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December 15, 2005

Best books read for 2005

The trouble with coming up with my favorite books read for the year 2005 is actually remembering what books I have read. I read between 20 - 30 books a year, but for the life of me I can't remember all of them. So, last night I spent about an hour sifting through every nook and cranny I could find that would jog my memory. I think, though, that the books I do remember should be considered my favorites of the year. I mean, if I can't remember a book it must not have been very good, right?

Like yesterday, these are my favorite books of the year; some of them came out in 2005 and some of them didn't. As always, if you have read any good books this year, let me know in the comments below. I am always on the lookout for a good read.

  1. Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
    Hands down the best of the year. I cried at the end. I'll admit it. I am not ashamed! I'm married with three kids! I've got nothing to prove to anyone! Anyway, this really is a beautiful book.
  2. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
    Man can Rowling write a good story. I love these crazy books. The finale should be spectacular.
  3. Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen
    Wow. This is the kind of book I wish I could write. Loewen brings out a side of history rarely seen in America and explains why it is important to teach it. Fascinating.
  4. Founding Brothers by Joseph Ellis
    Short, sweet, and concise, this Pulitzer Prize winner is worth the read. I even wrote a review for it.
  5. Watership Down by Richard Adams
    If you haven't read this classic, it is definitely worth it. I definitely have a new appreciation for rabbits, and as a result of reading this book you all must now refer to me as Shane-rah.
  6. The Plot Against America by Philip Roth
    Here is what I like about this book: it is so subtle. If Lindbergh had won the presidency in the 40s, would Jews really have been in trouble? This book makes it a very plausible scenario.
  7. Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
    Every man should read Fight Club. It doesn't just remind you to think about your lot in life, in nails you in the head with a 2x4.
  8. Blink : The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell
    Fascinating book. Should we trust our first instinct more often? How can we tap into and hone our sub-conscious methods of making snap judgements? How often are they correct? Read this book to learn more.
  9. Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
    This book in on most peoples' top 10 list and deservedly so. Ever wonder what a sumo wrestler and a high school teacher have in common? Or why crack dealers still live with their moms? Or if African-American names hinder them from getting good jobs? Or why the crime rate dropped so drastically in the late 90s? Very interesting ideas in this book.
  10. God's Politics : Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It by Jim Wallis
    I can't say enough good things about this book. Not particularly liberal and definitely not conservative, Wallis examines what Jesus really tried to accomplish here on earth and presents a roadmap for social justice and peace in light of Christ's message. A wonderful piece of work.
  11. Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon
    The best description of what it is like to be autistic I have ever read. Puts Rainman to shame. Told from the perspective of an autistic boy trying to get to the bottom of a dog's supposed murder, this one is hard to put down.
  12. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
    Ever wonder what happened to all the Old World gods that no one believes in anymore? Well, they are still around and some of them are attempting to regain power. A little gruesome in sections, but also quite an imaginative story.
  13. Magic Street by Orson Scott Card
    I kid you not, this is a story about faries, specifically faries from Shakespeare's A Midsummer's Night Dream and their dealings with African-American humans in a suburb of Los Angeles. I didn't think Card could pull it off, but he did.
  14. A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin
    I just finished this one and all I could think about was, "Where is Tyrion!?!?" Next year's A Dance With Dragons should be better.
  15. Omega by Jack McDevitt
    Fascinating story about first contact that kept you reading because you just knew something really cool would happen. Well, unfortunately nothing cool ever really did happen. Disappointing at the end. It did give me an idea for one of my better posts this year, though.
  16. Olympos by Dan Simmons
    Argh! After the wonder that was Ilium I expected so much more from this book. I mean, its a science fiction book about the Trojan War and Greek gods, tied in with a far-future earth where the humans are battling for their survival! So many unanswered questions...
  17. The Beach by Alex Garland
    Decent read, but a horrible movie. Sadly, my viewing of the movie even tainted what I thought of the book. Leonardo DiCaprio should be ashamed of himself.
  18. Hallowed Hunt by Lois McMaster Bujold
    Lois, please, more Miles Vorkosigan! Enough with this fantasy stuff. The Curse of Chalion was good, really good in fact, but I need to know what is happening with Miles! Please!

So, that's about it. Please let me know what your favorite books read in 2005 are! I'm going on vacation soon and I need something to read!

Posted by snackeru at December 15, 2005 7:31 AM | Books


Did you really find Founding Brothers that great? It was decent, but it seemed like the chapters were very hit-or-miss. I have read many more fulfilling historical books in the past couple of years.

Posted by: Will Young at December 15, 2005 9:25 AM

Yeah, I really liked it. I thought it was fascinating. But you can't just say you've read more fulfilling historical books in the past couple of years and then not mention any! What are some of your recommendations?

Posted by: Shane at December 15, 2005 9:30 AM

Is there a book you didn't read in 2005?

Curt in Grand Forks

Posted by: Curt Hanson at December 15, 2005 9:48 AM

What, doesn't everyone read 20-30 books a year?

Posted by: Shane at December 15, 2005 9:56 AM

I can't believe you didn't read book 17 of the Wheel of Time series from Robert Jordan!

What about Terry Goodkind? He's got a couple of good books I'm sure you'd like.

Posted by: Tim at December 15, 2005 12:21 PM

Here are my favorite books I read this year:

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - Jonathon Safron Foer - A book written from the perspective of an unrealistically precocious 9-year-old (?) whose dad died in 9/11. But Foer writes very funny dialogue and it's also emotionally moving. From that perspective it's maybe not a very good vacation book, but on the other hand it's a pretty quick read.

