Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Best Books I Read in 05

Finally it's time for some best of the year lists from The Bopper. Many bloggers did these late in 05 but I wanted to wait until it was all over to be sure I didn't miss anything. I read a total of 33 books in 2005 (for the first time I wrote down the titles as I completed them so that number is accurate); this is a list of the best. They weren't necessary published in 05, that's just when I happened to read them. These are not in order, they're just the best of the ones I read:

1. Confessions of an Economic Hitman, by John Perkins [put into words and details a process many of us know exists - fascinating explanation of how economics really works that debunks the old 'invisible hand' lie]

2. Death of Environmentalism, by Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus [technically not a book, just a long paper, but it was one of the best things I read this year. It's a critique of the environmental movement and why for most people it remains irrelevant. Something anyone who's into 'saving the world' should read and carefully consider.]

3. Clash of Fundamentalisms, by Tariq Ali [just a big brilliant book about everything politically wrong with the world, with some sound advice for powerful people on alternatives.]

4. A Short History of Progress, by Ronald Wright [really cool look at history, including 'pre-history', how human civilization came about and the impact its had on our species and other species - mostly bad.]

5. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson [this was recommended by a coworker and diverged from my usual reading, but what a great writer! Just a fun and fascinating novel.]

6. Midnight's Children, by Salman Rushdie [won the 'Booker of Bookers' as the book of the century, revolutionized novel-writing, political, historical, beautiful, funny, great poetic story with layer on layer of imagery.]

7. Rockbound, by Frank Parker Day [this was one of those CBC Reads books. I read it because it was about the South Shore in Nova Scotia, i.e. my roots. It was gorgeous and profound.]

8. We Are Not You, by Claude Denis [this book really got me thinking about culture, about aboriginal rights, about our legal systems, about morality and how we determine right and wrong - very pomo. The first few chapters were really annoying but when he got down to the meat of his argument it was great.]

9. The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy [one of the most beautiful books I've ever read, and again got me thinking about how we determine what is right or wrong, and how these judgements affect people in the minority. But mostly it was the beautiful imagery she used, the power of putting things simply, and building from there, just beautiful writing.]

10. The Hero's Walk, by Anita Rau Badami [a simple story, written in a straightforward way, about a man who shuts down emotionally and destroys his family in the process, then is given a second chance. It resonated with me very deeply.]

11. What's my Name, Fool? Sports and Resistance in the US, by Dave Zirin [read this over Christmas vacation - click the link on his name and you can subscribe to his column. Very good sports writer who goes beyond performance and into the politics of sport, from the heroic to the corrupt. Perfect for a jock-geek like me.]

That's it for the best, a baker's top ten.

The worst book I read was The Goddess Abides by Pearl S. Buck, a big bunch of drivel about a rich woman being pursued (romantically) by a young rich guy and having some big ethical dilemma about the age difference. Yawwwwn. It was particularly disappointing because one of my all time favourite books was The Good Earth, Buck's classic tale of the hardship and poverty of a Chinese farming family through the generations - a beautiful book. --Bopper


Re your critique on the book The Goddess Abides by P.S.Buck: Again you have to keep in mind the time and the place the piece was written and remembering that the author was a missionary's daughter who grew up in China 70 years ago. Very few novels can survive those kinds of time and cultural spreads.
The Good Earth was lucky to have done so. -- Dad
Interesting point, chris's dad. I think maybe what stands the test of time though is good writing. Although I didn't identify with the narrator's dilemma, I might have if she had somehow brought me to the time and place - like Tolstoy's War and Peace does long after the author's death. But then, I guess that unfortunately war is always a current topic.
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