Saturday, December 15, 2007

A (valedictory) book meme

Ms. Belle has tagged me to name five books I read (or re-read) in 2007 that I love, or that are important to me. Like Belle, I'm a compulsive re-reader (items 1, 2, and 4 are all repeats, and I think I actually picked up 3 in late 2006).

1. The Last Samurai, by Helen DeWitt. I recommend this novel to everyone, except they're always thrown by the fact that the title is, coincidentally and unluckily, the same as the extremely mediocre Tom Cruise vehicle. Seriously, this is one of the few contemporary novels I compulsively reread. The Amazon reviews (link above) are actually pretty accurate, though they don't totally capture the exhilaration.

2. Call It Sleep, by Henry Roth. Told from the perspective of a young Jewish boy growing up on the Lower East Side in the 19-oughts -- the mental noodling around of a kid trying to figure out who and where (sometimes literally) he is. Fantastically poetic translations of Yiddish dialogue into English.

3. Writing Analytically, by David Rosenwasser & Jill Stephen. Not exactly a pleasure read, but this book saved my ass when I got fantastically frustrated with the text I was supposed to be using in my writing seminar. It gave me some comfort to think that some people, at least, actually connect good academic writing to inquisitive and focused thinking.

4. Cyteen, by C.J. Cherryh. Another book with a misleading title: while it is in fact sci-fi, "Cyteen" refers to a planet, the center of research into human cloning, and production of clones, in a politically complex universe of settled worlds. Nuanced and well-thought-out, set in a realistically intricate network of interpersonal and interstellar politics.

5. Found in the Street, by Patricia Highsmith. Highsmith writes such tightly constructed and unnerving psycho-sexual thrillers; this one is set in the seedy Greenwich Village of the early '80s, and gives a great portrait of the neighborhood in addition to a cast of slightly or extremely weird residents all fascinated by a teenage girl.

I'm supposed to tag five people, but if you're reading this, and have commented here, or I've commented on your site, I'd be interested in reading your responses. So leave me a comment saying you've done the meme and I'll come look; I'd rather leave this one open.

Oh, and why "valedictory"? Starting tomorrow, I'll be on vacation in sunny Californ-I-A until shortly after Christmas, and I'm not expecting to be able to post much, if at all. So auf wiedersehen until then!

6 comments:

Belle said...

If you like mysteries, as you noted chez moi, try Laurie King's Mary Russell series. Great fun.

And have great hols!

Arbitrista said...

I have The Last Samurai and I loved it too.

heu mihi said...

The Last Samurai is, indeed, awesome. And nothing whatsoever like that dreadful movie.

kermitthefrog said...

Oh, hooray for (three) like-minded readers!

Pilgrim/Heretic said...

Ooo, I like this meme.

But first - kermit, will you send me your address? I have a gift for you, from the gift meme a few weeks back. E-me at valdemoro at sbcglobal.net if you want to collect! :)

Chaser said...

Ah!!! Finally! Another human being who has read Call It Sleep! What a fantastic book that is!