Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The LRG Personal Picks for Best Books of 2007

I know that the year is not over just yet(it's not even December!)but it seems that the tidalwave of Best of the Year lists is now hitting us and you can either jump on the bandwagon or stew on the sidelines.

Since the holiday shopping season is now officially in full effect,perhaps doing a list of Best Books right now might provide a couple of helpful hints for those literary lovers who seem to have read everything,which makes it even tricker to get a good read for them. While there are many good books that I have read this year,these are the ones that I would gladly thrust upon doubtful browsers,wandering about the bookstores and insist that they try.


I couldn't start this list off right if I didn't begin with one of my diehard favorites,Free Food For Millionaires by Min Jin Lee. Her brilliant first novel blends the Edith Wharton tones of upper class New Yorkers with the cultural clash between the older and younger generations of Korean Americans with the skills of a pro.

Granted,I may be biased since I actually met Min Jin in person this past June but even if I hadn't had that privilege,I still would be singing the praises of this enchantingly stylish smart novel. Min Jin is currently working on another novel as we speak and I'm already clearing some shelf space for it in my little library corner of the world.

One of the funniest novels I've read in a long time is Brock Clarke's An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England,a dark satire on the influence of reading. Clarke's book not only hits home on many worthy targets( elitist college professors,trendy memoirs,pseudo Hemmingway style authors)but gives his sad sack of a leading man ,Sam Pulsifer, true humanity and likability,despite his many bumblings thru life.

Sam is to the literary world what Chauncey Gardiner is to politics,except in Sam's case,if it weren't for bad luck,he would have no luck at all.


A good historical novel can truly make you feel as if you are part of the past and Rose MacMurray's posthumously published book,Afternoons With Emily,easily achieves that goal. A main conponent of the story's success is the depth given to AWE's narrator and lead character,Miranda Chase,who has an interesting and challenging life with the dubious bonus of being a member of Emily Dickinson's private circle.

The only sad note here is that Rose MacMurray is no longer with us,to hear how much her work on this book is appreciated and to give folks another splendid book to read and share. I have no doubt,however,that her family and friends are deservedly proud of her lovely novel and that it will become a treasured keepsake to her memory.

Ken Follett's World Without End proves that lightning can strike twice and even zap Oprah into giving Pillars of the Earth one of her Book Club seals of approval. Regardless of that,World Without End is a thumping good read that should sate your need for riveting drama as the writers' strike threatens to slow down the stream of new TV episodes and has a manifold of metaphors about how a community adjusts to political and social changes that bring hope as well as despair.


We mustn't overlook the up and coming generation of readers and fortunately for both them and us,there are many great books and authors out there. Robin Brande's Evolution,Me and Other Freaks of Nature brings the debate about what to teach young people about in science class,Darwin or the Book of Genesis,a very relatable heroine who only wants to do the right thing without giving up her right to think for herself.

This is another case of me having the good luck to met the author in person and I have to honestly say it was one of the best experiences I've had all year. I know that Robin is in the midst of finishing up two,count 'em,two books at the moment and it's good to see someone who truly earned their stripes get such success.

Jenny Downham's Before I Die may appear to be a depressing book,given that it's about a girl wanting to cram in as much living as she can while she's dying of cancer, but it's actually a real life affirming look at family,love and cherishing even the most mundane of moments.

It's also not a sappy Hallmark Hall of Fame number either. Downham respects her protagonist enough to make her a real teenager who gets cranky,foolish and at times downright rude. She also brings out the wit,charm and tenderheartedness of the character that makes the ending even more compelling,since we won't see the potential amazing person her leading lady could've become.


I know that I give loads of attention to novels,but I do enjoy a good nonfic book every now and then. Rob Sheffield's memoir of how music connected him to his wife Renee and played a huge part in mourning her untimely passing,Love is a Mix Tape,is one of best examples of what the genre can and should be made up of,folks with life experiences worth sharing.

Reading this book lead me to talk over the subject of widowhood with my own mother(my dad died about four years ago)and trying to deal with such a loss. Turns out that alot of what Rob went thru,she understood and related to all too well. I don't think Rob and my mom would agree on music but if they ever did meet,they would certainly come to an accord on what married life is all about.

I was also moved by Deborah Rodriquez's Kabul Beauty School,which not only tells the tale of how American hairstylists went to help Afghani women achieve some financial independance by setting up their own beauty parlors but gets into Deborah's personal experiences in living in Afghanistan. Some of her choices may have not been the most prudent but you have to respect the good intentioned boldness of her heart.


Well,you really can't talk about the year in books without tipping your hat to the final chapter in J.K. Rowling's series,now can you? Regardless of how hip or overhyped you think the Harry Potter books are,it's an exercise in futility to disregard the impact Rowling has made upon the reading world,for children of all ages.


With all the serial killer series titles out there,you may not be impressed right off the bat with Chelsea Cain's Heartsick,which introduces a most delightful dysfunctional pairing of predator and prey in the form of Archie Sheridan and Gretchen Lowell,but give their first outing a try and I think you'll be intrigued enough to see what else these two tortured souls can get themselves into. Not to mention the other innocent victims that'll be dragged along for the ride into hell.

Ok,that's my two cents on the subject. Feel free to tell me some of your favorite reads of 2007 and we can do some compare and contrast. This was certainly a very good year for books and I eagerly look forward to what's to come for next year.


Robin Brande said...

Oh, thank you, Lady T! I didn't even realize I was on this list until I kept reading. I was too distracted by The Arsonist's Guide--I really want to read that this year after all the great things you (and others) have said about it. There are other books on your list I want to get to, too. Thanks for posting this--it's a great reminder, and very timely since relatives might want to know what to get me for Christmas!

And thanks again for including my book. I'm honored!

lady t said...

You're more than welcome,Robin,and yes,by all means,read Arsonist's Guide! You will so love it:)