Wednesday, December 06, 2006

best of 2006: fiction

All righty, on to my favorite fiction of 2006. A few notes first:

  • I'm not sure if all of these books were first published in 2006, but because 2006 is when I read them, this is where they go.
  • Your mileage may vary.
  • These aren't in preferential order, although I did make note of my definite favorite.
  • Despite the fact that this is the fifth year in a row where my favorite novel is incredibly disturbing, I swear I'm normal. Mostly.
  • To expand upon the previous bullet point, in case you were wondering, the previous winners were: The Devil of Nanking by Mo Hayder, We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver, As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McCann, and Dark Hollow by John Connolly.
  • On 12/27, I changed #5, which used to be Manstealing for Fat Girls by Michelle Embree.

1. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen: Through flashbacks, an elderly man tells the story of his years spent traveling with a circus during the Great Depression. Vividly written and by turns heartbreaking and funny.

2. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn: An unnerving modern Gothic about a reporter who reluctantly returns to her hometown to cover the murders of two little girls. I think the less you know about this book, the more you'll enjoy it, so I won't say anything else. Oh, except that it fucking ROCKS. I would have read it in one sitting if I hadn't had to work and sleep. Say hello to my favorite book of 2006!

3. Cell by Stephen King: King returned to his roots with this gutclencher about a bizarre phenomenon which travels through cell phones and turns people into insane, bloodthirsty zombies. I devoured every tense, gore-soaked page. Unfortunately, it set up expectations that Lisey's Story would be just as good...which it most certainly wasn't. Oh well.

4. Triptych by Karin Slaughter: Three stories---a cop with dark secrets, a sad sack ex-con who stumbles across a sinister scheme, and a promiscuous vice cop---seamlessly intertwine in this taut thriller. More twists than a jumbo-sized bag of pretzels, and I guarantee you won't see most of them coming. Warning: Karin Slaughter is very aptly named, so if you have a weak stomach, you're not going to want to read any of her books.

5. Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O'Neill: Oh my god, this was such a good book. It's about a 12-year-old girl named Baby (which is her real name; she comments that that's what happens when people have children too young) who lives with her junkie father in between stints in foster homes and reform schools. It's beautifully written---for example, she describes bird footprints in the snow as looking like the characters on a Chinese menu---and powerful as all hell.

6. In the Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant: The adventures of a famed Italian courtesan and the dwarf who is her constant companion. Gorgeous prose as elaborate as any Renaissance painting.

7. Baby Proof by Emily Giffin: Claudia Parr, the protagonist, marries a man who doesn't want children any more than she does...and then he changes his mind. Most chick lit is utter trash, but Giffin is one of the rare authors that's a credit to the genre.

8. The Ruins by Scott Smith: A group of vacationers in Mexico befriend a fellow tourist whose brother has disappeared. They decide to go in search of the brother, and very, very, very bad things happen. This book takes some time to get going, but once it does, it doesn't let up. Be warned, you do NOT want to eat while reading this. Seriously.

9. The Man of My Dreams by Curtis Sittenfeld: Even though Curtis Sittenfeld wrote Prep, which made my top ten list last year, I hesitated to read this because the title and the cover photo (a crown-wearing frog) made me think it was going to be chick lit. Well, that was pretty fucking stupid of me; I should have known better. This is a wonderful book about Hannah, whose search for love and struggles to deal with family and the real world struck many a chord with me. I have some minor criticisms about the last chapter, but the rest is golden.

10. Lost and Found by Carolyn Parkhurst: I about had an orgasm when I found out that Carolyn Parkhurst had a new book out; her debut novel, Dogs of Babel, is one of my ten favorite books of all time. While this isn't quite up to its predecessor's lofty standards, it's still riveting. It's about a group of people on a reality show (obviously based on "The Amazing Race") and the things they learn about themselves and each other. I enjoyed the hell out of it.

AND THE WORST: The 5th Horseman by James Patterson: Okay, there’s got to be something nice I can say about this book., the short chapters are a nice concession to the ADD generation.