Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Ones That Got Away

Inspired by my colleague J. Kingston Pierce at The Rap Sheet, I’ve rounded up the books I really wanted to read and write about in 2007 but which, for one reason and another, I was never able to get to. As Pierce said recently:
The fact is that, even though I’m a rather voracious consumer of the written word, I miss reading a lot of books every year -- even works that at one time or another looked destined to crest my teetering TBR stack. Or I’ll start several books around the same time, get through some, and still have others unfinished by the end of the twelvemonth in which they were published. Heck, I’m only one person; I cannot read everything, even though some publicity-oriented authors think I should.
So here, then, are my own unlucky 13. The books I set aside to read and report on -- some of them anticipated as delicious treats -- and that, in the end, fate kept me from in 2007... and now I’m facing a whole new crop!

The Anatomy of Story by John Truby (Faber and Faber) non-fiction
In fairness to me, The Anatomy of Story didn’t show up until a few weeks ago: much too late to get it into the 2007 review que. Truby has taught his 22-step great screenwriting class to more than 20,000 students and is, in addition, a respected story consultant and script doctor. The Anatomy of Story looks lush and lovely. It looks like a wonderful book.

The Culprits by Robert Hough (Random House Canada) fiction
He knocked our socks off with The Final Confession of Mabel Stark in 2002 as well as 2004’s The Stowaway, so I’m pretty excited to get my hooks into The Culprits, published last September. “... a mystical, manic ride along the fraying line between good and evil...” The bunny on the cover looks pretty cool, too.

Every Past Thing by Pamela Thompson (Unbridled Books) fiction
“For fans of Kazuo Ishiguro, Virginia Woolf, Michael Cunningham and Claire Messud.” Well, I like all those people, so this will be a no-brainer, right? Thompson’s debut novel is set in 1899 and takes place over a single eastern US week.

Food: The History of Taste edited by Paul Freedman (University of California Press) art & culture
Yale professor of history Freedman here lavishly collects contemporary thought and timeless art on the title subject. “Throughout history,” Freedman writes in his introduction, “recurrent patterns emerge in how people thought about food and its place in daily life and the expression of taste.” This beautiful book is about all of that and, from the looks of things, even more.

Ghost: A Novel by Alan Lightman (Pantheon) fiction
Ghost looks like a gentle, thoughtful novel and it is by a gentle and deeply talented author. I’ve been looking forward to it since before it came out last October and somehow it just kept getting pushed down the pile. Shame on me! Lightman is the author of Einstein’s Dreams and The Diagnosis. He is not exceptionally well known now, but he will be: he is a contender.

I Am America and So Can You by Stephen Colbert (Grand Central Publishing) biography
Colbert’s manic charm is apparent even in the few lines I’ve taken the time to skim while wanting to dig right into this book. At press time, the writer’s strike continues and I find myself missing my almost daily doses of truthiness. I might need to crack this one properly soon just to help ease my withdrawal.

The Lost Highway by David Adams Richards (Doubleday Canada) fiction

I read everything by David Adams Richards. I love his smokey tone and the exotic world he brings me from the rural Canadian Maritimes. The author of Mercy Among the Children and The Bay of Love and Sorrows (and many, many others) has won just about every award he’s eligible for. David Adams Richards (who is no relation, btw) is one of Canada’s most respected and beloved authors.

Merle’s Door: Lessons From a Freethinking Dog by Ted Kerasote (Harcourt) non-fiction
This looks to be an amazing blend of animal behavior-type research and fuzzy warm dog story written by a National Outdoor Book Award winning author who claims to have learned a thing or two from the labrador mix he adopted while camping. Or who adopted him. I think I need to find the space of a few days when I don’t mind having puffy eyes to read this one.

North River: A Novel by Pete Hamill (Little, Brown and Company) fiction
Since the novel I’m currently working on is set during the Depression, I’ve been avoiding reading North River, which is set in the same era, for fear Hamill’s powerful voice will influence my own. North River is set in New York, the city Hamill returns to in his writing again and again. “Vibrant, courageous, uplifting.” I can’t wait!

Sleep Before Evening by Magdalena Ball (BeWrite Books) fiction
Ball is the primary perpetrator of Compulsive Reader and Sleep Before Evening is her debut novel. The cover is gorgeous and the story sounds promising -- academia, drugs, sex, violence and the peeling back of “layers” of a life to “expose the painful scalding within.” And we already know this author can write. What’s not to like?

We Are Not In Pakistan by Shauna Singh Baldwin (Gooselane) fiction
Everything Singh Baldwin writes sings. I can’t help it: I adore this author. Ever since her debut novel, the Commonwealth Prize-winning What the Body Remembers from 2000, I’ve adored her work. Thus I’ve been saving this collection of 10 stories for a special treat. And now the year is done. I’m still looking forward to it.

Why We Read What We Read: Exploring Contemporary Bestsellers and What They Say About Our Books and Ourselves by John Heath and Lisa Adams (Sourcebooks) art & culture
For some reason, 2007 was a big year for self-examination, especially for cultural issues. Especially about books. For example, Pierre Bayard sold a lot of copies of his very silly How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read and Michael Dirda’s wonderful Reading for Pleasure also took a close look at the inner workings of literature. In Why We Read What We Read “Heath and Adams explore the nature of what we read and what it means for our current state of conversation in society.” From what I can figure, this is the book as self-examination. Scary interesting.

The Witch’s Trinity by Erika Mailman (Crown) fiction
Witch trials in 14th century Germany in Mailmans’ debut novel. The author’s bio tells us an ancestor was accused of witchcraft in 1600s New England, so maybe she has an inside track? In any case, she has a fistful of gorgeous author blurbs and a beautiful book to boot. “It was winter to make bitter all souls.”

Now time for your own end of year confessions. Are there any books you set aside or hoped to read in 2007 that you somehow didn’t get to?


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