Tuesday, December 06, 2005

the best of 2005: novels

  • Not all of these were first published in 2005, but if that's the first time I read them, then onto the list they went.
  • I didn't even try putting these in preferential order, but I did make note of my definite favorite.
  • Your mileage may vary.

1. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini: The powerful and moving story of an Afghani immigrant's return to his home country in an attempt to atone for the sins of his past.

2. Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant: A young woman in Renaissance Italy longs to be a painter among the turmoil of Savonarola’s religious fanaticism. Beautifully written.

3. The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty: A man loses his parents in a car accident, and shortly thereafter, he learns that his long-lost schizophrenic sister has been located...in a Los Angeles morgue. Without thinking, he gets on his old bicycle and starts riding to California from Rhode Island. A tremendously moving road trip story of an entirely different color.

4. The Bachelorette Party by Karen McCullah Lutz: Okay, yeah, it's chick lit, but it's really, really funny. During one particularly choice scene, I was wracked by the kind of soundless, hysterical laughter that leaves your cheeks bright pink and tear-streaked.

5. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by JK Rowling: My expectations were not particularly high for this book, because I was so disappointed with Order of the Phoenix, but Rowling gets back into form with this one.

6. Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld: This is the book was touted as the new Catcher in the Rye (albeit with a female protagonist), and although it's not up to Salinger's standards, this is a damned good book.

7. The Devil of Nanking by Mo Hayder: A troubled young woman, inexplicably obsessed with the atrocities in Nanking during World War II, goes to Japan in search of a scholar/Nanking survivor. She makes some dangerous friends and even more dangerous enemies, all of whom are obsessed with a mysterious elixir. There are some scenes in here (most notably involving "The Nurse") that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up, and the ending packs a powerhouse punch that left me in tears. I couldn't stop thinking about it for days after I read it, which hasn't happened since the first time I read As Meat Loves Salt. Fair warning: NOT for the squeamish; it contains very graphic and disturbing violence and certain upsetting psychological elements. This is absolutely my favorite book of 2005.

8. The Pact by Jodi Picoult: A deeply engrossing story of an apparent suicide pact between two teenagers, the ensuing murder trial of the surviving teenager, and how the families must struggle to survive and forgive.

9. Towelhead by Alicia Erian: This is a great book about a 13-year-old girl whose mother sends her to live with her abusive, extremely traditional Lebanese father in Texas. She winds up experimenting sexually with the man next door and a boy at school, trying to make up for the love she doesn't get from her family.

10. What Do You Do All Day? by Amy Scheibe: An uncommonly funny and incisive story about a woman who finds herself wondering what she may have given up in the process of trying to be the perfect mother.

WORST: The Diet by Edita Kaye, an offensive, poorly written, sizeist piece of shit diet book masquerading as a chick lit novel. Every single copy should be burned, and then the pile of ashes should be shat upon. I declare a fatwa on Edita Kaye.