Blank Slate and How the Mind Works - Steven Pinker - These are more scientific books, but very well written. Some interesting ideas in Blank Slate about how determined our selves are by our genes.

Assassination Vacation - Sarah Vowell - Okay, I didn't read this one all the way through, I'm reading a bit at a time every time I go to Barnes & Noble. But it's a hilarious pseudo-travelogue by someone who's obesessed with historical assassinations, and who visits all the monuments and museums.

Posted by: Tim M at December 15, 2005 12:37 PM

Mad props to Assassination Vacation. That book was fantastic. I guess I'm the only one that thought Freakonomics was lame. Talk about making the best sellers list by having a cool title for your book (imho).

Don't forget Dylan's Chronicles v.1 and the book about the making of Like a Rolling Stone by Griel Marcus.

Posted by: freealonzo at December 15, 2005 12:51 PM

I think I'll take this opportunity to gripe about something that has been really bugging me.

DirecTV has been running an ad where a little kid comes into the room where his dad is and asks him to read a book to him. Then, he is dejected because there's a football game on TV. The dad, recognizing his son's disappointment, shows his son how he can pause live action with his remote. Soon, the son is watching TV with his dad, content.

What bugs me about this ad is this. Here is a little kid who wants his dad to read to him and instead he's sucked into the vast abyss that is television. What a message.

Posted by: SBG at December 15, 2005 1:23 PM

Sorry Shane, here were some of my history recommendations...

"The Path Between the Seas" by David McCullough; I enjoyed the section on the French struggles as well as the scientific expiriments combating mosquitoes more than the engineering passages, but it was very good.

"Freedom From Fear" by David Kennedy; this is basically two different books (and was broken into 2 in paperback), the Great Depression section was very insightful especially showing that FDR's 100 Days were basically the same policies that Hoover had gotten around to trying

"In Cold Blood" by Truman Capote; absolutely gripping book about the murder of the Clutter family in Western Kansas, probably one of the most well-written books I have ever read

"Lincoln" by David Herbert Donald; attempts to show what he knew and when he knew it in order to explain the many difficult decisions made during his life, despite being one of the most beloved and well-known Presidents, I never realized how little I knew about him

And those are just books I've read since October!

Posted by: Will Young at December 15, 2005 1:50 PM

I'm slowly listening to the "American Gods" audiobook. Mad props, man, mad props.

Have you ever heard Gaiman's "Snow, Glass, Apples?" It's a radio play and it's frickin' amazing. The text is here.

Posted by: bjhess at December 15, 2005 7:41 PM

Shane: You might want to check out "The Historian" by Elizabeth Kostova. I read it earlier this year and found it to be very entertaining. Not as good as the "Da Vinci Code," which it is always being compared to, but a good read nonetheless.

Curt in Grand Forks

Posted by: Curt Hanson at December 16, 2005 10:18 AM

Yes, Curt, it is on my "hold" list at the library. In fact, it has been on hold for well over 2 months now. It must be really popular! I look forward to reading it!

Posted by: Shane at December 16, 2005 2:11 PM

Alright, long time reader of this site, but this is a topic that I must comment on. Surely Ill forget most of the books, but I'll try to remember atleast some ones that Ive read. A warning ahead of time... I am very political and very interested in Globalization, hence half of my selections

#10 Ogilvy on Advertising: Makes you reconsider how you view print ads. Even for those not interested in business, such as myself, its contains alot of good knowledge.

#9 How Soccer Explains the World: Written by another Foer, the brother of Jonathon. Talks about soccer and the political climate of the post - USSR / 9-11 era.

#8 / #7 The World is Flat and No Logo: Friedman has written better books and Naomi Klein's book is a classic. However, both are fun reads about the effects of globalization from two very different accounts.

#6 Te of Piglet: Follow up to the Tao of Pooh. Talks alot about Eastern Philosophy in simple terms with familiar characters.

#5 Property and Freedom: Best defense of the theory of private property Ive seen. Very well done. Fails the "I love this book so much I feel restless when finishing it" test though.

#4 Give me a Break. Yes, John Stossel wrote one of my favorite books. A really easy read that talks about the ill effects of regulation.

#3 Collapse: Im a huge Jared Diamond fan and this book did not disappoint. If you liked Guns, Germs and Steel and haven't read Collaspe, you are missing out. If you like History and haven't read either of those books, you are REALLY missing out.

#2 How Capitalism saved America: A good critique of A Peoples History of the US. Takes American history from a pro-Capitalism view point.

#1 Snow: This book by Pamuk was one of the few books that was seriously considered for the Nobel Prize for literature. In my opinion, it should've won it. It is a great story about Turkey and Islam's struggle with the modern and Western world. A political novel wrapped in an unbelievable story.

Posted by: Muzio Balenzweig at December 17, 2005 12:57 AM

Oh! I can't believe I forgot this one: Spanking the Donkey by Matt Taibbi. It covers the 2004 election, in which he followed around some of the democratic candidates. Some of the most interesting stuff in here is talking about the campaign press, not the candidates themselves. Very funny.

Posted by: Tim M at December 17, 2005 3:38 PM

I read "The Plot Against America" also, and thought it was utterly fascinating! A really easy book to lose oneself in, and I highly recommend it to all.

And I love Terry Goodkind too! Anyone else out there read "Chainfire"? I can't wait until the next one! Although it probably won't come out until frickin' 2007. :(

Posted by: Ryan at December 19, 2005 6:11 PM

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