December 16, 2007
Books of 2007
I like to read. In fact, most of my spare time is spent reading. These are the books I read in 2007. Some of them were published in 2007, but most of them are just books that I have been interested in reading for whatever reason.
Also, I don't buy books. All of these books were checked out from a library. I continually have a large hold list at the library, so books trickle in all the time. That is the way I roll.
These books are in order of which ones I enjoyed the most this year. On with the list!
- Old Man's War by John Scalzi
Wow I enjoyed this book. It is about a future where we have colonized other planets, but we must protect ourselves from a lot of other sentient species who would rather that we were wiped from the universe. How do we do it? We build an army full of retired, old people with a lifetime of experience and nothing to lose. Of course, I am leaving some important details out, but that is basically it.
I had a smile on my face the entire time I read this book. It is rare that I enjoy a book as much as I enjoyed this one. If you are at all into science fiction, especially science fiction that includes aliens and wars, then this book is hard to beat. Funny, thought provoking, and highly entertaining. Definitely my best book of the year.
- Peace Like A River by Leif Enger
This one is a close second. Written by a Minnesotan and set in both Minnesota and North Dakota, this book tells the story of the Land family. Reuben Land, the 11 year narrator, tells the story of how the family is changed forever after his brother Davy shoots down two town bullies. While that provides the main backdrop for the story, it is Reuben's father, Jeremiah, that is the most compelling character. Jeremiah has literally been touched by God. He can perform miracles, and the last miracle he performs truly illustrates sacrifice, faith, and family love. The second to last chapter is so beautiful I had to read it twice. Oh be quick, my soul to answer Him; be jubilant, my feet!
This book won numerous awards, and for good reason. It is lyrical, comforting, and thought provoking. I can't recommend it enough (although your potential appreciation of the book probably centers around your own open-mindedness to matters of faith).
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
This one lived up to the hype. I read it very quickly. I was afraid that Rowling wouldn't be able to give a satisfactory ending, but I'm happy to say that the ending was very, very exciting. My only knock on this book is that it kind of drags in the beginning as Harry, Ron, and Hermione deal with being in hiding. Other than that, I thought it was great.
- The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig
I wish I could write like this. This book was so well written I had to put it down sometimes just to marvel at the turn-of-phrase or sing-song quality of the prose. This book is about a family out in Montana that decides to hire a housekeeper from Minneapolis. Unbeknownst to them, though, is that she will also bring her brother, who quickly proves himself capable enough to become the teacher in the one-room schoolhouse in town. Sounds simple right? Ah, but the brother and sister have a secret.
I really enjoyed the simple life described in this book. If you like books about Montana in 1910, you'll probably like this one.
- Jesus by Marcus Borg
- The Real Jesus by Luke Timothy Johnson
I read both of these books back to back. It was based on my reading of these books that I wrote my Easter sermon.
- The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi
Sequel to Old Man's War above. Not as good as that, but still really satisfying. John Scalzi is a great scifi writer.
- The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt
I wrote a big piece about this book already. It was a pretty compelling book about what makes us happy, and how we can become happier.
- The Language of God by Francis Collins
This is a wonderful book about the compatibility of religion and science written by the director of the Human Genome Project. Collins also makes a strong case for the compatibility of spirituality and evolution. He states that the study of biology is impossible without a firm understanding of the principles of Darwin's theory, and that God certainly isn't challenged by this given that He created the whole system. Collins is also a strong Christian and a large part of the book describes his transformation from atheism to faith. Collins makes it clear that being spiritual and recognizing the validity of science is not an either/or proposition. You can have both.
- Lost Fleet: Dauntless by Jack Campbell
Black Jack Geary is a dead, larger than life hero whose legend the Alliance Fleet follows religiously. During a horrible defeat at the hands of the Syndics, the Alliance miraculously finds an old escape pod with the still alive body of Black Jack. They revive him and he eventually is asked to lead the fleet's retreat. This is a great book. It is a quick read, and Black Jack is flat out a stud of a leader.
- What is the What by Dave Eggers
This book tells the story of Valentino Achak Deng, a Sudanese refugee living in Atlanta. Deng tells his whole story through the powerful writing of Eggers, and while this story is fictionalized in some parts, the trials and tribulations of the "Lost Boys" are believable and hard to stomach. Two things struck me when reading this book. The first is that African refugees in America don't want to be here. They would much rather be in their homes, the homes they grew up in, in Africa. They are sick of the complexities of our system, and they are sick of asking for help. They are thankful, but they wish they were back home.
The second thing that struck me when reading this book is the death and destruction these people had to put up with, and the fervent prayers they offered to God to make it stop. It made me think about my own feeble prayers. I almost want to say to God, "Don't listen to me! There is a little boy in Africa being shot at that needs your help much, much more than me." Needless to say, it was a very powerful book.
- The Last Colony by John Scalzi
Sequel of Old Man's War and Ghost Brigades. Again a great story.
