The Year in Books: Book(s) of the Year

Used to be I could read about 7 novels during the Christmas break we got as kids. My mother used to hate it because I would invariably read all the new books Santa gave me by the time I had to go back to school. Up until this year I tried to carry on the tradition, reserving my last week of vacation to be used in the week between Christmas and the New Year.

But alas, the time spent renovating the house and surgery recuperation has limited my "pull" for the coveted holiday break. So it looks like the last book I'll finish this year is the one I'm currently engaged in, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Susskind. Which, by the way, is excellent. You wouldn't think a guy who has the best sense of smell in the world could put his power to such insane and devious use, but you'd be wrong.

So total tally for this year's reading list: a scant 55 books, compared to 73 last year and 68 the year before. 25 new authors read. After conversing with Guest Blogger Jason we compiled our various Books of the Month (something we've been doing for the past 5 years) and came up with this year's picks for Book of the Year, categorized in fiction and non-fiction. My pick and runner ups first:

My Book of the Year (Fiction): The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, by Haruki Murakami

Murakami continues to amaze me with every book I read of his, starting with A Wild Sheep Chase about 6 years ago. His writing combines the mundane with the truly bizarre, and both sides are treated with a quiet subtlety and passion that works on multiple levels - as a twisted speculative fiction, as a meditation on the atrocities of war and as a window to our own souls, and the responsibilities we owe to ourselves and those around us. All this from the following brief synopsis, provided by

"Bad things come in threes for Toru Okada. He loses his job, his cat disappears, and then his wife fails to return from work. His search for his wife (and his cat) introduces him to a bizarre collection of characters, including two psychic sisters, a possibly unbalanced teenager, an old soldier who witnessed the massacres on the Chinese mainland at the beginning of the Second World War, and a very shady politician."

Runner-ups for Book of The Year (Fiction): Two other books you can't go wrong with:

  • No Country for Old Men, by Cormac McCarthy (mini review here)
  • Life of Pi, by Yann Martel
My Book of the Year (Non-Fiction): The Know-It-All, by A.J. Jacobs

Who would've thought a memoir about one guy's attempt to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica would be so readable? And thought-provoking? And, well, uplifting? Let's admit it, this isn't quite the same suspense as reading about someone attempting to climb Everest. But A.J. Jacobs parallels his Herculean task with another from his life - his attempts to have a child with his wife. Arranged in alphabetical order, the book mixes entries from the Encyclopedia and his thoughts on them with the trials and tribulations that run rampant in his personal life.

At once hilarious and touching, this was the most enjoyable book I've read all year, fiction or otherwise. Check it out here.

Runner-ups for Book of the Year (Non-Fiction): Two more that might be worth your time:

  • Palm Sunday, by Kurt Vonnegut
  • Kitchen Confidential, by Anthony Bourdain
No comments, but here is Guest Blogger Jason's picks:

Book of the Year (Fiction): The Adventures of Kavelier and Clay, by Michael Chabon

  • Runner-up: The Plot Against America, by Philip Roth
Book of the Year (Non-Fiction): Koba the Dread, by Martin Amis
  • Runner-up: Bird by Bird, by Ann Lamott