’ve just read “the joke”, “farewell waltz” and “immortality” of course. i totally agree that he takes on things that are too big for the book. “farewell waltz” is an exception in my experience – perhaps because its so short? it really is very good and very funny. and, rare for kundera, sharp and to the point.

    “identity” sound very world-weary indeed. and those questions sound very much like a 17 year old. eek – cringe! don’t worry about rocks, as i know a lot of people have given up on kundera of late – well, disregard his later works, with “immortality” being his “last great work”. i don’t if “great” is the work, but its certainly not bad. i personally liked it, but its flawed and i can see people not liking it.

    haven’t read “unbearable lightness” though – a lot of people tell me to!

    STEPHANIE:

    thanks! 🙂 i’m glad you like “the chrysalids” and “dorian gray” too.

    and, well, gaiman… haha! ALL of us in our little blogging circle love him, don’t we? you, me, carl (although, i’m not sure about carl…?), nymeth, chris and loads more…! by now it goes without saying 🙂

  13. Jeff S.
    January 22, 2008 at 4:03 am

    Great list JP! I’m glad you put together this post. It certainly has given me some more reading ideas. One book you listed that I also loved when I finally read it a few years ago was Dracula by Bram Stoker. I thought the same thing you did about all the movie verisons I had seen which was that none of them had down the book justice. What a timeless classic. Carl has recommend another Stoker book that I’m going to read for this years RIP challenge. Mystery by the Sea.

  14. jean pierre
    February 13, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    JEFF:

    i’m glad its given you some ideas…! these end of year wraps are such fun!

    i’m glad you enjoyed “dracula” too… and i’m pleased that you agree about how weird it is that they’ve never done a more faithful adaptation…!

    ooh… another stoker…!

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