- Lost Fleet: Fearless by Jack Campbell
Sequel to Lost Fleet: Dauntless. Black Jack continues his retreat, but this time he has to deal with some insubordination and mutiny. But as you might imagine, Black Jack doesn't take too kindly to people questioning his authority.
- The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
This book is an adult fairy tale. A little dark, but very readable. It reminded me a little of Stardust by Neil Gaiman. Not the story but the flow, the feel, and the characters.
- King of the World by David Remnick
This book is a biography of Muhammad Ali during his early career, 1960-1965. It covers Ali's larger than life persona, his conversion to Islam, and his refusal to go to Vietnam. I was born after Ali really made his mark on America, but I remember distinctly growing up how my dad would always light up when Ali was on TV or being discussed. Ali had a huge impact on America, and this book does a good job of describing why.
- Cinderella Man by Jeremy Schaap
I saw this movie on TBS one night and decided to learn more about James J. Braddock and his improbable rise to become heavyweight champion of the world. It is definitely an interesting story of determinatin and perseverance.
- The Bright Spot by Robert Sydney
This book is difficult to describe so I'm not even going to try, but it is by an author that I like a great deal: Dennis Danvers. I'm not sure why he uses a pen name here, but it kind of fits in with the main character in this book. I must say though, if you want to read any book by Danvers, it should be The Watch. That was a good read.
- Manhunt by James L. Swanson
The story of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the massive manhunt that ensued. In a time before cellphones and surveillance cameras and rapid communication possibilities, it is a miracle we could find anybody. I've heard this book is going to be made into a movie.
- The Seeker by Jack McDevitt
Decent scifi story about a lost colony being found thousands of years after it left Earth. I've read better.
- A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
Bryson decided to walk the entirety of the Appalachian trail and document his journey. But he didn't finish! He didn't even get close! He didn't even get 1/4 of the way. It was still entertaining, but a little bit of a letdown.
- His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik
This book has a good premise. What if dragons were a part of the Napoleonic Wars? However, and I'm not sure if it was because this book was written by a woman, but all the characters, even the male dragons, are a bunch of emasculated pansies. Well, I may be overstating that a little bit, but I definitely had a different view of what the overall attitude of a dragon should be.
- The Android's Dream by John Scalzi
I thought Scalzi could do no wrong after the Old Man's War trilogy, but this book was a little boring and difficult to finish. Besides the first chapter, which was probably a stand alone short story at one point, I would say skip this one.
- The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue
Depressing. A book about changelings and stealing children. It looks like this book will serve as the premise of an Eastwood film called The Changeling starring Angelina Jolie coming in 2008, but unless I can be assured that this movie will have a happy ending I won't go see it.
- The Road by Cormac McCarthy
If it hadn't been a sunny set of days when I read this relatively short book I may have hurt myself as I read it. Talk about depressing. Some people thought this book was the greatest thing since Gutenberg and movable type, but I found the book to be compelling in a rather horrible way. The fact that it had a somewhat optimistic ending didn't redeem it for me.
- 1776 by David McCoulough
And the book I enjoyed least. It was an OK book, but I found the movements of both armies difficult to follow. It might have helped if the book was illustrated with maps (I believe there is a version of the book with maps now). Also, the focus on 1776 alone is a little limiting and requires McCoulough to describe everything about this year in excruciating detail. It just wasn't for me.
And that is the year 2007 in books. Music and movies are coming next!
Posted by snackeru at December 16, 2007 7:33 PM | Books
I agree, shane, Old Man's War is the best book I read this year. I am going to pass on Rowling's book since I think the movies are better if you don't know what's coming.
Posted by: Dave T at December 20, 2007 10:34 AM
Thanks Shane. You know I am a big sci-fi guy so I will try "Old Man's War". If you haven't already, try "River of Doubt" which is a true story on Teddy Roosevelt when he visited South America to chart a unknown tributary of the Amazon.
Posted by: Brian Maas at December 20, 2007 11:24 AM
Thanks guys. If anyone has any other book suggestions, please don't hold back! I am always looking for new stuff to read.
Posted by: Shane at December 20, 2007 2:58 PM
I always look forward to your book list, it gives me a bunch of ideas for reading. In fact a book on last years list is on my Christmas list for this year: A World Lit by Fire.
King of the World was a great book and I agree with Deathly Hallows (even with the camping trip slowdown).
I'm definitely going to go out and get the Language of God and get for my wife The Whistling Season (she loves those kind of books and just loved Peace Like a River - guess I should read that one too!)
Posted by: Freealonzo at December 21, 2007 12:55 PM
Excellent list. I'm trying to figure out the best way to remember all the recommendations. I think I'll just come back to Greet Machine. :)
Merry Christmas! Hope you're listening to a lot of Sufjan.
Posted by: bjhess at December 21, 2007 7:10 PM
Click my name to see my list of books. Shane, you'll recognize a couple.
Posted by: Freealonzo at December 22, 2007 10:14 PM