Can you judge a book by its cover?
Here are the books I read in 2006:
By The Numbers:
25 - Number of Books Read
8,162 - Number of Pages Read
20/5 - Fiction to Non-Fiction Ratio
17/8 - Male to Female Author Ratio (this one surprised me!)
3/22 - Hardcover to Paperback Ratio
12 - Number of books with a British connection (Brit author, set in England, etc.)
2 - Booker Prize Finalists (the British equivalent to the Pulitzer)
2 - Booker Prize Winners
Overall, it was a very good year of books. The proverbial kid in the candy store is me in a bookstore... and like many an avid reader, my mantra is "so many books, so little time." So I think I did a pretty good job and for the most part avoided any real clunkers.
(FYI, the book links below go to my entry about that book)
That said, let's first get the negative out of the way. Hands down, The God of Small Things was my least favorite book of the year. I barely made it through it. Likewise, it sent me into such a tail-spin that I think it had a negative halo effect my next two reads, Wicked and No God But God, neither of which I can admit I full out enjoyed. Funny thing is Small Things was one of those Booker Prize winners and was widely lauded by critics and regular folk alike. But I just thought it was a big mess and just didn't get "it." Likewise, I was quite disappointed with Scott Smith's sophomore effort The Ruins. I loved his debut novel (A Simple Plan), but I thought this was...well, just sophomoric... a D-level horror script, more laughable than scary and not containing a character I cared the least bit about. But again, different strokes... Entertainment Weekly named it one of the best books of the year (as did the readers) and the king of horror himself, Stephen King, was one of its biggest supporters... so, go figure!
Beyond that, I pretty much liked (really liked!) everything else.
So onto the "best" list... and just because a book isn't mentioned doesn't mean it wasn't good, but I have to at least try to narrow things down!
Non-Fiction (Runner-Up): The Mighty and the Almighty by Madeleine Albright Some good government spending would be to give every person with any kind of responsibility for U.S. foreign affairs, a copy of this book. Wise, practical, and actionable advice from the former Secretary of State.
Non-Fiction Book of the Year: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls In a year that the memoir took a hit (thank you James Frey!), Walls' "I can't believe it" childhood and rags to riches (quite literally) story was a book you wanted to pass on to someone else the moment you turned the last page.
Fiction (2nd Runner-Up): The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon One of the most original novels I have read in recent memory. The story of 15-year old autistic Christopher will tug at your heart and make you laugh, often on the very same page... a breezy page-turner, this was one of my quickest reads of the year.
Fiction (Runner-Up): Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro I still find myself thinking about this book every so often... definitely haunting... if you couldn't tell that by the book cover alone (I'll go ahead and give this "book cover of the year" as well). You may have more questions that answers when you finish it... but much this book's credit you really don't mind. Definitely have to find some space another Ishiguro in 2007.
Fiction Book of the Year: Saturday by Ian McEwan Just narrowly edging out his countryman for the top spot, this only solidified my opinion that McEwan is one of the great authors of our day. As with some of his other works, McEwan is a master of psychological suspense... there is rarely blood or gore, but his prose can make your heart beat faster.
So that's a wrap on 2006... stay tuned for what I have in store for this year!