Now's the time of year when reviewers and critics everywhere are compiling their "best of" lists for whatever it was they spent the year cataloguing. Some, more daring then others perhaps, are even selecting the one item in their field they consider to be a cut above all the rest, the "year's best".
Last year I participated and selected a favoured book and five favourite music discs for my editors at Blogcritics and was honoured to be asked my opinion. Since I've spent so much of 2006 reviewing books and music I wasn't surprised to receive the first email asking me for my best of 2006.
First out of the gate this year was the book's editor, asking us to choose our favourite read of the past year. I marked it as unread and left it in the inbox as a reminder; I was going to be able to answer immediately. I figured my best bet was to plant the idea in my brain and see if anything took root.
The next day I found myself idly contemplating the books that I had read since last January, trying to pay specific attention to those published in 2006, and waiting for one to jump out and say "I'm the best, pick me". It didn't work.
Books are piled up on top of each other for want of shelf space and the thought of even making a list of the books I had read over the last year seemed overwhelming. Trying to pick one of them from amidst the ruins of two shelving units bordered on insanity, but I started to make the attempt. I had nothing to lose by trying
Once I had weeded out everything that wasn't published in 2006 I was still left with what I considered far too many books for my own good. I was left thinking how am I ever going to accomplish this? And what am I going to do if they ask me to do anything for the music section?
Leave that alone for now; I'll blow up that bridge when I come to it. Anyway I'm still trying to deal with the book thing and not coping very well. The editor asked for our picks by Friday that just passed (Dec. 22nd) and it's now Sunday at 3:00am and I'm no closer to choosing one book then I was last Tuesday when I received her email.
What I do have are ten books or so (I keep adding to it every time I make the list as I remember another book that I can't ignore because of how much it moved me, made me think, or made a lasting impression on me) that made my world that much more exciting while I was reading it and the year a lot less interesting if they hadn't existed.
So, in no particular order, here's a listing of books (link to full review at Blogcritics included) that made a difference in my life in the year 2006. I still haven't been able to pick one out of this bunch yet, but I've still got a week before 2007 hits and I might get it together.
- The Thousandfold Thought R. Scott Baker
- The third book in Baker's sequence that traces the rise to power of a Prophet King on the backs of others' fears and superstitions. This is a beautiful, horrifying, and intelligently written fantasy that makes me hope that I wasn't dreaming when I saw mention of a fourth book.
- The Purity Of Blood Arturo Perez-Reverte
- The second book of the adventures of Captain Alistride, swashbuckling anti-hero of Phillip IV's Spain: the sun may be setting of the Spanish empire and corruption spreading like a stain through the church and the aristocracy, but the Captain in the eyes of his young ward is proof of her former greatness. Translated into English with great flair, these books are to be read for the sheer pleasure of reading.
- The Bridge Of Rama and King Of Ayodhya Books Five and Six of The Ramayana Ashok K. Banker.
- Two books by one author in the same series in the same year are almost too much to ask, but that’s what we got in 2006. With the publication of the fifth and sixth books of his modern adaptation of the 3000-year-old epic poem Ashok Banker brought to a conclusion his version of the story of one of India's most beloved hero's ascension to his throne. Masterful and inventive throughout, these two books brought the series to its conclusion with the style and grace readers of the series had grown accustomed to.
- The Ascendants of Estorea Book One: Cry Of The Newborn James Barclay
- From the acclaimed author of The Raven Sequence came the first in his latest sequence. As usual Barclay seems to be able to deal with big stories; an empire at war or the world about to end, and never lose focus of the individuals who make up those events. From emperors down to the farmer in the field all are equally important. Here not only is an empire under siege, but a group of children who have been bred for their abilities coming of age. A wonderful combination of adventure, philosophy and genetics, with a good dollop of religious intolerance thrown in for good measure; a great read.
- A Dirty Job Christopher Moore
- Christopher Moore's latest supernatural comedy has a mild-mannered second-hand storeowner become one of death's assistants. He's okay with that after the first little bit, until he realizes he's got to do battle with some mythological baddies who want the souls of the dead that he's collected for redistribution. It's actually a lot stranger then it sounds…which is typical of Moore's wonderfully twisted mind.
- The Bonehunters Book Six of The Malazan Book Of The Fallen by Steven Erikson.
- Erikson's epic 10-volume series just keeps on getting better as it creeps towards it's conclusion. The Bonehunters begins the process of bringing the various threads together that have been introduced in the first five books, and creates new plot twists in the same breath. His trademark wonderful characterization and intricate plot designs are as good as ever.
- Lessek's Key by Robert Scott and Jay Gordon.
- The second book of their trilogy sees Robert's and Jay's characters continue their struggle to save Eldarn from the clutches of the spirit that's been controlling the world for thousands of years. Continuing where they had left off in the first book, a fine intelligent adventure story with great characters, and wonderful plot twists. One of the best stranger in a strange land series I've ever read.
- A Tale Etched In Blood And Hard Black Pencil Christopher Brookmyre
- Another masterpiece of social criticism wrapped in a mystery story by Scottish writer Christopher Brookmyre. This time he tackles grade school and its horrors as he flashes between a murder case in the present and the school days of all those involved in the case. Is there a clue to be found from whom they were back then to what has happened today? Or is it just a case of bad blood between old friends? A fascinating look into the psychology and politics of the playground and how it shapes who we become or what we have to do to overcome that environment.
- A Short History Of Indians In Canada by Thomas King
- This is a great collection of short stories by one of Canada's finest short story writers. That he also happens to be a Native Canadian means he has a whole other tradition of storytelling to draw upon that we don't normally get to read. This is a great mixture of humour, pathos, and satire that offers commentary on contemporary Native and non-Native life in Canada.
- Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman
- Another collection of short stories, these run the gamut of Gaiman's stylistic repertoire. From the side-splitting funny, the whimsical, the heart-breaking, and the just plain fun, the stories in this collection are a pleasure. Gaiman at his finest.
Well there you go, my list of books that made this year a lot more entertaining then it would have been otherwise. I know I've probably already forgotten some, or you might not agree with some of the one's I've included. That's the beauty about lists like these, they're only one person's thoughts and don’t have to be agreed with at all.
But if you're looking for something to read, I'm sure you'll find something on this list that will make you happy. If not, then I'm even more out to lunch then I thought.